A Peek Behind the Timelapse Lens

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Roy Two Thousand and I live in Berkeley, CA.  This is mostly about Roy’s – dare I say obsession – with time lapse photography, but I do most of the writing so we’ll talk a bit about me too. I’m Crystal.

Roy is a musician and filmmaker and I am a sound engineer who also paints watercolors.  Our house is pretty much a studio and our idea of fun and a day off is painting, filming, working on music, or doing anything else that brings stuff from inside our heads to the world outside.  We love the hills where we live, and one of our favorite things to do is hike up to our favorite spot and time lapse the sunset.  We also love taking pictures of our kitty! Here’s Kitty!

A little over a year ago, Roy and I decided to join our media super powers and work together under the title Morning Light Media.  He teaches film making and media skills at Ex’pression College in Emeryville.  I work as a freelance content editor.  We wanted to make mindful media that helps people feel good inside and out.  We’re working on a long term documentary project on Ayurveda. Roy has daily epiphanies of how to make his time lapse work look better and tell the stories we see from behind the lens more clearly. So we started with nature… And natural health… And culture interacting with nature.  When you pause in delight and feel the awe and gracious admiration of all that is happening around us, then you’re with us and suddenly we’re on the same journey.  We’re following the same rainbow, getting caught in the same storm, gazing at the one and only moon and embracing these magnificent manifestations of life together… and that, let’s face it, can so easily fall to the side when we have things, serious busy things, to do.  So our job is to help people remember what they already know. Life is beautiful and full of wonder, but we gotta stand still and take a moment to take it in.

So now we’re busy standing still and moving towards making these awesome manifestations of life the seriously busy things we have to do in order to pay rent, buy food, and keep our kitty in the state of luxury to which he accustomed.  Thus it boils down to painting and editing in the morning, working on our day jobs, and coming back to projects in the evening.  We spend a lot of time in After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools and Photoshop.  Roy films in HDR after all and he composites the three exposures the old fashioned way without a fancy algorithm that makes it look processed.  For example the Golden Gate Timelapse you see runs just shy of a minute.  The camera (Roy uses a Canon Eos T3i) captured 3 bracketed exposures every 7 seconds for 3.5 hours which ends up being 4,725 images at 5184 by 3156 pixels – which conveniently fits on a 32 gb SD card.  Then after a few hours of transferring files and separating out the exposure layers, each of those exposure sets becomes a layer in After Effects.  Then each layer is manually blended to create a single continuous HDR sequence.  For a lot of his filmmaking he creates the soundtrack from scratch too, which can sometimes add another month or two to the process.  In this case we were able to use Roy’s friend and coworker Gregg Kowalsky’s music for Lightning and Rainbows.  For Golden Gate Sunrise, Roy put together the sound segment in less than two hours.

Both of these films are the result of early morning adventures, seizing opportunities during otherwise mundane tasks (the opalescent bench outside a gallery I was currently showing at, being a perfect example), and jumping at the chance to film in a lightning storm.  This process requires a great amount of technical awareness and detailed calculations considering changing light over time and the capture frequency.  It can be tedious and involve hours of babysitting a camera to make sure nothing bumps it, that the batteries on the remote trigger don’t die, and that the calculated settings are allowing for the waxing or waning of light.  Yet it is all quite necessary to achieve a fluidity of motion that truly embodies the experience of standing still for periods of time next to impossible for the average person.  This may be our adventure but it is also our meditation, our way of playing with nature, and engaging in technology that we both find so fascinating.  It is leaping outside of the frame of reference our own natural rhythm dictates.  In capturing these grand transitions, the flexibility of time and nature is a bit more apparent and so much more seems possible.

We hope these films inspire your own creative efforts in any way:)

Editor’s note: Roy & Crystal are found at a number of locations on the web and available for your creative project in photography, videography, sound production and wedding related media. Crystal’s organic and twisty watercolor artwork is available on Etsy. We invite you to explore the creative outputs of these amazing people.

  • May 17, 2012

    Fellow Berkelian and Kristin fan here…love the work, both of yours. Thanks Kristin for exposing me to them!

  • May 17, 2012

    Gorgeous! I love time-lapse photography. Kitty is very cute too.

  • May 17, 2012

    Gorgeous stuff!

  • May 18, 2012
    Serey Brittain Bright

    Awesome work!!!!!

  • May 18, 2012

    You guys are incredible! I can’t even believe these videos. Simply stunning!

  • May 18, 2012

    I could watch these videos for hours!

  • January 8, 2013

    Love it. Thank you for doing such a good job. I will definitely check to this site to see what’s new and recommend my coworkers about this.

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