What is day-lapse?

Sure you happened to watch documentaries that demonstrated at an accelerated rate how grain germinates and a plant appears, how the sun rises and sets, how a piece of ice turns into a puddle, etc. This shooting technique is called time-lapse. The photographer was capturing an image of the scene at a specified interval (second, minute, hour …), and then created an fascinating movie with film frames thus obtained.

Day-lapse (or pic-a-day project) is a special case of the time-lapse technique, in which images of the object are captured once a day. The following video shows the course of building a house reproduced using this method.

The task of day-lapse is to fit a lengthy process in a very short time interval. On this website you will learn how to make day-lapse video. Believe me, it will not require you a lot of time and effort. On the contrary, it is easy and fun.

What may be a subject of day-lapse? For example, construction of houses, bridges, roads, stadiums, parks; urban or forest landscape changing from day to day; increase in the bely size of a pregnant woman; the process of plant development; even how human hair is growing (see below a video about a guy whole year wandering around China and photographing his beard grow). In short, an object should change, but not too fast. So every day changes of the object should be not very pronounced.

Now imagine someone’s windows overlook the NY Central Park, Hyde Park, the Champs Elysees, or other well-known place. Most likely, you happened to read great descriptions of similar attractions by famous writers. With day-lapse, you can also create such a description. Merely do it not with words, but with a conventional camera. The beauty of how the world is changing around is worth retaining, isn’t it? What about the way bare branches of trees come into leaf, which is turning green and gathering strength to become gold and red in the fall foliage and drop with the onset of winter? Imagine that you get (and give others) an opportunity to observe this fascinating process in just a few minutes.

You may ask: why do we need it? Why spend day after day during the shooting, and then more for editing the footage? The answer is it is necessary for the reason behind almost everything done in this world – for the sake of beauty, art, and knowledge. These are the true goals of time-lapse – knowledge and beauty.

So day-lapse is an occupation for the lucky ones. For those who have something to photograph. For those who see beauty in the world.

Creating day-lapse consists of three main stages:

1. Shooting

2. Editing photos

3. Creating video

In the near future I will put on the website a complete guide to creating day-lapse. Each stage will be discussed in great detail (with screenshots), so that everyone could come to know the particulars. Meanwhile I shall confine myself to a brief description. To begin with, you can start taking photos. A month later you will accumulate enough frames to tackle the second and third stages.

1. Shooting

The first good news – you do not necessarily have a professional photo equipment to create an interesting day-lapse. Modern cheap cameras provide decent image quality. You need not also be a guru of photography. All you can is press the shutter button in Auto mode? For shooting outdoors with lots of light, this is quite enough.

Be sure to observe only the following 3 points:

– Shooting should be done with a tripod or from any stable surface (such as a windowsill – if the subject is in front of your house). For better quality images it is strongly recommended to use a remote shutter release or self-timer because the movement from pressing the shutter release will hinder the camera focus accurately.

– The camera must every time be in the same point relative to the object. This is easy to achieve. If, say, you’re shooting from windowsill, you need to mark right on the windowsill the place where you put the camera each time.

– Take pictures with the same zoom every time. This is easy to control. Stick protective film on the display of your camera. Use a permanent marker to apply a few marks (three would be enough) designating certain points of the subject (say, right and left edges of a house under construction, and one more point for height adjustment). Now, when adjusting zoom before shooting, you just have to check whether the marks on display match the selected points of the subject. If they do – you can take a picture.

Well, I would also recommend that you do not take one picture a day, rather two or three. So you have something to choose from. Actually, at this point it becomes clear, what specifically you can choose as a subject for day-lapse. This can only be the kind of thing (landmark, view, etc.) that you have the ability to shoot every day (or almost every day). The ideal option would be the view from the window of your home or place of work. You understand that travelling somewhere far every day will not work. So, look for scenery nearby. This, by the way, imparts value to every day-lapse, because no one but you will be able to make the same video. The uniqueness of your work will outweigh, for example, the disadvantages of equipment or insufficient photography skills. Without any exaggeration, you create a unique work of art, a true masterpiece.

Day-lapse is simple. It does not require considerable investment. With day-lapse you get a chance to become an artist, to create something novel.

2. Editing Photos

We need to bring some kind of uniformity to the photographs:
a) In terms of location of object in the photograph (the object should be located strictly at one place of the frame in all photographs);
b) In terms of color and light (this is important for shooting outdoors).

These two tasks are easily solved with Adobe Photoshop capabilities. In addition, Photoshop allows you to automate many same-type actions allowing for faster processing. More good news – you will need to handle not so many pictures. For the whole year this makes 365 or 366 pieces. Now compare this with a traditional time-lapse, where the number of pictures taken for a few minutes video is estimated at tens of thousands of pieces. Do you understand now why day-lapse is available to everyone?

3. Creating video

This is the most interesting stage, and perhaps the easiest. Method for creating video is the same as that for traditional time-lapse. Use one of the many programs to create a video. If you have some expertize with a program that allows you to create a video from separate photos and to add an audio track to it, then you can safely use it. My experience was with VirtualDub.

So, let’s sum all this up. To create your daylapse-masterpiece, you will need:
– The object of shooting;
– Camera with a self-timer function and a display;
– Computer with graphics editing program Adobe Photoshop and a video editing program (such as VirtualDub);
– A couple of minutes each day to take pictures, and some hours later to create video with the photos obtained;
– A little bit of patience and perseverance.

As you can see, you do not need too much. A complete guide that I will soon put on this website will let you deal with day-lapse easily.

The world around us is beautiful. Let’s prove it once again to others, and to ourselves. Day-lapse is one more way to show the beauty of the world, a wonderful harmony that is present in it and in us as well. Capture a miracle that is happening every day. Day-lapse will assist you with this.

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1 Response

  1. James says:

    I liked the dog and construction daylapse. I used to do a lot of this years ago. I’d like to do more now with better cameras. You need to get a lot of people doing this or put out lots of cameras yourself to get much footage. I was always amazed by little things I didn’t expect happening in the backgrounds. Can you use this website to create a library of links, each linking to a different daylapse shot by someone? It would be nice if there was some sort of central repository where you could find these videos. Currently they are all over the place with different names. Try searching for “one frame per day” and stuff like that to find them. Best of luck with the site. Would you be interested in using this site to organize a documentary about daylapse? It could be really interesting if we could get people from different countries and different climate zones to contribute. I’d contribute and shoot some new if you do it.

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