Capturing complex manoeuvres with time-lapse

Time-lapse photography is an ideal visual tool to isolate certain details that are part of more complex works, such as those of an infrastructural nature.

Improvements in road, rail and industry contexts can benefit greatly from this mode of photographic capture. Many sets of hands are often required to operate technical equipment in order to get the job done.

Time-lapse capture can provide a comprehensive view of progress while also being able to hone in on some of the more rigorous elements of infrastructural improvements.

Project file #1 – M56 Thorley Lane Bridge Replacement

Location: M56, near Manchester Airport
Duration: short-term
Client: Highways England


As this collaborative project with Aerial Images illustrates, time-lapse work can be used to great effect in order to shine a light on the special achievements of companies carrying out major developments to help improve our country’s roads.

This stunning audio and visual narrative combines time-lapse and video capture to show the hard work and close collaboration between Balfour Beatty and Mott MacDonald, to – literally – get this epic project off the ground near Manchester.

M56 Thorley Lane bridge replacement
Above: capturing Thorley Lane Bridge being lifted and manoeuvred into position.

Our Ultra HD time-lapse camera system captured the lifting of Thorley Lane Bridge – weighing 1,500 tonnes and spanning the length of a football pitch – as well as its mammoth installation over the M56 near the junction 5 link for Manchester Airport. Once the bridge had been constructed – adjacent to the motorway because of its sheer size – it had to be jacked up to eight metres high and manoeuvred into position using a specialist Self-Propelled Modular Transport system.

Time-lapse is the ideal tool to highlight the manpower and organised workflow needed for smaller-scale targeted improvements on the roads.

The video itself is also exemplary of how visual records can be used and appropriated for different narratives, pulling apart the nuts and bolts to reveal multiple layers of complexity of such works. This feature by Construction News is a great example of its continued use.


Time-lapse is a versatile medium and can be applied to other infrastructural jobs besides those taking place on major roads. Improvements to the UK’s rail network involves equally as rigorous works that are also suited to regular interval capture.

Indeed, rail projects can take a variety of forms and certain specificities can also pose challenges for professional time-lapse providers, requiring complex manoeuvres on our part.


Project file #2 – Moorgate Station

Location: Moorgate Station, Elizabeth Line
Duration: long-term
Client: Crossrail

Crossrail development works at Moorgate Station

Increasing London’s rail capacity, the improvements at Moorgate Station are part of the biggest civil construction project in Europe today. When it opens for business in 2019, the Elizabeth Line will link Reading and Heathrow in the west with Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

We provided time-lapse capture of some large-scale excavation and construction works. More specifically, this involved:

  • removal of deep foundations
  • construction of a concrete diaphragm wall
  • installation of new 60m piles
  • and excavation works for a main shaft.
Using a crane and cage over the Moorgate Station project to access the camera system
Above: our engineers carrying out complex manoeuvres to capture complex works.

It was not only developments on the ground that were tricky in this scenario, but the manoeuvres that were required to install our camera system to capture works on site as well. With the Hammersmith and City Line, as well as the existing ticket hall in close proximity to Moorgate Station, there was no room spare on the ground to bring in machinery or apparatus that would permit our engineers access to the required fixing position.

This meant thinking outside of the box on our part in order to negotiate safe capture under such challenging conditions. Our engineers were elevated to this position via a cage suspended from a crane so as to bypass the congestion on the ground.


Professional time-lapse capture involves a level of knowledge and understanding of the works being captured. Some projects require getting up close and personal with the subject to obtain a detailed perspective.

In an industrial setting this can be tricky and must be carried out with the utmost care so as not to disturb the ongoing works – but more importantly to ensure that this is done safely.


Project file #3 – Essar’s Stanlow Refinery

Location: Ellesmere Port, North West England
Duration: short-term
Client: Essar


Above: one of the world’s largest cranes in action to replace the 450-tonne regenerator head.

Back in 2013 we were commissioned by oil giants, Essar, to capture a truly epic project which involved the replacement of a huge regenerator head as part of refurbishment works at their Stanlow Refinery.

The regenerator head weighs 450-tonnes and our job was to document the engineering work to remove and replace it, as well as the mobilization of numerous highly skilled professionals using some of the world’s most specialised equipment, including a crane with a boom of 334ft and rising about 40-storeys high.

Combining time-lapse and video, we recorded the replacement process from numerous angles over several days so as to encompass all activities, including close-ups of workers operating complex equipment from considerable elevations.

Although this was only a short-term project, we had to work closely with the Essar team in order to understand their schedules, approaches and strict requirements. Understanding our client’s work allowed us to deliver incredible attention to detail, which is certainly reflected in the finished video.


So whether long-term or short-term capture, professional time-lapse requires knowledge of the subject and its logistics, as well as a keen eye for technical details.

Time-lapse capture is incredibly versatile but also needs the skill of professionals to help execute quality capture of complex manoeuvres.

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