The Magic of Hyperlapse

Magicians use misdirection to draw the audience’s attention away from changes happening elsewhere. Films like 1917 and Birdman employed similar visual tricks by disguising breaks in footage to simulate a single, uninterrupted take. Likewise, the hyperlapse I created for the installation of the Wind Creek sign in Bethlehem, PA, was carefully captured to simulate a continuous shot that “panned” around the old Bethlehem Steel ore crane as the sign was erected.

When creating regular timelapses, I capture each set of frames from one vantage point, at set intervals, to show changes in both subject and environment. In the original timelapse, variations in the surroundings make it clear that the installation was not completed in one day.

In contrast, hyperlapse avoids background changes and adds overall movement, resulting in footage that looks like one long take. This required several changes in my process.

First, to minimize visual differences between days, I shot at the same time of day, in similar weather conditions. Rather than regular intervals, I chose twelve days to shoot that would produce the best footage, prioritizing days where the weather matched the other frames and days with observable construction progress. Hyperlapse’s highly compressed nature requires only the “highlights,” so I shot on days when the letters were being installed, rather than days when the bridge was being cleaned.

Additionally, since I needed to emulate the perspective change of a moving video camera, I couldn’t shoot everything from one fixed position. Between each frame, I walked a step in the direction of the “motion.” I repeated that process about 15–20 times each day, taking care to remember exactly where I had finished the previous day’s frames. My camera’s settings also had to stay consistent, so that the finished images would resemble sequential frames in video footage when played back, like a flip book.

Hyperlapse is a great supplement to an existing timelapse project, since it’s shot alongside regular timelapse footage. In fact, I’m currently working on a hyperlapse of the Vagelos Laboratory, in addition to the longer timelapse film that I’m making. I hope to share it here in the future!

With hyperlapse, I am able to create footage that makes a months-long sign installation look like it was completed in one afternoon.