Time Lapse Logistics

If you want your organizations’ story told using time lapse as the format, for social media to engage, entertain and inform your followers, please read the following and consider the elements necessary for a successful outcome.

Putting cost aside for the moment…

Gear Up!

First off, time lapse photography at its’ core is documentary in nature. Time lapse photography is usually a straight forward process: one or more cameras diligently record a scene, event, process or phenomenon. It can be as straightforward as a single stationary camera set out for several hours, or it be exponentially more complex when cameras are placed in remote locations for weeks, months or years. Recording a variety of ambient sounds for use in the editing process is also a consideration. (Sometimes easier than trying to source it online after principal photography has been completed.)

time lapse camera mounts.
Camera rigs atop a forty foot light pole: a GoPro Hero 2 with a Bogen Magic Arm and a Canon T3i inside my custom made weatherproof housing. The shield below the housing was for blocking the night lights as both cameras were on a 24-hour schedule, recording an image every two minutes.

After Photography

Secondly, thoughtful pre-production logistics planning and implementation will profoundly impact the quality of the content gathering portion of any time lapse production. Location scouting for camera placement, safety, security, lighting and composition. Procuring the required cameras and lenses, weather-proof housings, motion control apparatus, cables, (lots of ‘em) intervalometers, tripods, battery, a/c and solar power, remote monitoring and back up systems. Every assignment has its’ own unique qualities to consider…

As crucial as good content gathering is, poor post-production planning and implementation will slowly screw a time lapse piece into the ground with little hope of recovery. Duplicate media storage on hard drives is a no-brainer. Transforming the raw footage into HD JPEGS and importing the footage into a video editor, then massaging the footage, music and sound effects into a cohesive story with a beginning middle and end takes focused effort fraught with creative peril. Great footage will suck inside a poor edit. Average footage can still sing a decent song with the right touch. But editing takes a huge amount of time and the back and forth between what you think looks good and what plays well to your audience is daunting. Lightroom, Keynote, Premiere, After Effects and Sound Booth are the programs I favor in my workflow.


Figure for every hour of content gathering you’ll spend at least as much time in post-production…yike$!


Premiere interface for time lapse editing
Adobe Premiere interface: media access upper left, presets lower left, sound mixing board top middle, preview top right, timeline middle bottom.


Ready for Viewing

Lastly there is the encoding process. If you’re unfamiliar with this step, it’s the process of converting video files for use on websites, broadcast television, smartphones, tablets and closed networks. Going by the name CODEC, it stands for “Compression/Decompression” and choosing the right one results in smooth playback and clean sound. Pick the wrong one and you’ve managed to screw up the best edit you’ve ever seen. 0f course you can encode over and over again, until the cows come home and are turned into hamburger…but why? Picking the right one first is a balance between science, art and playback device….can I hear another yikes!

time lapse media encoder panel
Adobe Media Encoder interface: top left is where the current video is queued up, bottom is the preview/monitoring panel and on the right are a variety of output presets.


I hope you’ve found this post informative and worthwhile. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know below in the comments box or call me at: 1-818-422-0696.

Thanks for reading.


Michael Stern

My work depicts, appreciates and honors the people who build. Their specialized equipment and stunning challenges are marvels I behold and get paid to interpret. Hope you enjoy this site.

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