[Tutorial] – How To Create A Time Lapse Video

There is something incredibly beautiful about time-lapse photography. Something special and sacred, that allows you to create an effect that is almost like a personal video diary, capturing one critical video frame at a time and piecing them all together to tell us a story about “journey.”

This isn’t simply the realm of the art house lover; time lapse can be both practical and fun. Imagine for example that you bought an old house and decided to renovate it; you could tell the story of its transformation by photographing it every day and compiling your improvements into a beautiful time-lapse video.

It’s kind of like an old slide show; only it’s far more interesting and dynamic to watch.

Dove ad: The Evolution of Beauty (Time-lapse)

Here are some time-lapse videos that some incredibly brilliant and beautiful.

Don’t just watch time-lapse videos; you can start making them as well.

Before you begin making your time-lapse video it is a good idea to understand the basic principles behind time-lapse photography. In a typical video there are normally anywhere between 24-30 frames (still pictures) per second. When you put all these images together you get a moving picture that we call “video.” If you have a one-minute video that is playing at 24 frames a second, then you essentially have 1,440 photos flashing by at high speed. Now that is a fast slide show!

To create a time-lapse effect, simply find an event that you would like to capture in time-lapse. The effect is even used to document speed-painting videos the art of documenting the making of a painting and then speeding up the video to quickly see how it’s created. For example, let’s use the path of the sun through the magic hour (the hour before sunset). Photograph the sun every five seconds to chart its course across the sky. At this rate, in sixty minutes of photography we will capture 720 still frames of the sun. The pictures are then compiled together at 24 frames per second and create a magical super smooth 30-second video of the sun diving beneath the horizon.

Choosing a time interval is one of the most important decisions that you will make when creating a time-lapse video. The time interval plays a crucial role in the “smoothness” of your video.

If your time interval is large and a lot of change occurs between your still frames then the result will be a jumpy video. This may be just the quirky effect that you are after; it’s really up to you.

In general though, the speed of the event you are trying to capture largely dictates the time interval. If the event is slow then the time interval should be much longer than if you are trying to capture a faster event, i.e. a watermelon rotting which can take weeks versus a sun setting in under an hour.

There is some essential equipment that you will need to create a time-lapse video.

Camera: First up, you must have a camera; you are not going to get far without one. It is possible to record time-lapse on a video camera, a movie camera, or a still camera. Choose the type of camera that best suits the “event” you are trying to film.

Take into account any light changes that may happen over the course of time when choosing a camera and a lens, low light or night shooting scenes have special requirements.

Tripod: For nearly all time-lapse projects having a stationary camera is crucial. You want the camera to be perfectly still because we are chronicling the “change in the event” through time and this is always relative to the observer’s (the camera) position so it must be kept in exactly the same place.

This piece of equipment is especially essential for still cameras. It is basically a remote control that allows you to set your time interval so you are not taking still shots by touching the camera. Taking the shots manually will nearly always move the camera subtly and result in a jumpy end result.

Many video cameras and motion picture cameras have a time-lapse function that allows you to set the frame rate automatically so you can simply position the camera, stand back, and enjoy the show. Alternatively, there is software that you can get for your laptop that will also allow you to set the time interval.

Extra Batteries and Memory Cards: Extra batteries or an extremely good long life battery is essential if you plan on shooting outdoors or away from a power supply. If the event you are recording takes a long time then makes sure that you can change batteries easily and without removing your camera from the tripod.

Also, you are going to want to make sure that you have enough memory to record the entire time-lapse procedure because there is nothing quite as un-stunning as half a sunset in time-lapse. It is easy to calculate exactly how much memory you might need by simply multiplying the file size of one picture by the number of frames you will be taking.

By now you should be getting pretty excited about creating your first time-lapse video and should have a pretty good idea about what you need to do. Here are some important tips to help you through the process…

  • Take Test Shots: Before getting started documenting the “event,” take some still shots from different angles with slightly different compositions to make sure you get the best possible camera position for your video.
  • Use A Basic Format: When deciding what format to use to shoot the pictures, use the best possible file size that uses up the optimum and not maximum amount of space on your memory stick, hard drive or tape.
  • Use Manual Settings Only: Don’t use auto settings for your white balance, exposure, shutter speed or aperture or you will notice the camera adjusting unnaturally during your time-lapse video.
  • Choose a Strategic Spot For Your Camera: Good camera placement is essential but not just in terms of composition. You are going to want to choose a spot where your camera can’t be blocked, knocked or stolen.

Most time-lapse projects involve hundreds if not thousands of still frames (photos) and many of these frames will differ in terms of exposure, contrast, and color temperature. As you can imagine it would be extremely time consuming to adjust every photo one by one. Luckily there is a simple way that you can do this within Adobe Photoshop. Simply load the pictures into Photoshop, choose a photo and adjust it in the way that you wish and then use the batch/automate settings to add the effect to all your frames.

The last and most exciting thing to do is to simply pull all your frames into your software program and to compile them into a movie. Two really simple software programs that you could use to assemble your time-lapse video are Apple’s QuickTime Pro 7 or the Mac Time-Lapse Assembler. As a finishing touch, consider adding a sound track to your video to amp up the emotion and really evoke the magic of the event that you have captured so wonderfully in time-lapse. There is plenty of free music available online, just make sure it has the Creative Commons Attribution license.

Ready. Set. Go

Now you ready to go out and conquer the world of time-lapse, be warned, it’s sometimes trickier than it looks and first time success is seldom guaranteed. Beware making time-lapse videos is highly addictive and since you are essentially speeding up time. Share your time-lapse videos in the comments below or any tips you might have to get that perfect shot set-up.

This is a guest-post article provided by Geoff Talbot who is a writer for RealPlayer blog.

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