Over the past two months I’ve been busy conducting initial tests of new motion-control equipment I’ve acquired for creating the time-lapse portion of the project.  One of my frustrations with the 2’ slider I used in the Fire Lookout piece is that it wasn’t long enough to provide enough visual parallax cues to make larger scenes look three-dimensional.   These parallax cues are essential to providing an immersive sense of the scene because when the camera is moving, closer objects will move across your visual field much more quickly than objects farther away.  When shooting basic time-lapse sequences you can easily lock the camera down on a tripod and shoot a frame every few seconds.  That’s easy to do, but to get parallax effects you need to mount the camera on a motorized slider that will move it a fraction of an inch after every shot.   This technique was invented by Ron Fricke in the late 1970s for the groundbreaking film Koyannisqatsi, and then refined for his later masterpieces, Chronos, Baraka and 2012’s Samsara.   I was lucky to be invited by Ron to stay at his studio in Venice Beach for a few days in 1978 and was awed by his creative drive and imagination.  I always dreamt of being able to create those kinds of images and finally the equipment for doing these things is now available “off the shelf” and at reasonable prices.   A SF entrepreneur named Brian Burling started a company called eMotimo to make affordable time-lapse gear and I bought his TB3 unit, which has two motors for panning and tilting the camera.  It has a third control channel for sliding the camera along a straight path and I bought a set of 6’-long rails, a “sled” and a stepper motor from Dynamic Perceptions for that third control channel.  This is what the DPS1/TB3 rig looks like in the field.


Once I had all that working I was comfortable that I could get started.  Examples of each of those rigs can be seen here.

Now that I knew I could accomplish the time-lapse sequences I needed, I started to focus on how to tell the story of West Peak. 

AuthorGary Yost