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01.17.2012

by Jack Howard
Over the past few years, I’ve traded emails regularly with Jay Burlage, one of the owners of Dynamic Perception, and co-creator of their motor-driven dollies for time lapse motion effects, about this, that and the other thing relating to time lapse photography.

I’ve been itching to experiment with the amazing Stage Zero dolly and MX2 Dolly Engine from Jay’s company, and Jay needed a tack-sharp ultrawide angle zoom lens for testing a cool new telescoping configuration for the next version of the motion dollies. So, I shipped my Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM II off to Jay for a month, and Jay loaned me a Stage Zero dolly.

And then, gear swapped, we each embarked on creating a new time lapse video. The gear was very similar: Sigma ultrawides, Canon cameras, and Dynamic Perception dollies. Jay’s video is edgy, with lots of amazing ultrawide auto interiors, night-driving head- and tail-light light-tracer graffiti, and HDR time lapse sequences thrown into the mix.

Every time I watch this video, I am more amazed at Jay’s skills with creating, capturing, processing, editing, audio-tracking, and pushing the envelope for time lapse photography. Jay’s time lapse video is urban, industrial, edgy, and showcases the expansive field of view of the full-frame Sigma 12-24mm lens on on full-frame camera (Canon EOS 5D Mark II) in such an amazing way.

The gear I packed for my experiments with the Stage Zero dolly was very similar, but APS-C scaled: the Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM paired with an APS-C SLR, the Canon EOS Rebel XTi. I took a very opposite tack with my subject choice for the first field test with the Stage Zero Dollie and MX2 motion controller. I spent my day in a patch of woods that’s always sang to me. While Jay’s video is filled with nightside city streets, mine features the low winter sun filtered between dancing trees. (I also supplemented the wide-angle motion time lapse footage with a few non-motion shots made with the Sigma 70mm F.28 EX DG Macro.)

After these first experiments, I am totally hooked on motion controlled time lapse, and cannot wait for the chance to get out and make more time lapse footage with this fantastic six-foot long track and motor kit! I’ve been thinking non-stop about the possibilities the Stage Zero opens up for my future time lapse adventures. I thought I was hooked on time lapse photography before, but, wow, now I’m in even deeper, thanks to Jay!

Here’s one more thing to think about as you check out these videos: give a close listen to the audio on both tracks. Jay’s audio track is a punchy remix with driving bass, while mine is a mellow, guitar-based Celtic melody. We used very similar gear, but chose very different subjects, and as you listen to the audio of both tracks, think how well-fitting each tune is to the on-screen imagery. Now imagine reversing the tracks–it flat-out doesn’t work!  Pairing the the right audio to the on-screen goes a long way towards polishing up a time lapse video, and the audio should complement, but not compete, or worse, contradict, what’s being seen onscreen.

Here’s the takeaway in one sentence: Sigma Ultrawide zoom lenses and Dynamic Perception’s Stage Zero Dolly kit are a potent combination for making killer time lapse videos, whatever your visions happen to be.

I’m off and running on my next time lapse adventures with this dollie, but now I’m experimenting with the Sigma 15mm F2.8 EX DG Fisheye! And you can check out more of the amazing time lapse videos Jay Burlage has created over the years on his Vimeo page.

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  1. Both videos are very cool time lapse. It would be neat if you had a second camera that showed how the equipment was setup and how it moved.

  2. Sean, the Winter Woods video closes with a shadow-in-scene time lapse of the camera and dolly engine creeping upwards starting at 1:08. And there are tons of links to demo videos of the Dynamic Perception dollies in action, and tutorials, and such, to be found over at the Dynamic Perception website, which is linked in the first paragraph of the article ;)