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Timelapse Storytelling

Timelapse Storytelling

What it is about time lapse that keeps up captivated?

 
There is one video that plays in my mind when I think of time lapse. It was shot in 2013, from a construction site in Calgary, Alberta. The new National Music Centre was under construction, and a camera was mounted at the site. This is not uncommon on construction sites. Cameras are in use to capture the evolution of the development and also as a form of security.

No one could have anticipated what this camera at the NMC would film.

After several days of rain, the city of Calgary experienced the worst flooding it had ever seen, the most devastating, actually, in Alberta’s history. The cameras at the NMC captured the rising waters at the corners of 9th Ave and 4th St. It’s fascinating – and terrifying – footage to watch. As the flood creeped into my neighbourhood, I was glued to social media for updates. I was trying to process what was happening. I still get emotional when I think about those days. The time lapse video is what sticks with me the most.

Time lapse keeps us captivated because in a short period of time, we can watch a complete story roll out. In a few short minutes, we can watch hours, days or weeks pass by, watching the changes to a landscape, a construction site or a process. Time lapse takes static footage and makes it interesting. Seeing a process unfold is captivating, brings the viewers into the space and fills our brains with visual candy. It takes us out of the time continuum and gives us a behind the scenes look into how something is done, or what a work day looks like, or how a flood washes into a city.

If you’ve ever watched the time lapse of a plant growing from seed, you already know how mesmerizing that can be. Time lapse puts distance between us and the footage, allowing us an omniscient view of the action. Second by second, we can watch the story play out. We can watch lives unfold, the flow of traffic on a river, the movement of people through places we’ve been or would like to visit one day. Time lapse gives us a perspective we cannot achieve in real time.

I’ve had the good fortune to create some time lapse video for my clients and you can see the fun results below.


Time lapse is easy to capture these days. Most smartphones have that feature built into their cameras. There are also a wide variety of compact cameras you can purchase that have the ability to capture 4K time lapse footage (that is what I used for the behind the scenes above). Consider playing around with time lapse to tell your story, whether you are creating a product, having a meeting, or building something bigger.

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