We’ll start by understanding some basics. A video is a series of pictures stitched together to give the impression of continuous motion. A video normally comprises 24-30 frames per second (fps) which means that a 5-second video shot at 15 fps, is made up of 75 photos (frames).
A Time Lapse Video is a series of still images capturing a scene that has a slow state-of-change and plays back in high speed when turned into a video. A Time Lapse Video consists of frames separated by a fixed time interval. For example: A video of the sky in which a frame is taken every x amount of seconds. Hours worth of pictures is compressed into a video with few minutes playtime, creating a time-lapse effect. A 5-second video, playing at 15 fps and which was shot at 1 frame per minute would capture a 10-hour scene.
There is usually some confusion when it comes to differences between a time-lapse and stop motion video. First, time-lapse and stop-motion are not the same. A stop motion video is a series of still images capturing a scene where the interval of state-of-change for the scene i.e. time-interval between each frame shot is different. For example: You can take a picture of a dog in one position, and the following frame could be taken 5 seconds later, or 5 minutes later, and the next frame could be shot after a few hours or days.
Time Lapse Video is an observation-recording tool that can be employed by researchers to record, review and analyze user behavior or actions in specific scenarios. Time-lapse videos can be easily combined with other design research methods such as interviews, guided tour, task analysis, to record user experience or interaction with a prototype, a digital or a non-digital product and services.
The equipment required to record a Time Lapse Video is a camera (these days many phone cameras come equipped with time-lapse recording capabilities), a tripod and a remote. This equipment can be set-up in the same scenario with different users or different scenarios with the same users or user groups. The researcher and the videographer can be different. In situations where the researcher’s presence is either not required or could affect the participant’s behavior, a time-lapse video recording mechanism may be set-up in advance, the video can be recorded during the activity and the researcher can view the recording later.
Advantages of Time Lapse Video
01 Large sample sizes
Time Lapse Video can be recorded for a large number of individuals at the same time for the same or different scenarios; the only requirement is the equipment accompanying the researcher or independent of the researcher.
02 Time-compressed analysis
A 10-hour or few days recording can be compressed into a mere few minutes to allow quick review of the videos for analysis.
03 No researcher influence
In cases where the recording is done independent of the researcher, the researcher cannot influence the users’ behavior or interactions.
04 Missed details
In cases where the researcher was present during the recording, any details that the researcher could have missed can be reviewed and documented when reviewing the Time Lapse Video.
Disadvantages of Time Lapse Video
01 Time-consuming and costly
The review and analysis of the Time-Lapse videos are time-consuming. Again, with more number of videos to record, the requirement for equipment and videographers goes up. Similarly, in case the user groups or individual users being shot are experts, they’ll charge a fee to feature in a Time Lapse Video.
02 No probing
In cases where the researcher isn’t present at the time of shooting the Time Lapse Video, if later the researcher spots an interesting action performed by the users, there is no possibility of probing the user further
03 Support data gathering method, not the primary
Time Lapse Video are a great support data-gathering tool and must be employed in combination with other design research methods as independently although the quality and quantity of data gathered may not be sufficient for the study.