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Here’s a quick preview taster from a series of film and photography work I’m producing for a long-term residential construction project over 18 months in South Manchester.

Time lapse photography
As someone who shoots commercial stills photography, and more recently video, timelapse photography is something of a mix of the two. However, it’s also very much its own beast, and has a whole new set of rules to play by.

The plug

If you are an architectural or construction firm, considering a creative timelapse/ video production to document your new build or project, get in touch at mail@dandphotography.co.uk

More after the jump…

Once you’ve got the basics nailed down, shooting some time lapse footage is fairly straight forward these days. Most decent cameras have some sort of  interval shooting system tucked away in the menu somewhere, or if not you can buy a fairly cheap external gizmo to achieve the same control and results.

Some cameras (like my shiny new Nikon D800) even have a time lapse movie function built in too, which pre-composes the stills in camera into a ready made movie file. There are plus points and minus points for each approach and I won’t go into them now. The point I’m trying to make is; the rules are there, the equipment is there, so off you go.

As with still photography though, where there’s a big difference between a photo and a good photo, there’s also a difference between a timelapse video and a good timelapse video…

Get moving
Watching a static, same angle, fixed shot timelapse film of the most beautiful building in the world such as the (insert your own choice) being constructed can get boring after 30 seconds or so. Oh look, another floor has gone on, nice. What’s for tea?
You need to mix it up a bit, get some different shots and variety in there. One of the absolute best things for making timelapse more interesting however, is to get that camera moving. Cinematographise it up!

There are ways to give the appearance of camera movement in post production – shooting at, or making your timelapse footage 1080p and editing it on a 720p timeline gives you lots of room to play with and do fake pans without losing any resolution/ quality. On a wide shot you can get away with this and the effect is quite good. However, for closer framed footage there is no substitute for getting the actual camera moving, and one way to do this, which is especially effective for time lapse photography, is with a slider or ‘dolly’ system.

I’ve had a Glidetrack slider for a while now, just the half metre SD version, which is ok for some quick and dirty dolly shots when filming with a DSLR as long as you keep it light and don’t have too much weight on there. But it’s no good for timelapse (more on that in a mo). As my DSLR video rig has grown with numerous rails, follow focus, Zacuto EVF, Tascam sound recorders, mics etc, the weight has also increased and I needed something beefier, so I recently upgraded to an IGUS one metre slider system that’s belt driven, and…..has a portable motor specifically designed for timelapse filming and photography.

Why do you need a motor driven slider you may ask? Well, in theory, to shoot a short timelapse movie with some nice slidey camera movement, you could theoretically push the camera along a tiny amount every few seconds or so between the takes. This would however  i) be a bit unreliable in terms of distance you push each time, resulting in irregular ‘un-smooth’ results and ii)  be a complete pain in the arse. Use a motor, set the speed you need, sit back and have a cup of tea, get good results.

Rather than explain how it works this short extract below shows the effect you get from using a motorised slider to achieve camera movement in timelapse photography…

That short 6 second clip you can see above took about 6 minutes to capture. In that time the camera has crawled along the rail, driven by the motorised belt,  snapping away every 3 seconds, for just less than a metre. I’d managed to set up atop a mound of dirt to get some height, and purposefully framed the dirt in the bottom third to emphasise the movement and give a parallax scrolling effect (ah, that term takes me back to 80’s/ 90’s platform video games. Great days). This is another top tip for any slider shots, not just timelapse. When you only have a metre to play with ie move your camera, try and get something close in the foreground to magnify the effect. It’s not always obvious travelling such a relatively short distance, especially if you’re shooting wide.

Another extract below helps illustrate the effect, and shows how introducing camera movement (this time across and sliding down) makes it more dynamic. If you tried to simulate this just in post production from a fixed static camera, there would be no perspective shift or line of sight changes that just make it so much more interesting and pleasing to the eye…

Long term
This particular assignment is at a very early stage, as is the build itself, so the ‘full effect’ time lapse production is a long way off yet and will involve all sorts of IP security camera footage and remote access wizardry that will give me a huge number of stills to play with over the next 18 months or so. The quality of these stills will be a world away from my D800 and cinema lens footage however, so it will be an interesting task to work them into a final film.

Techy bits/ details
The first video above is from footage captured over just one day in various short-long bursts. The wide opening/ recurring shot was captured on a Nikon D7000, using interval stills every 5 seconds for about 1 hour. These stills (about 800!) were then post processed in Lightroom and then later composed in Premiere Pro Cs5.5. The rest of the footage was a full workout for the new Nikon D800, and my new 1 metre igus slider and digital motor system, designed specifically for time lapse photography. Each of the timelapse sliding shots (most horizontal, some at 45 degrees) were over about 6-20 minutes a time.

As an experiment most of these were composed ‘in camera’ using the D800’s inbuilt time lapse movie feature, which is pretty damn smart and produces great results with minimum fuss. If you’re pushed for time, or can’t be bothered processing 1000 images for a 30 second clip or whatever, I strongly recommend you check this feature out if you’re a fellow D800 user.
The lighting conditions for time-lapse photography were also very tricky on the day.  As you can see it was cloudy one minute, very bright sun the next, so nailing the necessary manual exposure was hard. I chose to generally under-expose (by about 1 stop) to maximise cloud details (good clouds are a must for time lapse), and not lose them totally when the conditions brightened half way through a timelapse session, knowing I could bump it up in post a bit which worked out well. I think I also used an ND grad filter for the recurring wide shot to help, but I can’t honestly remember.

The plug

If you are an architectural or construction firm, considering a creative timelapse/ video production to document your new build or project, get in touch at mail@dandphotography.co.uk



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Comments ( 2 )

[…] construction build in Manchester. I’ve been doing a lot of video work for the project (see my BUILD preview), but yesterday was the first time we got to try out some posed stills on […]

Construction photography and video Manchester | DanD photography + VIDEO | Blog | News and some views from a northern snapper added these pithy words on Oct 11 12 at 7:00 pm

[…] For some techy information about timelapse photography featured so far in this project and more details, see my previous blog post here. […]

Video Production Manchester | Architectural | Construction | Corporate | DanD photography + VIDEO | Blog | News and some views from a northern snapper added these pithy words on Jan 08 13 at 5:18 pm

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