More action to articulate, less time to do it in. What's your approach to Slo-mo's evil twin?


Pitched-up, time-compressed FX have gotten me through plenty of short clips of scenes like this. Sped up stopwatches have become a standard element, and in the process have become hackneyed. Letting the music ride is okay in some situations, but producers usually want more.

I'm hoping some of you have fresh ears and ideas to inspire me the next time I see a similar clip in my timeline.

  • I should probably add that this is not the footage in question, just a youtube clip I found that has a similar focus / feel to what I typically edit to. And no, it's never a three and a half minute shot, thank god. Jul 22, 2010 at 12:48
  • Thought I'd update you guys to say that my latest show had a few time-lapse segments and I incorporated some of the ideas here along with some new uses of old standbys. Not only was I happy with the result but my director appreciated it also. Jul 28, 2010 at 22:10

7 Answers 7


I just put this together last night.


For the timelapse I recorded audio (with sync points in and out) and then experimented to find the best way of compressing the 16 minutes of audio down into the 18 seconds of video. What I came up with was a combination of editing, time compression, and layering that was pretty painstaking to come up with but yeilded results that I'm exctatic about.

Even though the actual ratio of real time to final video is over 53:1, I managed to only compress the audio at 8:1, making up the difference with editorial and layering.

I'm going to shoot more today.

edit: -update- shot more videos!

[vimeo]13991711[/vimeo] [vimeo]13992190[/vimeo]

  • @rene - nice work Aug 7, 2010 at 15:32
  • That's pretty cool @Rene Aug 7, 2010 at 17:29
  • Sounds really good! Nicely done. The doppler of the cars really add a lot to the timelapse. I also recently did a time lapse phonography piece: soundplusdesign.com/?p=3895 Check it out if you're interested. Aug 7, 2010 at 23:56
  • @rene - sounds great Aug 8, 2010 at 21:21
  • @Andrew: Your piece was the one that inspired me to create this one. Now I'm completely bitten by the bug. More videos upcoming!
    – Rene
    Aug 8, 2010 at 21:22


I'd try to attach sound elements to visual cues first. My idea of a visual cue being a major 'change' in the overall picture...

E.g the orangey-light up event at 0:02 to 0:04

Each of the phases in the construction of those whit arches should trigger something...

Generally speaking I'd hang the major part of the sequence of sound on events like that. Then record or find sounds for the workmen.

I immediately thought small small small. Don't know why. Paper foley. Clothing(zippers), various light switches, throwing dried beans on a table. Ringbinders. Can openers. http://www.tonehammer.com/ did a great Kontakt instrument made of pen clicks and the like a few months back(or maybe last year...)

Then I'd try sit everything with heavily reverbed snippets of 'real ' sound, far in the back ground.... Hammer hits, drills...


And then something steady in the background. A pulse....Reversed stopwatch...arpeggiated square wave...


HAHA...I'm guessing you're referring to shorter segments of time lapse than the example you embedded; at least, I really hope you are.

I, too, have gone the pitched and sped up FX route, I've also used low end whooshes and sped up traffic-bys when I've had the random time lapsed wide shot of a city.

I've got an idea I've been meaning to try out the next time I get something that actually has a significant amount of activity like that video above. The plan is to spend some time identifying activities in the shots that naturally draw the eye, and spotting in effects/foley to fit those activities. I'd make a cut near the tail of the sound, but in advance enough that I would still have just a little bit of the body to work with. I would, again, use some time compression on the head of the clip, but only enough so that the listener could identify that the effect isn't playing back in real time; I'd like it to be a bit more subtle in this use. Of course, the next part throws subtlety out the window.

Taking that tail, I'd then try to turn that into my whooshes/zips: stretching out the length of it, transitioning it to a more processed/pixellated sound as it nears the end of the tail, and follow it up with some panning or maybe a bit of doppler to get it out of the soundfield.

I'd probably have to add some sort of room tone or drone/bed underneath it all for it to work, because I feel like it could feel a bit empty and sterile without it.

  • @Shaun Farley - Definitely, definitely shorter segments! lol! But it's still anywhere from a good 10-35 second clip. Spotting to the action with pitched and time compressed FX is my standard fare, and you're right it typically needs something cohesive to tie it all together to avoid sterility. I do like your idea of "pixelated." It makes me think of automating some bit-crusher/lo-fi into the elements... Jul 22, 2010 at 0:20

It really depends on the effect you're looking to achieve. Right now, I'm thinking about how each unit responds when playing Warcraft. Especially in Warcraft II, the first I ever played, buildings in construction had this "Middle Age construction site" sound effects going on, saws, hammers and other stuff. Playing the actual tools sounds over a construction video would make people smile I think.

Or, over a nature time lapse, playing some distorted electronic drones would create a sort of "counterpoint" (the closest term I can find...) which would probably make me feel empathy for the very pure things that are being "technologized". I'm thinking about this video in particular:


A face morph/time lapse, I would hear voices and breaths like a waltz of souls coming and going... It depends on the picture material! :)

  • There's some beautiful footage in that video @Justin Huss! Unfortunately, I'm typically dealing with footage far closer to the vid in the question: getting through the mundane assembly parts before the big equipment rolls in and the real story/drama starts. There's a similar sound treatment to the Warcraft sound you're describing in Civilization Revolution. I do like the idea of the tool sounds. But when the action is as clear as in the question vid would you sync them up, or just let them play out their own little symphony? Jul 22, 2010 at 0:13
  • You're saying "play out their own little symphony" and it makes me realize that yeah, if you don't sync the effects, then it's a bit like playing a music track along, except it's a very original music track :) I'd use sound effects that register with the action (e.g. no wood sound if it's obviously a metal structure that's being built) but not necessarily in sync. For the question vid, sync sound could be nice, for the major changes, and I'd sync the end of the sound (e.g. hear a truck revving and moving slightly, then brake, and bam! now we see the truck just moved) to make things fluid. Jul 22, 2010 at 9:01

A very difficult task indeed. I wonder who in the world would want to watch 3:00 of that in the first place…

Attaching organic sounds to visual cues is typically a great starting point, rather than venturing off into whoosh-land right away. If you can nail down some concrete sound elements that work with the video, then you have somewhere to launch from. This technique would lead you to the "see a tool-hear a tool" approach, which could definitely work in shorter montages, but something this long wouldn't support it. You could take a more stylized look at it, perhaps starting off with a flurry of organic sounds and then slowly twisting those elements into more abstract ideas -- shadows of their previous selves, if you would -- then slowly reverting them back to their original shape. Also, playing against shading, shadows, and lighting would be important.

The music track is rather frenetic and up-tempo, so your sound design could play counterpoint to that with slower, more evolving textures.

Really hard to say - so much of it depends on what the client is looking for, time allotted to complete the task, budget, etc. But I think I'd start with something like that.


This is a really great idea!

I shot this recently:


I might try something similar next time I have a gathering, perhaps this time with sound too, could work well to capture the party atmosphere!



It really depends on what the intent & meaning of the timelapse is. Being literal (ie sped up/fast paced) may or may not be the best approach, same for using metaphors, being pointillistic, contrasting motion with slowly evolving sounds etc... Identifying & supporting the core reason for the use of time lapse has to be a starting point

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