Day to Night
Motion Controlled Timelapse
Keeping the camera ticking is one thing, but adding motion parallax is what really brings the shot alive. From straight tracks, to rotates, and pan / tilt heads on a crane, all forms of motion control are available to fly the camera repeatably through a living scene.
Example series; Mysteries of the Unseen World, Plant Odysseys, Conquest of the Skies, Hidden Kingdoms
Some behaviour can take weeks or months to capture, so long form timelapses are required to bring the action to screen. 3 studio cameras (D800) are available to shoot 24/7 each with a three axes of motion control, UPS, grow lighting and main relays to not only keep the cameras going but the subject too.
Example series worked on; Kingdom of Plants, Mysteries of the Unseen World, Kellogg’s ad spot
Kingdom of Plants
Turntables rotate subjects or lighting; from a butterfly’s wing to animate the scales & fluorescence to a whole living set. I have turntables for quick moves or extreme macro microscopy moves.
For the larger landscapes bigger moves are required and for that I’ve developed a motion controlled crane (up to 20 foot). Ideal for landscape or plants growth sequences in a studio or more controlled environments.
Focus motors for lenses, and focusing racks enable precise macro moves on a variety of sliders from Chapman & Ronford sliders to ladder dollies. Alternatively they can be attached to standard lenses to keyframe focus with other motion parameters.
Dolly (with pan / tilt)
From small rigs (single DSLRs) for timelapse or live action repeated moves, right up to heavy 3D mirror rigs – their motion can be programmed and repeated with a pan / tilt / dolly head and track.
With motion-controlled timelapse it is possible to dissolve between UV and visible light. The image below shows the same iris flower captured in visible light (on the left) and in true UV (on the right). Use the slider to dissolve between the two. The UV capture is possible due to a hardware modified camera and a UV Nikon lens with quartz glass. Timelapse allows animation of the subject so the iris can be seen opening with a dissolve at any point from visible to UV.
my first timelapse
epiboly in an embryo filmed for my undergraduate dissertation while studying at Bath for my degree in Biological Sciences
Shooting timelapses with a single camera can be a challenge, but things get commensurably harder in 3D. For the bigger things in life a mirror rig is needed which adds weight and camera sync complexities. For the smaller things stereoscopic sliders are employed to capture stereo pairs down to the microscopic level.
Day to Night transitions
Termed the ‘holy grail’ of timelapses, shooting day to night transitions encompassing some 20 stops or more from direct sun to starlight. This can now be done with relative ease in both 2D and 3D timelapses, combined with motion of the camera too.
The nature of timelapse often means shooting in controlled, studio environments. This requires realistic and detailed, living, sets being built inside. Set designing is as much part of the timelapse shoot as dealing with the cameras and the motion control, so green fingers certainly help.
Out of this world
It’s not just about what we can see, but about what we can’t see also. Shooting in UV and IR reveals new behaviours that otherwise go unnoticed. I have a variety of specialist kit including UV lenses, adapted cameras and notch filters to selecting wavelengths.
Something are just very, very small. Take social amoeba (dictyostelium) for example. Hardly any bigger than a pin head but full of life that timelapse can bring alive, and in 3D too.
And repeat. But faster.
Stepping up gear, it’s sometimes helpful to combine framerates together. Repeating a move in timelapse, live action and then over-speed means compositing can then bring hyper-real worlds alive.