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Time Lapse

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A heavily under-cranked shot, usually taking 1 picture per second or less. Popular subjects of time-lapse are clouds, the moon, sunlight shining through a window, or a growing flower.

May be part of a Time Passes Montage.


Films — Animation

  • Big Hero 6 has a time-lapse scene, with Hiro preparing his micro-bot demonstration with the help of Tadashi and his friends, showing several days' progress in a matter of seconds.

Films — Live-Action

  • The Trope Maker is Star Theatre, aka Demolishing and Building Up the Star Theatre, a 1901 short film in which a camera was positioned across the street from said theater. The camera took one exposure every four minutes, eight hours a day, while the theater was demolished. In the finished film the footage is then reversed, so the theater is demolished, then reassembles itself.
  • Used heavily in Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi.
  • The Wolfman (2010) uses many time lapses of the sky and moon. Although the majority are used as a part of a Time Passes Montage.
  • The entire movie TimeScapes by Tom Lowe. The movie consists of a series of beautifully-constructed timelapse shots set to music.
  • The use of time lapse photography to demonstrate plant growth goes at least as far back as 1951 and documentary short Nature's Half Acre, in which time lapse photography is used to show plants growing from seed, sprouting and maturing, as well as a time-lapse shot of a sundew plant unfurling.
  • The Sense of Wonder uses this often in shots of clouds, especially from Pierre's perspective.
  • Metallica: Through the Never: After Trip arrives in the stadium at the beginning of the movie, there's a time lapse of crowds of people moving into the stadium before the first song starts.

Live-Action TV

  • "Trading Spaces" bookends this. It starts with people clearing out the room, prior to redecorating for the first timelapse sequence, and the second one shows a recap of how the progress went with their room and how hard they worked.
  • It was used a few times in Life After People for plants growing.
    • Time-lapse videos of plant growth are a favorite of documentaries — as you can see here, here or herenote .
  • A lot of the stuff built in MythBusters takes several days. Their time slot is around an hour. The announcer/narrator refers to it a few times as the editors' favorite trick (other than, perhaps, the high-speed camera).
  • The time-lapsed clouds variant was used frequently to show the passage of time (as well as to hint an the alien setting) in the nineties sci-fi drama Earth 2.
  • Used in-universe on an episode of Psych as a film student is recording the blooming of a rare plant. Shawn and Gus go through the frames to see if the camera captured a mummy escaping from a museum.
  • On Mad About You independent filmmaker Paul's big claim to fame is "Weed," a time-lapse film about a weed growing in the concrete in New York City.
  • Glitch uses several time-lapse sequences of wilting flowers played backwards for its opening title sequence.


Theme Parks


  • Often used on Transformers toy commercials when the actual figures' transformations are being demonstrated.

Video Games

  • A large portion of building projects in Minecraft are posted on YouTube as a time lapse.
  • Introduced as a feature in an update for Prison Architect for recording the gradual construction of players' prisons.
  • Used in the first cinematic of Hanako's route in Katawa Shoujo.

Web Videos

  • Often subverted on the internet as a simple kind of humour: you link to a normal picture and give a description such as "Watch the progress of the Boston underpass construction work", or "Incredible time-lapse of Rob Lowe aging over 20 years!!!"
  • A special feature on the Blu-ray for Titanic shows the construction of the massive set, which was a near full-scale version of the actual ship.

Western Animation

  • The closing credits for the 2020 reboot of Animaniacs gives us a time lapse of the California sky turning from daytime to nighttime over Warner Bros. Studios.
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Hot Oven", after Bitsy tells Helen to call her dog therapist to come later in the afternoon, we cut to Birdie who's playing his violin at night and it suddenly transitions into morning.
  • The opening of King of the Hill, with Hank and the guys standing in the alley drinking beer as the whole day passes them by.
  • An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It is a Stop Motion cartoon full of Medium Awareness, with an outer camera showing the entire plasticine set, and the table it's sitting on, while the "main" cartoon takes place on the monitor of a second camera that is closer to the characters. Since the action plays on the inner camera at standard speed, a time-lapse effect is produced with the outer camera's view, which shows the operator's arms flying around at ultra-high speed while adjusting the figurines.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Voices" has a sequence where the Jedi Council spends an entire day and night meditating, and this is shown through an amazing time-lapse sequence where the camera circles around the Jedi Temple, showing the sun rising and setting and the nonstop traffic whizzing by.


Video Example(s):


Passage of Time Song

Before it gets to Bitsy waking up to a nightmare, Birdie sings about the passage of time as it goes from day to night.

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