Creating Time Lapse Videos

If you're like me you enjoy the video technique called time lapse and have wondered how to create one.  A couple months ago I decided I wanted to learn how to make time lapse videos myself, but I had no idea how to start.  I spent many hours on the internet looking for descriptions on how to make the videos.  After much searching I finally decided to try it out.  My first time lapse is actually available at Fotolia and Shutterstock.

So what does it take to turn your pictures into a time lapse video?  Most movies use 24 frames per second (fps)  and TV uses between 25 and 30 frames per second in their video.  This means that what appears to be smooth video is actually as series of still images displayed between 24 and 30 times per second.  Your mind interprets that movement as a smooth video.  You then have to figure out how you want your video displayed, I chose 30 frames per second for my videos, so we will use that for the examples.  To figure out how many frames you need, first decide about how long you want the final video to be.  For our 30 fps example we would need 300 photos for just ten seconds of video.  That's right, you need a lot of photos for this.

So, the first thing to think of for time lapse is that you will need a sturdy tripod.  The camera needs to be still for the entire duration of the photo session.  You will also want to be able to set the settings and exposure of your camera to manual.  The exposure will need to be the same for each photo in the series, otherwise your final video will change brightness while it plays. 

Now you will need a way to trigger your camera repeatedly for the duration of your photo shoot.  You can just push the shutter button, but doing that several hundred times gets old fast.  The next option would be to use a simple remote shutter release.  These usually have a short cable and attach to your camera.  This is what I used for my first time lapse, which is posted at the links above.  I was using 6 second exposures and had to depress the shutter on the release every five seconds.  I sat on the ground next to the camera for the better part of an hour and created nearly 400 exposures.

Though that worked, I decided to find a more effective method.  One way is to use your laptop to control your camera.  If you use a Canon DSLR camera you can use the included software.  Using the EOS Capture software will let you control the camera, including setting the exposure intervals between photos.  Another advantage is that you can save images directly to the hard drive, reducing your dependence on high capacity memory cards.  The biggest disadvantage is the fact that you have to power the laptop for the entire duration of your shoot and you have to have the laptop out with your camera, which may not be desirable when you are out in the cold or bad weather.  A laptop is easiest to use inside or where you have a power source readily available.  I have used this method for creating a time lapse video of a hardwood floor installation.

The next method I used and now prefer is to find a intervalometer that works with your camera.  The release that I picked is this one:  Pearstone Shutterboss.  It is less expensive than the Canon version and has worked great so far.  This allows you to set a count down timer, exposure timer or intervals between photos.  It also lets you program a certain number of exposures up to 399, or set it to continue taking exposures until you stop it.  See my first attempt using the intervalometer:

Once you have your photo series you will need to save it to your computer.  I like to save the photos into their own folder, making them easier to locate for the video.  If you want to edit the photos or change exposure make sure you use a program that will allow you to edit all of the photos in the same way.  As I mentioned before you don't want the exposure to change through out the video or it won't appear right when they are put together as a video. 

Next you will have to decide how you want to convert the photos into a video.  Some free programs, like Windows video maker will turn your photos into videos, but may only allow you to set the video to 8 fps, which will not make a smooth video.  The program I decided on was Quicktime Pro.  By paying the $30 for pro version you get the ability to create a video using the frame rate you want and it gives you some options on format and how to save the video.  I'm not an expert on the video format methods, so I won't go much more into that.

Once you have Quicktime Pro downloaded use the File drop down and locate Import Image Sequence.  You will then pick the first photo in the folder you created.  Quicktime will select the rest of the photos in the sequence and start the process, which can take quite a long time.  Once Quicktime has created the sequence you will not be able to watch it smoothly.  Go ahead and save the video and wait some more.  Once the video has saved you can finally watch your video. 

Maybe this will encourage you to give time lapse video a try.  I started making time lapse videos with nothing more than some internet searching, so if you're reading this you know about as much as me when I made my first.  Good luck!  Feel free to link any videos that you make in the comments.


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