Finally got round to this!!
A time lapse is a method of photography and videography that captures sequential images from a static camera over a certain period of time, and then sped up in post production to create the illusion of time moving fast.
There are so many reasons why you’d want to use time lapses in your work; from establishing locations to capturing a long event like the northern lights or sunrises and sunsets. Time lapses create a visual spectacle in which time speeds up, you see nature at work and things you would normally miss or take for granted.
If you want to check out some awesome time lapse films, please watch Ron Fricke’s Samsara which includes awe inspiring cinematography captured in 70mm film.
There are a couple of ways you can create a time lapse, dependent on the length of time you wish to capture, the changing exposure settings of the location, and the kit you have.
Cameras and Kit
I assume that most people interested in this post own a DSLR or video camera of some kind, as it is difficult to capture a time lapse otherwise. In all honesty, what model of camera you use won’t make a big difference on the overall video. Whether it is a Canon 110D, 550D or 1D-C, Nikon D3200 or D90, Sony A-7 or Olympus OM-D EM1 your photos and video will look great. Just make sure you have your exposure and focus point set correctly. In regards to what lens you use, in general wide angle lenses give a better perspective of the environment; we’ve all seen GoPro videos, that is ultra wide, but you don’t need a fish eye or specific lenses to do this. Usually the standard kit lens that comes with your camera has a wide angle, whether it be 11mm on MFT cameras or 16mm on full frame, keeping a wide field of view is key to achieving the perspective of a time lapse.
Lets start with time. The longer you wish to capture, the more memory and battery you will need so ensure you’ve got a fresh card and charged batteries, or even better a battery grip. Depending on what camera you are using you may also need an intervalometer; a device that plugs into the camera and releases the shutter for a pre-set duration at a pre-set interval.
So, if you wanted to capture a sunset, you will be shooting for a couple of hours. This little device will release the shutter and take a picture for you, however you need to set the interval duration. The longer the interval, the greater the difference between each image as the objects in the frame move and change. For a sunrise or sunset, an interval of 10 seconds should suffice, as the sun and clouds move slowly.
If you were in a city shooting a TL of a busy public place, a shorter interval should be used so the objects or people move smoothly through the frame and don’t jump around.
What are you capturing?
Where will you be shooting the time lapse? Bright daylight at the beach, or in arctic winter? Or star trails and fireworks at night? Your DSLR’s shutter speed will allow you to control the amount of time the shutter is exposed to light, so a longer shutter speed (anything under 1/30 can be used when the sun or bright light is not available) should be used at night when light levels are low. You can also use the BULB setting I believe to capture exposures longer than 30 seconds if you are capturing star trails.In the opposite situation, you can set your shutter to a reasonable speed depending on the light available; but remember changing light is inevitable and uncontrollable in nature so using shutter priority mode (T) or aperture priority mode (A).
REMEMBER YOUR TRIPOD! Shooting for long periods of time need a steady support, to keep the camera locked off and weighed down if needs be! My Manfrotto tripods work a treat.
Experiment and test at the time to judge your exposure settings. Keep your aperture or F stop small so that all objects in the frame are in focus; something like F/11 down to F/22 if in bright light or you can increase the aperture to F/4 up to F/2.8 if you’re working at night. Increasing your ISO to 1000 or 1250 is perfectly fine if your doing a night-lapse, so no worries about that.
Also use the digital zooming capabilities on the camera to get critical focus on a key static point.
If you have less time for a time lapse, then you can always hit record on your camera and film continuously for as long as it can. This is an easy option for those out and about shooting as you can simply wait for 10 minutes or so. Obviously here you have the time restriction to only 10 minutes, so this works best for short burst time lapses of clouds, people & crowds and quick changing landscapes.
For any other setting it would be better to use an invervalometer, mainly as keeping your camera recording will suck the juice out of your battery like anything.
For savvy videographers and photographers alike who may have Magic Lantern already, there is an intervalometer built into the ML firmware which acts just like an internal one. If you don’t want to pay for an external device then Magic Lantern which is open source and free is your best option. Plus having ML on your camera expands its video capabilities greatly.
Post Production – If you have taken a series of photos
You’ve captured an amazing sunset, it has taken you hours and all you want to do is see the finished product. Some methods of editing time lapses are long, boring and not neccessary; taking the photos into After Effects for example, its not needed!
Adobe Premiere Pro is a much simpler and quicker method of getting your TL into a video. Firstly, create your project as you would normally, setting scratch disks to your project folder where the photos are stored. Next, create a sequence dependent on what resolution you would like the video to be. Nearly all photos taken on a DSLR are larger in size than 1080p high definition, so this is a good place to start.
Depending on where you are in the world, your frame rate should be 25fps for UK/EU/Rest of world, or 30fps for USA. This will play your video back at the same frame rate as television and internet, so the time lapse will be smooth.
Now you have your sequence open in the timeline, go to Edit>Preferences>General. Here you can set the default ‘still frame’ (picture) duration to ONE frame; in timecode this will appear like: 00:00:00:01. This sets the sequence of images to play one after the other with 25 pictures in each second.
Now you are ready to import your photos! Simply Ctrl-I or Cmd-I to open the import window, select the folder with your time lapse images and click ‘Import Folder’. Premiere will now import all the photos in the folder and set the duration. You can now simply drag the folder with the photos into the sequence, and your time lapse is now a video. Make sure you render (hit Enter) and watch it back in case you need to correct any frames.
If it looks like the photos are going too quickly, you can change the duration of all the photos very simply; select all the photos in the sequence, right click > Speed/Duration. Here you can increase the frame duration from 00:00:00:01 to 02 frames instead. Here you will need to see what suits your time lapse best. One last tip is to highlight/select all the photos in the sequence, right click, and click ‘Frame Blend’. This calculates the interpolation (movement) of subjects between two images, so it fills in the gaps so to speak.
Post Production – Long Video Files
So you’ve taken the easy road! This method is just as simple as above, and is a quick way of processing a short time lapse. Once you have followed the steps to create your sequence, you can import the video file like you would the photos, instead you simply click the video file needed and click ‘Import’. Then drag the video file into the sequence; here if you have been videoing in a different video format Premiere will let you know that the video and the sequence do not match. It is easier to stick with the format of your original video, so if this happens click ‘Change Sequence Settings’.
With the video now in the timeline, right click and click ‘Speed/Duration’. Here you can increase the speed % to make it faster, and again will need some experimenting to see which looks the best. Remember the higher the speed increase percentage, the faster the time lapse happens.
You can add any colour correction to the time lapse by creating an ‘Adjustment Layer’ and adding brightness and contrast, curves, levels, tint, whatever you like to make the time lapse look great.
For a ’tilt-shift effect – like the incredible New York Sandbox video you will need to use additional plug ins like Magic Bullet, or add the effect in Photoshop before importing to premiere.
Exporting – finally creating the time lapse video!
Once you are all done, with the sequence selected go to File>Export. If you are uploading to the web, then the H.264 format will work the best for quality and compression. From the drop down menu select H.264 and the Vimeo, Youtube or any other format you wish. There are loads, and plenty of confusing settings so don’t get bogged down in the different types for now. When you think you are ready, and have chosen your file destination and name, you can hit ‘Export’, or if you wish to carry on working in Premiere on another project you can ‘Queue’ to export to Adobe Media Encoder which will export it in the background!
A little example of a video time lapse I shot at Epsom Downs!
I hope this covers your time lapse photography and videography questions? If there is anything I’ve missed or if you have other questions please send them in!
I’ve been working on the title graphic for the Rotolight BVE video, sometimes I can get going straight away with designing and animating however (and I presume this is due to getting up early to start working) I was stuck for ideas..
VideoHive is a great resource for re-made graphics sequences for After Effects, but they are also great for getting inspiration on how to create the atmosphere and effects for your own work. I spend a good half hour looking through the pre-made effects and gathered some ideas.
One key point I’ve found to make the graphics seem realistic, and to give it an ambience there are a couple of things you can do to make it more life like. Number one is to use a particle generator to create dust to naturally drift around the environment. The particles can be given physical attributes like gravity and wind, which makes the animation more realistic.
Number two, using light and lens flares; this leak of light appears to give the environment in which your text, graphics etc seem to be in a 3D space shot through a camera – these are naturally occurring when out filming and in our eyes, so it can be used too.
Number three; textures and patterns; for a graphic based (not so much vfx based) title, tiling textures and patterns to create a wallpaper background is visually appealing, as is only using a number of tones from a simple colour pallet.
Number four; interpolation and motion blur. Again just like in real life, our brains process the images we see at around 16 frames per second, and fills in the spaces in between. In graphics this motion blur needs to be added, to correctly interpolate the animation and blur of a subject or object. The local and global motion blur (bouncing ball) icons are easily found on the timeline so be sure to click!
Number five; depth of field. In cinematography the director uses the depth of field to move the audiences attention through the frame to reveal new parts, to uncover secrets and ideas. This can be done in motion graphics too, by using a Camera. When you have a camera in your composition, be sure to check ‘enable depth of field’ and to set your aperture to a low F stop (F/1.8 for example) and increase the blur amount. After Effects then generates depth of field using the camera settings; making objects close and far away from the camera blurred.
Here’s a snap of the working-graphic for the title, for a cinematic look to the video I have also applied an anamorphic aspect ratio overlay. I might make some changes later, but for now it is off for comments and feedback. If you have any questions about the graphics or videography then give me a shout!
Its been incredibly busy over the last few weeks, so apologies for not posting for a while! Lets fill you in.
February has been a tough month. Work as been here and there, it is always difficult at this time of year and made even more difficult by starting a new business. I expected a lull at the beginning, so not to lose hope I kept myself busy. Although I haven’t been posting, I have been out filming all the time, especially these last couple of days.
Rotolight sent down their awesome ring light and roto-mic, which I have been testing out and reviewing in what feels like all weather conditions! One minute it is sunny, the next it is bucketing it down. A couple of times I got stranded in the downpours with my kit, a prolific moment was this, up in a quiet and forgotten playground near Epsom Downs. I only got 3 shots that day, then the rain came and we retreated.
Since then, the weather has picked up, and so has the tempo of production! I got an email from Rotolight asking if its possible to put a short video together for BVE with the footage I got when using the roto-mic and ring light. Feeling up for a challenge I accepted, and have been busy producing a music video to coincide with the video for BVE! I reeled in one of my good mates Josh McDonough is an awesome musician and producer, currently working on a new studio build to perform in the video, and in return he can have the music video to kick start his recording-producing business.
To show how you can maximize the creativity and convey the flexibility of the Rotolight Sound and Light kit, I used various techniques including mounting on a camera, hand held, and playing with the light to create unique blooming and light effects. I had a few ideas of what the visuals would look like, an intimate piece to camera in the soon to be studio, as well as getting out and using the light in low light situations to add an urban feel.
There will be much more later, but right now I need to continue with the editing and graphics for the Rotolight video!
Just watched this, it is completely captivating and emotive. Fantastic metaphors of animals with almost a juxtaposition of anthropomorphism makes the scene feel so real. A definite watch!
I’m a big fan on Andrew Kramers work and contribution to the industry, running the After Effects tutorial and blog website, creating the title sequence for Star Trek Into Darkness film, it has had a big impact on my learning.
I first started using VideoCopilot when I was 16, designing a title sequence for a series of webisodes I had written and was planning to film, direct and produce. It never got made, and I’m sure I’ve got the original work somewhere. My point being is that to this day I still use this amazing resource for my work now, learning new techniques for effects creation. If you haven’t checked it out before, I urge you to do so immediately!
Here’s the latest tutorial, creating ‘3D’ volumetric light rays which will look great in mysterious, dark trailers or titles!
I’ve been waiting months to finally have a computer that can handle the work that I do!! Previously working on laptops (which coincidentally die each year) I needed to step up the game to a high performance desktop which will expand my capabilities in not only video editing, but also motion graphics and compositing.
I got myself an i7, NVIDIA 650TI 2Gb graphics card and all the rest to allow working speedily in Adobe applications (taking advantage of the mercury playback engines) and also allowing me to use Speedgrade and DaVinci Resolve for professional colour grading as the new graphics card is CUDA enabled!! My workflow speed will go through the roof!
Throughout all of January, the components dribbled in one by one, until it was only the PSU to come. Amaz0n buggered up my order, which I was expecting in 2-4 weeks. The order then got pushed back another 2-4 weeks, which I was furious about, so got on to Amazon support who clarified the ‘warehouse’ issue.. Everything is computerized these days so I don’t understand how a major marketplace cannot get there warehouse stock levels and back order numbers right!!
I cancelled my order with Amazon, and put it through Scan instead, who delivered the Corsair 1000w PSU in only 2 days. Top service!
Being impatient (eager), I wanted to get the new computer going as quickly as possible so I begun assembling the components in the case. I had never done this before so the nerves were running riot, washing my hands every couple of minutes to make sure I wasn’t getting grease or dirt on the motherboard. It was stressful, but I managed to get most of the bits it, bar the CPU and hard drives.
Yesterday Sam helped me put together the rest of the components and the cabling, and the building of my new workstation – could not have done it without him!
Now all I have to do is fill it up with my work and data, install Adobe and then I can get working!