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Magic Window time-lapse desktop adds scenes, we look behind the curtain

I've looked at Magic Window a couple of times, first for the iPad and then in its OS X incarnation. The Mac version of the app has been updated today and now includes a total of 60 stunning scenes to spruce up your desktop or to use as a screensaver. The app is also on sale for $2.99 to celebrate the release of Mountain Lion.

On the iPad or any iOS device Magic Window provides pretty time lapse images, but because of multitasking limitations in iOS you can't do anything else while the images display. On a Mac, you get a screensaver, or as I like to use it, as an ever-changing desktop background. You can display sunsets or sunrises over cities, or natural landscapes, all displayed in gradual time-lapse fashion.

Having an app like this has always made me wonder what is behind it technically, so I put the question to Josh Michaels who developed Magic Window. Creating the time-lapse photos is quite a project.

The scenes are captured with a Canon 5D Mark II camera (a pair of cameras, actually, so there is a backup). An intervalometer controls the time lapse parameters. Josh and his crew carry a tripod, ten batteries, 4 lenses and 2 TB of portable storage. Each image in the series is 21.1 MP and is processed using Lightroom, then with Final Cut plus some custom plug-ins and tools.

Each setup takes 1-4 hours to shoot, and there are the inevitable issues with weather or someone walking in front of the camera. Josh says they have even been busted by security while shooting. It's especially rough in Las Vegas, he says, because casino operators just don't trust cameras, especially on tripods, and most especially when they are in one place for a long time.

Magic Window is a very nice way to add some beauty to your desktop that subtly changes as your day moves on. The app is on sale for US $2.99 through the Mac App Store. An update to the iPhone and iPad versions will be out about the time iOS 6 is released.

Check the gallery for some behind the scenes shots of the images being created.