Matt Maniego, a freelance filmmaker and photographer based in San Francisco, was recently asked to document the promotional efforts of NBA’s Golden State Warriors. His specialty time lapse work has been featured by the San Francisco Giants, the 49ers, and the Golden State Warriors, as well as the Pac-12 Network, Comcast SportsNet, and the NFL Network, just to name a few. Here he takes us along for the ride and shares his tips for getting the perfect time lapse.
Time Lapsing Against the Clock
by Matt Maniego
At this very moment, Oracale Arena, aka ‘Roaracle’, is not just audibly the loudest arena in the NBA but is also visually. A sea of bright yellow t-shirts cover each and every seat in the house and I have been asked to capture how these yellow shirts made it from the boxes, to the seats, and eventually onto 20,000 Warrior fans.
BEHIND THE SCENES
My team and I had 4 hours to capture the evolution of the promo shirts. With that large an area I split my team into two, with one remaining to capture the behind-the-scenes footage.
Our main goal was to capture captivating time lapses. To accomplish this feat under pressure we brought with us:
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 5D Mark II
- Canon 6D
- Canon 7D
- Canon 16-35 f2.8L II
- Canon 24-70 f2.8L II
- Rokinon 14mm f2.8
- Emotimo TB3
- Dynamic Perceptions Stage Zero Dolly
- Dynamic Perceptions Stage One Dolly
- Induro AT413 Tripods x 5
- Fancier Ballheads x 5
- 64GB Compact Flash x 5
- Canon Remote Trigger (for backup)
If you’re not familiar with time lapse lingo, the rigs you see in the above video are “Motion Controlled” rigs, or “Moco Rigs” for short. I chose to go with 2 Moco rigs and 2 static rigs, each having a pretty wide angle view. I went with wide angle setups on each camera because that would show the most area being covered in yellow over time. We set up one static camera overlooking a big portion of the lower bowl of the arena and 2 Moco rigs following the action of the staff putting the shirts on the seats. The last static rig was used to time lapse the Moco rigs in action.
For the 2 teams with the Moco rigs, I specified to shoot time lapse clips between 400-500 shots yielding 15-20 seconds of footage (500 frames / 24 fps = 20.8 secs). I never go over 500 shots because I like to maximize the different types of shots in the allotted time given. Again, we were only given 4 hours without the option of redos. I made it a point to make sure that each Moco rig didn’t spend more than 25-30 mins on each shot (500 shots @ 3 sec intervals = 1500 secs / 60 sec = 25 mins).
It’s really important to understand timing when time-lapsing within the constraints. If you spend too long on a shot, you’re giving your client just that 1 shot; if you are too quick to stop a shot, then you’ve wasted the time invested in getting that shot. There is a definite balance when time-lapsing in this style and I have found that 25-30 minutes maximum per shot is ideal. If you are familiar with the apps that do these calculations for you, I would recommend learning it manually first so you have a solid understanding for calculating the timing of each shot.
You can shoot time lapses in RAW or in JPG. I chose to shoot these time lapses in JPG Large format because for 2 reasons: First, I knew the light situation would not change inside the coliseum and, second, we could all shoot multiple time lapses on one 64GB card. There wasn’t a setting sun inside the arena, so there was no use for shooting RAW to have the full gamut of dynamic range in my shots. I also have customized JPG settings in my camera that “bake” the look I want into the photos to decrease processing time in post.
Knowing which format to shoot in is an important thing to establish when shooting time lapses. Depending on your computer, processing RAW time lapses is about 4-5 times more time consuming than JPG time lapses. That’s a pretty significant amount considering, in this situation, we ended up with about 15 solid time lapses. On my Mac Pro, it took about 8 minutes per clip to render. If they were RAW, it would have taken 30 minutes each, which means additional rendering time. I find that the JPG workflow produces very good results without taking as much time as the RAW workflow.
The time lapses above will be used for promos, such as the one above, and are extremely time sensitive due to the nature of their broadcast, even though they did use some footage from previous jobs (our little secret). The important things to keep in mind are to test your gear and crunch your numbers before you arrive to the job. You will also want to have a game plan which will enable you to work swiftly and more easily improvise if necessary. Lastly, know what format you will shoot in to best assist in post production and turn over times.
For more sports shooting tutorials, be sure to check out the following:
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• Red Bull GRC Action Sports Photography with Garth Milan
• Photography Tips: Getting the Perfect Ski Shot
• Capturing the Surf: an Interview with Photographer Seth Migdail