Louisville Timelapses 2012
On February 28, 2012 this whole project started by accident. The day was unusually warm and by the evening the temperature was still in the low 60’s instead of the usual low 40’s. Around the same time I started a new job and one of the employees was into shooting timelapses. I already had the gear to do some motion control timelapses, but had never learned how to use it until I started at Videobred and had a few days that were pretty slow at work. I’m not sure what makes someone stick with a hobby or long term “passion project” but having a success or victory early on probably helps.
I crossed the second street bridge and drove into Indiana to a park that would have a good view of the Louisville skyline. Knowing that a foreground element would would be necessary to make the scene a little more interesting I choose to use some plants that the camera would push through towards the city. At the time I only had the CS3 suite of Adobe programs so I had the camera shoot raw and Jpeg so I could check out the results by using the jpegs and when I bought a new computer and CS6 later I could process the raw files. This first experiment lasted about 15 minutes. I had no idea about what would make for a decent pause between shots or how far the camera should move each time. I took what I had shot home and loaded the jpegs into After Effects and ram previewed the video. My first thoughts were that it looked sort of neat. The clouds moving were a pleasant surprise, I don’t even remember noticing them when I was shooting, but the city just looked dull and depressing and I fixated on this and how the plants I used as foreground objects moved widely between shots due to the wind. “Well, I guess anything that can potentially move is a pretty bad idea for a foreground object. I won’t do that again.” It would be almost a year later in early January of 2013 when I would process the raw images and decide that the shot really did turn out pretty good with the fine tuning of colors.
I was driving down Main street one day and noticed the old Whiskey Row buildings were being lit up by reflections from an adjacent building. Knowing the reflections would move with the passage of time I kept this spot in mind and would shoot it within the week. My first attempt of showing this was on June 8, 2012. I tried shooting it from two different locations from inside the stairway of a parking garage and both of them turned out terrible. The reflections cooperated, but I think this was my first time shooting from a parking garage and didn’t really know what I was doing. The results were so bad I never bothered to process them into a video. I still wanted to get this shot so I would come back later and retry since the reflections had already disappeared. A few days passed and on the 13th I picked out a new location that properly showed the buildings off and the shot turned out great. Little did I know at the time how lucky I was to have a cloudless sky that day. I just showed up assuming that the reflections would be there. Thankfully everything worked in my favor and I didn’t have to re shoot for a third time.
While riding my bike along the river I notice the city had an overlook that went out over the river’s bank and gave a cool view of the city. Every time I would ride on the Louisville Loop I would stop at this spot and admire the view. I’m not sure when this project went from just learning how motion control timelapses worked, to becoming a full on timelapse video of Louisville, but once I determined this was going to be an actual video, I knew that I would shot from this overlook. The first attempt to pull this shot of was a failure. I tried on May 26, 2012 for about 45 minutes and used a fence as a foreground object…which seems pretty cliche. No barges went through and the train bridge didn’t raise up. I went back and shot again on May 29, 2012 and was determined to stay there until I got what I wanted. I brought an umbrella with me this time so I would have some relief from the burning sun. The first try this day lasted from 6:00pm till 6:34pm. A barge passed but the bridge didn’t move. I repositioned the slider and shortened how far the camera would move each time. This time I was successful, a barge passed under the bridge and later the train bridge moved down into place and a train went across. To get this shot I started shooting at 6:44pm and ended the shoot at 9:30pm. The timelapse makes up nine seconds of the video but with drive time, setup time and processing of the images the real time was about 9 hours and 51 minutes. One other interesting thing about this location is that a parking lot isn’t all that close to the overlook so when I parked I gathered all the gear up and rode to the location on a bike.
Since a good timelapse often involves the weather I wanted to make sure and include some rain in the video. Like the train bridge shot above this proved to be difficult as well. You can check out weather reports and the clouds and guess if it’s going to rain at a particular time, but you don’t really know where it’s going to rain. Also water and electronics aren’t the best combination so finding a place that is covered can prove to be a challenge. A parking garage is a good place to get an elevated view of the city and is also covered with openings to see out of. I tried two previous times to get a good shot of the rain but failed. With the failed attempts and the shot that worked, this ended up taking roughly 8 hours and 45 minutes and made up seven and half seconds of the video.
Not all shots take multiple tries to get, some work on your first attempt and definitely help keep you going.
This is the intersection of Frankfort Avenue and Pope Street. It’s a place I drive past every day and I think the building just looks neat with the steeple on top. Instead of doing a day to night timelapse like normal, I instead chose to leave the exposure locked and let the scene fade into darkness as the sun went down. Seeing the stop lights remain at the same brightness was pleasantly unexpected.
Keeping on the same theme of things working first try was my first hyperlapse. I first saw a hyperlapse in a video from zweizwei on Vimeo. He would do these incredibly long dolly style shots but you could never see any dolly track in his videos and setting up that much track would be expensive and very time consuming. After thinking about how he could have pulled this off for a few days I decided to try one of my own in a parking lot in downtown Louisville. I choose to use painted parking spots as my guides to keep the tripod walking in a straight path and a red marker light on a building to aim the camera at. I would move a foot, level the tripod’s half ball head, re-aim the camera at the marker light on the building and repeat until I had run out of parking lot. I took the footage to work the next day since After Effects CS3 didn’t have warp stabilizer, but CS5 at work did have it. Once warp stabilizer had done it’s thing, to my surprise the hyperlapse worked flawlessly and would become one of my most used methods of timelapsing. Finally I had a technique that could simulate walking while everything around me was moving in fast motion.
Another first for me was a day to night shot. I had seen the outcome from them in videos before and it always impressed me but I didn’t know how to shoot one. Talking to another employee at Videobred he told me that I would need some software called LRTimelapse and to just change the shutter speed as it got darker. I decided to give it a try and headed down to waterfront park with my slider on May 10, 2012. I set up with a railing as my foreground object and the city in the background and let the camera click away for the next 2 hours and 15 minutes and came back with 508 photos. I had no idea what I was doing so I shot way too much and ended up speeding the video up in post. The results were wonderful but I didn’t find that out until late December of that year since I was waiting to get some time off work and really figure out how to process everything I was shooting. Not knowing how to process exposure ramps during all of 2012 I was always uneasy of changing shutter speeds during a shoot but thankfully they almost always turned out fine.
There isn’t much to say about this shot. The clouds were pretty cool, but I’ve included it in this write up because you can see a little bit the slider in the shot….kind of a behind the scenes shot that made it into the video.
Going into this project I really thought I would have enough clips to make an entire video with just the scenes from 2012. I know Louisville is known for it’s Louisville Slugger bats so I thought it would be good to include the large bat in the video before all the leaves fell off of the trees. So on November 10, 2012 I shot the bat at nighttime with a slider and a turntable attached and figured I would be done shooting the entire video…sure there were lots of other things in Louisville I could record and also wanted to get like Churchill Downs, but I also wanted to release the video that I had spent so many hours on. I wanted to hear feedback from the world. Over Christmas and the new year I had a week or a week and a half off and in between visiting family I learned hwo to use LRTimelapse and processed everything I had shot during spring summer and fall then started editing. I think it was mid January when I realized I really didn’t have enough footage to make a video. If I let the shots go as long as possible and use everything I had captured even if some of the shots weren’t all that great I could almost fill the entire song I had selected. I could fill some time with graphics in the beginning and end and have a video, but it wouldn’t be up to the quality I wanted. I made the tough choice to properly finish the video. I would wait till spring when the leaves started to show up on trees again and aim for getting it out in late May or early June. Those deadlines I set for myself came and passed.