A Stunning 12K-Resolution Time-Lapse of Los Angeles

Photography changes year after year, but it's a gradual evolution. However, one area of photography that has been accelerating faster than the others has to be time-lapses. The videos have been getting longer, the shots more dynamic where a dolly is more common, and the quality is getting to the point of staggering. It seems that every frame could be pulled and used in a landscape portfolio. Adding to this trend is photographer Joe Capra with his 12K-resolution time-lapse of Los Angeles.

I had a chat with Capra about this time-lapse and there are some staggering stats. Firstly, it was shot entirely using the Phase One XF IQ3 100MP medium-format camera. That piece of kit alone ought to raise your eyebrows as it shoots at 12K resolution. Then, there were a total of 50,000 of these 12K frames which means the memory cards needed to be large and fast as well as the hard drives, and the compiling computer needed to be high spec to even keep up with the camera on this project. The total shooting time was three or four weeks and then another month on top of that for processing and editing.

Curious about the technical difficulties one might encounter with a time-lapse of this quality, I asked Capra about it:

There were a lot of technical challenges with this project, mostly related to postproduction. When shooting time-lapse at 100 megapixels you are dealing with massive amounts of data and you start filling up hard drives very quickly. Storage requirements were massive for this project, about 32 TB in total. Computer processing power was another difficulty. I am currently running a four year old custom built PC which handles 4K footage very well, but it really did not like 12K footage. It takes a lot of processing power to render out full resolution 12K footage, and my computer was barely able to. Each shot took about six to ten hours in total to render. Sometimes during renders my computer would run out of RAM (I currently have 32 GB) and the computer would freeze up or crash and I would have to start all over again. I had countless days where I was dealing with failed renders and RAM shortages. I used Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects for the final edit. All the Adobe products handled the 12K footage very well. I used 4K resolution proxy files to lay down the edit and than switched them out for the full resolution files for final export and upload.

One other difficulty I had was environmental heat distortion. Shooting with such high resolution you are able to zoom in extremely far in post. While you may not see any heat waves or heat distortion while viewing the scaled down shots, it really becomes apparent when you zoom in. The purpose of this video was to demonstrate the resolution of the Phase One XF camera by showing how you can zoom into the shots while maintaining quality and detail. There were many shots that were not usable when fully zoomed in because the heat distortion coming off the ground really killed the sharpness of the image. This is usually never an issue with lower resolution cameras. As a result I was only really able to shoot on certain days when the temperature was mild and visibility was clear. These factors were very difficult to deal with.

You can see more of Capra's work and other awesome time-lapses on his Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or website.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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That shot at 2:00 is incredible.

Very nice timelapse !

Excellent video, thanks for posting it!