How to Edit Construction Time Lapse | Ultimate Post-Production Guide (Updated for 2020!)

If you want to make amazing construction timelapse videos, read on for our top 10 editing tips.

There are four major challenges that you’ll encounter in post-production of construction timelapse:

  • Lighting Flicker: Variations in lighting across a years-long project are huge, and create an unwatchable flicker effect if left unaltered.
  • Object Flicker: This is when site personnel or vehicles are in one frame and not the next, and is almost as jarring as lighting flicker.
  • Stabilization: Your timelapse camera may shift between photos, especially if mounted to a tall pole.
  • Entertainment: It’s a challenge in itself to make a construction timelapse that’s engaging and holds interest, especially if you have only one camera angle.

Read on for 5 Technical Tips about overcoming the technical challenges…

…and 3 Creative Tips to help you craft an engaging timelapse video that will delight your viewers.

Let’s jump in!

Technical Tip #1: Cull, cull, cull

Many of the photos you’ll start with in post-production will be unworkable.

Huge lighting variations, bad weather, inactivity and spider webs over the glass are not uncommon and need to be culled.

If you have read our guide on shooting intervals, you already know how crucial it is to overshoot.

Overshooting will ensure that once you cull the bad photos, you will still have plenty of good ones.

Don’t worry; overshooting doesn’t mean you have to manually sort and remove hundreds of photos.

Auto-filtering can let you cull all photos outside of a set range at the press of a button.

Which brings us to your best option for auto-filtering…

Technical Tip #2: Use LRTimelapse

LRTimelapse is a program specifically designed for timelapse photographers. It’s particularly good at combating flicker.

LRTimelapse integrates with Adobe Lightroom, and includes a dedicated long-term timelapse workflow (tutorial below) to guide you through the process step-by-step.

If you take nothing else from this article, make sure you go and check out LRTimelapse.

For filtering and removing photos, LRTimelapse has some powerful tools:

  • Brightness Filter: Simply set upper and lower limits and LRTimelapse will automatically filter out all images brighter or darker than the set range.
  • Time of Day Filter: Similar to above, LRTimelapse will read the metadata of photos and remove all that are not in the time range.
  • Deflicker Tool: Brings the brightness of each photo closer to an average, making for a smoother sequence.

LRTimelapse is a fantastic tool and is indispensable for long-term timelapse post-production.

Technical Tip #3: Use Warp Stabilizer

If you find that your frame has only shifted in the odd frame or two, it’s easiest to go in and simply adjust or delete those frames.

However, if your frame shifts around a lot during the project, you’ll need to use the Warp Stabilizer effect that’s part of Adobe After Effects and Premier Pro.

In terms of the parameters, select the “Position, Scale And Rotation” Method. Avoid Perspective and Subspace Warp; they’re designed for video (or hyperlapse) that moves greater distances and along more planes, and don’t produce good results for stationary timelapse.

It’s difficult to recommend specific settings for the other Warp Stabilizer parameters. Every sequence moves differently, and you’ll need to experiment with the effect to get it to work best for each project.

Occasionally, a camera moves too erratically for the Warp Stabilizer algorithm to do its work properly. Unfortunately when that happens, the only way forward is to use After Effects to manually track motion and stabilize.

Technical Tip #4: Maintain full photo resolution until the end

Work with the full resolution of the images right up until you drag them into your video editing program.

When making a construction timelapse sequence, you’ll be moving your sequence around everywhere – from Lightroom to LRTimelapse to After Effects to Premier Pro…

Anytime you export or render the sequence, make sure you keep it as lossless as possible, and maintain the full, original resolution of the photos.

As well as limiting the impact of multiple compressions, by doing this you maintain enough pixels to zoom in and pan around the shot in your final edit.

See Creative Tip #2 below for more about adding camera movement to your timelapse.

Technical Tip #5: Use frame-blending

Object flicker is the annoying pop-in, pop-out of personnel and vehicles from frame to frame.

With short term timelapse, this is often dealt with during shooting with using an ND filter.

However, an ND filter is of little use for long-term timelapse, and so object flicker needs to be dealt with in post-production using frame blending.

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In After Effects, you can use CC Wide Time, and LRTimelapse has its own in-built frame-blending feature.

Both programs have multiple levels of frame blending. Again, experimentation will be necessary to find the settings which work best for your project.

Don’t frame-blend until AFTER you’ve stabilized your footage, or you’ll end up with a complete mess. 

Technical Tip #6: Automate your post-production

The above tips will help you out if you have the time to dedicate to crafting your timelapse video.

But, if you’re short on time, the photoSentinel Timelapse Generator can do all that hard work – removal of unwanted photos, image enhancement, de-flicker, frame blending, stabilisation and more – in just a few clicks.

And, the magic all happens in the cloud, so there’s no more wasting time while your computer is tied up with rendering.

You can even use recurring schedules to send regular progress timelapses straight to your inbox or the gallery.

It’s the ideal tool for photographers who are wanting to scale their long-term timelapse business, but don’t have the capability to be do all that extra post-production.

To learn more about the Timelapse Generator, and for a free trial if you’re already a photoSentinel user, head here.

Creative Tip #1: Emphasize periods of action

Sometimes, from the outside, nothing appears to happen on a construction site for weeks; workers might be doing interior electrical work (or on strike!).

Other times, it’s all hands on deck, with dozens of workers involved with pouring concrete or lowering beams into place.

Rather than simply using photos from regular intervals across the project, pull more photos into your sequence from these periods of high activity, and fewer photos from periods where nothing much is happening.

It’s more work, but will make for a much more engaging video.

A construction worker pours concrete

Creative Tip #2: Add in some camera movement

If you have followed our recommendation in Technical Tip #4 above, you will still have plenty of pixels to work with in your final video edit.

This enables you to create a more engaging viewing experience by zooming in when activity is only happening in one area of the frame.

A simple 2D zoom and pan around is very effective, but if you’re an After Effects master you can also play around with perspective shifting and 3D movement.

You can see a great example of this in the changing seasons sequence at 0:29 of the video below. It was shot using a static photoSentinel timelapse camera; all the movement and perspective shifting was done in post-production.

Creative Tip #3: Use motion graphics

While a fair bit of work, well-placed motion graphics can really take a construction timelapse from good to great.

Add in statistics about the amount of materials used in the project, or compliment the vision of a tower going up with a counter showing the number of floors.

Though now nearly a decade old, the timelapse below remains one of the best uses of motion graphics in construction timelapse that we’ve come across.

Creative Tip #4: Use lots of b-roll

A single-angle, three-minute video of a construction can get boring quickly.

B-roll footage will help spice up your video, breaking up the larger sections of timelapse footage.

“Less is more” generally doesn’t apply to shooting b-roll, so here are some ideas:

  • Aerial footage of the construction site and its surrounds to put it in context of it’s location.
  • Short-term timelapse footage of faster activities such as crane movement and concrete pouring.
  • Slow-motion footage of welding; flying sparks always look great!
  • Interviews with key personnel or investors.
Long exposure photograph of a man welding and welding spark trails