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Construction Time-Lapsing: Do It Yourself, Pro Photographer, or Webcam System?

We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but nothing tells the story of a construction project like a great time-lapse video. In this post I’m going to cover the pros and cons to various methods for capturing and creating time-lapses. I obviously have a favorite in mind, but I will do my best to cover all the aspects without bias. Feel free to call me out if I miss anything!

There are three main ways to time-lapse a construction build. You can do it yourself with your own camera, enclosure, and video editing. You can hire a professional photographer. Or you can use a hosted webcam service like TrueLook.

Do It Yourself

It is entirely possible to create your own time-lapse video, and this can be the cheapest option. That is, if you ignore the cost of the time you’re putting into this side-project. You can buy a decent camera pretty cheap, but you will have to build or buy a camera enclosure to keep your equipment safe from the weather and sun. You’ll also need a controller that will tell the camera when to take pictures at the time-interval you want, and during the right hours of the day. Otherwise you will have to manually take the pictures, being careful not to move the camera – not ideal. At the end of your project you will then have to combine all your pictures into a time-lapse movie using video editing software. You’ll want to experiment with the setup before you capture any important videos, because your first time will probably come with some learning experiences.

Pros:

  • Can be cheapest
  • Total control

Cons:

  • Requires time, custom setup, video software
  • Non-photographers may have trouble with lighting, camera settings, correct lenses, etc.
  • May take practice to get right

Hire a Professional Time-Lapse Photographer

The right professional photographer can create a beautiful time-lapse video. Checking a photographer’s portfolio will give you a great idea of what to expect – just be sure they’ve done time-lapse video before (not just stills). Unfortunately, photographers do not work for free. In fact, this is probably your most expensive option as you will be paying a professional for a lot of their time.

Pros:

  • A great photographer = quality work every time
  • Know what you’re getting

Cons:

  • Most expensive
  • Budget dictates length, intervals, and editing

Use A Construction Webcam Service

This option is relatively newer, as the technology itself has been around for about 15 years. But it is likely the most common way to time-lapse projects today. In this scenario, a company will sell (or rent) you the hardware you need. The company then charges a monthly fee to host the webcam and provide their services. Each company does things differently. Prices and quality vary, and you may or may not have a contract. The nice thing is, you don’t have to do much other than mount the hardware as the company ships it to you. The live webcam can be viewed remotely anytime, and will probably have a number of other features that let you interact with the camera. This is also the only option that lets you watch your time-lapse videos mid-project. Learn more about construction webcams.

Pros:

  • Install only. No setup or editing
  • Relatively cheap
  • Many added benefits (remote viewing, zooming, saving images, sharing, solar power, etc.)
  • Can setup any custom time-lapses (even multiple simultaneous)

Cons:

  • Monthly fee
  • Variable quality and expense of vendors
  • Have to trust the vendor

Photos by Charles & Hudson, Nicolás García