A timelapse is something that you come across often on television or in YouTube videos. Check out my recent YouTube video featuring multiple timelapses here. A timelapse is a clip of a movie in which the time is going faster than normal. There are different ways of creating a timelapse and in this blog I’ll explain the ones I have used and their pros and cons.
The capturing process of a timelapse
1. Speeding up a movie clip
This is what I view as the easiest way of capturing a timelapse. It is most useful when you are making a timelapse of something that you are doing for a short while. Just turn on the camera to film and later on just speed up the movie clip you shot. This can be done on phones or in professional editing software.
In my opinion this way of shooting a timelapse does not give you the best result. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t use it. I used it in last weeks vlog to show the behind the scenes of something that I don’t know of how long it will take. For timelapses of weather changes outside, I would not recommend it.
The main advantages of this method lie in the fact that you film everything that is happening. You end up with both audio and video and you can use that for whatever you want, so you are very flexible. The disadvantages are the looks of it and the limit of filming. It looks a bit jumbled together and our eyes can not process that much information that quick. Most cameras also have a limit of the time it can film at once, for mine it is 20 minutes. So that limits the time you can speed up.
2. In-camera timelapse function
This is a very good function, but not every camera has one. My old Nikon D5600 had one but my current sony a7rii does not have one :(. My old one actually had two different functions for it.
The first one was a real timelapse function in which de camera took the photos and pasted them together as a video. That was fine, but I was (and am) more comfortable with editing photos than videos. That is why I preferred the second function: the interval mode. If the camera was put into that mode, it took a number of photos with a specified interval in between. Those photos can later be stitched together as a movie in Premiere Pro. Probably also in other programs, but I have only used Premiere Pro, so I will only explain that.
To find out if your camera has either one of the functions, I would recommend to just google it and find out.
The main disadvantage of this method is that it is not always available, but if it is available I don’t have any big complaints.
An intervalometer can do exactly the same as the interval mode does in camera. You can use it to set how many photos you want it to take and with what interval time. Intervalometers are available online and cost about 30 euros last I checked. It is important to pay attention while buying one, that you buy one that is compatible with your camera.
The biggest disadvantage of using an intervalometer, is that you have to buy it. Besides that, setting it up works less intuitive than the in camera interval mode worked for me. But in general, if your camera does not have an in camera timelapse function, I would recommend an intervalometer. Because you do get the photos needed to create a timelapse.
Now that you have chosen a way to take your photos or video, it is important to mention that you will need a tripod or something like a bag of rice. I have always used a tripod because I always hade one available, but apparently a bag of rice can also stabilize your camera.
I will now continue to explain things about the methods that rely on taking photos for your timelapse.
Calculation for a timelapse
Yes, I know that no one except for me really likes small calculations like these. But I would recommend to make them anyway before making your timelapse. This part will get a bit technical, but please bear with me.
If you are making a timelapse to be part of your video, then you will want to match the frame rate with the rest of your video. That is often 24 or 25 frames per second. 24 is more common in the EU. In a timelapse, a frame rate of 24 frames per second, means 24 images per second. So if you know how long you want the timelapse to take, you can calculate how many photos you will need and in turn the interval time.
Furthermore, the duration of what you want to capture is important. A sunset takes about half an hour to an hour. If you want to show that 30 minutes in 10 seconds, you will need to do the following calculation:
10 (seconds) x 24 (photos per second) = 240 photos total to take
30 (minutes) x 60 (seconds) = 1800 seconds
1800 (seconds) / 240 (photos) = (take 1 photo) every 7,5 seconds
With the results of the calculation you can set up the camera or intervalometer and enjoy the view that you are capturing in the moment.
Normally I would always recommend to take your photos in RAW format. That allows you to keep more detail in the file and in the editing process you can bring back a lot of those in the photo. But if you are planning on shooting a timelapse that will require a lot of photos JPG might not be the worst to consider. It does take a lot less space on you memory card and the harddrive of your computer. Which makes it easier to handle for your computer and it won’t freeze all the time. (Been there, done that, do not recommend)
Now we will talk about the settings related to light. I would recommend to focus on the aperture setting and adjust the others accordingly. The choice for the aperture is a style choice because apart from light it also determines the depth of field. Or how much will be in focus on the photo. Normally an aperture of F/8 or F/10 will be enough to get the most of a landscape in focus. Otherwise I would recommend trial and error. Make sure to set all the settings to manual, so the camera will not change the settings as the light changes.
For the focus settings, I would advise to focus once with autofocus and then switch to manual focus so it does not shift during the timelapse.
The editing process
Editing the photos
Once you have made the photos, you can import and edit them as usual in Lightroom. There are two things to keep in mind while doing this. The first is to give all the photos the same edit, this makes it look better in the final video clip. And the second is that you export the photos with names that are in sequence.
Making the photos into a video
Then it is actually very simple. Start up Premiere Pro and while importing the photos, you will get this screen:
Before importing anything, you have to click on the first photo from the series and check the box that says image sequence. Then you can drag the file to the timeline and we are done.
If you want to use the timelapse in a video, it might be necessary to either scale the video in Premiere pro or to crop the photos. This is because video aspect ratio is different than photo aspect ratio.
Now all that is left to do, is to wish you all a lot of fun with these timelapsing techniques and to say: Just Create!