Time-Lapse Trends: crowd movement

“Time-Lapse Trends” is a video blog series which draws attention to some of the many exciting trends in time-lapse production. We feature a new trend in each instalment, to demonstrate the scope of the medium and the various ways in which it is applied, ranging from the popular to the more obscure.

The more movement, the better the time-lapse. It is no wonder, then, that crowds of people are among one of the most popular subjects of time-lapse video.

Time-lapse photography enables the human eye to perceive gradual change over time, making certain movements and processes appear more pronounced.

Arguably, we can already recognise the movement of crowds well enough without the shaping of such a technique. But time-lapse can offer different perspectives and comes with the added benefit of condensing long periods of time into short, digestible visual sequences.

This video from the BBC, for example, shows the migration of wedding guests arriving and departing from Windsor Castle on the day of the Royal Wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. The scale and cultural impact of this event can be more easily comprehended from viewing this video, watching movement on mass in a particular space, for a particular purpose.

Crowd control

In another way, videos like the Royal Wedding time-lapse can give us a sense of crowd behaviour; how people move in crowds and why.

In a similar way, time-lapse can effectively communicate how effective the guided movement of a crowd is within a particular space.

Take the following time-lapse video, for example. It shows the methods of crowd control in Tokyo, Japan, during the incredibly popular Comiket – the world’s largest self-publishing fair.

 

In one of the most densely populated countries in the world, not to mention the popularity of the event itself, it is essential to carefully organise the movement of large crowds to ensure safety and efficiency.

Through the method of time-lapse capture, the sheer level of organisation and management involved in this event is revealed. The neat snaking movement as the crowds are granted entry can be easily discerned and almost look effortless.

Additional enhancements

As we have touched on before, there are many additional techniques which share affinities with and can be used to further enhance time-lapse photography.

Motion blur is one of these. This refers to the ‘streaking’ effect of images – as seen from this time-lapse video featuring crowds of football fans approaching Wembley Stadium for the 2015 FA Cup Final – typically occurring when there is a change to the image as it is being recorded.

This recorded change is often the result of rapid movement or long exposure, with moving objects appearing blurred or ‘streaky’ along the direction of relative motion. This added effect works especially well when recording crowds due to constant movement, with the blurriness of frames helping to convey a sense of urgency or energy.

The tilt-shift (used below) is another enhancement that works particularly well with time-lapse of crowds – something that we have looked at before in our “Trends” series.

 

A tilt-shift requires two movements of the camera lens:

  • The ’tilt’ refers to its rotation of the lens plane relative to the image plane and is used to control the orientation of focus
  • The ‘shift’ is the movement of the lens parallel to the image plane and is used to adjust the position of the subject in the image without having to physically move the camera.

The technique creates a more shallow depth of field to the image which makes subjects appear incredibly small, which is why the practice of using a tilt shift is also referred to as ‘miniature faking’.

In a context featuring large crowds, the tilt-shift generates a toy-like quality, as if watching scenes from a cartoon.

A similar effect is created in GaryChou’s time-lapse and tilt-shift combination showing the crowded city streets of Taipei during a cultural Temple Celebration. Indeed, such enhancements allow for a different slant on time-lapsing crowd movements.

 

To see other “Trends” we explore in this series, go to our blog.

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