eXtensions - Tuesday 27 June 2017

Phoenix Almost Rising from the Ashes: iTimeLapse Pro

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

iTimeLapse Pro

Some updates to older apps have begun to appear. 32-bit apps will not work in iOS 11 and some will be lost. One example was CameraBag, but now NeverCenter have released CameraBag Mobile 3 and I looked at this earlier in the week.

I found another update quite by chance when I looked at a tweet about the use of AR that is beginning to take off as developers start to play with Apple's ARKit. Two ruler apps appeared and one was from Laan Labs. That rang a bell and I followed the links through. The Laan Brothers had developed a really clever time-lapse app in 2011, iTimeLapse Pro. It was sophisticated for then and had a wide range of settings so (if the device had power) could take a picture once an hour for more than a year. The last update was in 2012 and then no more until this year: there have been 4 or 5 updates since May. I am guessing the change to 64-bit apps has nudged the developer as little appears to have changed within the interface.

I downloaded as soon as I saw this (I did not have to pay again) and tried it out. As far a I remember it still has the same interface and range of options for input, making it easy to set up. It also now takes advantage of new features for export and there are several options here, including to FaceBook and messaging apps. It is perfect for the new Glif Tripod Mount I have, which now makes it so easy to check a device and change to another, which I had to do several times.

iTimeLapse iTimeLapse iTimeLapse

Apple's Camera app has the time-lapse feature, but this uses video input when recording time-lapse and then compresses the video - whether it is 10 minutes or 10 hours - into a 30 second clip or thereabouts. With no criticism of the Apple time-lapse method, it is a compromise, putting an interesting tool into the hands of users. What the Laan app does, as it did in its initial form when I used it with the iPhone 4, is to put a far more flexible and sophisticated tool into our hands, when it works.

Even in 2011, iTimeLapse Pro recorded individual photos and stitched then into a whole feature, depending on number of images (say 1,000, 2,000 or more). It renders all those images into a video which is of course considerably longer. Time between each shot will also affect the number of images, whether the length criterion is time or image numbers. What the user had in terms of output is a more polished result.

iTimeLapse iTimeLapse iTimeLapse

There are many other settings, giving a user considerable flexibility when setting up such a sequence. Unlike the more recent Apple Camera feature which shortens video inpit, this recorded one shot at a time and converted the finished selection to MOV files. A problem when I first used the app back then, was that those files would not play on a Mac and Laan suggested I use VLC. It was fixed later and I made several videos with the app, but they stopped updating, until this year.

Despite the update I am finding iTimeLapse Pro only works in a limited way at the moment and this is really sad. This is a really good app, but it is not doing the job right now. I followed the suggestions of turning on Airplane mode (to avoid spurious input) and plugging in power. I also turned the screen lock to Never, but I could not get past 200 photographs, whether I used a time limit, or a 1500 number limit. Some videos stopped recording long before 200, when I wanted 1500. This was on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

iTimeLapse video output

Even with the shortened output I have managed to record in the last day or so, the 1200 x 1600 videos are beautifully sharp and nicely saturated. The app works well in sunlight, dimmer conditions and at night. Particularly effective in the time-lapse are cranes and elevators on a building under construction, and the elevated suburban rail system here.

The longest video I managed to produce was 23MB, 12 seconds from 189 frames. From what I remember of output when I first used the app in 2011-2012 and from the short experience with this update, I look forward to a fix for this or advice on how to avoid such early cut-off.

I dropped Laan Labs a note, but there has been no response as yet.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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