Posted: 06 Oct 2010 06:29 AM PDT
Time-lapse photography is an interesting technique that records a scene or objects that has a slow state-of-change and turns it into a video that plays back in high speed. The easiest way to do it is to have your camera stationary on something that changes slowly (e.g. clouds, plants growing, etc) and start taking series of photo for hours or even days. Hours and hour’s worth of photos are compressed into a video with merely few minutes playtime, thus creating a time lapsing effect.
In another word, it allows us to see the progress faster without having to wait along the actual time. Spotting sun’s movement from sunrise to sunset takes about 12 hours; it’s boring and you probably won’t notice the changes. But seeing it rise and set in 10 seconds, that’s pretty interesting!
In this article, we’ll show you how to create your own Time-lapse video. To make things easier to digest, we’ve split the content up to several sections:
Ready? Let’s do it!
1. Understanding The Fundamentals
We’ll start by understanding some fundamental rules. Under normal circumstances, every one second in a video comprise of 24-30 frames of photos, calculated with the unit fps (frame per second). If you watch a 2 minutes video at 24 fps, that means it’s made up of 2880 photos (frames) animating at high speed.
To create Time-lapse effect, you basically reduce the interval for each shot and merge them into a 24-30 fps video. E.g., if the sun takes 12 hours to set and you take a photo every 1 minute, you will have 720 photos. With a 24 fps compression, you’ll have a video of sun rise to sun set in 30 seconds. Isn’t it amazing!
You probably already have some ideas in mind, but here’s what we can think of just in case you left your creative cap at home.
Smooth or Blocky?
Before you get all excited and try out your first Time-lapse photography project, we’d recommend that you start by thinking ahead the interval of each photo, i.e., the pause time between each photo; is it going to be 1 second? 10 second? 1 minute? 1 hour? Etc.
Smooth (Shorter interval)
Blocky (Longer interval)
Now that you’ve choose a subject for your Time-lapse, and have a rough idea on the intervals, let’s take a look at how it can be done with various types of cameras, be it dSLR, point-and-shoot camera or webcam.
2. Choose your camera
I – DSLR Camera:
dSLR (Digital Single-lens Reflex) camera is a better choice for Time-lapse photography compared to point-and-shoot camera or others. It has higher output quality and better control. If you are a dSLR user, you probably know better. Let’s take a look at some of the equipments needed.
Intervalometers is almost essential because you don’t want to manually click on the shutter yourself, not with Time-lapse photography.
Intervalometers varies from brands and it is priced around $40 – $60. And if you are unsure where to get one for your camera, we’ve got you it covered.
Software (alternatives to Intervalometers)
Here are some recommended softwares capable of doing Time-lapse photography for various camera.
D-Software Cam Control (Win)
Nikon Capture 4.0 (Win & Mac)
inPhoto Capture (Win).
II – Point-and-Shoot Camera.
Point-and-shoot camera, also known as compact camera usually comes in pocket size, with lesser functions compared to SLR but that doesn’t means they can’t do Time-lapse photography. If you’d like to try doing a Time-lapse experiment and does not own a dSLR, this is probably your best bet. Let’s take a look at some essential equipment you’ll need for Time-lapse photography:
Tripod / Gorillapod
Time controller device / software
Note: Some point-and-shoot cameras do come with Time-lapse function. Always check with your camera’s instruction manuals first.
III – iPhone
You can even do it with an iPhone. Here are two iPhone applications that allows you to do Time-lapse photography.
On a side note…
Like everyone else, we tend to fail on the first attempt. Even when we are well prepared, some things somewho tends to fail or dissapoints. Here are some tips, drawn from our experience so you be aware of and reduce the chances of failing in a Time-lapse photography project.
3. Post editing Time-lapse photos
After you are done shooting, you’ll be left with hundreds (if not thousands) of photos, depending on the length of your project. Sometimes there can be some small little things that you want to tweak before merging them into video, e.g., brightness, cropping, white balance, etc.
Editing a photo at a time can be really tedious. Here are two ways how you can tweak them at a way quicker rate.
1. Photoshop “Action” and “Automate” Function
Drag one of the photo into Photoshop and practice the tweaks you want on it. Once you are comfortable with the outcome, create a Photoshop “Action” (Windows -> Actions) and redo the entire process again so the action is recorded.
Next, batch automate all files (File -> Automate -> Batch) and telling Photoshop:
Hit the OK button and Photoshop will start editing all photos according to the pre-set action. You can now sit back and wait until the entire process is over.
Adobe Lightroom is another good alternative to batch post-edit your photos. If you swear by Lightroom to manage your photos, you should already be familiar with this function. But if you are not, no worries – it’s easy.
After importing your photo into Lightroom, you can start by editing of of the photo in the Develop Mode. Once it’s done, select the photos (most probably all of them) you want to have the same effect and hit the Sync button. This will take all the effects you applied on the first photo and apply them on all the photos you’ve selected.
Hold the Control (Win) / Command (Mac) key with Sync button will turn it into Auto Sync.
For more details, check out this video tutorial – How To Sync Changes in Adobe Lighroom.
4. Combining photos into Movie
This is the last step, also the most exciting step as you’ll be merging all your photos into a beautiful Time-lapse video. There are few applications that will assist you to do that. We’ll talk about few of the common ones.
Apple Quicktime Pro 7 (Win / Mac)
Time-lapse Assembler (Mac)
These two are probably the simplest and easiest software we’ve tried. Assembling Time-lapse photos is also possible with Mac’s iMovie. If you have other software that will do the job, please leave your suggestion in the comment box below.
Beautiful Time-lapse videos
Last but not least, we’ll leave you with some beautiful and nicely done Time-lapse videos. Hope these will inspire you to create some, and if you do, please do share with us.
Small Worlds. Preview for the Small Worlds Exhibition at Customs house.
Flowers. Beautiful video of flowers’ opening animation.
Fruit and Vegetable Decomposition. This video shows the process how fruits and vegetables are decomposing.
Tokyo Time-lapse. Stunning Time-lapse of Tokyo city.
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