Time-lapse photography for demolition

Exploring how time-lapse can be applied to get a visual record of complex pre-construction works.

Time-lapse photography on demolition projects

Time-lapse photography is the ideal way to capture and monitor demolition. Images showing the tearing down of buildings and other man-made structures using wrecking balls, bulldozers or other necessary means are taken at rapid intervals, to be played back in a matter of minutes as part of a time-lapse video.

Like time-lapse construction, demolition can be considered a genre of video in its own right. Applied to capture a wide range of pre-construction activities in both urban and rural environments, this is yet another testament to the versatility of this medium.

Regardless of duration, purpose, or the precise nature of a project, time-lapse photography can deliver excellent visual results which can be used for both monitoring and marketing purposes.

Suitable for all types

Not all demolition work is the same, particularly when it comes to method.

For smaller buildings that are comprised of only two or three storeys, these are usually pulled down with the help of hydraulic excavators, able to undermine the building, while controlling how and in which direction it falls. Equipment such as cranes and bulldozers are able to raze buildings to the ground in a safe and efficient manner.

For larger builds, heavier machinery such as a wrecking ball may be required to shift sturdier materials like wood, steel and concrete.

Regardless of how it’s done, extreme care and consideration must be exercised in all instances to ensure that the surrounding environment is not compromised during demolition. Such phases of a project can take up to a few weeks – even a few months – to complete.

Time-lapse and demolition

Time-lapse can be applied to capture projects that utilise any method for any duration, providing a HD rendering of such rigorous works.

As with any project, the positioning of the camera system must be carefully considered well in advance. An appropriate fixing position must allow for enough scope so as to capture everything that is required (which is discussed and negotiated between clients and their providers beforehand), while not impinging on site progress in any way. Additionally, the operation of machinery and the movements of workers on site can be incredibly meticulous meaning that the frequency of images upon capturing demolition is usually fairly rapid, so as to accurately reflect the speed at which works are carried out.


As well as functioning as an ideal tool for marketing purposes in the form a professionally edited time-lapse video (as discussed below), this kind of regular interval photography can also be used as a valuable means of site monitoring. Providing a ‘live’ view of site, facilitated by an online viewing portal, it is possible to oversee developments. Whether checking deliveries and other practicalities, or just overseeing progress, this feature allows for complete micro-management of any pre-construction works.

All images are also fully archived, available with time and date of capture, which can be viewed securely on multiple platforms via wireless access. As such, time-lapse enables preservation of never-to-be-seen again perspectives.

Preserving the past

Construction of new structure at the old Enson works in Normacot, Stoke-on-Trent. Four bottle kilns are preserved, visible in the background of the shot.
Above: construction begins around the four bottle kilns preserved at Enson works in Normacot, Stoke-on-Trent.

Demolition – getting rid of the old to make way for the new – is often the first phase of regeneration works. Some demolition projects, however, may require some remanence of the past to be retained.

This is particularly pertinent in relation to works taking place on sites with significant cultural heritage. As was the case at the former Enson works in Normacot, Stoke-on-Trent, where the old factories were demolished, while the four Grade II listed bottle ovens lying within its walls remained.

Dating back to the 1840s, these iconic structures stand as a reminder of the city’s industrial and cultural past as part of the ‘Staffordshire Potteries’. The history of how this site once stood is now preserved through Ultra HD time-lapse, while also impressively capturing the rigorous demolition works taking place around the delicate bottle kilns.

Comprehensive narrative

Following the demolition phase of this important project, we also captured the construction of CoRE (Centre of Refurbishment Excellence), which (rather aptly) is used for training in construction and other specialisms relating to the restoration of old buildings. Both the demolition and construction phases feature in the same time-lapse video providing an unabridged version of events.

Indeed, comprehensive narratives featuring each phase of a particular project are often sought after by contractors and other businesses, as time-lapse videos can be used to effectively demonstrate the breadth of their work from start-up to completion.

Equally as effective, however, is when contractors use progress edits to showcase their work up to a particular point. A time-lapse video is able to render completed demolition works in a matter of minutes, which can then be shared via online platforms in order to communicate progress to invested parties and the wider public.

Many of our clients utilise demolition time-lapses as a precursor to their ongoing developments, which helps them to stir up publicity and excitement for their finished product while works continue. Shown below is an example of how one of our Manchester-based clients, 125 Deansgate, have benefited from the attention that our time-lapse has garnered, showing the demolition of the former Lincoln House before construction works began.

Time-lapse for demolition, then, not only keeps the memory of remarkable buildings alive in a professionally edited time-lapse video, but also serves as an incredibly popular mode of marketing and publicising the services of contractors and various other invested bodies.

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