Time-lapse is a mode of photography that is typically used to represent long-term progress in a matter of minutes. Over time its application has become associated with certain – now ‘classic’ – subjects that are ideally suited to this form of visual documentation.
The earliest incarnations of this technique were originally designed for scientific purposes: to isolate certain movements in nature, making them visible and thus rendering them easier to study. Even today, time-lapse is put to use across numerous specialised fields of science, including biology, astronomy & geoscience.
Throughout the decades, however, the ways in which time-lapse is applied has evolved from a purely scientific mode to a technique that serves more creative purposes. In spite of this shift there are certain subjects of capture that can be considered as ‘quintessentially time-lapse’.
Indeed, the most suitable subjects for time-lapse are those that involve progression at a slow and steady pace, as it emphasises incremental changes incredibly well. Construction works are perhaps the first thing that spring to mind.
With its rising popularity in this sector, time-lapse and construction have become somewhat analogous terms, with a fully post-produced video being one of the principle ways leading contractors choose to market themselves and their work.
Becoming a sub-genre in its own right, time-lapse construction has shaped how building works can be visualised. Of course, still images (the beauty of which should not be overlooked), can be used side-by-side to show a project from beginning to end but watching this unfold incrementally in exceptional quality reveals another dimension that is not possible to experience in any other way.
Indeed, at the hands of highly skilled editors, the hundreds and thousands of images that may be collected over the course of a particular project are expertly arranged into a sequence. A time-lapse video showing construction progress can communicate a contractor’s capabilities, skills and workflow effectively, so much more so than the traditional ‘before and after’ shots.
It also provides a record that is more befitting of this visual age, for time-lapse videos can easily be shared on numerous platforms, including those online.
Whether showing a large scale office development take shape from the ground up in a matter of minutes, or tracking the more sensitive processes involved from an internal perspective, time-lapse provides a comprehensive visual of this evolution. But these benefits are not solely reaped by the construction industry.
Time-lapse can be an asset to a variety of subjects where a certain level of development, growth, or change takes place over a long period of time.
As our “Time-Lapse Trends” series explores, there are many exciting applications for time-lapse, some of which are more popular than others in terms of how often they are produced and how many views they obtain.
When searching for “time-lapse” on YouTube – the world’s most popular video sharing website – approximately 14,000,000 results are returned. Scrolling through, it is clear that there are certain subjects that are more common than others, which include:
- construction (as already mentioned)
- the weather
- celestial motion
- seed/ plant germination
- human growth
- art & sculpture
Although these subjects are, for the most part, very different, they all benefit from time-lapse’s compression of time. Progress is accelerated but every detail is recorded, so that you have the opportunity to see things in a new way; seeing something unfold from start to finish in a fraction of the time that was taken in reality.
The ability to pause, rewind and flick between specific frames or different points of the video also privileges a more in-depth look at the events unfolding in the video.
Maybe the popularity of these particular time-lapse subjects is down to the fact that they shed new light on an already fascinating process; it lets you get up close and explore these things in their entirety. In this sense, then, it is the most quintessential things that can appear the most extraordinary with time-lapse photography.