Timelapse

Creating timelapse videos may be fun and produce surprising results. You only need a camera capable to store plenty of pictures, a tripod and probably some software to assemble the pictures into a video. Some cameras already provide functions to generate timed image sequences or even save such a sequence as a video file right out of the box.

Preparations

Before shooting you should have at least a coarse idea about the final result. The nowadays usual timelapse clips of clouds and weather at least require a decent amount of time. This short clip, for example, is composed from about 560 images, taken over a duration of 90 minutes:

Setup and Settings

For this kind of clips a tripod is more or less mandatory. Sadly I've missed to take care of the ground which wasn't stable enough so people walking around produce a slight shift which is pretty difficult to correct afterwards.

Difficult to correct as well are fluctuations in brightness or whitebalance, moving framing or focal point to missed deactivation of shake reduction or autofokus. As a rule of thumb: Just disable all automatic functions.

This may not work in any situation, for example if the project should include changing illumination from a sunset. Then an additional camera function may be handy, like exposure interpolation between pictures.

As you probably already noticed, I'm out at night as well and stay impressed by just looking into the stars. So why not just take a timelapse:

The Camera

Using a DSLR for longtime timelapse video does not seem to be the right tool, since it easily takes a thousand images per clip. Both my D70 and the D200 handled that quite well, though.

Mirror-less cameras seem to better fit for this purpose. And there are action cams which already provide timelapse functionality and are much cheaper as well, so I have less problems to let it run unobserved a whole day. This day-clip was taken using a Hero4 action cam:

Software Tools

Depending on your camera's capabilities some tools may be useful or even required. Without claiming for completeness and focusing on Windows here are some I use.

  • Assemble individual images into a video clip
    In case your camera can not save a timelapse sequence as a video file but as individual images instead, you'll need a tool to combine them into a video clip. I am using the legacy VirtualDub for this purpose, even if you may need some time to get comfortable with it.
    The individual images probably do not have a proper aspect ratio for video as well, so they need to be cropped either before loading into VirtualDub or you may configure filters in VirtualDub to convert while saving the video file.
    In order to save VirtualDub requires a video codec as well, I am using Xvid for this purpose. Output will be an AVI file, so likely not the final format.
  • Edit the video clip
    To add fades or an audio track to your clip, a simple video editor is recommended. You probably can use any for this step, I use VideoDeluxe from Magix for this purpose.
  • Create final video file
    Your video editor probably is able to output various video formats, so you may not require an additional tool. But sometimes it could be quite handy to have a separate tool for transcoding video or creating various sizes from an existing high definition version. You may have a look at Handbrake, which is an open source video transcoder with plenty of parameters to probably fulfil any output requirement.