How to create a time-lapse video of a Wikipedia page (or any website)

For a post over at the Washington Post’s @innovations blog, I wanted to communicate just how fast Wikipedia users created and populated the Japan earthquake Wikipedia page after the disaster struck. I wanted to create a time-lapse video using screenshots and tried to find the least laborious way of creating one. Here’s how I did it:

Every Wikipedia page has a revisions history tab in the top right corner of the page. I right clicked pages time stamped one minute apart and opened each revision page in its own tab. I launched the Firefox extension CopyAllURLs which grabbed the web addresses of each tab and copied the list of links to the clipboard, which I then pasted into a text file.

Next, I used the Firefox extension Grab Them All to capture screenshots of each the links in the text file, which were then automatically saved in sequence in a folder on my computer.

Here’s the fun part: I launched QuickTime Pro and selected File > Open Image Sequence… and selected the folder I created. Within seconds I had a time-lapse video of the screenshots. I went back and cropped some of the images in Photoshop for clarity and pulled them back in to QuickTime to create a new video. The result was truly captivating (click the image to view the video).

Wikipedia automatically archives previous revisions of every article, but for those websites that don’t, you can use the free software SiteShoter (Windows only) to save screenshots of any website at predetermined intervals.