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Construction Timelapse: Best Shooting Intervals

This is your go-to guide for the best shooting intervals for construction timelapse.

Setting intervals poorly can make post-production a nightmare or spike your data costs.

Before settling on shooting intervals, you’ll need to think about:

  • What are my client’s expectations?
  • How many photos do I need in post-production? (You’ll want to overshoot)
  • What type of service will I provide? Real-time monitoring, a final timelapse video, or both?
  • Will I need to change intervals for periods of low or high activity on the site?
  • What are my cellular data restrictions?
  • What power options will I have on the site? AC? Solar?

We’ve broken it down for you step-by-step, so read on for the best intervalometer settings for construction timelapse!

Client Expectations

Your number one consideration should be the service and value you’re providing to your client.

Some clients want an impressive timelapse video of their construction project that they can show to stakeholders and future investors.

In this instance, where only the final video is important, you may not need to shoot as often to get enough photos.

Other clients want a steady stream of photos for up-to-date site monitoring which may require uploading photos more frequently.

Many clients want both – beautiful timelapse content and the benefits of site monitoring.

In that case, you’ll need a shooting regime which achieves both of those purposes.

The key takeaway here to make sure you take the time to understand your clients expectations so you can deliver on them.

Overshooting

In long-term timelapse, you’ll capture lots of photo you can’t use in your final sequence. 

There will be long periods of rain, and times when something blocks your camera (be it fog, a crane or a spider web).

Some photos in the early morning and late afternoon will have yellow or blue tints, and long shadows with high contrast will make other photos unusable.

Construction Timelapse Post-production unusable images; a foggy, rainy, and clear day

For these reasons and more, you’ll need to cull lots of photos in post-production.

With construction timelapse, you’re looking for the lowest common denominator: good average lighting, steady colours, and some activity change from photo to photo.

And the best chance of getting a sequence of good photos is to have lots of photos to choose from.

In one of our sponsorship projects, we found that from over four minutes of photos, we only got 60 seconds of video.

So, when in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution, and overshoot rather than undershoot.

Then, with a large pool of photos to draw on, it’s not a big deal if a few photos are strange or unworkable.

If you undershoot, you may find you don’t have enough photos come post-production, especially after you discard the unworkable photos.

More photos will add more work in post-production, but that’s a whole lot better than not having enough photos to create your content at all.

That said, the principle of overshooting needs to also be balanced with data usage, power options, and client expectations.

photoSentinel timelapse camera with solar panel, overlooking construction site

Restrictions: Data Costs and Power Usage

Two big restrictions prevent shooting at lightning-fast intervals; Cellular data usage and power limitations.

Data usage costs can be a killer. If you upload at quick intervals, it may send your data costs through the roof.

We’ve made calculating your expected data usage simple with this easy-to-use Timelpase Data Calculator.

With regard to power, the faster your unit is shooting and the more you are uploading, the higher your power requirements.

If AC is unavailable for your construction timelapse unit, that leaves either solar power or our external battery box .

Both options force you to be more conservative with shooting than you need to be with AC.

Actual power limitations depend on a range of factors (amount of sun, strength of cellular reception), so run some on-site tests to work out how fast you can push the system.

Standard Intervals

If you shoot short-term timelapse, you’ll know that faster intervals make for a smooth video.

But because, most of the time, construction happens at a snail’s pace, shooting doesn’t need to be so frequent.

Movement of workers and site vehicles are interesting but secondary to the main story of the site: the construction itself.

That’s why it’s best to pick slower intervals which show the building’s gradual change over time.

If electrical work is being done or there’s a workers’ strike, nothing will change for weeks!

As a general rule (and making sure you consider the other factors), an interval of between 10 and 30 minutes works well for business-as-usual on a construction site.

Construction Timelapse Intervalometer Settings

Rapid-Fire Intervals

Visualize a concrete pour with workers swarming like ants, or a crane carefully placing beams.

These types of events are exciting to watch, and you’ll want to catch all the action.

Here, your intervals will be closer to those in short-term timelapse; they could be as quick as every 60 seconds.

So, remember to speed up your shooting regime for high-activity and special events.

Upload Only Some Photos

Consider that the number of photos you upload can be different from the number of photos you take.

With the photoSentinel Mach II you are able to shoot and upload on different regimes, allowing you to selectively upload some photos, while saving others to local storage.

This way, you could upload at a frequency that will make your client happy but cut down on data costs by saving extra photos to the local storage

This gives you the creative freedom of lots of photos, while your client gets real-time monitoring on the cheap.

You will need to collect the extra photos from the hard drive in person. But if that’s not an issue, it’s an excellent way to keep costs down.

Setting the Right Intervals

To recap, when choosing your intervals, consider the following:

  • What does my client want?
  • How much overshooting can I get away with?
  • What cellular data costs can I handle?
  • What power options are available on the site?
  • What’s the level of site activity?