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How To Shoot Time-lapse Video

Published: 02/02/2016
By: larry

Time-LapseRobert, who asked about getting started with real estate video a a while back also wanted to know how to shot time-lapse video. Time-lapse is a little different from shooting normal video so I thought I'd do a separate post on the subject.

Time-lapse video is basically a frame shot every so many seconds over a relatively long period of time (30 min to an hour) that are then rendered into a video. The length of time between frames depends on what you are shooting. Two seconds between frames works well for moving clouds.

There's are couple of ways to shoot time-lapse video:

  1. Many modern cameras have features for shooting time-lapse built-in. Smart Phones also have time-lapse Apps. Many can do quite well. I shot the short time-lapse sequence above with my iPhone 6 Plus using the standard time-lapse App. Many of these smartphone Apps have controls for how the time-lapse is shot (the time between frames) and even editing and rendering features (TimeLapse App is an example). The apps do all the triggering and rendering and you just get the resulting time-lapse video.
  2. The downside of letting the camera or the App make all the decisions on how to shoot the time-lapse is you don't have total control of the exposure of each image and this can lead to flickering or having the time-lapse being to0 dark or too light if the light is rapidly changing like it does at sunrise or sunset. The way to control the whole process yourself is to:
    • Use an external shutter release to control the time between frames.
    • Import all the resulting frames into Lightroom.
    • Make appropriate adjustments in Lightroom.
    • Render the adjusted frames in software like LRTimelapse.

Serge Ramelli has a good example tutorial of how to use LRTimelapse to shoot a sunset timelapse. Serge's example shows a situation that needs approach #2 to get good results.


4 comments on “How To Shoot Time-lapse Video”

  1. One other tip that may be of interest.

    I always used to do video timelapses by recording a chunk of action then speeding it up in the edit. Not only did this take up lots of valuable memory but also you could not see if it 'worked' until later. Now I tend to use the interval recording feature on my video camera (Sony Fs7) where I can record down to 1 frame per second. In c3 mins then at 25p, you can create a 7 second timelapse and, crucially, watch it straight back in camera. I'm not sure how common this variable frame rate is in other cameras but on the Fs7 it's really useful and 1 frame per second works particularly well for filming sped up city scenes where you want the traffic and pedestrians to whizz along.

    Another thing to try is to use a longer shutter speed at the same time to make the final movement more blurred than staccato. I find that a 1 second shutter speed at 1 frame per second is a good mix. Weblink below to a film which features 3x of these shots at 00.03 and 04.22.

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