Behind the Lens: Time-lapse photography captures Fieldhouse atmosphere

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm always going to put a premium on quality over quantity. However, there are days when it would be really beneficial to be paid by the image. Such was the case Saturday when close to 4,000 photos went into the production of "A Day in the Phog," a video featuring time-lapse photography from the Jayhawks' Big 12 home opener against Texas Tech.

The concept behind the piece was to show Allen Fieldhouse and all its moving parts from the early morning hours until the mass exodus after the last buzzer. I felt it necessary to begin shooting when the place was in a relatively inactive state, so I showed up around 6:30 a.m. Visibility was about 50 feet because of the fog. As I began setting up for the opening shots of the "Phog" Allen statue, I started recalling memories of "Night of the Living Dead" as a pack of what turned out to be ESPN crew members came through the fog in my direction.

The process involved two cameras: The first was mounted in the rafters somewhere around 8 a.m. and was turned on two hours before tipoff and set to shoot a single frame every 15 seconds, providing a slow and steady documentation of fans filling the stands and leaving at the end. I had the second camera on a tripod and brought it with me to various points of interest on the court and around the concourse where people were most heavily concentrated. With the pretzel photos, for example, I programmed the camera to shoot 100 frames with an interval of 1 second between each click of the shutter. Whether or not I was photographing rotating pretzels or people, the pause between each shot allowed for whatever I was photographing to change positions from frame to frame. So when the 100 photos of the pretzels are viewed in sequence and at a very fast rate it begins to take an effect somewhat similar to flipbook animation.

With the use of some video editing software, all 4,000 photos were laid down sequentially and set to show in some cases for one-tenth of a second and others for three-tenths. So, in real time, the gentleman waxing the floor finishes the job in almost 17 minutes but with a frame rate of one-tenth of a second, it's instead finished in 17 seconds.

A powerful still photograph can easily convey a sense of excitement and with great effect, but in this instance we were interested in covering the methodical and almost mechanical flow of movement and all the bustling about by fans that really brings the historic place to life.