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Timelapse: Building an arena for flying robots

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Our photographer Duncan Davidson loves to shoot timelapses; before every TED, you can find him behind the scenes hiding cameras to snap away for hours and days. In his latest piece, he tracks the construction of a custom robot arena for Raffaello D’Andrea, whose TED Talk was posted just last night. The TED Blog asked Duncan for some of the geeky details.

What did you shoot with?

I used two cameras — a Panasonic GF1, a good old-school camera, and a Nikon D800. The GF1 is good because of its small size, and even though it’s an old camera, since I’m using it with a long shutter speed I can use a low ISO. It’s got great image quality at a low ISO. The shutter speed on all the frames was 1 second long, so we get that nice creamy motion blur. In order to get that 1-second-long exposure, I’m using a 3-stop neutral density filter.

Plus the GF1’s small size makes it easy to put on a Super Clamp, which means I can put it in more places easily, even clamp it onto door moldings and the most unlikely of places.

How did you shoot the close-up video of the guys working?

That’s handheld, continuous shooting, slow-panning myself around the subject. You just pick a focus point and go chk chk chk chk chk! I stitched the frames in Compressor to 4k resolution masters, and then edited those in Final Cut Pro 10, outputting 1080p.