Creating a time-lapse video… and why?

Typing in “time-lapse” to YouTube brings up over 5,000,000 results. 5,000,000 videos incorporating or dedicated to time-lapse.

The majority are focused on landscapes and nature, or simply everyday tasks. The occasional Lego build or innovative new technique crops up as well.

Time-lapse videos are created with still images taken at set intervals. For short-term subjects (such as flowers blooming or ice melting) this could be seconds apart. Or for longer-term activities (such as construction projects or time-motion studies) this could be multiple minutes apart.

When these images are played back at ‘normal’ speed – 25 frames (images) a second – changes appear to occur naturally and progressively. Thus a building might appear to grow from the ground or a flower’s petals open as if by magic.

Of course it is nigh on impossible to sit and click away with a camera constantly, let alone at perfectly regular intervals. Camera battery life and storage space are also a potential hiccup.

To counter this, professionals who produce quality time-lapse videos have developed (and continue to innovate) a series of methods that ensure top results every time.

Using custom software to control cameras remotely, there is no need to sit with the equipment and press the shutter button. Using a secure mobile network, images are sent from the camera system to a remote server and backed up offline.

This system of taking images is especially effective for projects taking place over lengthy periods of time. As mentioned previously, construction projects are a particularly popular edit subject. But when can a time-lapse video be used to great effect?

Construction and demolition projects

Seeing a multi-year project appear in a concise video is one of the huge benefits of having a time-lapse camera system capturing on a building site. It is almost mesmerising seeing walls, towers and entire structures go up in minutes.

This is particularly handy for promotional purposes or helping to inform relevant publics. Staff onsite might not fully appreciate the work they are undertaking in real-time, but a final time-lapse edit can reveal the sheer scale of work needed.

And in a very similar way, demolition projects are also interesting to watch in high speed. Whilst time-lapse would not work for projects involving explosives, slower demolition projects using plant also come out brilliantly in time-lapse videos.

Despite taking two years to build, this new college campus for South Essex College magically appears in less than 60 seconds in this time-lapse video. It is also a great example of how multiple camera angles can be used to enhance the narrative.
Find out more…

Civil engineering projects

Similar to construction projects, road and bridge-based work can also take a lengthy period of time. However, with the public generally heavily affected by works, interim time-lapse edits can be a great way to communicate how well work is progressing.

Highways England has used edits partway through works to do just this. The local press in Basingstoke and Southampton has shared one of their most recent time-lapse videos, focusing on improvement works at the M3 Blackdam Roundabout.
Click the pictures to read the articles.

Time lapse video shows progress made to Black Dam Roundabout From Basingstoke Gazette Highways England has released a time lapse video of roadworks at a roundabout near Basingstoke From Daily Echo

Entertainment productions

Taking advantage of faster, rapid-capture time-lapse, live shows come to life in short bursts of activity that make wonderful marketing pieces. Particularly in today’s world of viral videos, seeing ballet dances zoom around a stage or a concert come to life from stage set-up right through to the crowd leaving are engaging and appreciated.

They also help to capture the role of event staff – from actors and dancers to lighting technicians, set builders and orchestras.

The Royal Albert Hall used this to great effect, with their ‘year-in-the-life’ time-lapse video clocking up over 75,000 views and making it to the nationals…
…such as the Daily Mail website.

This is just a small selection of possible uses for time-lapse. A well-produced edit with sound, logos and text screens is both engaging and rewarding – for any number of audiences.

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