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Using Time-lapse In Real Estate Property Videos

Published: 19/07/2011

Several weeks ago I did post on Michael Thompson's listing in Orlinda, CA. I mentioned that the still photography was done by Scott Hargis and the video was done by Quentin Bacon but I neglected to point out that that the extensive time-lapse in this video was done by Thomas Sidney McCallum and his team at The vimeo video to the right is a compilation that Thomas sent me of all the time-lapse sequences from the property video.

Thomas describes's work as follows:

Time-lapse is one of our specialties. The Seventh Movement started out shooting non-commercial timelapse. Our first passion project, Paris, inspired us to explore other avenues and bring it to commercial audiences. From there, we marketed to clients as an visually stimulating element to supplement the work we were already doing (photography, video, design). We believe that the experience in owning a home extends beyond capturing 10 second video clips and still imagery. Time-lapse gives potential homeowners a glimpse into a day in the life of the property.

We shoot with Canon 5D Mark II's and Canon 1D Mark IV's because of their dynamic range and compatibility with our motion control systems. Our support includes Induro and Gitzo tripods, a Dynamic Perception dolly with a 12 foot rail system, and a Kessler Crane slider.

We tour the house and shoot still images to get a basic storyboard of where and when we need to be in order to capture the best light as it travels throughout the property. For us, it comes down to Location, Light and Luck. Those are the three basic keys to shooting time-lapse. You never know what you will get when storm clouds brutally rush your near perfect sunset. This can destroy or make any project but that is why we love it.

I think you'll agree the time-lapse sequences make a huge contribution to this video and demonstrate how time-lapse sequences can give a visually stimulating feel to a property video.

See our guide on picking the right flash for your Canon 5D Mark III.

For those of you not familiar with the details of how time-lapse video is created here is a brief summary:

  1. Put you DSLR on a tripod.
  2. Connect a external interval timer (for Canon DSLRs a TC-80N3 works).
  3. Put everything on manual and shoot JPG. A time-lapse of the night sky could consist of thousands of frames. Update: Thomas's advice in the comments about using the Little Bramper is a solution for the problem (like I've been having) getting flicker as the lighting conditions change frame to frame.
  4. Set the interval timer so it captures the the motion of what you are shooting. For moving clouds a frame every 2 seconds will do it. For stars you probably want to slow the capture down to about one frame every 30 seconds.
  5. Shoot the action. You'll have to shoot hundreds of frames because you are going to render a video that will play at 30 frames/sec. For example, at a recent camp-out I shot a night sky time-lapse from 11:30 PM to 4:00 AM (stopped because the battery was died), shooting one frame every 30 seconds resulted in over 1100 JPGs. When I rendered the JPGs as as video it resulted in only 39 seconds of video.
  6. Render the video. There are a couple of easy ways to turn all the JPG frames into video. Lightroom 3 will export a video from a bunch of stills. In the SlideShow module use the Export Video (at the bottom of the left side-bar). Another popular way to convert all the JPGs to video is QuickTime 7 Pro (available for PC or Mac).
  7. If you are a real time-lapse pro, like the Seventh Movement team, you mount the camera shooting the time-lapse on a motion controller so that over the whole time-lapse sequence the DSLR moves in a smooth, controlled way. Notice that several of the sequences in the 95sandhill video are done with motion controllers.

So add some time-lapse sequences to your property videos to give them a sophisticated, dramatic look.

Larry Lohrman

14 comments on “Using Time-lapse In Real Estate Property Videos”

  1. This video strikes me as the ideal way to annoy people who might otherwise consider the purchase of this home.

    It's photographers psychotically pleasing themselves at the expense of their client, and a stunning waste of everyone's time.

  2. Joe I think you have to look back at the original post to see how the sequences were used in the actual property video. The video here is just the time lapse sequences with no real context.

  3. Another good trick for a sequence of images is to load them into After Effects as an image sequence then simply import the After Effects project straight into Premiere, it's very quick as you don't have to render any intermediate footage.

  4. Question about the time-laps video instructions in Larry's post: You say to "set the camera on manual". Won't this result in continually under or over exposed photos as the shoot progresses? Seems to me like this just doesn't work. Also, how did get this production on Vimeo. It's obviously a property promotion and not allowed under Vimeo's regs?

  5. I just wonder who will pay for all this great effort and time when it is already nearly impossible to get agents to pay a half decent fee for normal photography? This treatment of video would then only apply to the super mansions, I guess.
    I love great videos but very few are willing to invest in them.

  6. @John- I'm a student of time-lapse compared to these guys but what I've found if you don't set WB and exposure on manual is that you get flickering from frame to frame when the light changes. I'll ask Thomas's opinion on this.

    @Elke- This is not a technique you will want to use to shoot a $80,000 listing in Wichita, KS. However, there are agents that are paying for quality video all over the world.

  7. I'm willing to bet these types of videos are done at an incredibly reduced cost (or maybe even free). I would be my life that NO agent, no matter what the property is ponying up the true cost of videos like this (many, many thousands of dollars). Get real people - these shoots are multi day shoots with numerous individuals working from dawn to dusk. I don't care if it's a $20m house - there is NO agent in America that would spend the type of money it should cost for a video like this. Bank on it.

    They're probably done as portfolio pieces for the production company to show off their work. And of course, there's nothing wrong with that! Lucky agent!

  8. "I’m willing to bet these types of videos are done at an incredibly reduced cost (or maybe even free). I would be my life that NO ponying up the true cost of videos like this (many, many thousands of dollars)."
    92 Sandhill was shot by me, and Quentin Bacon, who retained Seventh Movement to capture the material above. None of us reduced our rates, all of us were well compensated. I'm not sure where you're getting your information, but as someone who is personally involved in this project I think I've got the facts on my side! There are just too many layers of confidentiality to get into real numbers, but you're right in that the production was thousands of dollars. But I have a feeling it's not as many (many, many) thousands as some people imagine. I billed my normal commercial day rate on this, and spent a total of about 2.5 days.

    "Get real people – these shoots are multi day shoots with numerous individuals working from dawn to dusk. I don’t care if it’s a $20m house – there is NO agent in America that would spend the type of money it should cost for a video like this. Bank on it."

    That's just not true. It's not an everyday thing, but I work on a few projects like this every year, and it's growing.

    "They’re probably done as portfolio pieces for the production company to show off their work."

  9. I was shooting a twilight last night for newer client and the agent remarked that he had paid $1700 for photos of a larger listing recently. (high end sellers can commmand high end marketing) Those were just photos. There is a market for this level of product and timelapse can be done without killing too much time. You dont have to babysit the process, its kind of a set it and forget it operation. As long as your equipment is safe you can take your back up rig and keep moving while the scene finishes itelf. I dont have any professional work to stand behind as far as video is concerned but I am actively experimenting and hope to have the skill level / equipment soon to offer something decent. Here is a test I did the other day both scenes were about 45 mins...the wind made a big difference on the amount of time it took to get a good amount of scenery.
    btw If you watch my other videos, I cant give you your 5 minutes back, you've been warned 😉

  10. @Joe - It sounds like you might not have read the previous post the Larry did on . If you read that and then read our post, you would see that we are not claiming that the timelapses alone sell the house. The timelapses are just another tool to sell a house. Like the website, the photography from Scott, the video from Quentin.

    @Greg - Thanks for clarifying! 🙂

    @Charles L - We process in After Effects as well and output to Premiere as a toned, complete MOV file.

    @Charles M - Thanks for the comments on our vimeo page too!

    @John - We use a combination of shooting in RAW, and fading between sequences to compensate for the exposure levels changing, but thats only when the camera is locked off on the tripod, when it's moving, we use a device called The Little Bramper to manually ramp the exposure from 1/30th sec down to 30 sec exposure into night in one even push. Its a great device! I recommend everyone who shoots timelapse to get one. If you want to know more about it, hop over to timescapes and check out the forum.

    @Elke - Timelapses only work for certain properties, and this ended up being a great example. It's not going to work for every house, but its another strong tool to supplement the work that Scott and Quentin did.

    @Seth - Scott had it right. Normal day rates all around and we were able to collaborate with everyone involved. Even the homeowner wanted us to get a couple specific shots.

  11. From my own experience there are clients out there that will pay thousands for video, the opportunities are there. I also thought the video and the timelapse sequences were amazing, visually stunning and inspiring. Top notch work guys I can't wait to see more.

  12. There is def a market for it and agents are willing to pay the big bucks on big homes and exactly as somebody else stated you set it and forget it for most TL. I incorporate them into several of my videos and its shooting while I am so its not taking any extended time.

    Any negativity towards this has to come from lack of experience on the topic or plain out hating lol IMO cause it does not take that long to do TL or multiple people and I can almost promise you that there is not a agent or home owner out there who is thrilled when presented with the footage of the TL you shot for them. Its a powerful effect and can help turn a regular property into a eye catcher.

    Thumbs up to the colab of people on this project. Awesome work!

  13. @Thomas- Thanks for your comments. I looked at the Little Bramper you mentioned and just ordered one... look like it's exactly what I was looking for to get rid of the flicker I get in my time-lapses. Thanks!

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