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CMU alumnus takes 50,000 images to create time-lapse video of rural Michigan and Chicago

“Divergence” shows difference between slow, peaceful nature and fast-paced, urban environment

​​​​​​​​​​Central Michigan University alumnus Dheeraj Kota has created "Divergence," a time-lapse and hyper-lapse video that illustrates the slow, peaceful nature of rural areas of Michigan as contrasted to the fast-paced, urban environment of Chicago. Kota, a May graduate, made it using 50,000 images that he captured in more than 1,000 hours of shooting and editing.

A native of India who majored in broadcast and cinematic arts while at CMU, Kota said that he was inspired by Hollywood films and created the video to capture the beauty of coexistence between natural and man-made creations. The project enabled him to blend his passion and skills for cinematography with his love of nature and human architecture.

"Exploring the contrast of nature's creation in harmony with human creation yields an understanding of the fascinating world around us, and sometimes the combination of both is a visual spectacle," Kota said. "There is a living universe that surrounds us that often is left unappreciated, and I wanted to show that."

Watch a 30-second promotional video for "Divergence" below:

Kota learned that he just needed a decent camera, lots of patience and hard work to create the footage using time-lapse and hyper-lapse cinematography techniques.

He borrowed production equipment from faculty in CMU's School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts — including a special lens and a motorized, motion control three-axis slider — to collect approximately two terabytes of data during his travels of more than 2,000 miles to 40 different locations in Michigan and Illinois.

"These forms of filmmaking fascinated me, and I thought it would be neat to travel around as an observer and capture the extreme contrast of familiar landscapes using this method," Kota said. "I had to capture about one to two hours of footage for a 10-second, land-oriented time-lapse video and about four to five hours of continuous footage in a very isolated place under dark sky for a 10-second star time-lapse video."

Aaron Jones, CMU School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts video facilities manager, said that the success of any time-lapse film is entirely dependent upon the strength of its imagery and that Kota has accomplished this in "Divergence" — an 11 minute and 35 second video — with his strong command of photography and superb composition skills.

"When people watch a time-lapse video, they often fail to acknowledge that at 24 frames per second, each minute of completed work consists of nearly 1,500 individual pictures that have all been captured, processed and arranged sequentially," Jones said. "Filling nearly 12 minutes takes not only skill, but fierce dedication."​

Watch the full-length video of​ "Divergence" below:

Kota added that the weather and location were two challenges he faced when capturing the footage for "Divergence."

"Filming was usually in the extreme cold because I shot during the fall and winter months," he said. "For the Michigan landscape footage, sometimes the camera would freeze and its batteries wouldn't last long because of the frigid temperatures. In Chicago, I faced the obstacle of limited public access to film from skyscrapers."

Kota said that "Divergence" would not have been possible without the help of CMU broadcast and cinematic arts faculty members.

"My professors were so excited, enthusiastic and supportive of this project," Kota said. "Central has prepared me well for my career, and I feel that I can proudly set myself apart from the competition in the field of cinematography with this film."​

Time-lapse vs. Hyper-lapse: What's the difference?

  • In time-lapse videos, the frequency of film frames are captured at a much lower rate than that used to view the sequence, so when the video is played at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing. The camera is either static or moving only very short distances.
  • In hyper-lapse videos, the position of the camera is aimed at a defined, fixed point and moved over considerable distances in order to create a tracking shot in time-lapse sequences.​

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