Stunning Canon 5D Mark II Timelapse Video

by planetmitch10 Comments

“Wow” – that's what went thru my mind as I watched this Canon 5D Mark II video on Vimeo. Then, I downloaded it from Vimeo and I still can't pick my jaw up from the floor. This is that good! If you don't have a free Vimeo membership, then get one – and download this video and watch it full screen!

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Timescapes Timelapse: Learning to Fly from Tom @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

some recent stuff I shot shot on the Canon 5D Mark II DLSR this Winter/Spring 2009.
To contact me:
Here is a direct link to download the 1080p MOV. It's H264, 352MBs…
You'll need a powerful computer and 1080p screen to view it.

We highlighted one of Tom's early Canon 5D Mark II videos last December in the wiki (before we had the blog set up) and I have very fond memories of that video because I happened to be on the same beach on the same day and have some nice photos of the same sunset Tom shows in the video above (with the oil rig out in the water).

As you're watching Tom's video, you'll see it isn't just your ordinary timelapse. Tom's taken timelapse into new territory. He's added camera motion as well as some 5D mk ii video to the mix. Watch the beginning again – the sections with the Joshua Trees (the tall cactus) and you'll see that over the span of the shot, the camera moves!

Tom's set up a rig to make that happen which is pretty amazing by itself! I found that Tom had put up a demo movie of that on Vimeo as well.

Timescapes: Timelapse Dolly Project from Tom @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

I spent the last couple of nights testing my new dolly. It's custom made from aluminum and powered by the mumford stepper motor. The dolly is capable of “move-shoot-move” motion control.

A couple of photos of the dolly:

To help you learn a bit more about how Tom is accomplishing all of this, I've taken the questions and answers from several locations (Vimeo, DPreview forums, and Tom's forums).

Q&A on the “Learning to Fly” timelapse:

Tom @ Timescapes: To answer the question about how I like the 5D2… I LOVE it!! I think shooting ISO 3200 on the 5D2 is probably as clear the rebel series at ISO 800. A huge leap. Plus I love the live view function with exposure simulation. Believe it or not, I am actually able to focus on trees and windmills and stuff in the middle of the night,using nothing but moonlight. The 5D2 is a technological marvel, IMO.

flyvholm: Excellent footage and composition. I am somewhat mystified by the lights in the lower right corner in the first clips – both the bright ones flicking on and off and the plane-like ones going in circles. Do you know what's going on there?

Tom @ Timescapes: That was some type of military activity at the nearby Goldwater Air Force base.

milapse: Finally we get to see your 5dii work!! Really awesome Tom! I'm wondering how you did the rolling shots?? They seem so smooth and you can see stars! I'm guessing it's the F1.4 in movie mode? Amazing.

Tom @ Timescapes: you're right about the night driving shots. It's ISO 6400 @ f/1.4.

Lucasberg: Wow Tom. Makes me sad I sold my 5D2. What a timelapse season you had, lukily it's timelapse season year round. I think you just blew Reverie out of the water.

Tom @ Timescapes: Haha, thanks, Joey. I have a lot of respect for Vincent.

Jimmy Swift: freaking unreal! The moving shots starting at 3:18 are insane! How did you pull those shots off? I imagine thats not video right?

Tom @ Timescapes: it's timelapse 😉

Crystal Visions: Brilliant stuff. I too liked the shots on the road. I'd love to know how that was done. I thought the soundtrack was appropriate also.

Tom @ Timescapes: The night driving stuff was shot at f/1.4 @ ISO 6400, with like 1/2s exposures. The 5D2 is so fast, I can actually hand hold it for star shots. I use a simple suction mount that goes onto the body of the car or the windshield.

Spudgun: Breathtaking photography. Your best to date, in my estimation. Was the video sequences also shot with the Mark II?

Tom @ Timescapes: thanks! yes, that was 1080/30p out of the 5D2.

edvard brun: Tom, your silhouettes are great — and you have a gift for exposure. Was some of this work HDR ? I can hardly wait to get out into the high desert after seeing this. I'm wondering if the radio telescopes were in Socorro, NM ?

Tom @ Timescapes: no HDR. no composites or anything. it's just straight out of the camera. yes, a couple of those shots were at the VLA near Socorro/Magdelena. it was incredibly windy there, so i was limited in my shooting. i'm hoping to go back in late may. new mexico and that whole area are beautiful. the VLA is a place i have been wanting to visit for ages, ever since i saw Contact.

LensFlare Films: Just amazing. Where did you film, that the sky is so clear?

Tom @ Timescapes: The American Southwest.

Q&A on the rail system:

Jason Chen: Sweet. The result is amazing. How much time do you need to set this up?

Tom @ Timescapes: it takes some time, for sure. maybe 20 minutes right now. like anything, the longer you do it, the faster you get at setting it up.

Be Well 😉 btw, did you link the stepper to the intervalometer to get it to stay-put while you took the shots?

Tom @ Timescapes: yes the mumford time machine intervalometer controls the shutter, and also sends a signal to the stepper controller to move the motor between exposures.

Leonardo Dalessandri (translated from Italian): Hey Tom… What kind of engine you used? Congratulations boys, you did an excellent job!

Tom @ Timescapes: Thank you. Using the system of the engine Mumford …

Ty Frey: Fantastic. How much track can you add?

Tom @ Timescapes: well in theory i could add miles… heh. it's modular in design.

JORGEFRIED: Hey Tom, how much money did you put on this? Amazing!

Tom @ Timescapes: about 550 bucks, I think. wheels were 200, aluminum was 150, and welding was 200. i already owned the motor and controller, which is around 800.

1:1 Pictures: Unbelievably great footage!!! What program do you use to put the photos together in a movie? I have a dinky one called ‘photo-to-movie' I've been using but its not great.

Tom @ Timescapes: Adobe After Effects. By far, it's the best program for rendering timelapse. It can even ingest RAW files.

Scott Last: fantastic stuff Tom have really enjoyed your work, great build quality of the dolly. How are you keeping the cable tension applied, as it goes from the mumford head to your camera but not out the other side, or am I wrong. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing

Tom @ Timescapes: heh… simple gravity. i just make it have a slight grade. not a great solution, but it works for now. i'm hoping to make a closed-loop cable system soon that will be more accurate and professional.

Peter Longno: speechless… HOW LONG DID THAT TAKE?!

Tom @ Timescapes: oh it was only shooting for like 2 hours.

If you'd like to discuss this video, you can join Tom's timelapse forums or you can also discuss this in the planet5D forums.

Photo Credit: screen grab from Tom's video on his timelapse rail system.


  1. This is one excellent example of what can be made with today’s DSLR’s capabilites (and of course the appropriated technique and artistic inspiration).

    Photography and Cinematography are close cousins.

    Some traditionalist photographers may like it or not, but it is a fact that video on upcoming DSLRs will be improved and included (in most of them)

    Having a device capable of both Professional Photography and Professional Videography is a GREAT advantage, that can also let achieve results not ever possible before.

    Many professional photographeers (along with videographers) have already realized about the possibilities and huge potential of these kind of tools, and started to use them for their jobs (for instance, some photojournalists are in that stage too)

    This video is one more excellent example, that not only uses both capabilites of the camera in a Professional way, but also join them to achieve a final result that would have required many different and highly more expensive devices some years ago.

  2. I have a 5D MII camera, couldn’t figure out how to use the time lapse, is there a link where I can learn how to use the camera to do time lapse? Thanks!

  3. Hi,
    I saw that you have done some filming of timelapse with 5D. Do you do it directly in the camera or do you need to do them in post production in editing afterwards. I have Final Cut Express.

    I have the 5D Mark II, but I cant get the funktion of timelapse filming to work. So please if you have experience send me full instructions on how to do it. Im in need of some kind of small manual.

    I also have the remote controller TC-80N3

    thanks a lot,
    Kind regards,
    Conny Fridh from Stockholm/Sweden

  4. I want to say thank you so much to Tom for calling me back when I needed help on my shoot. I was the Director of Photography on the “We are the World” 2010 shoot this past Monday Feb 1st. I was shooting a few timelapse shots and did not think it was working correct and saw the night before Toms footage. I found his phone number and called him from the set and left a message that I really needed his help.. He called me back within the hour and told me everything I needed to know.. Thank you so much for your contribution to “We are the World” for Haiti and know that your hard work is going top help a great cause..Cheers and I look forward to all your new work.

    Dana Gonzales
    Director of Photography

  5. Gday Tom, Im a landscape photographer based in Adelaide Australia, Im on the road shooting with 2 other awesome people, im just taking 5, came across your video and you really dont need me to tell you what an awesome job you have done, but mate, simply stunning, stimulating, thought provoking and setting new standards. Keep the awesome work up mate, keep showing people your awesome work.

    Pete 🙂

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