Longterm Timelapse Video Production – A Primer

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Construction and Industrial Longterm Timelapse Video Production

Lately, we’ve had a lot of calls from our construction and industrial clients to provide long term timelapse for projects that are going on. So here’s a primer on what timelapse video is and how we break it down.

First, let’s define timelapse. Video runs at 24 or 30 frames (pictures, if you will, I don’t want to get into interlace or progressive discussion) a second. What time lapse does is to take one picture every so often, then you combine them into a video, which plays back each picture at 1/30th (or 1/24th) of a second.

Interval – this is the length of time between the taking of a picture. The longer the interval, the *faster* the video will play. So if you’ve got a one month timelapse that you take one picture a day, the entire month would play back in one second. If you took ten pictures a day, the video would play back in ten seconds… so the shorter the interval, the slower the month goes by.

Location – Let’s divide this up by the location of what you’re wanting to capture, and the location of the camera. Are you wanting to capture something outside? Can the camera shoot it from indoors? One of our longest timelapse cameras (going on almost a year), is taking pictures of a large construction area up against the window of a top floor conference room. We have other cameras in weather-proof cases, powered by solar panels up on telephone poles or concrete caps. We’ve placed cameras in large plants and warehouses, indoors, shooting indoor stuff, but mounted high on a rafter in the ceiling. Each one of the timelapse locations requires certain rigging and preparation.

The crucial thing for the camera in long term timelapse, is uninterrupted power and large memory. The most stable and dependable power is electricity. However, you have to watch out for blackouts and human error (workers unplugging the camera). We now use a battery backup with our camera systems that are running off of normal AC.

For memory, you can either have a large card inside the camera, or a way to upload the pictures to the internet as they’re taken. In the camera on the conference room mentioned earlier, we actually have it connected to a computer, which is on the network and able to upload pictures to dropbox as it takes them. This is ideal because we can monitor and know when we’ve got a problem.

Right now, we’re experimenting with a camera that has built in wifi, and also with a card that has wifi. The biggest obstacle with both of these systems in a long term situation, is that the card can fill up, and right now the wifi does not enable you to delete photos as you pull them.

The Camera – We use conventional digital SLR cameras to take pictures (it’s not necessary that they be video compatible). We also use iPad’s and iPad Mini’s. The DSLR will take a picture that’s in the neighborhood of 5000×3000 pixels. Since high def video is 1920×1080, you’ve got plenty of quality to make an outstanding video timelapse with a DSLR.

Movement – Another tool for timelapse is moving the camera during a timelapse period. This can create a very dramatic video, but is only good for short timelapse periods (like a day or less). This usually involves a computerized slider with a motor for very fin and super slow movement.

Whatever your long term timelapse need, there’s a solution. If we can help, feel free to contact us