New short “Toronto Falls”: Shooting timelapse through windows!



As some of you know from the A&E Intervention: Timelapse that I was TRICKED into doing, I am loving my timelapse with my stills cameras. I am using all sorts. My Canon 5Dmk2, 7D, 500D, Lumix GF1, GH1, Ricoh GR3. Used loads.

I was in the US and Canada recently, in Chicago to do the Great Zacuto Shootout and then in Toronto to see Sara. Whilst there I had some great views, both from my hotel in Chicago. The Sutton Place Hotel who gave me a great view after I explained what I wanted to do, my hotel in Toronto, the CN Tower and the Hilton at Niagara Falls.

When I shot my short film “Sky”, much of it was from up high too…but not through glass. Glass causes many issues, some of which I hope to cover here.

The main problem with glass is of course reflections. There are number of things your need to do to avoid them. A circular polariser is a good bet to help reduce them, but be careful as they sometimes show up weird patterns in the glass. I also make sure the lens is as flush to the glass as is possible. A Suction mount like the Delkin one above is very useful for this and will take the weight of a 5DmkII no problem. Make sure you have thick curtains to pull around the camera and wrap clothes, stick gaffer tape to around the lens, anything to reduce the chance of any reflections. These are often more visible at night and are often reflections from inside the room on the glass itself, that’s why it’s worth getting that lens as close the the window as possible. Sometimes you get double glazing. If this is the case you are often screwed. This happened at the Niagara Falls hotel and you can clearly see some of the outside lights reflecting on the internal part of the window. There is no real solution for that apart from shoot outside. But the joy of shooting these through windows is you can leave them going for long periods of time within being with them. Just make sure you stick “DO NOT DISTURB” on the door. There is one shot of Chicago in the below film that is 4 days long!

You also often find windows are dirty outside. If this is case best I can suggest is shoot the stills wide open in aperture priority as this reduces the visible dirt a fair bit.

I also use a Magic Arm and clamp to get up close and/ or a tripod leaning against the window, secured down with tape again.

For the 4 day shot I took 1 photo every 20 seconds or so in medium jpeg mode on the 7D using the tokina 11-16 f2.8 with a vari ND filter on with additional polariser.

I had some pretty bad interior reflections on one of the CN Tower timelpases with the GRIII of people walking past. This was bound to happen, the camera was not flush to the window as I needed to point down. I used the CHV FCP plug in long exposure to make these barely visible and it worked well. I also had them on the 5DmkII, I used two hats to shield the lens from them!

Lens wise i used the Canon 90mm Tilt Shift for the opening shot, the Tokina 11-16 a lot and the Canon 16-35 f2.8. The GF1 had the 20mm F1.7mm pancake lens on it. The Ricoh has the wide angle adaptor on it.

I go back to Skywalker Ranch at the weekend and waiting for me is the Kessler Crane motorized Cine Slider for moving timelapse. Can’t wait to try it out! It’s a BETA modified version of the below crank slider. Am also getting a couple of new rigs from Cinevate to try out too. Gonna be a lot of fun!

Below is my short film “Toronto Falls”, filmed in Chicago, Toronto and Niagara Falls.

[vimeo 9394017 640 360]


      1. i use 1/3 increments and my test with full auto vs aperture priority vs shutter priority and i found aperture priority to be the best bet as it kept DOF the same and flicker was identical to full auto

      1. Hello! I prefer timelaps whit people. Here is sample of my work. It is very short but it was – 20°C in Poland when I was shooting this clip. We almost freeze to dead 🙂 All was shot using Nikon D300 and Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8. Post production was made in Sony Vegas Pro 9.

        1. Khemmm… I posted link to my movie and forget to write about Phil work:-). I am really sorry for that…….. Phil, Your film is amazing as always. Your work inspired me to start experimenting whit timelaps. Big Thanks to You for that. I am Your BIG fan from Poland 🙂

      1. Thanks for the info. I have an Iphone and I downloaded that cool time lapse app that you blogged about before that works really well. Is there a cable and an Iphone app that I can buy that will do the same thing as an intervalometer for the T2i?

  1. Some lovely material there Philip as ever. We’ve spent the week fighting reflections – we mounted a camera above the work for the Tate Modern extension, going to be there for three years. Peli case with the lid removed, Canon 1000D and 10-20 lens, totally lightproof box. We didn’t account for the double glazing causing problems beyond that – next step is to return and black out the entire pane with vinyl film.

  2. Something I’ve used before is rubber lens hoods. They have enough play in them so the front of it can be square against the glass while the camera can be at a bit of an angle. It would probably work better using step up rings to use the largest hood available. I expect it would work well with the suction cup mounting.

  3. Well Met Phil! You picked some GREAT vantage points to shoot. The light play on the buildings! The shadows across the city! Inspiring, Cheers. That’s all.

  4. Wow these time laps images are amazing, more so than real time shooting the anticipation of seeing what you have shot must be exiting/nerve racking. Love the shots of the light’s going on and of in the tower blocks, the shots at 2.40 with the shadows and reflections of the flickering smoke are beautiful.

  5. Incredible!! The music went so well with it too, I’m glad the intervention didn’t work… the only bad reflection I noticed was the casino shot, but it didn’t matter – it looked so good.

  6. Very cool Phil! I really enjoyed that. You may have already thought of it, but when you get the cinevate slider you should do a comparison of all the sliders that you have tested lately. It would be cool to see how they stack up to one another now that there are so many choices on the market.



  7. Looks beautiful. Did you do any sort of frame interpolation in post, or is that simply sequential playback? And I’m assuming you’re using auto-exposure? Sorry if these are answered in the previous blog posts… I’m working my way back to those. 😀

  8. You’ve captured Toronto very nicely. I’ve always been a fan of getting shots from high places in this city, but have never done any timelapses… you’ve inspired me to go out and try at some of my favourite spots around Toronto.

    I especially love the sunset over Lake Ontario from the CN Tower, that looked perfect… I can’t figure out why the water looks like its receding outwards from the shoreline though.. strange effect.

  9. Great work Philip. Timelapse really is addictive.

    How are you doing those slow push-ins/outs during your timelapses?

    Also, when timelapsing day to night or vice versa, how do you maintain proper exposure?

    Thank you and keep creating!

  10. Amazing stuff… If you don’t mind sharing the secret, would you recommend using Aperture Mode or Shutter for a 24 hour timelapse? Also, as you describe in your DVD, when you compile the image sequence in QuickTime 7, what FPS and size you select for the final output? Can’t wait to see your work on motorized Cine Slider…

  11. Philip,

    Great! What about the switching on of the lights in the skyscreper on the right in the first shot – it so smooth and gradual. How did you get this effect? All the best, E.

  12. Ironic…….Here we all are turning from years of stills into film makers (loose term) and one of the pioneers of DSLR filming is spending his time shooting stills….

    I think the only way to stop you Phil is a global power cut for about ……hang on…. how many batteries do you have?????

    Will the codec be strong on the 550d with 1080p? Same as 7d?

  13. Yet another great timelapse from who has (unknowingly) become my Guru of timelapse video’s. Brilliant music choice too, really enjoyed Moon when i finally saw it last month.

    I see from your blog that you have used the 500D for timelapse. Please tell me that you have a way of doing it without being linked to your computer. I am currently in South Africa photographing the overlay services for the FIFA World Cup and i am desperate to make some timelapse of the temporary structures going up at the venues. However i can’t really sit out there with my macbook linked up to my camera all day.
    I have read conflicting reports that the Opteka Timer Remote Control works on 500D. Can you confirm/deny this for me please, or provide an alternative?

    Much appreciated.

  14. Hey Phillip, wooaaah, just love your films.. very inspiring!! big thanks for all the effort with your website, really is fantastic!! I am a shiny photographer : ) love film and am very excited to start making some sweet inspirational films with my 5D mkii… big big thanks for all the inspirations!!
    Super Best & Good Vibes Dancing Your Way : )

  15. Awesome stuff Phillip.

    Another tip for anyone shooting time-lapse through hotel windows.

    Sometimes the window will open up just enough to get a lens through. Depending on the weather/temp this is a great way to overcome any reflection issues. You may want to tape the latch on your door open tho. I set up a time-lapse in San Francisco a couple years ago like this. I left for a few hrs, and I guess the wind picked up, and actually closed the latch on the door. I was locked out of the room, and they had to come up with bolt cutters.

    The footage was stunning tho 🙂

  16. Hi Philip –

    Once again, very inspiring stuff. I particularly enjoyed the movement of the building shadows in the opening shot.

    Looking for some advice as I’ve been dabbling with timelapses over the last few months ( for examples ).

    You mention that this one you were shooting medium jpegs. Can any benefit be gained by using higher resolution stills? For my latest effort, I decided to shoot full 21MP stills (5D Mk II), in the hope that perhaps there’s some software out there that would allow me to pan and zoom around the image. I find iMovie useless as it seems to horribly compress the images on import, and Windows Live Movie Maker, whilst giving much better results, doesn’t provide much flexibility.

    It just seems to me to be a bit of a waste to have the ability to shoot 3744 horizontal lines of resolution, and not be able to make the most of it!



  17. The way that the shadows scrape against the buildings in the opening and closing shots is mesmerizing, the lights that glow randomly at night from all of the different rooms is so sexy looking. This is an amazing short film, I think it’s one of your best yet!

  18. Even though your Dubai timelapse is still your best, this one is stunning, Philip. I just have a couple questions. 1) Is that 2:35:1? Any particular reason to this crop? 2) How was the grading done? Did you treated the stills (on Lightroom or something) or was it just MBL? 3) I know you shot the long one with medium jpegs, but what about the others, RAW?


  19. Awsome work Phil,

    Just a reminder for those going to do this from hotel rooms: don’t forget that in some hotels when you take the key card that cuts power to the room… I had to find this the hard way by loosing a beatifull 24 hour shoot with full moon at the end.

    Keep up the great site.

  20. Got a 5D mkii yesterday, awesome fun so far. Planning to do a city time lapse this week aswell (johannesburg).
    How do you let it run for days non stop? Just swap the batteries and flash cards between shots?

  21. I love that you used music from “Moon” for this. Clint Mansell’s work is simply amazing and it fits your piece perfectly. I made my own short video last week after my state of New Jersey was covered in a tick layer of snow. Obviously my stuff isn’t up to your level of quality, but I’m still learning the ropes of my 7D. If you care to check it out, here’s the link:

  22. Nice work Phil. Only you could find the beauty in an unsightly city like T.O. (BTW, I used to go to school – UofT – across the street from the Park Hyatt in the first shot).

  23. So that’s why Zacuto started making hats! If they had called them Z-Shades I would have figured it out earlier.

    I loved the CN Tower when I visited in summer. Got some great shots from the restaurant (not to mention a fine meal) and its nice of them to arrange a slow pan right into the building. Reflections were a pain though and if you try and get close you have to be very aware of the passing pillars.

  24. Last month I started looking into timelapse, and after some “googling” came to your site, but just now I stumble upon your site again and saw this post. I had given up before because I couldn’t find an intervalometer for my GF1. I am dying to know which intervalometer you are using with yours (from the first picture). Your help is greatly appreciated.

  25. Excellent stuff. Wish there was one link with all your time lapse titles huddled together so I could just go through them one by one.

    Would I need to change any settings as time goes on during a time lapse video?

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