Hello! After falling in love with some of the excellent time-lapse videos find on Vimeo and YouTube, I decided that I was going to start making my own time-lapses. At first glance these videos aren’t hard to make, only time consuming.
1. Get an intervalometer for your DSLR.
2. Setup the intervalometer so your camera takes a still at a regular interval (once every 5 seconds for example).
4. Convert the series of stills into a video.
If you follow those steps, you will make a time-lapse video. However, you may also spend a lot of time creating a video that doesn’t look the way you want it. No mater how familiar you are without video making, time-lapse has some unique aspects to it. Last month I made my first time-lapse montage. It’s by no means perfect, but I think learned some key things about making these videos.
1. Start short.
You know what those really impressive time lapse videos where the sun rises and sets several times in the span of a few seconds? Don’t start by trying to make one of those for your first video. Or your second. Or your third. Start with something short. I recommend your first dozen or so time lapse shots should only compressing 15-20 minutes worth of real-time into 10 or 20 seconds of video time. That way instead of spending almost a whole day making one shot, you can get more experience and shot a dozen of shots in a day.
2. Think about movement.
Time-lapse is at its best when it shows us events that are too slow for us to observe. That might be traffic patterns, a flower blooming, or clouds moving across the sky. We know what these things look like, but we can’t normally watch them happen. This is a challenge to framing time-lapse shots. It’s not a matter of framing an interesting picture, but framing what you think will be interesting movement. Think about what is moving (people, cars, clouds). How fast are they moving? Are you capturing enough movement to make the shot compelling?
3. Use a Slow Shutter Speed.
A friend asked me, “why not just shoot video and then speed it up in post to make a time-lapse?”. One of the main reasons we don’t do that and we use intervalmeters on DSLRs is to control the shutter speed. A general rule of thumb with video, if you want to capture realistic motion, is that your shutter speed should be roughly twice as fast as one frame. (If shooting at 24fps, you want your shutter speed to be 1/48 of a second).
This rule very much applies to time-lapse. Consider a time-lapse where you take a picture every two seconds. Let’s say a car takes four seconds to cross your frame. If you shoot with a fast shutter speed, the motion of the car will be frozen in the two frames you take of it. In the first frame it’ll be on one side of the frame and on the second it will have jumped to other side. You’ll get a jarring flicker for anything that moves. However, if you use a longer shutter speed of say one-second, you’ll capture the car in motion in each frame. While the still pictures will look blurry, when you play the video back the motion will look smooth.
4. Add a miniature effect in post.
Tilt-shift lens can make what you are photographing looking like miniatures. This technique works very well for making time-lapses. However, you don’t need to go out and buy a new lens to do this. There are plenty of ways to do this in a computer. I used a setting in the Magic Bullet’s Looks that worked very well.
5. Pan and Zoom your video.
An easy way to add some energy to your video is to add pans and zooms. Don’t try to do this while taking the pictures. It’s simple enough to do in a program like After Effects. Since your original stills are larger than standard video 1920×1080, you can digitally pan and zoom and still have excellent looking results. No need to over do this, a little bit goes a long way.