There are a lot of time-lapse videos floating around the Internet but Tom Lowe's TimeScapes is the one to see before you die. The film, an hour-long tribute to the beauty of the American Southwest, is the culmination of two years of shooting and the first video to be sold directly to viewers a 4K resolution, via Lowe's website. The trailer below is just boring old HD (1280 x 720 pixels) -- and it's still pretty impressive -- but you can get a sense of the scale of 4K resolution (4096 x 2304 pixels) from the graphic below and the version on YouTube. To own the special 4K edition of the film in all its 140-gigabyte glory, download it here for just $299.95. The HD download is a little more affordable at $15.95. Lowe discusses the making of the film and his distribution strategy in an interview below.
The Atlantic: What was the genesis of TimeScapes?
Tom Lowe: I started shooting time lapse as a hobby back in late 2006. Over the years, I started to get positive feedback online, at places like Vimeo, which led me to continue developing my skills as a time-lapse shooter, which in turn led to more positive feedback online. Eventually, I moved into shooting time lapse full time, when a wealthy backer from New Zealand sent me $100,000 and a Red MX digital cinema camera so I could spend a year and a half making my debut film, TimeScapes.
How did you get into time-lapse photography?
Like all good things, I sort of drifted into time lapse by accident. I had been camping out at Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California, and notice how amazing the rocks looked in the moonlight, backdropped by the stars and the Milky Way. I asked all my friends in the film business how I could shoot the rocks and stars at night, but none of them really knew. A well-established cinematographer named Francis Kenny, ASC, eventually saw a post I made at the Reduser.net forum and sent me a private message telling me that I could use a Canon DSLR still camera to shoot time lapse at night. The next day, I ordered a Canon 350D DSLR, and the rest is history.
What drove your decision to distribute the film yourself online? Could you describe your distribution strategy?
I shot the film over two years on a budget for only $200,000, with a lot of help from sponsors like Canon USA and Kessler Crane. I edited the film myself, at home, in my living room, at 4K (4096 x 2304) resolution, on a tricked-out gaming PC. This whole thing was done on almost no budget, so right now, just selling Blurays and high-definition downloads from our own website, we are nearly profitable. We should be turning a profit within the next month or so, I think. We screened the film for IMAX in Los Angeles a couple days ago, and are still waiting to hear back from them. Plus, we have not even sold the domestic TV or foreign TV rights or anything. So we are extremely optimistic about making a good return on our time and investment. If any distributors or sales agents are reading this, give us a call!
What do you want people to take away from the film?
Among other things I hope to inspire people to go out into the outdoors and enjoy these amazing places. I also hope the film connects with people on an emotional and spiritual level, and that it means something unique and personal to each person.
What's next for you?
Hopefully a big, proper IMAX film, then I want to pursue a career as a feature film director, along the lines of my heroes Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick.
For more information about TimeScapes, visit http://timescapes.org/.