TK Time-Lapse: Royalty-Free High Definition (HD/2K) Stock Footage


Tony Kern answers some questions about the tools and techniques used for Mythopolis time-lapse footage...

Q: What is TK Time-Lapse?

A: TK Time-Lapse is a stock footage company I started that offers my high resolution time-lapse for use in TV, film, internet, corporate communications and various other projects.  I decided that the stock footage was too big for Mythopolis and needed a space of its own so I set up a seperate site for it all.  TK Time-Lapse contains footage from Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and other locations as well as traffic, clouds, moon and many miscellaneous time-lapse shots.  You can visit the site here and see the entire collection online.

Q: What aspect ratios, sizes and formats is Mythopolis stock footage available in?

A: All footage is available in 4x3 or 16x9 aspect ratios and in all popular formats and sizes from 720x540 D1 to 1920x1080 HD to 2048x1536 2K all at 24fps or 29.9 7fps.

Q: What is the difference between Mythopolis time-lapse and time-lapse footage shot with a professional HD camera?

A: "HD" is currently used by many companies to hype product. The highest resolution HD cameras, like the Sony HDcams claim to be 1920x1080. Research reveals that the actual image being captured by the camera is really 1440x1080. This image is stretched to 1920x1080 and that's the resolution HD claims to be.

The raw images captured by Mythopolis are 2560x1920, which is beyond even the 2K mode (2048x1560) used in many big-budget films. This is almost twice the resolution of HD. This gives flexibility for subtle zooms and pans and 3D planing. For almost all of the time-lapse clips I've created, there is a flat master clip with the 2560x1920 resolution in addition to the final HD clip.

Mythopolis HD vs. HD cam


Q: What type of camera do you currently use for time-lapse footage?

A: Minolta DiMAGE A1.

Q: What are some of the features that attracted you to this camera?

A: I'd been waiting for an affordable camera like the A1 for years. The speed of the A1 allows for taking shorter intervals manually.

Most of my intervals (ie, cars, traffic) push the A1 to the limit... a shot every 2 seconds... Use "Continuous Mode" for that.

Too bad the intervolometer allows only 30 second increments... so most shorter bursts like 2 seconds increments were done manually... BUT if you buy the cable release you can jam the trigger forcing the camera to take pictures until the card fills, usually at around a pic every two seconds, with a quarter second delay after every three shots (which has proved to be acceptable in most cases.) I still find myself standing around and squeezing the trigger if I want to do intervals between 4 and 30 seconds. But another way to trick the camera, while using the "jammed" cable release is to add on ND filters and increase exposure times, thus increasing the time between shots.

Q: Were the shots from inside the car "tripoded"?

A: Yes, tripod on car shots… mounted and shoved in front of passenger seat until it’s snug!

Q: There are some scenes, duing a time-lapse segment, in which the the camera appears to be moving and/or zooming. How is this possible?

A: The camera is actually locked down and is not moving. Most of the shots are zoomed in on during post production, using Adobe After-Effects. The shot of downtown Los Angeles with the looming buildings in which the camera appears to move is also done in post with masking and 3D planing. Layers of buiding are masked and shifted slightly in 3D space giving the illusion that the camera is actually making a slight move. This is also done with some of the mountain shots by basically taking the hills in the foreground and shifting them slightly over time as well to give the illusion the shot is moving. Color correcting (to the best of one's ability!), "masking" and sometimes replacing skies, removing objects, and other post-production techniques are also used (see image below). A lot of the car shots are also just very short loops.

HD masking


Q: Describe your use of digital memory cards. Do you select a memory card for its speed, capacity or both? How long will the largest card you are currently using last if shooting in 2560x1920?

A: I've tried a couple of memory cards including SanDisk 512mb, Lexar 640mb, and Magicstor 2.2Gb. Originally purchased the "high speed" 512mb, then found the standard SanDisk 512mb for sale. There is barely a difference between them. It certainly doesn't seem to effect the fastest capture rate utilized with the A1 (one frame every two seconds.) The Lexar has operated fine, though it needed a different compact flash reader. Finally, I spotted the 2.2Gb Magicstor on Ebay for only $200 (this was earlier in 2004.) I read warnings about it's reliability, but hey, that amount of CF storage for the price (then) was incredible, so I took a chance. It paid off and I'm still using it to this day. One noticeable difference between the Magicstor CF drive and the rest is definite slow read time when playing back the images... very slow comparatively.

Yet another CF reader was needed to read the Magicstor CF and download it's pics to the computer. BTW, as far as CF readers, Kingston works for all of the above mentioned cards.

As for storage, the 512mb to 640mb cards allow about 10 seconds of images (30 frames per second) while capturing 150-200 shots. The Magistor holds about 30 seconds worth of time-lapse and can be used to take a shot every 30 seconds for about 8 continuous hours. Increase the increment to a shot every 2 minutes and you've got yourself a 24 hour lapse. However, it should be noted the Konica-Minolta Dimage A1 can only be programmed to take 240 continuous shots, while the Magistor 2.2Gb card can hold more than 800 shots. This, of course, means after 240 shots, or four hours, the photographer would have to return and reprogram the camera for another 240 shots at a time. In the A1's defense, a great deal of other high end cameras have absolutely no intervalometer believe it or not. The is quite ridiculous, of course. As for the A1's 240 programmable shot limit, I think this is something that should be addressed (but is not in either the follow-up A1 or Konica-Minolta's entry into the digital SLR field, the Maxxum 7D, which falls sort of my expectations.) There's really no reason why the limit of continuous programmable shots should be anything less than 1000 in my opinion. But on the other hand, there are many functions on all of the new "prosumer" cameras that are questionable. Canon, for example, has chosen to take it's high end models and actually "dumb" them down, rendering functions useless to the consumer! But this is a whole other topic which would be entitled "Why are camera manufacturers holding back?" Let's not get into that now though.

Back to the compact flash cards. Well, the storage expands while the price goes down, so as far as specs go, whatever's being said now, will be old news tomorrow. I'm just patiently waiting for storage and technology to meet and someday maybe these little cameras we're holding will be taking 24 high resolution pictures every second for as long as you want. Before you laugh too hard, it was recently announced that Taiwanese manufacturers are planning to offer a new memory card the offers speeds of 120mb per second and a potential drive space of 2TB (Terabytes!) Meanwhile, Canon already has a camera, the EOS-1D Mark II, that can capture 8 megapixel shots at 8 frames per second. Those individual pics are three times the size of full scale progressive HD. Do the math and you'll have a hard time explaining why these manufacturers can't make us a camera that capture HD images at 24 fps for a least a few seconds. Add an array of drives and I'd be very happy to shoot with it on my next film. It's gotta happen soon... doesn't it?

Q: Is there anything or anyplace you'd like to shoot?

A: Well, I'm really interested in capturing more unique shots than I've been getting here in Los Angeles. Tricks of lights, moving shadows, ironic compositions or what I call "metaphor" shots.

For example, going through an entire year's cycle of trying to capture various time-lapse sequences, there have been those shots that got away for various reasons (dead battery, poor timing, lack of storage, Mother Nature's refusal to cooperate with my vision.) One shot in particular is a distant shot of the Hollywood hills (without the sign) in which at a certain time of the year from a certain point the windows intermittently burst with light, reflecting the sun's blast, while creating tiny bursts of light in a wide shot with other small bursts. I thought that would be an interesting time-lapse because the distant and non-distinguishable houses of the Hollywood hills might appear like glittering stars which is somewhat of a metaphor considering the location and the "star" residents.

An example of an ironic composition is a shot I got of traffic coming off a freeway ramp and racing by the camera at light creating the standard streaks of lights, In the background behind the streaking cars was a big "Macy's" department store sign (I usually try and avoid commercial sign and will often blur them out in post if they appear.) This particular "Macy's" sign was broken however and the second half of the "M" was not illuminated, so it appeared to say "Racy's" behind the speeding car lights.

I'm also interested in capturing more, for lack of a better word, "spiritual" images though I've had little luck finding them. By these I mean odd tricks of light that take place every now and then or can only be seen from certain angles or if a series of natural requirements are met. An example of this is the "Salvation Army Mural Occurrence" I shot (with a Hi8 camcorder) back in 1996. In Chicago, near the intersection of Southport and Belmont was a Salvation Army building with a stained glass mural of Jesus, arms outstretched. I lived in an apartment across the street from the mural and one night I noticed that passing car lights would reflect off of the mural and create "halos" around Jesus' head and body. When a car with it's left hand turn signal on drove east down Belmont and turned onto Southport, the mural exploded with an array of dancing lights (I never captured that part on tape.) However, there were a certain set of requirements that needed to be so that you could see the strange light occurrence on the mural. First, the mural needed to be lit from the inside of the building, which turned out be on rare occasion. Second, it turned out that the only place you could see occurrence was from the bedroom window of the apartment from which I was renting. From nowhere else on street level or from any other window in the apartment could the reflections be seen. So, I'd love to find more strange and unique shots such as that one... from any denomination or spiritual background.

In addition, having lived in Chicago for 8 years there are plenty of time-lapse shots I would love to capture there, so hopefully I'll get that opportunity at some point soon. Of course, I'm open to all sorts of images, but realizing that the "standard" type time-lapse shots will inevitably be captured by someone, I'd like to try and capture some unique hidden gems. If you've got any locations or ideas, feel free to point me in the right direction. In addition to Chicago, I'd love to go to Europe and Asia and try and steal some great shots of course!

Q: Discuss Take it All.

A: “Take It All” was produced in a time of personal transition, having recently moved from Chicago to the Los Angeles area. During this time there was growing speculation from the general public that the underlying motivation for the United States military’s invasion of Iraq was centered on oil. I found myself struck by the images of a busy urban sprawl populated by millions in action, all fueled by the commodity in question – yet no individual human beings are discernable in any of the images, which creates a distant feeling of solitude.

The film was shot from October 2003 to January 2004 with a Minolta 5 megapixel consumer camera (Dimage A1) using a method I was anxious to try and finally able to afford. The high resolution images were captured and then compiled into sequences and edited together using Final Cut Pro. The music was created using Apple’s Soundtrack program and original sound samples from my personal collection.

Updated: Friday, 2007-02-1 12:12 Pacific Time