Four ways to shoot epic stop motion hyperlapse with a smartphone gimbal

May 26, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Four ways to shoot epic stop motion hyperlapse with a smartphone gimbal

May 26, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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There are a lot of gimbals on the market these days – with two more announced this week – but often, the humble smartphone gimbal can be the easiest to work with. This is especially true if you want to shoot hyperlapse videos for social media or YouTube. Sure, you can do these with a DSLR or mirrorless camera on a bigger gimbal, too, but they’re less strenuous with a lightweight gimbal and your phone.

There are many ways to shoot them, but in this video, content creator Winga shows us how we can make some using the Insta360 Flow (buy here). The video begins by showing us the final hyperlapse result he created, which uses a combination of stop motion and video, followed by breakdowns showing four methods used to create the different shots.

Linear Stop Motion

The first effect breakdown is linear stop motion. It’s a fairly simple technique that, as the name suggests, involves moving the gimbal in a linear fashion. In this case, you’re moving backwards, with your subject shadowing your movements to keep them the same distance from you in the same part of the frame.

This gives the appearance of your subject standing still while the world moves around them. It can be used to show the subject standing still while the world trails away behind them or with the world zooming in towards them. Which you get depends on whether you and your subject are moving forwards or backwards. But for either, you want to ensure the distance between you and your subject remains the same and that they stay at the same spot in the frame.

Rotating Stop Motion

This is a very cool effect, similar to one advertised with some of its 360 cameras, such as the Insta360 ONE X2 (buy here) and Insta360 X3 (buy here). It’s where the camera moves around the subject in a circular fashion with the subject against a flat wall, remaining in the centre of the shot throughout. When the camera gets close to the wall, it transitions to a shot at another location with the same circular movement.

It’s an easy shot with a 360 camera on the end of a selfie-stick. But with a smartphone on a gimbal, you need to get a little more creative. Here, Winga uses a piece of string held by the subject and the gimbal operator, which ensures that the two remain at the same distance apart throughout the shot. It also ensures that whoever is holding the gimbal always works in a perfect circle, tethered to the subject by distance. The string is then removed in post.

Lateral Stop Motion

This is similar to linear stop motion, except you and the subject are moving sideways. The exact movements that you as the shooter and your subject make are very important here. They need to be precise, as does your camera height, to ensure that it looks like your subject and the background are moving at a consistent speed throughout.

If you don’t keep a maintain perfect movement with your subject, both moving the same amount between each frame, it can result in either smooth subject movement with a jerky background or smooth background movement with a jerky subject.

Dolly Zoom

Finally, there’s the dolly zoom. This is where you move away from the subject while zooming in or move closer to the subject while zooming out. The goal is to keep the subject the same size in the frame and in the same position throughout the shot. It’s become a common technique in movies, over the decades.

When it happens rapidly, it’s to jar the audience, unsettling them, and focusing their attention on something – like in Jaws. When it happens slowly, it’s used to draw the audience’s attention to something subtly without them realising it’s really even happening until it’s over – like in Goodfellas.

Other stuff

Getting these shots isn’t always easy. Even with practice, they can sometimes still take several attempts to get right. Winga talks about some of the problems you can encounter while trying to shoot these sequences and how to overcome them. Even when you do shoot them just right, they’ll usually still need some cleanup in post. So, he also covers some editing tips to help you get the best results you can from your shot.

While there are plenty of other hyperlapse techniques out there, these ones will be good to get you started, especially if you’re regularly making content with other people. And while the video does show off the Insta360 Flow, it’s not limited to just that gimbal. These techniques can be adapted and applied to just about any gimbal for any camera, whether it’s a DSLR or mirrorless camera or just the one built into your smartphone.

[via PetaPixel]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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