How It Works

Time-lapse photography

We’ve been enjoying the BBC’s Life television series here at How It Works, especially when time-lapse photography has been on display. Here is a short clip showing this cinematography technique in action.

Time-lapse photography works by shooting a series of frames at a significantly slower rate than that which they will be played back. So for example, instead of shooting and displaying 24 frames for a single second of video playback – the speed at which film is projected at – time-lapse footage may record at a single frame an hour or even a day. However, despite there being maybe only 24 frames a day taken by the time-lapse camera, if they are projected back at 24 frames a second, what we see is what appears to be a smooth one second clip running in real-time. This is particularly handy for watching the movements of creatures such as the starfish and giant worms seen in this clip, which move at a rate which our 24 frame per second sight perceives naturally as super slow. With time-lapse photography however, we can watch these animals move in our-time, as many hours of movement can be reduced to a few seconds.