One of the common questions we get involves 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. Hopefully, this will help you with your next time-lapse video project.
1. Pick an appropriate camera.
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 our camera to be able to record on its own without us having to babysit it on an hourly or even daily basis. ThereÕs a variety of possibilities for using video cameras. If it says ÒViewfinderÓ on the side, then itÕs not going to work.
Most consumer cameras with a Òtime lapseÓ feature arenÕt going to be up to 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 didnÕt touch it for the entire build. This is very important. The camera needs to be dedicated to the project and placed in a spot where it wonÕt get bumped. In other words, this project may not work with small children and pets nearby.
2. Determine how to capture footage.
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-from early morning until late at night every day. We used a 200GB Firewire drive to store the data. The drive would almost entirely fill up over the course of a single day.
3. Establish the daily routine.
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.
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 from the Firewire drive so that the next day’s footage could be captured.
This daily routine can go on for a long time-for us, it went on for 8 months.
4. Combine source clips.
Once the shoot is complete, import all the sped up footage into a single bin in your preferred video editor. (After 8 months of build up, this should be an exciting moment!) Combine all of the clips together into a single long sequence. Then, edit out the parts that don’t propel the narrative. 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 still much too long!
5. Determine final length.
We wanted our 50 minute clip to become around 45 seconds, so we had to speed it up again, this time around 75x.
6. Finishing touches.
Apply faders and a title on the end.
The biggest things to keep in mind when doing a time-lapse project like our Home Construction video:
1. Don’t touch the camera! The slightest move may ruin the piece.
2. Use manual focus. Send someone out to stand at the desired focal length-in our case where the house was to be, adjust the focus, and then don’t touch anything until the project is done!
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-even though she was less than thrilled about having a camera poking out her front window.
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.
5. Find a great soundtrack. Pick music that has a pace that matches the movement in the final edit.
Blessings on your time-lapse video. If you create something, we’d love to see it! Send us a DVD or email us a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org