thinking with pictures

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Chrono-vision, or Time Lapse on the brain

It is easier and easier to produce video playback from thousands of JPG frames, thus altering the flow of time. By photographing 1 image per minute for the next 60 minutes, you produce 60 images. By setting the FPS (frames per second) at the normal broadcast rate of 30 fps (actually 29.97 or similar) the entire sequence will playback in just 2 seconds of viewing time. Some cameras process the experience internally, rather than to require the observer to drop the images into a video editor. And small, rugged action/sports recording devices like the family of GoPro Hero camera seem designed for time lapse work, in addition to the reverse manipulation of time; not speeding things up, but instead recording in slow-motion (60 fps or 120 or 240). How does this time-compressed vision change one’s view of the world?

screenshots from vimeo 124728006

Example of timelapse: freeze-frames from skidding cloudscape

Adding music instead of the ambient sound at the field recording site changes the impression completely, since audio implies vivid immediacy and Normal Time flow (unless sped up or slowed down, thus ruining the musicality of ‘real time’ musical expression). Some of the videos retrieved at by searching “time lapse” include music, but many others are soundless; few, if any include voice over or field recording sounds.

Certain subjects lend themselves to time traveling in the camera: changing light (sunrise, sunset, reflections and shadow’scapes), changing weather (cloudscape, precipitation), moving bodies (animal or man-made), processual subjects (building something, producing artwork, demolition of a structure), for example. But other scenes are best communicated as snapshot, moment in time, either in one of the standard aspect rations (1:1, 4:3, 16:9) or stitched into panoramic field of view. Still other subjects work best in video recorded in real-time, either as a set of clips, or as long takes. Perhaps conversation, competition, and cause-effect can best be shown this way.

Insects illustrate each of these tools for visual recording. A photo in natural habitat or from a entomological cabinet allows careful study of structure and texture. A video presentation allows study of behavior in response to internal or external conditions. A time lapse shows behavior played out across longer time frames that most viewers could watch in real time. So process of a long time scale can be conveyed in time lapse.

In summary, seeing the weather pattern develop, the cloud shapes roiling, or the ebb and flow of tides gives a feeling of fairly flying through time; sort of like one’s life passing before one’s eyes in the seconds before calamity. And while the spectacle from compressing time vision can be thrilling of itself, also it puts the normal, day to day pace into a new perspective; that is,  periodically browsing Time Lapse projects is a reminder of the fleeting space of a day or a human lifetime that is available to make something of. The unseen patterns of flow and sequence of events are revealed by the lens in time lapse. This puts the non-timelapse experience into a longer chain of events; the present moment is not neatly bounded and discrete anymore. Now we can imagine the ‘now’ as connected to something that came before and something soon to follow. In other words, time lapse vision exposes us to alternative vision of the days we live.