Worship Media Arts

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How to Create a Time-Lapse Video

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<p>One of the common questions we get here at Midnight Oil concerns our Home Construction video. Usually, the question goes something like, “How in the world did you do that?!” We decided to outline the steps behind the making of such a video, using our example as an illustration. Hopefully, this will help you when you decide to tackle a similar video project.</p>
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FIGURE 1
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<p><strong>1.	Pick an appropriate camera.</strong> This means you must decide if you want to create the desired effect using a sequence of stills or sped up video. We chose to use video because we needed this to be able to record on its own without us having to babysit the camera on a daily basis.</p>
<p>Note: If it says “ViewMaster” on the side, then it’s not going to work. Similarly, most consumer cameras with a “time lapse” feature aren’t going to be up the task. We used a Canon GL1 video camera, which is by no means a high end camera. Image quality is going to be compromised anyway with the acceleration, so the GL1 worked well for its small size. We placed it on a tripod and didn’t touch it for the entire build. The camera needs to be dedicated to the project and placed in a spot where it won’t get bumped (Figure 1). In other words, this project may not work with small children and pets nearby.</p>
<p><strong>2.	Determine how to capture footage.</strong> Trying to capture video footage over a long period using 60-minute cassettes is impractical, so we hooked the Canon camera up to an Apple Macintosh computer via Firewire cable and used a simple video editing program (iMovie) to digitize the footage coming in?Äîfrom early morning until late at night every day.</p>
<p>Of course, this creates some big time data to process, so we used a 200GB Firewire drive to store the data. The drive would almost entirely fill up over the course of a single day.</p>
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FIGURE 2B
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<p><strong>3.	The daily routine.</strong> In the morning, we’d turn on the camera at the AC connection. This allowed us to avoid touching the power button, which might move it and ruin the effect. Then, we’d hit “digitize” in iMovie. Afer checking periodically, at the end of each day, we opened the footage files we had made on the Firewire drive with After Effects and sped them up to 100 times their original speed. We used a mode of video called “frame blending” to make the video look a little more streaky. It may be possible to use a standard video editor such as Adobe Premiere, but we don’t know if other applications can get the smooth, “frame blending” look.</p>
<p>In the case of our project, once the footage was sped up, the file size shrank from about 175-200 GB to around 2-3 GB. The sped up footage was then copied to another drive, and the real time footage was erased so that the next day’s footage could be captured. This daily routine can go on for a long time?Äîfor us, it went on for 8 months (Figure 2).</p>
<p><strong>4.	Combine source clips.</strong> Once the shoot is complete, import all the sped up footage into a single bin in your preferred video editor. Combine all of the clips together into a single long sequence. Then, edit out the parts that don’t propel the narrative. For us, that meant removing the sequences where the construction workers were sitting around doing nothing?Äîstrangely, there were a lot of those sequences. The beauty of time-lapse is that you don’t have to worry about transitions. Everything is moving so fast that simple cuts work best for this step. At the completion of this step, our Home Construction video was about 50 minutes long?Äîstill much too long!</p>
<p><strong>5.	Determine final length.</strong> We wanted our 50 minute clip to become around 45 seconds, so we had to speed it up again, this time around 75x. Make sure to allow for a few seconds at the end for the title to appear.</p>
<p>A few additional tips to keep in mind when doing a time-lapse project like our Home Construction video:</p>
<p>1.	Don’t touch the camera! The slightest move may ruin the piece.<br />
2.	Use manual focus. Send someone out to stand at the desired focal length?Äîin our case where the house was to be, adjust the focus, and then don’t touch anything until the project the building is done!<br />
3.	Find dedicated people to help. You may not always be there to start and stop the computer, so find some helpers. When Jason was out of town his wife graciously agreed to start and stop the computer each day?Äîeven though she was less than thrilled about having a camera poking out her front window.<br />
4.	You might also share the load of speeding up the footage at the end of each day. That was a task we grew to loathe by the end of the project.<br />
5.	Find a great soundtrack. Pick music that has a pace that matches the movement in the final edit.</p>
<p>Good luck with your time lapse video. If you create something, we’d love to see it! Send us a DVD or email us a copy <a href=here.

6 Comments so far »

  1. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on July 12, 2006 @ 9:52 am

    What do you think? Leave a message if you have something to say about this article. No registration is required to post a comment, but we will moderate for inappropriate stuff, so your comment will be delayed in posting until we clear it.

  2. Jim Miller said,

    Wrote on July 12, 2006 @ 11:57 am

    Wow. All I can say is “better you than me”. I appreciate the video even more now.

  3. Cynthia Robinson said,

    Wrote on July 12, 2006 @ 8:33 pm

    I have always wanted to do a time-lapse video. After reading the instructions I still want to do it, but didn’t realize how labor intensive it is. I enjoy watching time-lapse video sequences, but now I have a greater appreciation for these pieces. I will try a day long to start. Thanks for sharing this information.

  4. Paul said,

    Wrote on July 14, 2006 @ 9:24 pm

    Not touching the camera would be the toughest part

  5. chris p said,

    Wrote on June 5, 2007 @ 11:36 am

    Hi, how did you handle problems? What are the pitfalls and issues to watch out for?
    I.e. security?
    camera failure?
    People blocking the view?
    Charge for something like this?
    The manpower per day?
    Thanks, I ask all these as I am bidding on a large project that where they want this.
    Chris

  6. dave b said,

    Wrote on March 13, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    Yes how much effort each day over 8 months on average went into this.

    If you had that number times your hourly rate + equipment you could come up with cost.

    am I on the right track?

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