Time-lapse shooting has become immensely popular of late, but there’s nothing like a dolly shot to add interest to a scene .
Among the more advanced techniques for shooting time-lapse movies is to place the camera on a motorized track for a cinematic “dolly” shot.
These are easy to do in the daytime as the camera simply needs to slide down a rail at a constant rate. But at night, time-lapse dolly shots become more complex. Exposures are often 15 to 60 seconds even in bright moonlight, as here. During each exposure the camera shouldn’t move. The slide down the track should happen only in the brief time between exposures, typically 2 to 5 seconds.
Accomplishing this “shoot-move-shoot” routine requires a specialized bit of kit. In my case, I use the Stage Zero dolly and MX2 controller from Dynamic Perception.
It works great, and sends the camera down the 6-foot rail at a speed you determine. The controller also operates the camera shutter, ensuring sync between the exposures and dolly motion. You can see the setup in operation below, in a 2-part movie. The first scene shows the dolly and camera in operation over the 2-hour shoot, while the second clip shows the time-lapse sequence the dolly-mounted camera took.
This was one of the easiest time-lapse sequences I’ve shot, as I had to travel no more than 100 feet from my house to do it.
I was after a couple of sequences just to use for demo purposes, and didn’t want to tackle a long shoot far from home on a weeknight.
The bright moonlight on May 20 also meant exposures could be short, so that collecting the 300 frames I typically shoot for a time-lapse could be accomplished in well under 2 hours. Getting to bed before 1 am is a rare treat on a time-lapse night!
— Alan, May 22, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer