The timelapse boom

Thanks to a technology shift, timelapse photography (or video?) is here to stay. Here some considerations about it.


The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

A nice example of using timelapse shots.

Technology usually doesn’t come alone. It is amazing how technology can influence on aesthetics when it comes to art and media. It’s just a matter of making an instrument reachable to initiate a trend, or even better, a boom.
Everybody remembers the Polaroid ages, and how it defined a trend in use. One of the most clear examples of the mark that it has made is the success of Instagram, an app that somewhat mimics the shifted colors and not-so-accurate develop of the good old Polaroids.
Some time ago it was the HDRI images (high dynamic range images) that landed in photography creating a huge volume of photos using this technique. I think nowadays the amount of hdrs around is decreasing, but it’s impossible to disregard how related the technological and artistical sides are.
Now as a filmmaker I’m witnessing the Timelapse boom. Thanks to the lower costs of remotes and the new dslr cameras with built-in intervalometers we are seeing thousands of videos showcasing timelapses. Mostly sunsets or night shots, mostly together with a piano soundscore. Over and over again.
First of all, is it accurate to talk about timelapse photography? The whole point of timelapse is making a video out of it. Of course it is pictures you are taking, but video is also a sequence of pictures. Therefore the accurate term would be “timelapse recording”.

Venus, Mars, Saturn, Sun set over Hamelin Pool. from Colin Legg on Vimeo.

Another example of well-used timelapse recording.
I must say that clients are asking more and more some timelapses in videos. It’s a trend that is raising dramatically and it forced me to order an intervalometer myself.
Personally I think that any kind of method or technique should be backing up a narration purpose. Some filmmakers tend to abuse timelapses and honestly it is starting to get boring.
The main thing to take into account when doing a timelapse is to foresee what’s the final clip we want to obtain from it. How long do we want our shot to be? If we want a 6 seconds shot, we know that at 25fps it’s 150 frames, and if our timelapse shows a span of 4 hours, we will have to make a shot every 1 min and 26 seconds. You could shoot more and then stretch video, but this way you would (and should) be saving both battery and shutter lifespan.
About the last, the photography amateurs should also take into consideration that shooting timelapses have a huge impact on the shutter lifespan, depending on use, of course. So if you have to choose a camera for timelapse, you should go for the one with the longest shutter life. Some Canon bodies assure around 200.000 shots. Beware, shooting timelapse can worn out your dslr shutter.
Another rather inexpensive way to shoot timelapse is getting a Go Pro. There you don’t have to worry about a mechanical shutter, but instead you should be watching that battery! Timelapse shots can be really long and in some cases need of an AC plug to keep the equipment on, which can be rather difficult outdoors.
Nevertheless, getting good results is rather easy with it, because the outcome is almost always spectacular, so it’s pretty clear that timelapse is here to stay. It’s up to the audience to determine when they had enough of “those darn timelapses”.
Nevertheless, I’d like to close this article with one of the most beautiful timelapse videos I’ve seen

Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.

What do you think about timelapse? Do you like it or not? Is is just something fashionable or is it here to stay?


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