Thursday, March 24, 2011

Crystals and Time

As part of an on-going side project I've been getting more and more involved with using time lapse to capture things the eye would normally never see. I've always been fascinated in timelapse and it's cousin stop-frame animation. From Harryhausen's Jason And The Argonuats, through Morph and the BBC's Private Life of Plants, the ability to mess with time is intriguing, and, when it's done well (ie like this amazing Northern Lights work ) it's beautiful.

So, when a project came up to capture how things change over time, capturing stills and then animating them sprung immediately to mind. Various subjects (CO2 subliming to vapour, Ice-cream melting on the pavement etc) were discussed but memories of an old high-school science experiment came up with the winner:

Crystal Time Lapse from pelicanImages on Vimeo

Shot via a tethered 20D and controlled by EOS Utilities, this is ~6000 frames at 1 minute intervals. Exposure and white balance were done manually with a grey card and all shots were medium sized jpegs. Lighting was what was available in the room, fortunately the strip lights give some nice, edge defining reflections at the beginning of the sequence and some reasonably even lighting across the final crystals. Unfortunately, the 50Hz frequency of the strip lights has caused a little flickering of light intensity from one frame to the next (something to look at for a future re-shoot)

Shooting medium jpegs (still way bigger than the final HD resolution) is handy as it allows the addition of "secondary" editing and cropping in post production to focus on areas of detail. Post production ie cropping, moving the frame into an area of details and adding a sound track was done in After Effects.

It was quite a leap of faith to leave the set-up in a closed room for three days and hope that the lights stay on, nothing falls over and no-one walks in and has a nose around. The sense of relief on finding a saucer of dried out crystals was only matched by finding the corresponding images safely on the hard drive of my laptop.

The soundtrack is by the artist Doc you can hear more of their work at​en/​artist/​doc
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