Friends School Plant Sale Video

My partner, Pat, has been heavily involved with the annual fund-raising plant sale at Friends School of Minnesota ever since our daughter started kindergarten there nearly ten years ago. For the 2007 sale, she wondered if it would be possible to do a time-lapse video of the event to help promote it.

After investigating a number of possibilities, I decided that the simplest way would be to use the iSight camera built into my MacBook Pro along with Boinx Software’s iStopMotion.

MacBook Pro set up to take a time-lapse video at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

The venue for the sale was the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, a cavernous space filled with concrete support columns every twenty or thirty feet. I was a bit concerned about leaving my laptop unattended for the week it would take to capture the video, but fortunately we found a well-placed column that had a flat “shelf” about ten feet off the ground. It had just enough space to hold the laptop. There was also a conduit that could be used to attach a security cable.

I still thought it might be a little conspicuous (and tempting) for my not-exactly-cheap MacBook Pro to be visible up there, so I covered it in a make-shift cardboard “disguise” to make it a bit less obvious what it was.

Cover of the new Elinor Lipman novel.

We alerted the fairgrounds security to its presence, but just in case an over-zealous and uninformed security guard happened upon it and thought it was a bomb or something, I added notes and stickers to the outside to explain what it was. And, of course, I completely backed up my hard drive, removed all personal files, logged out of my personal account and set up a temporary user account, in case all else failed and it got stolen or damaged.

Happily, none of that happened. It sat undisturbed for the whole week, shooting one frame every two minutes. I stopped by at least once a day to check on its progress (and to hit command-S to save the footage captured so far), hauling a ladder to and from the site in order to get at it. Unfortunately, some time during the last day of the sale, iStopMotion seems to have crashed, so any video it captured after I hit “save” that morning was lost. (Neither I or the helpful people at Boinx could figure out what happened.)

Nevertheless, the captured video was amazing. I added titles and music, and, well, here is the finished video: