Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A wonder of wildlife TV - Make your own magical motion timelapse #Radian

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The magic of motion control timelapse

If you’ve ever watched a Natural History series, such as Frozen Planet or Planet Earth, or watched the film Baraka, then you will have marveled at the magic of motion-controlled time-lapse cinematography. It's an astonishing filming technique that opens our eyes to a whole new world. Through timelapse slow-growing plants and intricate animal behaviours come alive and with the added touch of motion control the whole scene becomes ever more revealing, immersing you in the magical moment.

Here's one of my favourite scenes from Frozen Planet. The scene opens with some static timelapses but then moves into some lovely pans, helping to add to the feel of frenetic movement amongst the penguins. See more beautiful examples from the BBC here.

The mechanics behind the magic

The process is fairly simple. In TV we usually create timelapses using an SLR camera mounted to a motion-control rig that we can dial the desired movement into - for example to pan 180 degrees over 30 minutes.

To control the shutter of the SLR we attach an intervelometer which allows us to set the camera to automatically capture an image at a pre-set interval - for clouds rolling by this could be an image every 5 seconds. The rig slowly pans or tilts the camera while the images are captured.

The proof is in the playback. In the UK we usually record video for TV at 25 frames per second, so to see the timelapse we generally play it back so that we see 25 images every second. If all has gone well we should magically see the shot smoothly pan or tilt across the scene. What's more, because we've captured these timelapses using an SLR each frame has a resolution much higher than standard HD television and so there is the capacity to slowly zoom, or move about within the actual timelapse during post-production.

For more advice read this post by one of our leading timelapse cinematographers Tim Allen.

Panning timelapse rigs for everyone

I've been playing around with panning timelapses for sometime and I was pleased to receive one of the first camalapse devices a few years ago. Since then, whenever I see a fun opportunity I've been sticking my iPhone or GoPro on it. Here's a fun video that I recorded, and edited, on my iPhone whilst in the Pantanal...

Now a company called Alpine Laboratories has released a device called radian, which is similar to the camalapse but can handle larger cameras - most usefully an SLR, and for those who are apple obsessed - you'll be pleased to know that it can be controlled through an iPhone app.

So now I can get the same quick and easy panning timelapse with a camera that I can use to create images for TV, not to mention using HDR on my SLR to create panning High Dynamic Range timelapses. It may not be as high-tech or versatile as other rigs but what I like about radian is that it's cheap, quick and easy.

Just check out the timelapse video from Yosemite that was shot using this device... Beautiful!

Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.

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