Michael LeFrance has been doing event productions for many years out of West Palm Beach, Florida. His success has been based on a strategy of producing cinematic 'movies' versus just video for his wedding and events clients.
When he got his first opportunity to produce a construction time lapse he brought the same thought process. "I'm not here to document the construction progress, I'm here to tell a story", was his thinking.
Storytelling is more compelling when the narrative is enhanced by cinematic techniques such as establishing shots, closeups of important details, and the rhythm and pacing of the editing.
Daily trips to the site just aren't practical
Thinking like a filmmaker, he considered the time lapse that captured the entire site, a full-time second unit.
In movie making, a second unit is a separate filming crew that is responsible for filming additional or supplementary footage for a film production.
The second unit typically films things like establishing shots, crowd scenes, stunts, and other footage that does not involve the main actors or their performances.
The long term, 5 days per week time lapse was the second unit.
At first, Michael traveled to the site every day to set up a camera on a tripod. This became time-consuming and he worried that the equipment was going to get damaged by construction activity, weather, or worse, stolen.
Having this second unit on-site full-time was the first problem that needed to be solved.
A friend mentioned CamDo, a product that was purpose-built for construction time lapse. He lent his unit to Michael to try.
A low-maintenance, low-cost, full-time second unit
Just seeing the CamDo rig convinced Michael that his second unit problem was solved.
The lockable, UV resistant case provided protection from weather and construction activity mishaps.
The solar power feature allowed the camera to run continuously until the memory card was full: about two months. CamDo even provided the calculator to figure this out.
Michael needed one additional component: a pole to mount the camera at the best angle for the shot. This has become a standard component for all of his projects.
Michael bought his own CamDo rig including the GroPro camera for his next project.
I'm ready for my closeup
During construction, there are many opportunities for time lapse closeups. Large deliveries, specific equipment operation, and building details.
Unlike the full site time lapse, this was easy to capture with a camera and tripod. Michael simply picked a few days a month that more interesting activity was happening.
These shots created a more interesting finished product cutting between the site overview and the closeup detail time lapse.
With the time lapse setup complete, Michael could focus on the bigger picture, telling the story.
Telling the story of the project
Now the fun part, Michael scheduled interviews with various team members to tell the story of the project.
There are so many story angles that the BRoll footage can support:
- The design, engineering, and construction story as told by the client, architect, engineers, and contractor
- The project story and the end user goals
- The community story and how the project fits into its neighborhood
These interviews give life to the construction site overview and detail close-ups to represent the project timeline.
Putting it all together
Here is an example of a project for the new office of the Downtown Development Authority of West Palm Beach.
The segment combines drone aerials, site overviews, detailed close-ups, interviews and voiceovers.
The production tells the story of the project - mission accomplished.