Timelapses aren’t always as fun to make as they are to watch. The shooting process involves a lot of sitting down and just waiting for it to be done. But the results usually make it well worth it. But how many different ways can we actually shoot timelapse? This video from Rob Nelson at Science Filmmaking Tips we look at six different ways we can shoot timelapse from the super basic to more advanced setups.
Shooting timelapse tends to go through phases for people who really get into it, and these are basically those phases that many timelapse photographers go through. But they’re logical steps, each getting slightly more advanced than the previous one, offering you more control and quality.
Shoot video and speed it up in post
This is the most simple way to create timelapses, and it’s where many of us start out. We just shoot video, and then speed it up. Does the job, right? Well, yes and no. Depending on what you’re shooting, this can result in very jerky footage, because lots of the in-between frames get skipped, and with the relatively short shutter speeds required for video, you’re not really capturing any sense of motion.
For slower moving subjects like clouds or snails, then you don’t notice this lack of motion so much. But for things like people walking or cars moving, you do. Premiere Pro and other software has features that allow you to blend multiple frames together when you speed up video, which can help, but it can also introduce some pretty severe ghosting.
In-camera Timelapse Video
I’ve used this method before a couple of times, but only in cameras that have forced me to, because they offer no other option. Here, you tell your camera the interval you want to shoot, sometimes you get manual control over the exposure and it proceeds to take a picture at the interval you’ve set. When it’s all done, it compiles it all out to a single video clip.
This can be a great way to shoot a quick timelapse while using as little space on your memory cards as possible. But you don’t get a massive amount of control this way. The final video often has heavy compression and is relatively low resolution (at best, it’s 4K) compared to actual still images shot by your camera. So, there’s little freedom in post to incorporate a virtual pan or zoom, or to rotate to correct a slight non-level horizon.
Shooting a bunch of RAW images
This offers you the ultimate in control over how the images are captured and what you can do with them in post. You’re utilising the full resolution of the sensor, and you’re getting the most dynamic range captured in that 12, 14 or 16-bit raw file. You get to tweak your white balance and all of the other settings in post that you get to tweak on other regular photographs, but you also have complete control over the compression used when you render it out. And scaling down from a huge image to a 4K video file results in generally sharper footage, too.
Many cameras have a feature built-in to allow them to take photos at intervals. Nikon DSLRs have had it for about 15 years. Canon has had it for a few. I think Sony might have finally allowed you to install an app to do it again. For those that don’t, you can use an external intervalometer to control the interval. I prefer wireless intervalometers because there’s no risk of knocking the tripod. Just be careful you don’t walk out of range of your camera.
Get your camera moving
After figuring out the best image quality workflow, the next thing to take your timelapse work up a notch is to get the camera moving. The most obvious way to do this is with a camera slider. There are simple sliders that simple move the camera from one end of the rail to the other, or there are more advanced systems which offer full pan & tilt control.
This takes moving the camera to the next level, because you don’t have any computerised control like you do with a slider or pan & tilt head. Here it’s all manual, it’s all about you. There are a couple of ways to shoot hyperlapse.
The first is that you have the camera set up on a tripod, and you move that tripod at fixed increments between taking each shot, and you only take the shot once it’s moved the right amount and you’ve realigned your shot. The other means putting your camera on a gimbal, having it automatically just keep firing every second or two, and then walk your path with it.
Both methods come with some caveats, and both will probably require some kind of stabilisation in post, but if you’re shooting raw, you have the resolution to do so.
Long Term Timelapse
Seeing a scene in person even every single day might not show a lot of change. Some things just take a really long time to notice the differences. And this is where long term timelapse comes in. They’re a solid commitment, though, and not something you people doing all that often. Mostly because they require your kit to be tied up for days, weeks, months, or even years at a time.
But if you’ve got a camera or two lying around doing nothing for months at a time, this can be a good use for them.
Have you tried all of these? Which method do you use the most to shoot timelapse?