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The Art of Telling a Story With Time Lapse Video

by Geoff Talbot on January 24, 2013

time lapse videosExactly what is a story? Perhaps, you will argue that a single photograph can in fact tell a story and you are right it does; but it also tells the story of what has happened (the time leading up to the photograph) and/or what is about to happen (especially when the photograph is in motion).

The incredible beauty of a time-lapse video is that it doesn’t just capture a single moment in the story. A time-lapse video doesn’t leave the viewer having to imagine what has happened before or what will happen next… it delivers the story in a visually powerful, compressed, sequential narrative.

There is something fascinating about time-lapse and it’s not simply the length of time, but it’s the compact compression of the time involved that allows us to watch a long story in a very short time. Time-lapse video and time-lapse photography are based around the premise of change over compressed time and the result is a visually stunning digital story that captures a dynamic journey.


Stories that capture the essence of the human journey through time are almost always the most powerful. The changes that happen to a woman’s body during pregnancy; the build-up and planning in this couple’s life as they wait for their son or daughter to enter their world is beautifully captured in the time lapse video below.


Imagine watching how you’ve grown and changed over the past 12 years in two minutes flat? What would it look like? In what can only be described as “marathon running” for video artists, there are creative’s out there who are photographing or recording themselves everyday and placing the images together in time-lapse sequences.

One of the most spectacular time-lapse videos of this type comes from YouTube user Hofmeester who has put together a montage that chronicles the birth of a girl to the time she turns 12 years old. The transformation is fascinating as she progresses from a baby to a tween. Watch the video below that these determined (borderline obsessive) parents have made after taking a photograph of their little girl nearly every day for the first twelve years of her life.

Another interesting time-lapse video of this type comes from YouTube user Dan X Hanna who has put together a montage of his life for the past 17 years. The transformation is fascinating as he progresses from a younger man, to an older, tougher looking man. One of the fascinating things about Dan X time-lapse video is that this is an ongoing project. You will notice in certain sections of his journey he is photographed with an open mouth, apparently in the finished piece he is going to create a musical score and dub onto the track a claustrophobic scream.


The cycle of life and death in nature when captured in a time-lapse video is both beautiful and powerful.  It reminds us of the simplicity of life — both the beginning and the end. Watch this poignant tale of the dandelion as it opens to flower and then decays to seed. It is both mesmerizing and haunting.


Time-lapse storytelling works wonderfully when we think of stories that involve human construction, deconstruction, or even transformation.  On the Ford motor company assembly line they can make a whole car in six hours flat, but in a time-lapse video you could watch this happen in less than sixty seconds. More impressive is this time-lapse video on Streetnet where a giant Ford Explorer is created out of 380,000 Lego pieces in only 90 seconds.

Businesses are beginning to use the power of time-lapse videos to tell their stories. In one of the more powerful time-lapse advertising campaigns, the beauty and cosmetic company Dove took a normal looking woman and transformed her into a supermodel in a sixty-second time lapse video.

The results were amazing, reminding us that beauty can be based around a skewed perception of reality; the girl we see on the billboard really doesn’t look like that at all in real life.


The world of time lapse is becoming commonplace in our ever increasingly video-centric world. Advancements in both camera and video technology mean that any person with a camera and a laptop can express themselves artistically through this medium.

What life form, event, journey, or transformation fascinates you? All it takes is a camera, a lot of determination and most importantly…time.  Share with us what story you would want to tell using time lapse video or time lapse photography.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 ralph lauren polo sale June 10, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this blog post. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

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