How to shoot a cool time-lapse and what is it all about

Surely you paid attention to videos in which long-term events are shown in a few minutes, or even seconds. This style of shooting is called “time-lapse”, and more often than not it is not just an accelerated video. How to shoot cool time-lapses and what you need for this, you will learn from the material.

Some processes are so slow that we cannot trace the dynamics. We can only see the state at a particular moment. For example, movement of the minute hand, sunrise, plant growth. To “revive” them will allow video accelerated several hundred times or a couple of thousand photos taken at a given interval and combined into one video file. It will be called a time-lapse.

Time-lapse equipment
For a time-lapse, most static shots with dynamically moving objects will work. In an urban environment, it can be clouds, land and water transport, a stream of people. Outside the city, a starry sky, sunrise or sunset is perfect.

The technique for recording a time-lapse is not the easiest one. And, in addition to patience, it requires a certain set of equipment from the photographer.

Time-lapse camera. The most important component. Interval shooting can be implemented in several ways:

Time-lapse application. The method is relevant for mobile phones and some models of digital cameras. For example, for older Sony mirrorless cameras up to and including A7M2 (R2, S2).

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Remote control with timer. The most versatile time-lapse method, it is available for all interchangeable lens digital cameras (both older DSLRs and the latest mirrorless cameras). The remote control is selected for the manufacturer and supports a wide range of models.

Intra-camera means of interval shooting. The case when interval shooting is not implemented by a third-party application, but is built into the camera’s firmware . It is activated by one of the menu items or the mode dial. The method is convenient in that it does not require additional equipment and allows you to vary greatly the shooting settings.
Example for Setting Interval Mode in Canon 850D

Nutrition. Time-lapse shooting is an energy-consuming process. To get a 20-second clip, the camera must take at least 500 frames (25 fps * 20 s). The autonomy of mirrorless cameras ranges from 350 to 850 frames. DSLR cameras are capable of shooting up to 1850 frames on a single battery. But this is only enough for a video with a duration of a little over a minute.

There are several ways to increase autonomy. For example, buy a battery grip. It will double the autonomy of the camera, but such an accessory is not cheap. It is possible to purchase several spare batteries and swap them out as you shoot, but there is a high chance that you will move the camera and ruin the material during replacement.

Canon Battery Grip BG-E18
6 299 *
Nikon Battery Grip MB-D14
12 199 *
Battery Grip Sony VG-C1EM
14 499 *
The best option for recording long clips is a portable battery . A 20,000 mAh power bank is enough for about 8 hours of shooting. Plus, the batteries are easier to replace without compromising on material.

Tripod. The camera must be well fixed to ensure the stability of the overall shot. Any fixed surface will do, such as a bench or wide handrail. But a tripod will give you more flexibility when setting up your plan. To improve stability on tripods, a weight hook is provided under the center boom.

 

Remote controller. As mentioned above, a remote is required to set up time-lapse photography on the camera (this is the only option for some cameras). A fairly convenient control method that will eliminate shaking during the shutter release. Nevertheless, in modern systems, the relevance of remotes is gradually decreasing.

Electronic camera positioning controls. These include electronic tripod heads, steadicams, sliders. Most often, this is an expensive professional technique for people who want to get new impressions from work and expand shooting opportunities.

 

PHOTO OR VIDEO?
Time-lapse video shooting
Advantages:
The final result is ready immediately after shooting or quick editing
Minimum settings
Available on every digital camera
Minimum preparatory stage
Disadvantages:
Lack of flexibility in settings
Limited color grading options
Low resolution, usually limited to 1920 x 1080
Capturing time-lapse video severely limits further editing options. As a result, the method has not gained popularity among professionals. However, it will be convenient for travelers and those who do not have the opportunity or time for further processing of the material.

Taking a photo and then combining it in the editor
Advantages:
High-resolution sources allow you to output video in 4K or 8K (for cameras with a matrix resolution of more than 40 megapixels)
High-quality final material with a possible high bitrate
Huge color correction and toning capabilities
Shooting in RAW will allow you to create HDR video

Disadvantages:
Material after shooting requires additional processing

A high-performance computer is required for color grading and output of the final video in high resolution

Large weight of source material

Faster camera shutter wear when shooting long bursts
For a beginner, these disadvantages can be critical. But for professional photographers, they will seem like only small compromises on the way to the main goal of high quality content.

Processing software
Material processing takes place in two steps. Photos are edited first, then they are combined in a video editor. For the first stage, you need a program with the ability to batch process photos. Any raw editor will do just fine with this. It can be used even if filmed in jpeg. The most popular programs of this kind are Adobe Lightroom, Capture One, Corel AfterShot Pro.

Let’s take a look at working in Adobe Lightroom as an example. After adjusting the parameters of the first photo, copy them to the rest. To do this, click on the edited photo with the right button and in the “Develop Settings” item, select the “Copy Settings” sub-item. Next, select the rest of the time-lapse photos and repeat the procedure, only this time we insert the settings (the “Paste Settings” sub-item). After applying the settings, you can export the files (File -> Export).

Almost any video editor is suitable for editing a video. Export the frames to the program. Before placing photos on the timecode line, adjust the settings so that each photo is exactly one frame long. In the MAGIX Vegas Pro editor, these settings are located on the Editing tab. To automatically crop photos to the ratio of the project, check the box next to the item “Automatically crop still frames added to the project.”

 

Some editors allow you to add photos as a sequence of frames. In this case, when importing, the photos will be automatically combined into a video, which will only have to be placed on the timeline.

 

Be sure to add an audio track with suitable background music. Even the most beautiful video sequence will be boring to watch without sound.

In conclusion, we will briefly list everything that needs to be done before, during and after shooting the time-lapse:
Choose an interesting location to shoot.
Consider how you will take time-lapse shots and prepare your equipment.
Use a tripod weight to increase stability. Remember: any movement of the camera during shooting can ruin the material.
Be patient. It takes an hour of real time to shoot a 30-second time-lapse.
Take into account the climatic conditions: overheating of the chamber in the open sun, rain, frost.
Calculate in advance the shooting duration (if possible) and the required number of frames.
Consider the number of frames when choosing the capacity of your memory card.
Based on the length of time you shoot, decide whether to power the camera (battery, battery grip, or portable battery).
Before recording the first frames, make sure all automatic settings are off (including autofocus and auto white balance), disable stabilization in the camera and lens.
Adjust the exposure manually. Be aware of changes in the time of day while capturing the time-lapse. Take some test shots to check the hardware and the correct settings.
Use RAW mode.
Choose the interval between shots depending on the shooting scene. The default value is 4 seconds. If you are unsure, use it. The slower the processes in the frame, the longer the interval must be set. Timelapse of the starry sky is filmed at intervals of up to 15-20 seconds.
Use programs for batch processing of photos.
Don’t forget to add music to the resulting video.