Timelapse Build Photography Recommendations

Can I get a recommendation on what people use for shooting a timelapse video of their boat build? Was thinking about doing this for a build but not even sure where to begin. Thanks!

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RE: Timelapse Build Photography Recommendations

This is an interesting question! I've dabbled in timelapse work a bit and so when I started on my recent (and first!) kayak build I was also very interested in making a timelapse plan for it.

You don't need anything too sophisticated to make a basic timelapse. Even a phone camera with a timelapse app on it will get you interesting results. That said, some more targeted equipment will help make the many hours and work sessions in a project like this much easier to capture.

If you are looking for something truly professional, and have a DSLR, you can get an intervalometer for it and make a timelapse the manual way. This will get high quality/resolution results but it entails using bulky equipment, lots of manual setup, and time consuming post-processing. A better approach may be a mirrorless digital camera that has a timelapse function built-in. You sacrifice a bit of quality control here, but setup is easy and you get an immediate timelapse video output.

Whatever strategy you choose, you'll probably want:

  • A pretty wide-angle lens. Unless your build is happening inside a big warehouse you'll need to secure your camera pretty close to your work area. A lens with a field-of-view above 70 deg (i.e. less than 20-25mm in old school film camera terms) would be best. A lot of the time lapse "action" happens across the whole scene, and so it's often nice to get as much of the boat into frame as possible.
  • An AC power port directly on the camera. You'll want the camera to be running untouched for many hours at a time which usually isn't possible with the small batteries most cameras use.
  • Flexible mounting options/adapters. You want the camera secured (no movement at all) in a clear place. Most cameras have a standard tripod mount, which is super handy, but I've also found that a tripod can be easily bumped in a busy work space. So mounting is one area where you may want to get creative, and more mounting options is better.

I personally use a GoPro. It's very small, can easily be mounted anywhere, and has a very wide angle fixed-focus lens.

For shooting intervals you'll want to experiment a bit. I use somewhere between 2-5 seconds. This is similar to turning 1-2 real hours into 1 min of timelapse footage. Of course for a project lasting dozens to hundreds of hours this is still pretty "slow" footage, but it results in manageable-sized preview files that you can further speed up later as needed (you can generally increase timelapse speed in editing but you can't really take it away). I just use some simple editing software, like iMovie, to merge various work sequences together and tweak the speed so that it all looks interesting.

It can also be fun to place the camera in different locations during different stages of the build for increased perspective. That's just one more way to experiment.

Good luck!

RE: Timelapse Build Photography Recommendations

I've been using a Sony a6400 mirrorless camera with 12mm wide angle lens for timelaps, later convertig them to video with a free timelaps app. This gives a great degree of freedom on final resolution, video quality, video speed, etc. And it is a 1200 bucks overkill (unless you have that kind of equipment available anyway). If you own a smartphone, check the default camera app for a timelaps feature. My old iPhone SE has one, for example, which is good enough for trying. There are also more advanced apps for custom timelaps settings (I use Filmic Pro on the iPhone). Tripod-compatible smartphone holders cost like 10 bucks. There's also a wide range of affordable tripods. Connect the phone to a power source for extended/unlimited periods of filming. So if you have such a phone, you can join the timelapse game for very little money. On a side note, for nice timelaps quality, good lighting is key, regardless if using a smartphone or a more expensive camera setup.


RE: Timelapse Build Photography Recommendations

   Thank you both for the comments and help so far. I have a bunch of different camera options available, my wife is a pro photographer and I played with it but not much in video and never in timelapse so I wasn't sure where to begin. I do have a couple GoPro's but based on my experience of using them outside recording my daughters softball games wasn't sure how well they would do for indoor stuff like a boat build, but I will for sure try it and maybe play with my lighting a little to see if I like it.

My experience with the GoPro's is everything looks great as long as you are close, camera quality is really good, but if it wasn't I was fortunate enough to have a catcher playing and we were filming from the backstop you couldn't distinquish one person from the other in the outfield. Might be surprised in a smaller shop with everything closeup anyways.

I also have a bunch of higher end Nikon cameras and lenses - D800 and D850's but didn't know if my wife would really like it if I sat one in my workshop in the dust for a long time. We also have an older Nikon D7000 that after reading might work if I get one of the intervalometers to play with. 

I do know that playing with video editing software takes so, so much time and patience and I really was trying to avoid that and just walk into the shop turn on and off the camera and put together the clips att he end at the end. Maybe delete me walking in and out and dumb things but not a bunch of post processing. We'll see I guess after I play with it. 

Thanks again for the help so far, Ed

RE: Timelapse Build Photography Recommendations

The GoPro with its watertight case is also dustproof, so that's an advantage. Cell phones on gimbals get good results and the gimbal can move the camera during a sequence to make it look less like prison surveillance footage.

You also need to be aware of the camera's thermal characteristics. For example, shooting in 4k UHD makes some cameras overheat and shut down. That may not be a problem if the camera is only occasionally shooting a frame for time lapse. Dust proof enclosures may also trap heat.

Dust on the lens can also become a problem in a shop, so before turning the camera on and after turning it off, check for dust on the lens and lens covers.

But I've found that the biggest factor in a successful time lapse film, even more than the lighting that Johannes mentions, is planning. Unless you want something that looks like security camera footage, you need to have a story in mind when you set up the camera. Keep in mind the length of the film. In my experience, only the boatbuilder loves the boat enough to want to see more than 1 minute of a straight, fixed camera boatbuilding video. Even that 1 minute can be very tedious.

For an interesting video, timelapse works best as short sequences interleaved with either ordinary video or timelapse from other angles. 15 seconds between scene shifts is supposed to be the sweet spot for average audiences. If you are determined to have the video be just a single timelapse sequence, make sure that every 15 seconds the boat progresses enough to look radically different than it did 15 seconds before. This is the kind of thing that the video editing software is for - to remove clips that tell no story and to take many different clips and combine them into a video that tells the viewers an interesting story. Learning the mechanics of that process takes about 15 minutes for any modern video editor.

Finally, keep in mind that a standard 30 fps video gives you 1800 frames to get the job done in a 1-minute video. So if you want a 3-minute video to show your entire 200 hour build process, you need to compress 200 hours into 5400 frames. That's a frame being taken every 2 minutes and 13 seconds. A 1-minute video triples that interval. But some parts of the build go much faster than others, so you may want to consider a shorter interval when planking and a longer one when sanding, for example.

Have fun,



RE: Timelapse Build Photography Recommendations

Ok, so I'm a bit jealous of your photography kit SailRat. You should definitely give your GoPro(s) a test run. Johannes makes a good point about lighting, though my GoPro Hero4 seems to deal well with the relatively low light from an indoor work area. Also, the built in timelapse modes are smart enough to meter the exposure in a consistent way in these conditions, which nicely eliminates the "flicker" effect that is often a byproduct of the timelapse format. While it's true that GoPros don't capture a whole lot of detail when lighting is dull (e.g cloudy conditions) or when subjects are far away, for up close "action" they do a good job in a verity of conditions. All of this makes tech setup less daunting and frees you up to think about the more creative aspects of all this.

On that note, Laszlo makes great points about planning and storytelling. Yes! This is indeed where changing perspectives and editing can help. This is also why I like to error on the side of small intervals upfront as various segments may call for different final speeds later. While it's true that video editing software can have a steep learning curve (my mind melted while learning Adobe After Effects) there are plenty of user friendly options out there.

Here's a sample from my last working session. For lighting context I just have two 60W ceiling lights and two 75W portable work lights here. This was taken with 5s interval in "Timelapse Video" mode (i.e. the GoPro automates all exposure details and conversion from stills to mp4 video) and then sped up 2x more in iMovie while editing a couple work sessions together. At least 1/3 of the original footage has been cut here already and I think I would further trim down and/or speed up during a future editing session. This is just one additional aspect where it can be fun as you get to use your own creative license!


RE: Timelapse Build Photography Recommendations

   Here's my build video (with timelapse elements) of our Wood Duck Double kayak Snoepjes:


(Hope it is accessible without the need of an account)

I made it mainly for myself, for watching in later years. Sometimes I had the camera mounted at the rear wall of my workshop, recording normal video in 4K (dozens of GB data...). Otherwise I filmed from a tripod I put wherever I liked. I sped up the footage and sometimes applied Ken Burns effects in iMovie to compensate for the lack of motion. Generally, the whole video has been cut in iMovie. During cutting, I put Thunderstruck by AC/DC as soundtrack so I had some musical background to work against... 

After all, what matters IMO is to get started & improve over time.

RE: Timelapse Build Photography Recommendations

   Thanks everyone for all the recommendations. I decided to try one of the GoPro's over the weekend for a 2 hr trip from from my town in NE Ohio to Columbus, Ohio in the car. I placed the GoPro on a small Ultra-Pod tripod on the dash of my car and set the GoPro at 2 second intervals and the trip came out to about 2 minutes total. Everything looked really good and I was completely surprised how well it went. I might play with different time intervals but the 2 minute amount was pretty good. I have 4 different GoPro's but the newest are my 2 GoPro' 8's so that is probably what i'll use and maybe just set them up in different locations for different points of view. 

My wife told me she would PREFER I didn't play with the Nikons out in the dust and even though I think the different lenses for the Nikon's might give a better field of view and I don't think my shop is any worse than the dust at the softball fields for a weekend of tournament play I think the GoPro's will be a lot easier to setup and keep setup and moved around. So the GoPro's are my choice for now, again thanks for all the help, now just to practice with Adobe Premier.

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