Pho­to: blog.pond5.com

Cities and nat­ur­al land­scapes, stars and minia­ture plants — there is one par­tic­u­lar type of con­tem­po­rary art that enjoys work­ing with all these dis­sim­i­lar objects. Time­lapse is a hybrid of pho­tog­ra­phy and video. When you shoot it, it seems that you are doing pho­tog­ra­phy, and when you edit it, it seems that you are doing video.

Time lapse will become a good hob­by for many pho­tog­ra­phers who want to try some­thing new. In addi­tion, you can start shoot­ing time-laps­es using your cur­rent pho­tog­ra­phy equip­ment with­out buy­ing any­thing else.

Basic Rules

I think if you decide to read this arti­cle, then you already have some basic idea of ​​​​how time-laps­es are shot in gen­er­al. If not, then every­thing is sim­ple: first, a series of pho­tographs is tak­en with a cer­tain time inter­val between each frame, and then they are glued into one video clip using edit­ing soft­ware. As a result, slow move­ments and process­es seem much faster — in a time-lapse, a long peri­od of time is com­pressed into one short clip.

Many cam­eras even have built-in modes for tak­ing pho­tos at a cer­tain inter­val or for cre­at­ing ready-made time-lapse videos. How­ev­er, keep in mind — like any auto­mat­ic mode, they make mis­takes when shoot­ing. They can be avoid­ed by shoot­ing in man­u­al mode, or removed dur­ing pro­cess­ing.

Here are some basic tips for cre­at­ing time­laps­es:

• use tripods, slid­ers and oth­er sys­tems to sup­port and sta­bi­lize the cam­era;

• shoot in man­u­al mode;

• com­pe­tent plan­ning is a nec­es­sary ele­ment for a good time-lapse.

It’s all good to count

Yes, you have to count. You need to under­stand how many frames you need to take to get a video of the desired length.

The most impor­tant part of this cal­cu­la­tion is the frame rate. This refers to the final frame rate of your fin­ished clip. Frame rate is the num­ber of frames per sec­ond at which the video should be played, com­mon­ly referred to as 24p, 30p, and 60p. You can use almost any frame rate these days, but the unwrit­ten rule is to use 24p for cin­e­mat­ic style and 30p for TV style.

If you’re shoot­ing a social media-only timepass, you’re not lim­it­ed in this set­ting, how­ev­er 24p is the safest option to keep your video look­ing smooth. At a low­er frame rate, the pic­ture will twitch.

So let’s start the cal­cu­la­tion. 24p means 24 frames per sec­ond, which means you need 24 pho­tos for every sec­ond of your video. Think about how long your video is, and then mul­ti­ply its total sec­onds by 24 to get the num­ber of pho­tos you need. Let’s say if you want a 10 sec­ond video, you need to take 240 pho­tos.

Now you need to cor­re­late the num­ber of frames with the sub­ject. Do you shoot plants that grow for a whole week? So you need long inter­vals between pho­tos. Or are you just going to shoot the sun­set? Then you need to fit 240 frames in about half an hour.

For cal­cu­la­tions, you need to know in advance how long you plan to shoot the object. Source: freethinking70.tumblr.com

It’s bet­ter to shoot pho­tos in the high­est qual­i­ty to get max­i­mum details and good col­or repro­duc­tion. How­ev­er, to shoot a 24p time-lapse, you need a lot of free space.

When you fig­ure out how long it will take to shoot, you need to divide it by the num­ber of shots. This will give you the required spac­ing between pho­tos. How­ev­er, you can’t help but know when you’re done shoot­ing, but it’s always good to have a gen­er­al idea of ​​how long your cam­era will take and how long you’ll have to “walk” before return­ing to the cam­era.

In gen­er­al, adding a lit­tle time to the end of the shoot or start­ing to shoot a lit­tle ear­li­er is a good idea.

Let’s sum­ma­rize:

  • decide on the frame rate. 24p is gen­er­al­ly a win-win;
  • mul­ti­ply the num­ber of frames by the dura­tion of the clip in sec­onds to find out how many pho­tos you need to take in total;
  • Divide the time you plan to spend shoot­ing by the total num­ber of pho­tos to deter­mine the inter­val between shots.

Decide on endurance

Video­g­ra­phers and film­mak­ers have a favorite shut­ter speed rule that helps them get that cin­e­mat­ic effect with just the right degree of motion blur.

To get the per­fect shut­ter speed for your video, you need to dou­ble your frame rate. Then your shut­ter speed will be 1/(frame rate times two) sec­onds. That is, if you want to shoot a clip in 24p, then you need to set the shut­ter speed to 1/48 sec­ond or as close as pos­si­ble to this val­ue. For 30p, the shut­ter speed should be 1/60 sec­ond.

Com­pe­tent shut­ter speed will help to get a smooth pic­ture. Source: giphy.com / @butler

For time­laps­es, we use the same log­ic, but apply it dif­fer­ent­ly.

To get a “cin­e­mat­ic” time lapse, the shut­ter speed should be half the time of the inter­val. For exam­ple, if the inter­val between pho­tographs y is 1 minute, the shut­ter speed should be set to 30 sec­onds.

Some­times this rule can be prob­lem­at­ic. Imag­ine land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy dur­ing the day — shut­ter speeds up to 1/100 sec­ond or faster are suit­able for such shots. But accord­ing to our rule, the shut­ter speed should be much longer, which means you can get an over­ex­posed frame. It’s a good idea to use an ND fil­ter (neu­tral den­si­ty fil­ter) to reduce the amount of light enter­ing the lens.

Why both­er with the video rule at all if we’re tak­ing pho­tos? If you add a lit­tle motion blur (motion blur) with slow­er shut­ter speeds, the time lapse will be smoother and more nat­ur­al. This effect is espe­cial­ly notice­able when shoot­ing mov­ing sub­jects, such as grass or trees, which will look very twitchy when the wind blows. High-qual­i­ty blur is espe­cial­ly impor­tant if you insert a time-lapse as an ele­ment in a reg­u­lar video.

But if for video the cal­cu­la­tion of expo­sure is almost an iron rule, then for time-laps­es there are many excep­tions. For exam­ple, in astropho­tog­ra­phy, long expo­sures cre­ate star tracks — whether they are need­ed in your time­lapse is up to you. This rule is a good start­ing point, but you can devi­ate from it.

Get rid of “flicker”

The rules above will deter­mine the nec­es­sary expo­sure set­tings. The next thing you need to think about is how to avoid “flick­er” in the frame.

“Flick­er” is a sud­den change in bright­ness in a time-lapse, when indi­vid­ual frames have an expo­sure that is very dif­fer­ent from neigh­bor­ing frames.

This is a very notice­able and unpleas­ant effect that should be avoid­ed. The main rea­son for the appear­ance of “flick­er­ing” is the auto­mat­ic modes that work dur­ing shoot­ing. There­fore, in order to get smooth tran­si­tions when light­ing changes, you need to set all expo­sure set­tings to man­u­al mode and not change them dur­ing shoot­ing.

In part­ly cloudy con­di­tions, auto­mat­ic modes can change the expo­sure dra­mat­i­cal­ly, which caus­es flick­er. Source: giphy.com / @roadrunnerrecords

While mod­ern built-in time-lapse modes are smart enough not to make sud­den changes in expo­sure, they can still react inap­pro­pri­ate­ly to changes in light, such as when shoot­ing at sun­set.

Man­u­al expo­sure is not suit­able for some sit­u­a­tions — for exam­ple, if you want to cap­ture both day and night in one time lapse. In such a case, you need to sched­ule changes in man­u­al expo­sure as the sun sets or ris­es. Remote shut­ter releas­es will help with this.

With­out a remote con­trol or well-planned changes in expo­sure dur­ing shoot­ing, the only way is to work in auto­mat­ic mode. If you still trust auto to shoot, you need to acti­vate all the avail­able expo­sure smooth­ing func­tions and be pre­pared to remove “flick­er” in post-pro­cess­ing. On the one hand, there is no cat­a­stro­phe in “flick­er­ing”, any graph­ics edi­tor can han­dle it. On the oth­er hand, this way you add extra work to your­self.

Add camera movement

Motion lapse is a more advanced lev­el in time lapse pho­tog­ra­phy. This is a time lapse where not only the object moves, but the cam­era.

For motion lapse, you will need either a motor­ized slid­er, or the max­i­mum pre­ci­sion of move­ments when work­ing with a mechan­i­cal slid­er or a tri­pod. The first option is eas­i­er, the sec­ond is cheap­er.

Using a motor­ized slid­er makes things a lot eas­i­er — most of them are pret­ty easy to use. You just need to set the para­me­ters, and then the slid­er will do every­thing by itself. This is the most suit­able way to get smooth and clear move­ment in time­lapse.

Motion­lapse — time­lapse with cam­era move­ment. Source: giphy.com / @butler

It is much more dif­fi­cult to work man­u­al­ly. If it’s a non-motor­ized mechan­i­cal slid­er, make sure you have a mea­sur­ing tool to account for each move­ment and check that they are all the same.

Work­ing only with a tri­pod is dif­fi­cult — you have to care­ful­ly mon­i­tor the tim­ing and tra­jec­to­ry of move­ment. If you do decide to give it a try, use land­marks such as tiles or planks on the floor. Move the tri­pod the same dis­tance before each frame.

When work­ing with motion, make sure you have extra space at the begin­ning and at the end. You may need to trim your video due to cam­era shake dur­ing start and stop.


Pho­to: naturettl.com

So, for shoot­ing time-laps­es, we rec­om­mend:

  • do some math: fig­ure out the frame rate, clip dura­tion, and shoot­ing time to cal­cu­late the num­ber of pho­tos, the desired inter­val, and shut­ter speed;
  • shoot in man­u­al mode so that there is no “flick­er” that you have to get rid of in post-pro­cess­ing;
  • use motor­ized slid­ers for motion laps­es.

This starter set of rules and tips will help you get start­ed mak­ing smooth, cin­e­mat­ic time­laps­es. And, as always, the main thing is prac­tice, so take a cam­era with a tri­pod or a slid­er and run faster to the loca­tion. Oh yes, before that, do not for­get to cal­cu­late every­thing well!

In prepar­ing the arti­cle, mate­ri­als from the site bhphotovideo.com (Shawn C. Stein­er) were used.