Outdoor time-lapse capture – a toolkit

There is no denying that we have enjoyed an incredible summer but the shift to autumn has brought about a significant change in weather conditions. And how does this affect outdoor time-lapse photography?

The quality of the finished time-lapse is in-part relative to how well the camera system is able to withstand its surrounding environment, especially when outdoors.

Professional time-lapse providers must ensure that their camera systems can operate outdoors, whatever the weather. Continuous capture is needed for the entire duration of a project – whether long-term or short-term – in order to deliver an excellent time-lapse video.

But how is this possible? The following is a rundown of what time-lapse providers must equip themselves with in order to handle time-lapse capture outdoors.

Robust equipment

The camera system – made up of hardware and software – is really the brains behind the time-lapse operation.

In order to keep up the regular capture necessary for a successful time-lapse video, the inner workings of the camera system need to be protected at all times. Professional providers operate powerful DSLR systems which can often withstand the dipping temperatures familiar in the winter months.

Snow scene at Air Products Tees Valley
Above: snowy scenes time-lapsing outdoor works at Air Products in Tees Valley.

To ensure extra functionality, however, special in-built climate control software keeps the camera at the ideal temperature – neither too hot or too cold as appropriate for the time of year. Precipitation and condensation can compromise image quality, as well as the inner workings of the camera.

The outer housing surrounding the camera system also works towards continued functionality of hardware and software. This also takes physical care of the system. Indeed, outdoor capture can be at the mercy of other conditions besides the weather.

Safe & secure

Keeping the camera out of the way is important for health & safety reasons. When it is not possible to fix to permanent structures, it is necessary to use bespoke materials in order to install successfully. Sturdy brackets and other custom-built fixings enable the camera system to be adaptable to its surroundings.

As well as providing a sturdy base for the camera system – necessary for steady and consistent capture – this also helps with safety. In most cases the ideal perspective of a subject is from above, so a camera is likely to be fixed to a taller building or other neighbouring structure.

Micromanagement via wireless technology

Laptop displaying a major construction site through the iRis 4.0 viewing portal
Above: our own bespoke online viewing portal – iRis 4.0.

Yet another safety net while operating a time-lapse camera system outdoors is the ability to access and monitor capture remotely.

Site monitoring is another valuable application of time-lapse photography: it involves utilising the online archive of images captured by the camera system(s) in operation in order to closely monitor progress.

This is incredibly beneficial for both client and contractor.

From the point of view of the time-lapse provider, the viewing portal provides a platform through which to see what the camera sees. If something is affecting capture, or if something changes on site that requires modification to the rate of capture, then this can be easily detected early on.

Additionally, wireless technologies mean that professional time-lapse cameras can be operated remotely; no hands-on required. When conditions outdoors are precarious or when access to site is difficult or not practical, this is incredibly useful. The internal workings of the camera system can be operated off-site to ensure consistent capture throughout the duration of a project.

Skill, knowledge & experience

In spite of this tool kit making time-lapse capture an effective form of visual documentation even in the most challenging of outdoor conditions, a full end-to-end service is not complete without a competent professional team of engineers.

Years of experience, where levels of skill and knowledge have been tested by working in all manner of external environments, can make all the difference between a good outcome and a better one.

Making the right decisions regarding installations, capture and overall management of the camera system all year round is yet another insurance when following a project outdoors. Equipped with appropriate industry accreditations, as well as extensive health and safety training, no project is out of reach.

 

Indeed, time-lapsing internally also presents its own challenges but professional providers are always prepared for both. The same quality of delivery and service is to be expected regardless of location or duration.

As we have detailed here, at the core of this quality assurance is a combination of practice, tools & technology, skill & experience.

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