Skip to main content

Researchers figure out how to create time-lapses from crowd-sourced photos

Time-lapse Mining from Internet Photos [SIGGRAPH 2015]
Time-lapse videos are a time-consuming (no pun intended) endeavor. They require careful framing and composition on the part of creators to get it just right, but that may not be the case for much longer. Researchers from Google and the University of Washington have developed an automated method of combing through and stitching together photographs from large public libraries. The result? Coherent, cohesive, and convincing time-lapses.

In a process the scientists describe as “time-lapse mining,” advanced algorithms were put to use evaluating a library of tens of millions of geotagged and time-stamped photos from digital archives. The system started with this simple metadata, which wasn’t entirely sufficient — photos of landmarks, after all, can differ remarkably from one to the next. In order to narrow down a time-lapse viewpoint, the team reconstructed “candidate locations” — locations which were the subject of many photos — in 3D, and identified the angle with the greatest amount photographic material.

Time-lapses taken with a smartphone or DSLR have the benefit of a largely homogeneous image — the sensor and settings don’t change throughout the shot. That obviously isn’t the case with disparate photos from across the Web, which necessitated the researchers to apply some serious post-production fixes: geometric stabilization brought the photos to a uniform angle, appearance fixes homogenized lighting, and filters reduced flicker and noise. The end result? 10,728 time-lapses across 2,942 landmarks, each composed of more than a 1,000 photos.

Automated time-lapses aren’t just pretty to look at, of course. The researchers propose using the algorithms to document change over vast quantities of time.

“This capability is transformative,” they write. “Whereas before it took months or years to create one such time-lapse, we can now almost instantly create thousands of time-lapses covering the most popular places on Earth.”

The researchers say that it’s already made it easier to visualize geological changes that normally take a long period of time to manifest, such as retreating glaciers or the growth of a hot spring in Yellowstone due to the deposit of minerals. Of course, the process isn’t perfect. Some photos were incorrectly timestamped, resulting in artifacts like “spurious halos.” Imperfect processing led to blurring, and the 3D reconstruction sometimes failed. Still, considering the gorgeous (and historically valuable) preliminary results, the system or one like it is no doubt worth refining.

Editors' Recommendations

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
How to print Instagram photos, from mobile printers to online photo labs
how to use instagram guide 2

Photographs may look great on a digital screen, but there's nothing quite like bringing them to life through the form of a print. Most of our photographic creations sit on Instagram. We take pride in curating our feeds, making them look all fancy for our audience. But what about making them look fancy on our wall? Thankfully several platforms give us the option of printing our favorite photos from Instagram. However, there are a few things you need to know before you go ahead and do so. Here's how to get the best results when printing from Instagram and all the best places where you can make it happen.
What Instagram photos can you print, and how big can you print them?
First, beware that these tools for printing Instagram photos are designed exclusively for printing your own shots. Printing someone else’s photograph that you swipe off of Instagram is photo theft. If you see a photo on Instagram you’d really love on your wall, reach out via a comment or private message to arrange a print with the original photographer. Don’t be that Instagram user that finds a way to beat the system to steal someone else’s work.

Second, Instagram doesn’t save your photograph in all its high-resolution glory. Images are downsized to just 1,080 pixels wide -- that's fine for a small phone screen, but won't hold up for a large print. Instagram photos can still make great prints, but they should be kept under five inches wide -- such as a 5 by 5 for a square shot. If you try to print out an 11 by 14, you’ll end up with a pixelated print. For larger prints, find the original photo and make a print from that -- you'll lose whatever edits you made in Instagram, however, so you may want to edit in a different app first.
How to print Instagram photos from a printer

Read more
A.I. can remove distortions from underwater photos, streamlining ocean research
nasa coral reef climate change lush tropical shore and corals underwater

Light behaves differently in water than it does on the surface -- and that behavior creates the blur or green tint common in underwater photographs as well as the haze that blocks out vital details. But thanks to research from an oceanographer and engineer and a new artificial intelligence program called Sea-Thru, that haze and those occluded colors could soon disappear.

Besides putting a downer on the photos from that snorkeling trip, the inability to get an accurately colored photo underwater hinders scientific research at a time when concern for coral and ocean health is growing. That’s why oceanographer and engineer Derya Akkaynak, along with Tali Treibitz and the University of Haifa, devoted their research to developing an artificial intelligence that can create scientifically accurate colors while removing the haze in underwater photos.

Read more
A photographer is shooting a 30-year time-lapse of NYC. Here’s how, and why
30 year time lapse nyc how why featured

He is shooting a 30 Year Timelapse of New York - Big Timelapse Stories

Photography is about storytelling, but sometimes the story behind a photograph -- or millions of photographs -- is equally interesting. New Jersey-based photographer Joe DiGiovanna is shooting a 30-year time-lapse of the New York City skyline, and has already been working on it for 4 years. He has captured some 4 million photos so far.

Read more