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Time-lapse video: Dodger Stadium filled with dirt

One of the fun parts of my job is figuring out how to do something I’ve not done before. Case in point: time-lapse photography, which was something I had been interested in trying for a while.

When sports photo editor George Wilhelm and senior photo editor Alan Hagman heard about how the field at Dodger Stadium was going to be converted into an off-road track, they suggested doing a time-lapse of the process.

Basically, time-lapse photography involves shooting many photos over a period of time and compressing that time by displaying each photo briefly in a video.

Workers at Dodger Stadium were going to haul in 5,000 cubic yards of dirt — or about 500 dump-truck loads,  equal to about 1.5 million pounds — to build jumps, berms and hills on top of home plate, the pitcher’s mound and outfield for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series races and Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam. It would be the first time something like this was done in the stadium.

The Dodgers were agreeable to the idea of a time-lapse of the work, and one of their media reps, Amy Summers, saw to it that I had the access to make it work. Denny Hartwig of the supercross series kept me up to date on the construction schedule.

Days before the conversion of the field began, I scouted out shooting locations. I was looking for a number of different shots, because otherwise the result would be as interesting as watching grass grow.

The next day I installed three cameras; one in the press box, another high in the left field stands, and the third at ground level in the right field pavilion. For no particular reason (except that I could get my hands on three of them) I used Canon EOS-1D Mark III’s.

On each camera I attached an electronic timer that would trigger the camera to shoot at programed intervals.

Figuring out what intervals to shoot at was probably the trickiest part. Colleague and video journalist Myung J. Chun, who has shot his share of time-lapse videos, said it was usually better to have more photos than needed than not enough. It also depended on what kind of action was being shot.

For longer-running scenes such as the overall view from the press box, I set the cameras to shoot every 20 seconds. But for scenes with action that was shorter, like close-ups of workers and equipment, I shot at more frequent intervals. These could be as fast as five photos per second.

Over the next few days I would move the other cameras around,  but I always left the press box camera shooting continuously.

Each composition had to be carefully thought out, because the action could be as short as a few moments to nine hours. So I needed to anticipate what could happen in front of the camera over that time and compose accordingly.

Exposure was another consideration, with deep shadows moving across the field over the course of a day. I opted to use a manual exposure for the brightest part of the day, because setting the camera on auto exposure would give inconsistent results. White balance was also set manually.

I set the camera to record the images as jpegs, out of file-size and storage considerations, but would have preferred to shoot RAW.

After more than 30 hours of shooting over four days, I had 40,000 photos.

Anticipating I would end up with a massive amount of images, Chun and I devised an editing strategy before shooting began. I would organize each shot, such as a worker setting up barricades, bulldozers dumping dirt or the finish line arch being erected, into separate folders and then convert each set of photos into a video. These individual videos would then be organized on a Final Cut Pro timeline for the finished video. Add music and it was done.

Read the full story by Jim Peltz about the field conversion at Dodger Stadium: “Dodger Stadium welcomes mountains of dirt for AMA Supercross Series.

Photo: Self-portrait with a camera in the right field pavilion on the first day of shooting. The camera is mounted in a Pelican case modified by colleague Jason Neubert into a lockable housing.


  1. January 25, 2011, 10:14 am

    […] is a time lapse of the field conversion: Time-lapse video: Dodger Stadium filled with dirt – Framework – Photos and Video – Visual Storytelli… __________________ Folks call me Bill. Please pass the GREEN nozzle. 2006 F250 XLT SCLB FX4 […]

  2. January 25, 2011, 10:19 am

    […] Time-lapse video: Dodger Stadium filled with dirt. […]

  3. January 25, 2011, 10:23 am

    Cool video, thanks for sharing!

    By: robkinseyart
  4. January 25, 2011, 4:10 pm

    […] Time-lapse video: Dodger Stadium filled with dirt One of the fun parts of my job is figuring out how to do something I’ve not done before. Case in point: time-lapse […] […]

  5. August 13, 2015, 2:24 am

    Denny Hartwig of the supercross series kept me up to date on the construction schedule.

  6. August 17, 2015, 1:47 am

    Denny Hartwig of the supercross series kept me up to date on the construction schedule.

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