Innovation and the Drive to Create
In the Spring of 2014 Kessler University announced its search for the next generation of Kessler Shooters. Julian Tryba answered the call, submitting a portfolio that immediately caught our attention. Anyone new to time-lapse, or daunted at the thought of learning a new skill, would be wise to study Tryba’s own path to prowess. As he told KU, “if you are truly passionate about time-lapse there is no need to be overwhelmed, you will find your own path and surprise yourself how quickly you can improve and learn.”
> Gear & Software Used
Tryba’s Layer-lapse is a blast of novelty. A familiar motif has evolved into something new as motion-control and music combine into an alluring, impressionistic cadence. The sedentary cityscape is transformed into a metropolis emanating the frequency of life on every sensory level. It’s truly indicative of modern life experienced through a veil of ear-buds and smartphone screens. An impressive accomplishment that, “quite literally came together one layer-lapse at a time.”
“Everything I know about photography, editing, and animation I have taught myself in my free time during the past two years.” You’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished through research and simply getting out in the field and trying something new.
“The images you create are a reflection of yourself,” Tryba states. The core of this personal philosophy was established at an early age growing up in rural New Hampshire. Tryba would spend the majority of his childhood days outdoors “inventing and playing games with friends.” Middle School heightened the realm of possibility: “I built a ropes course with a zip line going over my trampoline so I could capture gliding aerial footage of us doing flips.” Proto-Motion Control.
After that it was on to majoring in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Vermont which culminated in the building of a robot that could follow and film a subject by tracking their smart phone. “When we started working on the project, there were no commercial drones available yet so we did a lot from scratch.” An avid skier, nature-lover and explorer Tryba began to be drawn to time-lapse photography.
As with everything in life, he dove right into his new interest, explaining that, “learning the basic technical portion of time-lapse is not that time consuming, it can be learned in a matter of weeks by watching lots of tutorials. Things that are extremely difficult to master are creativity, developing your photographic eye, as well as creating a personal style that is true to yourself,”
Like many beginners frustration set in after initial attempts. Tryba felt that his results were not at the level he had anticipated. “Was my gear not good enough?” he asked himself. Rather than blaming himself or his equipment he decided to take a step back and re-acquaint himself with the fundamentals of photography.
“I spent about six months educating myself,” he explains, “was time-lapse even the direction I wanted to take?” He then began to delve deeper into the possibilities of the art. After watching a course by Joe Buissink he began “learning all about wedding photography,” his interest peaked by “the emotional element he brought into his photos.”
“After watching Karl Taylor’s courses on product photography he debated becoming a product photographer. “I got a fish tank and took pictures of bubbles, then I tried shooting a whiskey bottle, but there was still something that did not feel right.”
Creating work you’re proud of often comes down to honing an intentionality for your project. Clarifying an end-goal or purpose is one of the best ways to launch an ambitious project. After absorbing readily available technical knowledge, Tryba worked to develop an idea of what it was he wanted to create.
“I needed to take a step back again and think about what the underlying messages were from all the photographers I had learned from. I kept hearing people say that it was important to get in touch with why I wanted to take pictures in the first place. I thought long and hard about who I was, how I wanted to contribute to society, and which aspect of myself I wanted to share. At this point I had mastered the fundamentals of the camera, now it was a matter of incorporating myself into my work.”
Approaching any new project, especially something as technically precise as a composited layer-lapse, will undoubtedly come with its fair share of anxiety and self-doubt but all things are possible as you strive to keep learning and keep shooting. br>
Pre-production and preparation are everything. Tryba, explaining his approach, “I have had the sequence setup in Premiere Pro for many months and it has been a matter of filling in the clips one by one. Before going on location, I decide which piece of the sequence I want to fill in. I like to listen to the few seconds of music I will edit that clip to. Then I head over to a map I have been working on that contains all the shooting locations in Boston I have in mind.”
Tryba knows what he’s after in the field, “I pick a location that parallels the vision I have for how I want to animate the clip to that piece of music; I also like to consider which shots are adjacent to the clip.”
Heading from location to location, Tryba gives himself as much time as possible, explaining, “I’ve learned it is always good to be early to shoots, having time to perfect a composition, or find a completely new shot, makes a huge difference… when I feel rushed and stressed I generally do not get the best shots.” br>
Consistency, accuracy and repeatability are the foundations of incorporating motion into a layer-lapse. Shooters need tools and resources that allow them to move at the speed of thought rather than getting bogged down by gear. Tryba’s journey to find tools that would allow him to manifest his ambitious ideas eventually led him to CineDrive which helped him to focus on the creation of a piece as a whole.
“The CineDrive system is one of the fastest and precise motion control system available. Layer-lapses rely very heavily on repeatability which is one of CineDrive’s greatest strengths. The layer-lapse is achieved by doing the same exact motion control movement multiple times (5-10), so the more precise the motion control system, the better.”
A key feature of CineDrive that Tryba needed was “the ability to change the duration of a move, while still taking the same number of photos,” this allowed him to “incorporate multiple intervals into layer-lapses.” For instance, it allowed him the options for both “a long interval to capture a shadow moving, and then a quick interval right as the sun is setting,” all with the same pre-loaded movement.
CineDrive helps allow a lifetime of learning to be integrated into the project, “my knowledge of math and physics is the lens through which I see the world and so it influences my entire thought process. I view the world like a 3D model and my camera is a way of digitizing reality.”
Rather than a fragmented map of Boston made up of disparate shots, Tryba’s preparation, knowledge and the right tools allowed for the creation of something new. His personal story reflects an ethos that prides itself on education, innovation and a do-it-yourself mentality. Follow his example. Find work that intrigues you and devour all known resources related to it. Channel that knowledge into a relentless drive to innovate and never stop shooting.
In a world of talkers and procrastinators be a thinker and a doer!
Canon 6D, Canon 7D (backup.) “Almost every single clip was shot with the Canon 16-35mm f2.8 II, the Canon 24-105 f4 was used a couple times, and one shot was done with the Tokina 11-16 f2.8.”
Shuttle Pod Mini [with All-Terrain Outrigger Feet, Keeper/Grabber Wheels, Rail: 2 x 3ft section, 1 x 4ft section]
3-Axis CineDrive [50: 1 Slider Motor, High Speed (27:1) Pan/Tilt Head]
Induro and Manfrotto. “I also have an electronic level which I use with the Shuttle Pod Mini to make sure my tripods are all at the right height, especially when I have more than 6ft of track setup. I also use Gorilla tripods as support for the Shuttle Pod Mini.”
After Effects – “After Effects is really where all the magic happens. My method relies very heavily on animating two things: layer masks, and opacity. I use anywhere from 10-100 different layers in a layer-lapse, and usually each layer is associated with a single sound. However I also have layers that are associated with moving objects like boats, people, or trains (when applicable). I also use after effects for slight color corrections, and the most challenging part, stabilization. The warp stabilizer does not work with layer-lapses, instead I rely on the camera tracker and manual stabilization. Finally, I have used basic expressions for synchronizing effects and making a building bulge to the beat.”
SpectraLayers Pro 2- “Used for scrutinizing the audio and finding all the different sounds. The program plots time versus frequency and the decibels correspond to the brightness of a pixel. This allows one to essentially ‘see’ a piece of music which makes it much easier to locate all the intricate sounds in a song.”
Excel – ”I have numbering system in Excel where every clip is assigned a universal time-stamp so I can normalize the clips between various programs. For example, I might find a sound in SprectaLayers and Excel tells me the exact frame it occurs in my After Effects composition or Premiere Pro sequence. To a lesser extent, I used Excel as a way of tracking patterns in a song. So if I have scrubbed through a pattern once (like a chorus), I’ll have Excel tell me at what time and duration each of the sounds in the chorus occurs. This also allows me to be more consistent between clips with the rate at which the opacity changes.”
Lightroom – “I use Lightroom to perform 90% of my color grading on photos, similar to many other time-lapse photographers.”
Premiere Pro – “The video editing program I use for compiling all the clips.”
LRTimelapse- “LRTimelapse is used for exporting holy grail sequences, and removing flicker.”
Photoshop – “I barely used any Photoshop but it can be more effective/faster for masking out objects and then importing the masks into After Effects. I also use some still frames in the layer-lapses so I might Photoshop a picture to get all the cars and people out so that I have a clean image of a scene.”
The Story of Tryba’s first Time-lapse
Additional articles/videos about the project:
Caleb Jackson-Boys is a writer from Indiana.