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I have a fascination with time. Two years ago, our family planted a tree in our back yard. A few months prior, my dad and I built an overhang that provides shade.

I used a pillar supporting the overhang to point this timelapse camera at the tree. I bought that camera because of it’s low battery usage, and how it uses standard JPEGs on a standard SD card. That gives me raw material to compress a large amount of time into a nice video.

Trees are reminders of different time scales. They are our ambassadors to the Long Now. The raw emotion of seeing two years fly by in a few seconds is a decent approximation of the experience of seeing your child grow up. It’s a good reminder of the finitness of your life. It’s call to action to do those things you have been putting off. Time is finite. It’s the only thing that can’t be manufactured.

Now to the technical stuff, I wrote this code to extract jpegs from the timelapse camera’s SD card. It uses the jpeg’s EXIF metadata to get the created_at date from the file. After copying the files to a temporary directory, it uses ffmpeg to turn the jpegs into frames of a video.

Here is a sample from October 2018 to September 2020:

The music is by Hans Zimmer, it was edited in iMovie for iOS, and I am happy with the result. It conveys the feeling of growth, change, and rebirth. But I also can’t help but feel it’s incompleteness. This is only day 1 of this tree’s life. This tree is just getting started. It will cast a shadow for people I don’t know, and for people who don’t exist yet. It is my connection to the future.

I always appreciate feedback on my code, or videos, or posts. Mail your comments to mail@tobilehman.com