Burning Man in Five Minutes: The Playa Time Lapse Project

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Burning Man in Five Minutes: The Playa Time Lapse Project
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Every year, tens of thousands of people join forces in the Nevada desert to express themselves, be it with art, carpentry, costumes, or burning large objects. This is Burning Man, and these people are Burners. Burners can be sociologists, too. Just check out The Playa Time Lapse Project, which captured a bird’s eye view of 27 days of Burning Man set up, break down, and lots of burning. And it all fit into a five minute video. The view is stunning. If you appreciate it, consider helping to fund the next one. Playa Time Lapse 2.0 is live on Kickstarter. Support now and get prints from the Burning Man gallery!

Matt Goodman and a crew of friends hiked up Old Razorback mountain on the east side of the Black Rock Desert and left a camera. For the next ten weeks, it snapped photos every six minutes and transmitted them over wifi every day.

According to Matt,”The confluence of having seen this view of the playa from Old Razorback, and my new-found interest in photography, got the engineer gears turning in my head. With the support of several friends, I decided to do a time-lapse video of the playa bringing the viewer from its pre-Buring Man state, through the event, and past the entire cleanup efforts. This turned out to be a non-trivial, but extremely rewarding, undertaking.”

On the Project homepage, creators and Langton Labs roommates, Matt Goodman and Peretz Partensky, outline exactly how you they did the project: equipment needed, setup, networking, film editing, and problems they ran into. Want to try this at home? Check out the tutorial they made.

My Q&A with Matt:

What were your motivations for doing the time-lapse video?
I think that most people don’t realize or appreciate how much time and effort goes in to prepping for the event. The week of Burning Man is like the sporulation of a stalk that took a long time to grow. In the process of editing the movie, we talked about how that was an important aspect to communicate.

What did you learn?
It requires more work than anticipated, helpful friends are the best resource, Eye-Fi cards don’t work as advertised. I’m proud that what took so much effort is now being enjoyed by so many people.

What highlights from the video aren’t obvious to the viewer?
We are making an editor’s cut to highlight all of the awesomeness that flies by at 30-frames per second, from hot air balloons, to huge kites, to gigantic smoke rings and sky divers. We want to encompass it all, or at least whatever can fit in three minutes and thirty seconds. Instead of five weeks, it’ll focus on 10 days centered on the event. (EG: Expect the editor’s cut online in a couple weeks.)

What is Burning Man, in your own words?
It’s a place where people actively engage in any non-specific activity, very actively. A place for personal, social, and cultural exploration.

Going to do it again?
We’re kicking off a kickstarter to fund a gigapan rig and a better lens. Hopefully we’ll make a whole movie where every frame is a gigapixel that will require a matrix of screens to show!

Anything else we should know?
The video, the raw photos, and the edited photos are all released under a Creative Commons license. We welcome other people to use them and make their own videos and remixes and image analysis tricks!

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