Time Lapse Video

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 are compressed into a video with few minutes playtime, creating a time-lapse effect. A 5 second video, playing at 15 fps and that was shot at 1 frame per minute would capture a 10 hour scene.

Quick details: Time Lapse Video

Structure: NA

Preparation: Recording tools, Environment, Recording scenarios

Deliverables: Time Lapse Video, Insights

More about Time Lapse Video

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 of 24-30 frames per second (fps) which means that a 5 second video shot at 15 fps, is made up of 75 photos (frames).

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 non-digital products and services.

The equipment required to record a time-lapse video is a camera (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 researchers 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.


Time lapse video vs. Stop motion video

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.


Advantages of Time lapse video

1. Large sample sizes

Time-lapse videos 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.

2. Time-compressed analysis

A 10-hour or few days recording can be compressed into a merely few minutes allow quick review of the videos for analysis.

3. No researcher influence

In cases where the recording is done independent of the researcher, the researcher cannot influence the users behavior or interactions.

4. 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

1. Time-consuming and costly

The review and analysis of time-lapse videos is 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.

2. 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.

3. Support data gathering method, not the primary

Time-lapse videos are a great support data-gathering tool and must be employed in combination with other design research methods as independently the quality and quantity of data gathered may not be sufficient for the study.

Think Design's recommendation

Time Lapse Video is a powerful way of analyzing a situation over time in a compressed time, and that means that the researcher is going to use this to get an understanding or to come up with talking points to further probe. Many a time, Time Lapse Video time-lapse video is not going to be an all-encompassing method to give you insights that you want.

Use this as a good starting point to mark areas of further investigation and prepare relevant questions for your research.

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