Cranford Rose Garden Time-lapse at Brooklyn Botanic Garden from Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Vimeo.

Whether at the scale of a frame, a tiny sample, or a period of days, digital is all about the manipulation of time. So it’s fitting that our friend Chris Jordan focuses in his work on the expressive potential of timelapse, and that he runs New York’s T-Minus, a festival devoted to timelapse. You’ve got some time to get in your submissions for this year’s T-Minus – the call for works follows – but I wanted to press Chris a bit on why manipulations of time are important to him, and what works he finds inspiring.

Among his picks, above from just over the river at the wonderful Brooklyn Botanic Garden (and yes, there are idyllic places like this within the five boroughs):

This time-lapse shows three days in the life of the Cranford Rose Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden as thousands of roses bloom in early June.
To create the unique perspective, each still frame of the video was treated with a tilt-shift lens effect in Photoshop.
For more information on the Cranford Rose Garden, visit
The music is by Jon Solo. His website is

Chris explains how he became a video Time Lord – and how even raindrops can take on new meaning when time is compressed. I got him thinking out loud in email:

It’s a jumble of things that draw me to time manipulated work, some personal, some societal, all technological.

One theme that inspires T-Minus is how boring the majority of documentation video is, yet the market sells more and more video cameras, and the entire industry around video is thriving. For what? Think how many times you’ve sat and watched a documented event.  I think of the massive amount of energy and resources that go into consumer video. Wedding videos are a great example. Sure there may be something compelling to you if you’re the one at the alter. But we’re recording too much, saving it, calling it precious, and never actually seeing it again. Instead, if people captured timelapse, they would have the best of both worlds, and save petabytes of data.

The primary creative theme in time-based artwork that inspires me is the idea of the unexplored relationships surrounding us, just waiting to be unearthed. Video editors and VJ’s know some of the excitement around these relationships. But there’s generally in those contexts the studio mindset that comes into play, instilling classic ideas of composition, color, line, movement. I use the analogy of baking a cake to the capturing of time. You put the ingredients together,  put it in the oven, and see what you get. The result always brings out a pattern you wouldn’t have seen or thought existed. I put a camera six feet out off my fire escape on East Broadway once, pointing up the street. When I compiled the footage, I was perplexed to see the frame shift significantly, yet very slowly, over the course of 12 hours. What I realized was when it rained during the recording, the water accumulation and then drying caused the board to warp and twist, shifting the camera’s view. Or how city lights appear through drying raindrops in front of the lens. Or how the shadow of a church slides across the buildings during certain times of the year out my studio window. All these things are incredibly intriguing to me.

Monet was able to paint scenes and light with such accuracy simply because of the invention of the tube of paint. Before the tube was created, painters couldn’t feasibly transport their equipment to different sites. Technology is only now allowing us to capture extended lengths of time using photography in the field. With a cheap camera and a battery, we now can gather time up like Monet did light. This is a first.
Ok. that’s not short, or concise. but I get worked up about this stuff.

If you’ve gotten fatigued of endless landscape timelapses, look no further than the combination of painting and time in the graffiti-based Barnstormers collective (seen here in German / English – apparently there’s no equivalent word for “fresh” in German):

Idioblast writes:

The Barnstormers are taking graffiti and collaborative painting to new levels. Their time-lapse pieces are legendary & each of the 15-20 members is an incredible artist in her/his own right.
I directed/shot this piece in July 2002, it aired sometime in late 2002 on the music -show ‘Tracks’ on french-german public tv Arte.

Also via Chris, a lunar eclipse as filmed by Peter Herron – shot as still images, and I think actually looks more interesting as the camera moves:

Chris also sends some of his work, which is all embedded on his site:

Here’s a few of my more recent recordings:
I have an installation on Gov. Island recording a timelapse saturdays and sundays, and projecting it off broken glass:
The list goes on and on..there’s a ton of DIY’ers, writing articles about  it, using the arduino and the CHDK powershot scripting…good stuff.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen this one, its a bit outdated, but definitely one of the best things I’ve ever captured:

As Chris and I were having this conversation, I happened across videos by Tim Prebble, a film sound designer from Wellington, New Zealand (and CDMusic reader, as I recall). I appreciate these in particular because of Tim’s use of sound; clearly part of the art of this is the aural as well as the visual.

Tutukaka Timelapse from tim prebble on Vimeo.
Shibuya Tokyo Timelapse from tim prebble on Vimeo.

And let’s not forget one of my favorite timelapses, from CDM’s own Jaymis:

Red Iceblock Melting Outside Timelapse from Jaymis on Vimeo.

More stuff coming, as well, both from T-Minus and from Chris, as well; stay tuned.

So why not join in? Here’s the call for works for this year’s festival.


Submissions sought that explore alternate methods of temporal presentation

Deadline: September 15, 2008

Abstract: As computers and cameras become increasingly ubiquitous, a greater number of creators are becoming interested in the artistic possibilities inherent in combining these technol
ogies. Time-distorted video is easily realized with affordable consumer equipment, and this ability has generated a wave of image-over-time interactive "physical computing" installations and homegrown timelapse projects. T-Minus seeks to bring together exceptional realizations that explore the union of digital media and time.


Submissions must either be completed works or include a detailed description of the entry. Materials will not be returned.
Ideal format: High resolution Quicktime files (using an open source free compression, nothing over 1920 x 1080 please). If enough of the submissions are in high definition, the work will be screened in its native resolution.

Acceptable format: DVD’s, AVI’s (again, standard formats please), Quicktime files above 640 x 480 pixels,

Unacceptable formats: VHS tapes, betamax, 5.25" floppy, 72mm film, ancient scroll, prom, happy meal, interpretive dance.

All copyrights to the work remain with the individual artists.
Include a one paragraph description of the piece with length, title, year; and your contact information (mail and email).
Please mail submissions to the following address:
T-Minus 2008
c/o Chris Jordan
149 E. Broadway #4
New York, NY 10002

  • Hi, thanks for the great post!

    Here is a little timelapse experiment we did with friends couple of years back – maybe some of you find it interesting. We made a script that nicked all photos from Finnish road surveilance cameras during 2004. The intro of 2 minutes consists of images from frozen cameras, on 4:30 you can see winter hitting finland and lake getting frozen, and in the end 9:00 we made a 7×7 geographic matrix of images, where you can also see the whole Finland turning from spring to white winter


  • Hands down one the greatest uses of time lapse in my mind would koyaanisqatsi.

    Glowing praise for that aside (I used to sing verses from it and drive my girlfriend at the time up the wall).

    I think the basic reaction a get from time lapse is that it reveals the truth about everything in that nothing is impervious to it's passing.
    Time lapse footage is a form of illusion in itself. However this particular type of illusion does serve to illuminate the delusions that can arise from the complacency of the mind when experiencing 'real time.'

    The high frame rate cameras provide a very similar experience in that I come to realize how many things actually happen, what is at work, in something as simple as pouring water into a glass.

  • Allow me a moment to bah-humbug: time distortions need not be digital. Similarly, the remapping of one timeframe to another need not result in motion video. My personal favorite expression of slow time is through pinhole photography. Perhaps it's not flashy, nor new, but I do feel that it's just as valid.

    This photo was taken in the middle of Manhattan at rush hour. The shutter was open for two minutes, and more than a hundred people walked through the frame while the exposure was being made. The photons that bounced off them hit the film along with everything else, but got lost in the shuffle, showing the impermanence we have on the world around us. (Taken with a Zero Image 6×9 pinhole camera.)

  • @ChuckEye — absolutely, it doesn't need to be digital. There is, however, the word "digital" in our name. 😉 (and as regular readers know, I'm not that consistent with that to begin with — even less so on the music site. We love some of the pre-digital technology.) So bring on the pinhole, I say.

    It is a little different on the audio side, in that the kinds of manipulations you can do in the time domain with sound are very different. Digital photography, it's not quite the same because you are still constrained to using frames, not samples…

  • I thought the guys from Exyzt have some amazing time lapse pieces("stop mo" is what they call their work). I thought the CaliFornia was awesome. I'm a big fan of time lapse and moving camera!

    I asked them how they did this and they said they just use "a standard SLR camera like the Canon RebelXT" – way cool!! Now I need to get me one of those!

  • Apropos of that, here

    is a link to a year-long timelapse film I finished last year that was shot with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel under Macintosh control. It's a wonderful camera for this kind of work, and you can buy them used pretty cheaply now.

  • Agree with you ChuckEey, gotta watch the tech defining the McLuhan…A friend was over last night and told me about Simon Carroll's recordings in Australia.

    He has a long history of non-digital timelapse on film. Evidently Simon COOLS his film stock to decrease the grain when recording stars.

    (I was shooting stars last weekend at 60 second exposures per frame, using CHDK and a powershot s2. TONS of grain, but still amazing to see the rotation of the earth through the changing stars.)

    Hey Richard Lainhart! Send me something for t-minus again.

    Thanks for posting the call out Peter, and as always, for CDM.

  • @Ville: what a great idea to use road cameras! I've often thought about the timelapse potential of surveillance cameras, nice to see it's already been done.

    As for the call for works, I wonder if it's possible to submit one's work digitally? Last year I made an eight minute timelapse movie about the Finnish city Jyväskylä and it is available for download in 720p at

  • Hey Neo,

    Check the website for info on submitting to

    (sure, digital is great)

  • Measure the area of your garden prior to choosing your roses. Compare your width and height measurements with roses you'd like to purchase. Your roses will need plenty of space to grow as well as room for exposure to the air.

  • If you are looking for great a time-lapse system to do long term capture you should look into the photoSentinel time-lapse system.