Professional Video Production – Trade Show Time-Lapse:
As a professional video production company, we’ve worked in all aspects of video production and have done many, many time-lapse sequences in the past using DSLRs as well as our Sony EX1’s which allow single frame interval recording. We’ve even done time-lapses for large customers such as the CES organization. However, our past time-lapse projects do not compare to the challenges faced with our recent experience doing a 10 day time-lapse of a massively sized booth’s construction and tear down at the Sands Expo Center.
Setting Up and Monitoring Cameras
One of the biggest issues we ran into is figuring out camera placement because though we knew where our booth was going to be, you can only estimate what other booths are going to do to alter your view. It also normally requires access to the cameras on a regular basis to monitor that no one has moved them or stolen them, and also to maintain power and change memory sticks. Catwalks are a logical place for placement though at a big show, booths can be very close together and catwalks for camera placement are only in certain places. With this type of situation, we visited the site before the show to determine if catwalks were feasible or if we would have to mount cameras some other way. At this point we determined that the catwalks were viable. During the time-lapse we traveled to the trade show and monitored the status of view twice a day, morning and evening. Ultimately, we had to add an additional camera to get a better view after the time-lapse began and other booths were constructed.
Because access must be paid for, and even then can be shaky when you are dependent on the Expo’s service employees, we opted to go with cameras that run on batteries for months at a time and use very little in the way of storage. Cameras ideal for this purpose are time-lapse gaming cameras designed to record the passage of game over extended periods. These can be programmed to run continuously at the time-lapse interval you need. For our purpose it was one frame every 10 seconds. Thus if we couldn’t get to them, they would just keep running.
We used 3 different views of the booth, two from the front and one from the rear. We mounted the cameras on Bogen SuperClamps with Gitzo heads allowing 360 degree adjustment.
To avoid theft, we built cable straps out of stranded 3/32 steel cable like you can buy at Lowes or Home Depot. We ran the wire through the cameras and clamp mounts, crimped the ends into loops we could use a lock through, ran the wires anchored to catwalk rails and locked them. You need a dremel tool or hacksaw to get through this, a wire cutter doesn’t make a dent. We made short pieces for the cameras themselves and longer pieces to mount to the rails and put the locks through all the crimped loops.
With multiple cameras, the odds of getting a better angle and needed coverage is improved and we were able to capture good vantages of all the construction.
If you’ve never edited a time-lapse sequence you might think that you just put your footage together, take out what isn’t showing anything and you are done. Actually, the first step to take out non-essential footage but the rest is much more complicated than it would seem. To make a long term time-lapse construction more interesting to watch, besides omitting some footage, you change the speed of various sections, in this case from almost real time, 1 second = 5 minutes, to 2000 times real time. You also want key events to occur consistently with music stanzas. Additionally we zoom in on key elements and remove other sections from view with the zoom. The final result was 10 days work, 240 hours edited into less than 4 minutes with the best part being that the client absolutely loved the end result.