The inside story: capturing internal works

Time-lapse often conjures up images of buildings rising up from the ground in seconds, sunsets over beautiful landscapes, and busy city life. That is not to say the ‘inside story’ cannot be told through time-lapse as well.

Contractors engaging long-term, outdoor projects choose to utilise time-lapse as a way of showcasing their abilities as a construction company. Indeed, tracking the transformation of a previously derelict site into a significant architectural structure is a feat worth capturing.

But the applications of time-lapse photography which go beyond concrete pillars and steel beams should not be ignored for the same reason.

The full story

While the external construction progress of a building is important, it is only part of the overall narrative. What goes on once the outer structure has been completed is an equally important phase of the entire process.

Every building is essentially just a shell until it is given a purpose. Internal fit-outs are mostly carried out following completion of external works, in preparation for what the building will become.

The putting together of interiors, whether of an office environment or a retail space, takes place within a much shorter timeframe than the exterior build – but there is still plenty to capture. This means that the rate at which the camera system captures at will need to be much quicker.

Rapid capture time-lapse can reap impressive results when rendering short-term works as it sets up the camera to take images at a much faster pace. This method provides a much more detailed documentation of site where prolonged periods of intense activity is likely to take place.

Adaptable to any environment

Now let’s take a look at some specifics.

Although many projects may be referred to in the same way – as a fit-out or other internal works – not every space is the same.

Some internal developments are comprised of just the one room or covers a relatively small area. For this kind of work it may be feasible to record using one camera system from a fixed position. We used this approach when working with mobile network provider, Three, in order to time-lapse the refurbishment of one of their retail branches in Middlesbrough.


As you can see from our completed time-lapse edit (above), our camera system was securely fixed at one end of the room, providing a comprehensive perspective of the entire retail space.

Rapid capture was also ideal for this kind of work as it allowed the camera to capture at the same space as the refurbishment.

Some retail spaces are different, however, in that they are much bigger and less enclosed. In order to document progress in a bigger environment, it may be that one camera needs to be moved to capture from different positions. Or, multiple camera systems may be needed on site to capture at the same time.

In order to create this promotional (below) time-lapse narrative for Vision Express, several of our camera systems were managed in situ, which could be moved and positioned around the store as needed.


Vision Express wanted a time-lapse sequence that would document the full re-build and fit-out of their new flagship store in Oxford Street, London. Managing cameras in situ allowed for a flexible approach, covering various parts of the space, while at the same time capturing the intensive works with a detailed eye.

(This approach is different to remote capture (used for Three’s fit-out above), as managing in situ requires manual operation of a camera system and its settings.)

Other internal applications

It is not only retail businesses which benefit from time-lapse capture of internal developments.

Capturing time-lapse at a Horse Guards Parade event
Above: capturing time-lapse at a Horse Guards Parade event.

For special events which take place outdoors, for example, temporary structures are often erected to house certain happenings. In this case, as a professional time-lapse provider, we are often commissioned to capture internal developments as well as construction.

This is sometimes under special circumstances, such as our time-lapse of a private event at the Horse Guards Parade overlooking St James’s Park and Whitehall in London. While one camera captured the exterior construction, another was installed within the temporary structures to track the decoration of the lavish interiors.

Another temporary but nonetheless iconic event includes the 60th anniversary celebrations of the London Film Festival for the British Film Institute. For this, two camera systems were put in place to time-lapse the construction of a temporary cinema venue at Victoria Embankment Gardens.

BFI Embankment Garden Cinema internal shot
Above: interior of BFI Embankment Garden Cinema.

Five days into capture, we installed the second camera system to track the internal fit-out of the cinema. Utilising the venue’s lighting truss as a mount, we were able to cover the full interior of this extraordinary development, which included installation of the classic cinema seating, and the erection of the huge cinema screen.

Both the external and internal works were featured as part of a complete time-lapse narrative made available to the BFI just before the grand opening of this special event.


Thus, time-lapse photography can be put to use as effectively internally as it is externally. There is just as much labour involved in delivering interior developments which is just as deserving as dynamic visual representation.

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