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 T i m e l a p s e
Photography

I was first introduced to timelapse photography when I joined a team doing a documentary on North Cascades glaciers. Timelapse is a great way to add a dynamic aspect to photography.

What are timelapses? Timelapses are created by taking a series of still photos and stringing them together to show a fast-forwarded version of how the captured scene changes with time. In this way, hours of real-time can be compressed into mere seconds of film. The fast-forward speed is dependent on the interval between photos and the frame rate at which they are played.

What you will need: (1) A camera. Can't take photos without that. (2) A tripod. So that every photo captures the same frame so the video flows smoothly. (3) An intervalometer remote that connects to the camera to take a sequence of photos on a set interval. Otherwise you have to just stand there pressing the shutter button manually for hundreds of shots. (4) Computer software to merge the photos into a standard video file (usually at a frame rate of 15-30 frames/sec); there are several simple programs available for free download (I use MPEG Streamclip or Time Lapse Assembler).

The math. The engineer in me likes the mathematical side of timelapse. But don't worry, the math is simple. Say you want a 10 second video; using a frame rate of 24 frames/sec, this video would be comprised of 240 still photos. The following table gives examples of how long you need to run the timelapse and rough guidelines for the interval between photos, depending on the lighting situation. Note that these are only examples, as a timelapse can be made up of any combination of interval, frame rate, and number of photos, it's up to you!

For 10 second video comprised of 240 still shots at 24 frames/sec....
Example subject Interval between photos
Real time Timelapse (i.e. fast-forward) speed
Clouds 5-15 sec 20-60 min
120-360 x real time
Light 10-30 sec 40-120 min
240-720 x
People 1-10 sec
4-40 min
24-240 x
Tides 2-4 min 8-16 hours 2880-5760 x

I'm still just playing around with various techniques and learning as I go, but this page shows shows some of my favorite timelapses I've taken.


Installing a Wood Floor.
Length of video: 23 sec
Real time: 4.6 hours
Number of frames: 547
Interval between photos: 30 sec
Frame speed of video: 24 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 720x real time

For this speed, we charge $36,000/hour.
Flooring the Spare Bedroom in 26.4sec.
Length of video: 26.4 sec
Real time: 3.2 hours
Number of frames: 396
Interval between photos: 30 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 450x real time

We'll have the whole house floored in a matter of minutes.
Game Night Fun.
Length of video: 20.5 sec
Real time: 52 min
Number of frames: 308
Interval between photos: 10 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 150x real time

Things to watch for: playing cards on the table, disappearing chips and strawberries, line-up, execution, and clean-up of the monopoly figures...
An Hour in the Life of a Chair Leg at Starbucks.
Length of video: 23.6 sec
Real time: 1 hour
Number of frames: 354
Interval between photos: 10 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 150x real time

If each one of these customers spent $2-5, that's a lot of money spent on coffee in one hour!

Things to watch for: my sister on her hands and knees, the pink Nalgene, me on crutches, my shoe, ball of tinfoil, seat occupation, flow of customers....
Busy day at the parking lot at Artist Point, Mt. Baker Ski Area.
Length of video: 17.5 sec
Real time: 43 min
Number of frames: 262
Interval between photos: 10 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 150x real time

You could use this timelapse to approximate the number of people that come to Artist Point on a sunny autumn day: (# cars entering)*(2-3 people per car)*(10 hours per day) = ....
Cloud movement, weather moving in.
Length of video: 60 sec
Real time: 7.5 hours
Number of frames: 904
Interval between photos: 30 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 450x real time

It began to rain about 1 hour after I stopped this sequence of photos. Watching this timelapse makes me wish I could change the focus of my PhD studies to clouds/atmospheric physics rather than earthquake engineering....
A day of work: Filling an empty woodshed.
Length of video: 1.5 min
Real time: 5.5 hours
Number of frames: 1338
Interval between photos: 15 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 225x real time

Having the timelapse going made this hard day's work quite fun!
Campfire on beach.
Length of video: 31.4 sec
Real time: 40 min
Number of frames: 471
Interval between photos: 5 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 75x real time

It's fun to watch how the wood burns on the campfire. At this speed, it appears more like it is melting than burning.
Stars and clouds moving above cabin.
Length of video: 7.7 sec
Real time: 1 hour
Number of frames: 115
Interval between photos: 30 sec exposures with no interval in-between
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 450x real time

Note the movement on the moonlight on the cabin. I also like watching the movement of the stars in the windows.
Movement of Orion just before dawn.
Length of video: 5.6 sec
Real time: 45 min
Number of frames: 84
Interval between photos: 30 sec exposures with no interval in-between
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 450x real time

Note the 2 planes and ship going by and the shift in direction of cloud movement as morning comes.
Low to High Tide on Saturna Island, BC.
Length of video: 12 sec
Real time: 12 hours
Number of frames: 178
Interval between photos: 4 min
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 3600x real time

A summer day on the sandstone shelf.
Evening shadows in cabin.
Length of video: 14.4 sec
Real time: 1 h 48 min
Number of frames: 217
Interval between photos: 30 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 450x real time

Shadows are even more beautiful when you can capture their movement.
Boat, sunspots, and clouds moving over the ocean, as seen from Saturna Island, BC.
Length of video: 22.7 sec
Real time: 34 min
Number of frames: 341
Interval between photos: 6 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 90x real time

My favorite part of this timelapse is the movement of the sunspots across the water.
Dawn.
Length of video: 5.8 sec
Real time: 48 min
Number of frames: 88
Interval between photos: 30 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 450x real time

I ran this timelapse until overexposure with the increasing morning light. Note the cloud movement.
Sunrise.
Length of video: 5.2 sec
Real time: 39 min
Number of frames: 79
Interval between photos: 30 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 450x real time

Note how the clouds dissipate.
Watching the orcas swim by with my parents on Saturna Island, BC.
Length of video: 10.3 sec
Real time: 5 min
Number of frames: 156
Interval between photos: 2 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 30x real time

The orcas come by right at the beginning. This film is kind of dark because I had my exposure set a bit too low in the evening light.
Evening at camp (7:35-8:51pm).
Length of video: 20 sec
Real time: 76 min
Number of frames: 301
Interval between photos: 15 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 225x real time

Note the spectacular lighting on the clouds and Mt. Baker in the background. It is fun to watch just one person at a time in this video.
Clouds moving over the Easton Glacier on Mt. Baker.
Length of video: 5.1 sec
Real time: 6.5 min
Number of frames: 77
Interval between photos: 5 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 75x real time

These clouds high on the mountain were moving fast.
Alpenglow on Mt. Baker (7:24-7:39pm).
Length of video: 6.1 sec
Real time: 15 min
Number of frames: 92
Interval between photos: 10 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 150x real time
Cloud formation, lit by evening sun.
Length of video: 5.5 sec
Real time: 14 min
Number of frames: 83
Interval between photos: 10 sec
Frame speed of video: 15 frames/sec
Timelapse speed: 150x real time

It's cool too see how clouds propagate.
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