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Time lapse of a construction site

Time lapse of a construction site

Old Mar 29, 17, 4:36 pm
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Time lapse of a construction site

Construction of a 25 story apartment building is just getting started in the block immediately across the street. From our condo, I have a great view which will also include two major north-south streets and one cross street. Also, another smaller building construction across the latter street is just beginning. Our condo is high enough that I should be able to capture most of the construction. The new building will be stair-stepped so only the section farthest from our building will be higher than my view.

I have no experience with time lapse, other than one night of star track shooting with a pro.

Here is my tentative plan. Please tell me what I am missing.

D7000 with 18-200 DX lens. Use D7000 internal intervalometer*. Tripod, of course. I am not using either the camera or the lens so they can remain in place. Start shooting early morning and stop when I return home and activity has stopped. I might be able to set this to auto. Shoot every day except weekends.

The D7000 has two chips that can be used sequentially and a decent battery life. Will keep a spare battery charged.

I expect the project to take 1-2 years. Unless I lose interest, length of day and weather will change dramatically in Seattle. Also, the site will be in full sun all day in a month or so but that shadows from nearby buildings will occur in Sept/Oct. My view is south-southeast. Currently, sunrise is just to the east (left) and will continue to move north. Summer days in Seattle are very long, although the work day will probably remain 7am to 4pm.

Questions after reading.

Shoot manual? If so, determine settings experimentally?
Why not shoot aperture or shutter speed priority? I have read arguments for both although manual seems to be preferred.

Recommended aperture vs shutter speed settings?

White balance setting? Weather changes substantially in Seattle from rain to bright sunshine and back again.

RAW vs jpeg?

General guidelines for interval between shots? Will continue to read about this and also do some trial runs.

Unanticipated problems?


Next I will need to learn post processing.

Thanks for your help and advice with this project. I am thinking the construction company might be interested in the final project if it's well done. Of course, if there are major construction defects ....




*I have a Velos if there are advantages to using an external intervalometer, although that would be another battery to watch.

Last edited by SeAAttle; Mar 29, 17 at 4:44 pm
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Old Mar 29, 17, 10:46 pm
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Originally Posted by SeAAttle View Post
.......Of course, if there are major construction defects ....
Sell it to the tenants' attorney

Seriously, very interesting project.

Not familiar with the D7000, but assume you can shoot image and record it in both RAW and JPEG (RAW goes to 1 SD card; JPEG goes to the other). If so, do it.

Canít answer all questions, but here we go:

Shoot RAW (need post process with software). You recover shadows and highlights in post process. If you use JPEG only, WYSIWYG.

White balance: tough call, due to long period of seasonality variation. I would set it to AUTO to get the best exposed shot.

Focus: manual focus (once set, lock it)

Aperture priority: Get the best of depth of field (use f/11 or above)

ISO: 100 (or 50)

Interval between shots: one per day (see note at bottom), set shooting time at best lighting HOUR of the day.

Unanticipated problems: Your dog might trip the tripod. Dirty window and glare due to rain and sun.

For post process: recommend Adobe CC (Lightroom and Photoshop subscription).

NOTE: interval between shots: I said one per day. BUT, in order to get the highest dynamic range, I would use BRACKETING to get 3 shots or even 5 shots. 1 f-stop apart. In post process, merge them into 1 HRD shot. To do this, set camera to shoot in BURST mode.

Hope this helps.
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Old Mar 31, 17, 1:10 am
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Thanks for your suggestions. Very helpful
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Old Apr 12, 17, 1:51 pm
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My two cents: if you're looking at a 1-2 year project, I would not use a zoom lens. You basically want to set up your camera and leave it in the same spot the entire duration. A prime lens will always give you the same focal length; a zoom will likely move during that time.

As far as interval, think about how long you want your final product to be. A video generally runs anywhere from 24 to 30 frames per second. If you shoot one a day, you'll have a pretty short video. I would do at least one an hour, if not more frequently. You can always drop frames in the final video, but you can't add frames that don't exist. (Also, if you're thinking major construction defects, you'll have better evidence with more frequent captures.)

Also, I would stick with jpg. You're not going to want to go back and process the raw photos...simply too many for the duration you're looking at. Save the space and change your memory card less often. You definitely want aperture priority, so that you're depth of field stays constant. If it were me, I'd just set and forget. Let it run 24/7 (plugged in) so that you don't have to think about it.
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Old Jun 10, 17, 2:38 pm
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Quick update. So far, construction has consisted of digging down for an underground parking garage. While it may sound boring, it is fascinating to see timelapse of the cooperation among 3 cats* digging, moving dirt in sequence with the last one loading onto trucks. I shoot several times a week at 30 second intervals, starting when I leave for work and ending when the camera runs out of battery power. The first section of the crane was installed yesterday so excavation is almost complete.

Purchased the LRTimelapse software and the learning curve is steep. Still dealing with flicker. Most sequences are 20-30 sec. The plan is to select shorter segments from the best of the collection and assemble them into a longer video.

*not the feline type
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Old Jun 10, 17, 5:57 pm
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Yes, short sequences or still shots. You'll have hundreds, right?

How will you keep the camera absolutely motionless over the period in question? A tripod is not enough, not by a long shot. Even slight jarring (from changing batteries, adjusting, hooking up recharging cable, whatever) will be very disruptive of the result. My experience is that it's prohibitively difficult to correct in post-pro.
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Old Jul 7, 17, 2:43 pm
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I have sequences taken at 30 sec intervals for several hours. So far, only a few instances of camera movement that are detectable in the final product.

In about a week, when dirt removal is complete, they will be lifting the large equipment out of the 5 story below ground area. Hope to catch that event.
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Old Jul 8, 17, 8:03 am
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Removing Camera Motion in Post

Originally Posted by SeAAttle View Post
So far, only a few instances of camera movement that are detectable in the final product.
There's a Youtube Channel "Surfaced Studios" that does a lot with Adobe, specifically Adobe After Effects. I recall at least one video on removing camera motion.

If the motion in the final video is an issue, this may resolve it. If you don't have access to the software, at least you know what's possible having someone else clean it up. Software other than the Adobe product all seem to have this capacity in some form
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Old Jul 10, 17, 1:16 pm
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Originally Posted by reft View Post
There's a Youtube Channel "Surfaced Studios" that does a lot with Adobe, specifically Adobe After Effects. I recall at least one video on removing camera motion.

If the motion in the final video is an issue, this may resolve it. If you don't have access to the software, at least you know what's possible having someone else clean it up. Software other than the Adobe product all seem to have this capacity in some form
I have thought about getting After Effects but need to look into it. Have you used it?
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Old Jul 11, 17, 12:14 pm
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Originally Posted by SeAAttle View Post
I have thought about getting After Effects but need to look into it. Have you used it?
I haven't had to do any serious video work lately so I haven't used it as part of a project. I've have reviewed materials to get an idea of what it can do.

An unactivated download from Adobe is good for a short period before it breaks.

You have to create an Adobe account to get it, but unless something changed, you don't have to plunk a credit card down to demo. Once you do, they are 'sticky' about it and you can't delete the last credit card on file. I dislike their licensing scheme, but if you need their software you're stuck. You can month-to-month the license at a slightly higher price, but I think it auto-renews until you say 'no'.

I think the Open Source product Blender can do camera tracking = can demotion a camera. It may be an option.
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Old Jul 12, 17, 9:17 am
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I subscribe to Adobe CC and can add After Effects. Just need to determine if it is useful. Thanks for the suggestions.
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Old Jul 12, 17, 10:44 am
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I am interested in whether the camera motion stabilising post-processing will work with OP's different camera position for each frame scenario.
Most post-processing stabilisation assumes a steady flow of camera motion in a linear direction in consecutive frames.
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