Timelapse photography is a method adopted to create videos where time appears to me lapsing much faster. An example would be a video of a flower booming, which in real life take minutes or even hours, but a timelapse video can show the essence in seconds.
In this technique we capture frames in rate much slower than the rate at which it is viewed. For example, an image of a scene may be captured once every second, then played back at 30 frames (images) per second; and viewer gets the feel of time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing.
The main advantage with timelapse is that, processes that would normally appear subtle to the human eye, e.g. the motion of the sun and stars in the sky, become very pronounced with timelapse technique.
Time-lapse photography can be considered the opposite of high speed photography or slow motion where we capture frames at a higher rate and then played back at normal rate. If we capture a scene at 60 frames per second and play it at 30 fps, it will slow the motion.
The best way to get a greater feel for the power of time-lapse is to watch some videos, just like the one you see here;
What do I need to create a timelapse video ?
You basically need 4 things;
- A camera that allows you to control the exposure.
- An intervalometer to automate shooting at specified interval.
- A tripod, or a rock solid shooting platform – you can’t do this handheld.
- Software to merge the photographs to make a video.
Let’s see them one by one;
Camera – What kind of camera do I need ?
Well, it depends. DSLR is the best choice. If you need professional quality, a DSLR works best. If you don’t have a DSLR, use the camera you have, even a smartphone camera would do. The key point is to make sure that, change the settings in the camera such that it won’t change its exposure during the shoot.
While photographing images for a sunset timelapse, you don’t want the camera to adjust exposure as it gets darker. Your aim is to get the real life exposure and don’t want camera to adjust automatically based on the ambient light around you.
Intervalometer is a device which will activate your camera shutter button at the set interval. Some advanced camera’s have a intervalometer built-in. If your camera doesn’t have one, you may need to buy one. For smart phone users, you can find software applications that provides the same functionality.
You may think you can activate shutter with a remote or manually. I would strongly recommend a intervalometer or a software to capture photographs at regular interval as frequency at which the image is taken is very important for a good timelpase video.
In most of the timelapse video, our frame is not changing, we are photographing same frame again and again and captures the change in the frame as time lapses. Our camera is staying still, focusing on the frame to be captured and we don’t want even a slight movement to the camera during the shoot. This is where a steady tripod is necessary. If you don’t have a tripod, keep the camera in a solid platform and don’t touch it once the shoot is started until we capture all the required frames.
There are advanced timelapses where we can change the scene as time lapses, but its bit more complicated and need more gear.
Why do I need software ?
For timelapse, we are not directly shooting video. We are taking images at specified intervals and need to combine these images to prepare the video. This is where a software is essential. We have plenty of software’s in the market for doing this, like Adobe Premier, LightRoom and many more. If you are looking for a free software solution, PhotoLapse is a good one. For smartphone users ‘Lapse It’ is a good application and it is an application exclusively for timelapse. Lapse It includes inbuilt intervelometer.
How should I prepare for a shoot for creating a timelapse video?
We need to do a lot of work for timelapse. We are shooting plenty of images and lot of post production involved until we get the final result.
Create a composition
This is really important, the composition is not going to change during the course of the shoot for most of the timelapse. Look for most interesting angle for your frame. Think about the rules of photography. Rule of thirds, Balancing elements are helpful here.
Anticipate how the scene is going to change as time lapses. Take your time to do this part correctly. It is not only the motion that makes a timelapse interesting, the composition has a great role to make interest to your timelapse video.
Determine the frequency of photographing the scene.
For a timelapse, we are shooting images in particular interval and going to combine these images to play at 30 frames or 24 frames per second. So an image in the shoot contributes to 1/24’th or 1/30’th of 1 second video. In other words, you need to capture 24 images or 30 images to create a 1 second video.
We have to
- Decide on the interval at which the each photograph is to be taken
- Decide how long you need to shoot and how many images has to be shot for your video. Set image capture interval accordingly.
- Determine the fps(frame per second) to render your final video
Let’s try this with an example.
I’m planning for a timelapse of a sunset and I want my sunset timelapse to be 15 seconds long. I know that on the day my shoot, sunset is going to take 15 minutes. So my attempt is to show the sunset of 15 minutes with a 15 seconds video.
Duration of the shoot : 15 minutes
Target duration of output video : 15 seconds at 30 fps.
So for 15 seconds of video at 30fps, I need 15*30= 450 photographs of the frame.
I have 15 minutes to take 450 photographs. This means I have to take one photo in every 20 seconds [ (15*60)/450 = 20 seonds ] for 15 minutes.
Set your camera exposure
Set your aperture, shutter speed, ISO and White balance manually. You don’t want any of these settings in automatic mode and allow the camera to automatically adjust the settings as we go through the shoot. Timelapse works best when the settings are not changed during the shoot.
While shooting for a timelapse for sunset, You don’t want your camera to adjust the exposure as the scene goes dark by auto adjusting ISO, shutter speed or Aperture. If it happens, we are loosing the real world effect of fading the light as sun goes down in to the horizon.
Review and do some test shots in advance
Shooting for timelapse is a time consuming process, so do some test shots and go through the complete process. It is better than feeling sorry after taking thousands of pictures and identifying that camera was set at wrong exposure.
I sincerely hope details mentioned here are useful. Please do try to shoot timelapse and share your stories. Your feedback is appreciated.
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