Special effects—such as slow motion, vanishing subjects, zooming, and backward motion— have long been part of movie making. The danger is that used only for the sake of using them, such options become gimmicky. The way to avoid that pitfall is to have a clear purpose, so that–for example–a slow-motion sequence adds drama or enables viewers to see what previously was invisible.
A special effect of great potential value is time-lapse cinematography. From a technical point of view, it’s easy for mobile moviemakers to accomplish, either using a device’s built-in tool or an app such as Hyperlapse. Three classic uses of time-lapse are:
- setting a scene, e.g., the title sequence of the American version of “House of Cards”
- indicating the passage of time, e.g. in many episodes of “Breaking Bad”
- compressing a daily routine, e.g., “Great Seconds” which Scott Stanley discusses (below).
MMM: Where did you get the idea for this 22-second video?
Scott: I was watching all of the activity in the kitchen from my living room. It was already fast moving so I thought, “Why not make it faster?” Also, I had just purchased the iPhone 6 and one of the new features was the time-lapse capability. And so the idea was born.
MMM: Did you direct the people in the scene?
Scott: I talked about making the video with my brother and brother in-law. But mainly it was improvised—all done on the fly. My brother Todd is responsible for the ending because at the end of the shot he walked in and encouraged our nieces to dance around.
MMM: Did you use any special apps?
Scott: Just the basic camera software. To keep it steady, I balanced the phone on the flat edge of the banister. It was the only flat surface in that spot with the right angle.
MMM: Any issues that you had to deal with?
Scott: Just one: how long to keep the shot going. I wasn’t used to shooting in time-lapse format so it took something like 2 or 3 minutes to get 22 seconds. The first few attempts were just too short to capture any sort of family magic.
MMM: What advice do you have for others wanting to experiment with time-lapse?
Scott: Shoot something that you care about. Something that has meaning for you. It makes it so much more fun in the end.