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Time-Lapse Video of Georgia Tech

March 18, 2009

It’s now spring break on the campus of Georgia Tech and I have plenty of studying remaining before I take the Fundamentals of Engineering examination (this test is preliminary to obtaining a Professional Engineer’s License).  I’ve been interested in doing a time-lapse video of the three main engineering buildings on Georgia Tech’s campus, so I multitasked while studying today and took photos of the buildings every five minutes.  Here is the time-lapse video created from the photos I took today:

The “MRDC” building is to the left, the “MARC” building is to the right, and the “Love Building” is visible through the alley between them.  To reiterate what I stated about “how I made it” in the youtube video info:

SOFTWARE: photos stitched together into a video with windows movie maker.
HARDWARE: one janky tripod made of parts found around my lab, and one Canon Powershot SD1000 Digital Elph. The Elph’s battery life impressed me: more than 160 “On / Photo Capture / Off” operations performed as well as full offload of photos with no battery death.
RECORDING: Photos taken once every five minutes from the hour of sunrise until the sun set behind the horizon (a little over 12 hours). The resulting 160 photos were played back at 0.25 second intervals. A duration of 0.125 seconds for each photo was a little too fast.

I think my first attempt at making a time-lapse video was largely a learning lesson.  I think the video was mediocore for a number of reasons.  Lessons learned:

1.  My goal was to get a “whole day” of architectural shadows recorded–from sunrise to sunset–but half of the day was overcast.  Unfortunately, this was the only day I had available to take the photos, so I had to run with it and hope for the best; luckily the sun came out after around 1 PM–but the video did not really get interesting until then.  Particularly since my subject was architectural shadows, I don’t think it was worth taking pictures when the subject was not around to record.

2.  Timing the taking of photos to the speed of the subject.  The photos in this video were taken at five minute intervals, which I think is just barely sufficient to capture the path which the building shadows followed in this video.  But cloud movement–a much faster subject which would have been interesting to observe–was MUCH faster than a five minute photo interval would allow.  I really enjoy the time-lapse vids which show the progress of clouds across the sky.  My video obviously couldn’t fall into that category.

This point also elucidates how much more “value-for-your-time” which the concept of “timing photos to your subject’s speed” can add for someone who is making a time-lapse video.  For this video, I was snapping pictures every five minutes for 12 hours straight…  But I think a much more interesting video which showed clouds forming up and scudding across the sky could have been made in just two hours, by taking a photo every thirty seconds.  This approach would have kept me completely busy for two hours, but would have created a more interesting final product.

3.  A more solid tripod–and a remote shutter button–would have helped a little.  I was using bits of hardware which I found in my research lab to make a “camera tripod,” and I think small wiggles in the video are due to the sloppiness in the base I had the camera mounted to.

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