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Time Lapse

I’m always interested in showing what happens behind the scenes, and ever since I started working the Tri-Cities, I always thought it would be cool to produce a time-lapse video of one of the many conversions that happen at the Toyota Center for the variety of events at that facility.

I was finally able to put this project together last week, and though it ran last Friday, the same day I publish Behind the Fold, I wasn’t sure everything would come together in time for me to simultaneously publish this behind-the-behind-the-scenes piece.

Why the uncertainty? That’s a fair question. After all, this isn’t a very complicated multimedia presentation, but the logistics of newsworthiness and timeliness have a way of compressing your perception of time.

I arranged access with Toyota Center marketing manager Jude Strode and event manager Ben Bolander to cover the overnight conversion from ice to hardwood after the Americans hosted the Chiefs on Feb. 20 in preparation for the Harlem Globetrotters. The timing worked out not only because I was working that weekend and scheduled to cover both events, but also because it was going to be a busy week for the facilities crew, which would have to switch it back to ice immediately after the Globetrotters played and then back to two basketball courts for the Eastern Regional basketball tournament.

Ideally, a multimedia package like this might run with our Globetrotters coverage, but since I was the only weekend photographer and our recently downsized interactive media department was hard at work on the latest Wine Press Northwest, that was definitely not an option.

After covering the girls basketball game between Connell and Granger, I headed to cover the Ams, where I was pleased to capture a check on the open ice — another goal I’d been wanting to accomplish:

before heading down to get some ice-level shots to incorporate into the time lapse:

As much as I would have liked to stay for the final period of the always-intense matchup against the Spokane Chiefs, I had to meet deadline and get everything ready for Sunday’s paper before starting on the project. I headed back to the Toyota Center around 10 p.m. and met with Ben, who set me up in one of the luxury suites and introduced me to operations supervisor Johnny Taylor.

I had hoped to shoot with my camera tethered to a laptop, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about changing memory cards, but ran into technical difficulties, so I went with our Canon timer remote controller, and set the camera at its smallest file size — about one megapixel.

After doing some research on time lapse videos (and finding a cool take on the 2009 Apple Cup and some gorgeous scenes of Vancouver), I pestered Danny Gawlowski, a video editor for the Seattle Times, for some advice and figured out that I should take a photo about every 20 seconds.

This means I’m actually in parts of the video:

while I was down on the floor getting shots of the work in progress.

I headed home as they started tearing the glass down in hopes of snagging a nap, but anxiety rendered that a fairly fruitless endeavor. Even though the gear was supposedly secure in the luxury suite, I know firsthand how wrong things can go in the wee morning hours. On top of the risk for theft or damage, the camera I had set up to click away for half a day is the Canon EOS-1D, a camera released in 2001. I couldn’t stop worrying about mechanical failure, so after a couple hours of alternating between restlessness and TV watching, I headed back to the Toyota Center around 4 a.m. despite not having yet heard from Johnny, who said he’d call as they were nearing completion of the basketball court.

I wiped my brow in an exaggerated “whew” when I heard my camera click as I approached and headed back down to get more shots of the crew working:

before crashing on a couch in the luxury suite, letting the slow, rhythmic clicking of the shutter lull me to sleep despite the music blaring throughout the coliseum. By about 9:30 a.m., nearly 12 hours after they started, the conversion was mostly complete, so I packed up and headed home to get some rest before covering the Globetrotters, who were as absurdly entertaining as I had hoped:

Then came the tedious part. I used Photoshop’s batch processing to adjust the levels and sharpen the 2,158 photos before I left for my two days off. After talking with photo editor Bob Brawdy on Wednesday, we decided to shoot for a Friday publication to coincide with the start of the basketball tournament, so I started right away on my Wednesday evening shift to import the photos into Final Cut Express. When I saw that they were still only 70 percent done when I left at 10 p.m. that night, after chugging away nonstop for about six hours, I was thankful that the tethering setup hadn’t worked out. If the photos had been any higher resolution, who knows how long that computer would have taken to import and render the video.

Thursday ended up being a juggling act as I furiously worked on the piece in between assignments. Not having used Final Cut in a couple years, this was a very steep and frantic relearning curve as I edited ambient audio I collected from the hockey and basketball games and selected photos to incorporate into the video. My original intent was to splice in the close-ups of the conversion at each major step of the process, but a chat with senior photographer Paul T. Erickson convinced me that would be too awkward and jarring, so those photos went into a separate photo gallery.

It was nearly complete, but I was still missing the major component of Johnny’s voice-over explaining the process. Trouble was, he was deep in the latest conversion, which made meeting up difficult. I managed to snag him en route to a late afternoon assignment, which I was almost late for after coming across a gnarly-looking wreck. With all the pieces in hand, it didn’t take a whole lot longer to select the audio clips from his interview and arrange them in the video’s timeline.

And while there are a few things I’d like to improve at some point in another edit, I hope that my mad scramble and video editing ineptitude doesn’t come through too clearly in the final piece:


This week, World Press Photo disqualified one of this year’s award winners after deciding the photographer had crossed ethical boundaries. has before and after images to show the infraction.

I wrote last year about a similar incident, so I won’t belabor the point, but I will add that I think Stepan Rudik crossed the line, not just for cloning out the errant foot, but for creating a misleading image by so heavily altering the tone — both physical and emotional — of the photo. It’s also interesting to see the hilariously crappy full-frame version that he cropped his offending image from, and at this point, it seems like the gritty toning he used was as much about masking the noise and lack of sharpness you get when cropping that drastically.

But what do you think?


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