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History Of Time Lapse Photography

Rene Madrid

March 8, 2010

ADT 386

Karl Ulrich

History Of Time Lapse Photography

The director Georges Melies introduced time Lapse Photography to motion picture in 1897. It was a black and white, silent short. Georges was also known as the Father of special effects. He went on to making over five hundred films in a decade. F. Percy Smith and RomanVishniac further pioneered time Lapse Photography in 1910.
Most of the early time lapse consisted of clouds and the growth of plants. Dr John Ott is credited for the popularizing of Time Lapse photography. He studied the effect that light and color temperature had on his subjects, which were often flowers, plants, and insects. In 1948 Walt Disney decided to make the motion picture Cinderella, John Ott was given the task to film the complete growth of a pumpkin, which would then be animated into Cinderella’s coach. This had to be done indoors for the protection of the camera equipment. Unfortunately the pumpkins would not reach full maturity. This was when he came across the idea that the differences must have been in the lighting. He then discovered a new formulation of light wave links that would be similar to natural daylight. It was a success. He would vary the amount of water, color temperature, and the light in the studio to create movement and modify the growth of the plants once photographed; his plants would dance and grow as if in a symphony. Just as photography has evolved from the Lumiere Bothers hand cranked camera to the digital formats now, Time Lapse Photography has moved right along with the never-ending evolution of film.

Motion control rigs; have taken Time Lapse Photography to a new level, the capability to move a camera through space and time in a consistent fluid motion as well as the ability to make camera adjustments such as racking focus, ramping speeds, F stops, panning, tilting, rotating, dolling, the camera repeatedly. Some of the first motion control rigs were used in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and in Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977). Ron Fricke is considered the new age master of time lapse photography. He designed and built his own motion control rig to shoot his film Barake a non-verbal non-narrative film in which he displayed numerous of Time Lapse shot on 70mm with his motion control rig. Shooting complex images at different intervals depending on his desired effect and the duration of the time lapse.

There are many different ways to shoot a time lapse, depending on the look you want and the subject(s) you’re shooing. Two basic looks of a time lapse are smooth motion or a blocky motion this usually depend on the duration of your time lapse and the intervals they were shot at. These intervals can very from shooting one frame each second to shooting one frame daily. The work of these directors has sired up my imagination and will push me to my limits. Reaching their work has shown me that there are no limits to what we can create with the basic tools of photography. I will be experimenting with different intervals and different duration till I find a look that suites my desired effect. I will be submitting a total of three-time lapse during my stay in Italy, to display the dramatic light change and the emotion it can create.