Milton Court transformation time lapse 2008 to 2013

Between January 2008 and July 2013 I took photos of the redevelopment of the Barbican Estate‘s Milton Court site, as I passed by along Speed Highwalk on my way to work in CityPoint.

The photos are all housed in my Flickr set Milton Court Redevelopment – day by day.

The redevelopment saw the demolition of the low rise block containing local public service facilities ranging from a mortuary and fire station to the Weights & Measures office into The Heron (not to be confused with Heron Tower over on Bishopsgate), a deluxe 36 storey apartment block with a new concert hall, theatre, rehearsal rooms and studio for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama on the lower levels – the former paying for the latter.

Milton Court redevelopment (view 3)
Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s Milton Court Concert Hall aka Milton Court redevelopment (view 3)

Taking the photos

Starting on 03 January 2008 (IMG_6315) up to and including 14 May 2010 (IMG_7769), I took one photo most working days, using one of the trees down on Silk Street as my marker. Once Milton Court has been demolished, we get to see Ropemaker Place being built before The Heron gets underway.

From 17 May 2010 (IMG_7771) to 05 November 2010 (IMG_0034) I took two photos, the second one – View 2 – a little further along to avoid the leaves of the tree, and later on angled upwards to take account of the overhead cranes.

From 08 November 2010 (IMG_0035) to 24 March 2011 (IMG_0509) I took three photos a day, adding in View 3 from further along the highwalk to capture a view of the construction site once the demolition was complete, and where the GSMD concert hall would eventually be.

On 28 March 2011 (IMG_0510) I decided to introduce a new shot (View 0), taken further back on Speed Highwalk to accommodate the ever ascending main lift shaft. It’s this view that really shows the impact of my upgrade from my Ixus to the Cyber-Shot.

Examples of the four views, plus a fifth showing the impact of the change in camera:

Milton Court Redevelopment - examples of each view
Milton Court Redevelopment: View 1, view 2, view 3, view 0 (Ixus) and view 0 (Cyber-Shot)

Over the course of the project’s four and a half years, the rest of my world moved on:

  • Over the weekend of 16/17 October 2010, my Ixus took IMG_9999 which meant the file name for the next photo I took started back at IMG_0001. This resulted in some duplicated file names as did the fact that I occasionally had to use my iPhone and that uses the IMG_xxxx file name convention too.
  • At the start of March 2012 I changed camera from a Canon Digital IXUS 700 to a Sony DSC-HX9V (March 2012), and occasionally had to default to my iPhone when I’d forgotten my camera or the batteries had run out. This meant that the dimensions of the photos changed, as well as the resolution quality. Ixus photos are the IMG_xxxx series, the DSCxxxxx the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-HX9V
  • High days and holidays generated gaps in my photo record of the Milton Court redevelopment, as did periods when I decided it wasn’t worth the effort)
  • I had various changes in my working pattern – initially within Simmons & Simmons (the big one being the series of early mornings over the winter of 2011/2012 courtesy of the elexica website redevelopment project) and then in July 2012 when I left S&S which meant that my morning commute no longer took me along Speed Highwalk and inevitably my photography became more sporadic.

The time lapse plan and photo preparation

Initially I was planning to use the first photo (View 1 once I’d got View 0) from each day in my time lapse, but once I’d revisited my Flickr set, I realised that I would probably want to create four time lapses, showing all four perspectives.

I was somewhat prone, particularly after holidays, to forgetting the standard order. With almost 2000 photos, I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to check them individually. That said, as I worked through grouping my photos into views, it was easy to spot times when the patterns were interrupted, by the number of photos on any given date being more or less than the norm.

I also changed my approach to grouping the photos by View. Initially I put photos into folders, but when I got to March 2011 when I started taking 4 photos each day I decided to change to tagging – partly because I’d spotted quite a few days when the number of photos was > or < 4. Whichever way I did it, the basic process was the same: with the photos in full details view and ordered by Date Created, I have to cmd+click my way through the list selecting the photos that should be of the same view (based on my taking the photos in the same order each day), and then move into a new folder/tag.

Occasionally included other items, eg information notices, the removal of the highwalk bridge that used to cross Silk Street. I tagged these grey.

I ended up with 1922 photos tagged as follows:

  • View 0 – orange tag – 246 photos
  • View 1 – green tag (because it has the tree, obvs) – 889 photos
  • View 2 – yellow tag – 430 photos
  • View 3 – blue tag – 332 photos
  • Not a “View” – grey tag – 25 photos

Once I’d tagged all my photos I did a quick check using the “icon and text” view for each View (arranging by tag) – it was easy to spot abnormal photos and I tagged these red. Then, looking back at the full set I worked through dates where I had reds to fix. Often the issue was that I’d taken the photos in reverse order.

I then moved the photos into folders, to allow easy import into the time lapse tool:

Milton Court Redevelopment Time Lapse - photos organised
Milton Court Redevelopment Time Lapse – photos organised

The technical side

I thought that compiling the time lapse would be the easy part – after all, I’d done it with Phil’s Warren Ellis Walton Beach ident, plus I’d got the SPS project page chock block full of useful tips and links. Starting with the link there to The Ultimate Guide to Time-Lapse Photography everything was looking fine until I got to Step #5: Start Making Your Movie – I don’t have Quicktime Pro.

But no problems, the guide suggests the alternative of assembling your movie with iMovie or another application – and as a Mac owner I have iMovie as standard, and a bit of Googling turned up How to Make Timelapse Video using iMovie – Time lapse on TheHowToMac’s YouTube channel. So I headed off to sort out my photos into the various ‘views’.

However, when it came to starting with iMovie it turned out that you need to import your photos into iPhoto. I don’t use iPhoto to manage my photos, I’ve simply got them in the Picture directory on my mac, organised by year then event, with folder names starting YYYYMMDD so that they list chronologically (my daily photo projects are the exception – these I put into a folder named YYYY Project so that the photos are grouped together, and the folder sits at the top of the parent year folder). I tried using iPhoto when I first got my mac, but it was just so slow I abandoned it. Plus I didn’t like not knowing where my original photos were and that I wasn’t editing them.

So, iMovie was out.

A trawl through my Applications folder didn’t throw up anything to use (ie the “thing” I’d used to make the Warren Ellis time lapse), but more Googling brought up a few possibilities:

  • Time Lapse Assembler for Mac, complete with a CNET Editors’ review from February 28, 2013
    As the CNET review says “For those seeking a free tool that turns a collection of photographs into a video simply and quickly, Time Lapse Assembler for Mac is a good option; if you need additional features, look elsewhere.” Quick to download (right clicking to open after the “unidentified developer” message appeared) and easy to import my photos – I tried out the ‘blue’ folder on the basis it had the fewest photos. A .mov file quickly materialised – but then I spotted the snag…. the software seems to use filename to order the images: my variety of devices and filenames, plus the IMG one flipping over the IMG9999 line kyboshed the chronology in my time lapse.
  • Time-lapse Creator – “Create JavaScript time-lapses from your Flickr photos and embed them on your website”
    I liked the look of this app, but having taken photos from two then three different perspectives and the development progressed – so I would have had to create a new Flickr set with just the ones I wanted to include (mind you, I still had to do that in iMovie). Plus, if I’m being really honest, I was also a little wary of a relatively amateurish looking app/website.
  • LRTimelapse – Gunther Wegner’s powerful time lapse creation suite
    This third option looked like a very strong contender – but it turned out that you need LightRoom or AfterEffects to render your timelapse movie, and I don’t have either.

So racking my brains over how I’d done the Warren Ellis time lapse, I felt sure I’d used QuickTime – and QuickTime Pro came up high in my Google search results, plus it was the first option mentioned in the The Ultimate Guide….. But, again, that’s paid for software that I don’t have. I took a look at QuickTime Player, which I do have, but although I can make a movie, audio or screencast recording, there’s no obvious ‘import photos for time lapse’ option. More focused Googling for time lapse quicktime player turned up a tutorial on How-To: Put Together A Time-lapse Video With QuickTime On Your Mac, which contained this very useful tip:

The easy part goes here: go and get QuickTime Player 7. QuickTime Player X is nice and all, but QuickTime Player 7 is much more fully-featured. Thankfully, it’s still available from Apple — go to this support page, download, and install QuickTime Player 7.

Result! … except it turns out the Open Image Sequence starting point is Pro only. Grrr.

So, back to Google, this time searching creating time lapse using “date created” which returned [Mac OS X] Zeitraffer lets you make time lapse movies from image files. Reading the review carefully seemed to indicate that I could organise my photo sequence based on date rather than file name, so I downloaded Zeitraffer from the App Store. It crashed my mac.

So I gave in and imported my photos into iPhoto 9 and used iMovie 9, following the instructions in this YouTube video on How to make a Time Lapse Video in iMovie 09 using Pictures from, having first watched the Welcome to iPhoto native demo video which explained how to import photos into iPhoto, group them by events and do editing – primarily rotating views 0, 1 and 2.

I wish I’d opted for iPhoto and iMovie sooner – everything Just Worked. It was so easy, I even still had enough ooomph to add an opening and closing slide to each video.

The results

I’ve uploaded the four time lapse videos to Flickr:

For next year’s Creative Project, perhaps (perhaps) I’ll edit one of the time lapse videos to add in stills for key events in my life and travels over the same period.