Preserving history and iconic events with time-lapse

Photography captures a moment in time. Iconic structures and notable landmarks are frozen forever as part of a picture, faithfully preserving any detail that may change or disappear over time.

Time-lapse photography – capturing at regular intervals for any required period of time – can do the same in terms of recording change as it happens. Viewing such images collectively manifests any activity, large or small, in a way that can be visualised as part of a moving sequence.

For this reason, the medium is applied widely across many different genres, such as time-lapse construction, demolition, sports and other special events.

What can be revealed is not only the simple transition of a project from start to finish, but time-lapse can also help to capture those extraordinary moments that may be particularly transient – part of a structure that will not appear in the same way again, for example.


Project file #1 – the BFI’s Victoria Embankment Gardens cinema

Structure of BFI's Embankment Garden Cinema being erected
Above: iconic moments – capturing the structure of BFI’s Embankment Garden Cinema being erected.
Embankment Garden Cinema before its grand opening.
Above: Embankment Garden Cinema before its grand opening.

We were chosen by the British Film Institute to time-lapse the construction of a temporary cinema venue in the heart of London – a fully enclosed cinema with tiered seating, Dolby® 7.1 surround sound and 4k digital projection – marking the 60th anniversary of the London Film Festival in 2016.

Securely mounting one of our camera systems to the bandstand in Victoria Embankment Gardens provided us with a view of the entire exterior development. Each phase of the venue’s construction, including the interior build, was meticulously captured and rendered in a fully post-produced time-lapse video.

As this cinema was temporary (returning only for the LFF each year), our camera systems were capturing Embankment Gardens in a whole new light; the erection of an entirely new structure in this environment that would become part of the BFI’s iconic history.


Before construction often comes demolition and time-lapse is the ideal tool to capture both. As well as construction time-lapse, documenting the demolition phase of a project can also be an important part of a visual narrative.

If not for photography, historic structures would be lost except for the memory of them. To this end, then, time-lapse can pay homage to what is old in addition to introducing what is new.


Project file #2 – Watford FC’s East Stand at Vicarage Road

At the end of 2014, following a 36-week period of redevelopment, Watford Football Club unveiled their brand-new Sir Elton John Stand at their home stadium, Vicarage Road. We time-lapsed both the demolition of the old Main Stand and the construction of the new one.

With this being such an eagerly awaited replacement – the Main Stand had been closed since 2008 due to safety concerns – our online viewer, showing live progress at Vicarage Road, was publicly shared on the club’s website. The completed video is also among our most popular time-lapse edits.

As well as a visual reminder of the finished results of a redevelopment worth £3.5 million, the popular time-lapse video is also a way of honouring the legacy of the club’s home stadium.


As part of other projects, it has been necessary to maintain historic buildings while demolition takes place in the surrounding area.

Our work at the former Enson Works in Normacot, Stoke-on-Trent, for example, involved special measures to retain four Grade II listed bottle-neck ovens situated on the heritage site. Dating back to the 1840s, these iconic structures retain some of the remnants of The Staffordshire Potteries’ cultural past while also welcoming a new venture.

We have played a part in documenting changes to other heritage sites, capturing perspectives that may not be seen in the same way again.


Project file #3 – Mary Rose preservation works at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

 
Our specialist services were commissioned (along with museum media specialists, Motivation 81), to time-lapse intensive stages of conservation works to the 500-year-old Mary Rose warship.

Given the historic importance of the ship – which was Henry VIII’s flagship that was raised from the Solent in 1982 – we are among the very few number of people who have been granted special access to the Mary Rose.

Close-up of a gun port as part of the Mary Rose ship.
Above: a privileged up-close look at one of the Mary Rose’s gun ports.

In addition, our camera system helped to capture the final works before the removal of the ‘hotbox’ that has specially contained the atmosphere around the ship for a number of years. Also recording the walls of the hotbox being dismantled, we were present for the first time that an uninterrupted view of the Mary Rose from all three levels and all nine galleries of the museum was revealed.

We were honoured to be part of such a prestigious project, helping to preserve this incredibly important stage in the Mary Rose’s legacy through time-lapse photography.


 

As well as historical developments, we have also seen cities from many unique perspectives. Working at height, we often capture never-to-be-seen again views of urban spaces – preserving certain perspectives that will not be the same again.

So whether documenting changes to sporting stadia, historic sites, or temporary venues by iconic organisations, time-lapse is instrumental in facilitating a unique perspective of such developments.

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