Time lapse: the VLA dances in TimeScapes 4k

By Phil Plait | December 6, 2011 1:46 pm

Tom Lowe is a photographer who makes amazing time lapse videos (like "Rapture"). He just released a new one, an incredibly beautiful one called TimeScapes 4k, which you can watch below. Make sure it’s set to HD and make it full screen:

[You can also watch it on YouTube.]

Holy wow! I know you must think I love the night skies he shows in graceful and lovely sequences, but to be honest, one of my favorite parts was right at the beginning, with the water flowing over the cliff. And of course the waterfall and moonbow were lovely… and timely, since I wrote about this exact same sort of scene just a few days ago!

Still and all, yes, I have to admit the whole video is stolen by the sequences of the Very Large Array in New Mexico as the dishes move from one cosmic target to the next (seemingly in time with the music, which is pretty cool). Tom wanted to get access to the array, and asked me for help. I steered him to my pal Nicole Gugliucci (pronounced "Grrrflappenklarven"), a radio astronomer, who was able to get him set up with the folks at VLA. So I’m pleased to have been involved with this video, even if in an indirect and small way.

And this, by the way, is only a small portion of an entire film he is making. You can find out more about that and how to pre-order it on his Vimeo page.

And you should follow Tom on Google+! He posts really nice photos there.

Related posts:

Awesome timelapse video: Rapture
Gorgeous nightscape timelapse

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: time lapse, Tom Lowe, VLA

Comments (16)

  1. loud

    Whoa, double moonbow. What does it mean?

    But seriously, though, really cool. Gave me the goosebumplies.

  2. Bigfoot

    Absolutely stunning from end-to-end! Thanks for sharing.

  3. BJN

    Pretty, but the business of building a fire on slickrock for the dance segment is unacceptable. A similar stunt got a Utah photographer an $11,ooo fine and two years probation. Photographer Michael Fatali built fires to illuminate Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. At least Fatali tried to contain the damage by using aluminum roasting pans (that burned through and leaked). It doesn’t matter whether the fire dance scene was filmed in a national park or not, an ethical photographer leaves no trace. The slickrock will be marred by fire char for years. Very uncool.

  4. Brian Too

    I only made a cursory attempt to sound out the name Gugliucci, and in the process made noise very much like a cross between an infant and the trademark phrase of Glen Quagmire.

    However your pronounciation guide saved me, many thanks. I will immediately and uncritically adopt the phrasing Grrrflappenklarven. Permanently. I am in your debt oh wise man of the skies!


  5. This blog gets a bazillion likes on facebook and yet you try and push Google+ at every corner.. how much are they paying you? ūüėõ

  6. Johan

    OK, I usually like your blog, but what’s wrong with Americans joking about their unability to pronounce any name that doesn’t sound “American”…? Gugliucci = goog-lyu-chee. Not that difficult, eh (and why do you try to make an Italian name sound German…)? (and no, I’m not Italian, I’m Swedish, so my own mother tongue didn’t help here). Phil Plait, pronounced Floppy-flappy Przevskplattcchy?

  7. Jaz

    Darn, I feel short changed. Sure hope the full movie resolves whether that Airbus 380 SoopahFlyingFortress @~40s does land OK or not…

  8. jupiterisbig

    #3 The slickrock won’t even notice the scratchings of a few humans. In a few hundred years or a few million – it’ll be gone …

  9. … How does he do it? This is like magic to me. I was especially puzzled my the part where he is following the river in the canyon. On the water, he is in motion for sure. But still, he needs a rather long exposure time to get the stars. I hope there will be a making-of along with the film! I’m a buyer!

  10. artbot

    @10. Michael: Night vision goggles. There’s a pic of him using them for this shot on his blog. I wondered how he did that too.

  11. Messier Tidy Upper

    [You can also watch it on YouTube.]

    Actually I can’t a clicking that link found it saying only : “Sorry this clip is private.” :-(

    Just so you know. Perhaps its an issue at my end?

  12. Love these too! Thanks BA. ūüėÄ

    This one seems almost a classical equivalent of a music video with the rock concert scenes towards the end but that’s fine by me! 8)

    The tree at the 33 second mark reminded me again of how tough and remarkable plants are – to be able to grow not just in rock on the edge of a cliff but also right in the middle of a torrential waterfall!

    Given the colour of the Moon at the 23 second mark I presume it’s in eclipse there, yes? Be interesting to get more of that in the video if they want any more ideas! :-)

  13. Markjn

    I was like “whoa, that looks like edc!” turns out it is. Definitely going to see this movie.

  14. For non-cinema buffs, let me clear up what 4K means.

    If you have a full high definition monitor, it displays at 1080 by 1920 pixels. That’s very close to 2K.

    “Wait, though”, you’d say, “Isn’t 2K 2000? by that standard, shouldn’t the resolution be something like 2160?”

    You’re looking in the wrong direction. The designations deal with horizontal resolution, that is, side to side pixel numbers. The standard HDTV is, of course 1920 pixels wide, which is close to 2000, hence, 2K. 4K is about double that number.

    So, why the switch? Well, it’s not really a switch for content providers as much as it’s a switch for us. We’re used to defining resolution in terms of broadcast quality, in terms of monitor size, so the first number we look for tends to be the vertical.

    Content providers, though, are by now used to dealing with the measurements they came up with when they started scanning film into the computer, beginning about 15-20 years ago. Those were basically horizontal.

    I’m not quite sure of the reasons myself, but my theory is that for many films, width, not height is the crucial measurement, the information least likely to be lost. See, most 35mm filmstock is actually imaged much like your old TV, the one you had in the nineties, at the almost square aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    To get regular widescreen, as the typical movie had, they would tend to matte the projected image, or in other worlds, stick a square around it and cut off the top and bottom of the image. The typical aspect ratio for that is 1.85:1, which is very close to 16X9. In fact, most movies shot for that screen width show up as full screen on your HDTV, which is very much intentional. Long story short, though, that vertical resolution wasn’t going to stick around. You’d be losing it because of the matte being set on the 35mm image. So, in such a case, horizontal resolution would be much more important.

    What about the really super-widescreen images? Those come out around 2.35:1, a little under 12 unites for every five. Did they matte those, too? Well, that would be a big waste of film, wouldn’t it! You’d lose almost half the film doing that. No, instead, they created a number of processes to deal with that. One way to do things would be to shoot the film on a bigger kind of film, 70mm. Another way would be to shoot three different 4:3 images at once, and project them together to create the widescreen image. This was Cinerama, the formate used for 2001. Techniscope, the format of choice for George Lucas in American Graffiti, basically solved the problem by cutting the 35mm image in half, sacrificing resolution for the ability to use less film.

    The typical approach was to shoot with anamorphic lenses. That takes a little explaining. the easiest to understand lens is spherical, that is, it’s round. Anamorphic lenses have elements that take the horizontal part of the image, and squish it together. You may have noticed, back in the bad old days of VHS that some credit sequences or images seemed rather thinner than they reasonably would be. That is anamorphic squeeze, or anamorphosizing. That’s how the film looks before it’s reprojected through other anamorphic lenses in order to make it look right.

    In that case, the squeeze makes it doubly important to measure things horizontally, because the image you project to an audience will need extra resolution to look good.

    One way or another, resolution used to depend on the size of the film, or at least the size of the area of the film you’re exposing the image on. IMAX is what you get when you run 70mm film, normally run vertically through the camera, horizontally instead. Just think one of those crystal clear 70mm images stacked on top of another one and turned sideways.

    But such concerns might be become a thing of the past, with cameras like the ones taking those 4K images. Nowadays, though the size of the sensor matters, you’re not necessarily getting all the problems that used to come with the issues of film. 4K delivers about film quality without the need to carry around all that actual film, which is something of an issue when you’ve got a high-definition film format like 70mm or IMAX. If you’re recording onto a flash medium, you don’t even really need moving parts in the camera aside from the lenses.


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