Learning how to timelapse…When I bought a DSLR camera, I knew that at some point I would be experimenting with different things. DSLRs for video are popular due to the quality. It’s the alternative to buying expensive high-end studio cameras. Before shooting, ask yourself if this is just for fun, or for a more serious project. If you are just messing around, then shooting JPEG will save you alot of time. If you want a well done, have time to spare for postprocessing, or part of a larger project – shoot RAW.
PART 1: How to Timelapse: You are reading it
Part 2: How to Hyperlapse
Lately I have been interested in time-lapse, not your conventional tripod-and-wait time-lapse, but a new concept called “hyperlapse.” However, first I should go over the basic concepts on how to timelapse.
I have become interested in this technique, particularly for video. Its my belief that I should use those film skills and make a “masterpiece.”
So, I would like to recount everything I have learned from practicing time-lapse and the hyperlapse technique, it simply isn’t that easy. This post will be about regular timelapse.
Clouds: For one thing, I learned that clouds are a bitch and they could ruin a good scene if they are going either too fast or too slow. This is because if their motion doesn’t match that of the subjects in the rest of your video – it looks awkward.
Shutter speed: I learned how shutter speed affects video. If the shutter speed is too high, then your picture simply does not flow and looks extremely choppy. A shutter speed of 1 1/3 of a second was the sweet spot for me. You want the slight blur to keep the illusion of smooth motion. This all depends on your subjects, for me it’s mostly people and traffic.
Intervals: Alongside shutter speed is the issue of intervals. You must consider how fast you want your subjects moving. I found that 3 seconds for people was a little too jumpy, whereas 2 seconds was just right for my tastes. Yes, 1 second makes that much of a difference between pictures. It seems simple, simply take a picture every 2 seconds, but it really is not. There are factors to consider: image format & size, shutter speed, camera buffering, and how fast your memory card is. Ideally shoot for a class 10. It may seem like a silly issue but its not; those milliseconds count. Know when to shoot RAW or JPEG. JPEG will obviously store less data, but will make intervals less of an issue.
If you have: [ shutter speed+camera buffering to card] and the time is longer than your intervals between pictures. Sooner or later the camera will stop writing the pictures properly because the time it takes your camera to process is slower than how fast it should be taking pictures. For example, if I have a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds, and it takes my camera 1 second to process, and my intervals are at 2 seconds. Then you are fucked.
2.3 seconds to process but my interval is 2 seconds. Certain movements require certain intervals to look adequately. This is also an issue at longer exposures, where the camera takes much longer to process. And an even bigger issue with HDR timelapse.
ND filters: This brings me to another aspect of time-lapse and this applies more for daytime. If you want images to flow in the day, then you will have to invest in an ND filter. As for me, I bought myself a variable ND. Those extra stops will allow you to slow down that shutter speed.
Polarized Filters: Then there was the issue of blue skies. Almost all the great time-lapse I’ve seen include beautiful deep blue skies. To achieve this, one should get a circular polarized filter. The problem is that blue skies in Seoul are rare, and when they do occur, they tend not to fit into my schedule. To use them effectively, the camera should be at a 90 degree angle from the sun. To figure that out, simply make an L with your thumb and index finger. Point one finger at the sun. The other finger will point to where you should aim your camera. A CPL won’t help on overcast days.
Light pollution: This has to deal primarily with astrophotography. It’s possible to get pictures of stars, but you should move away from the city, otherwise the light pollution will prevent you from taking pictures properly.
Tripods: When I was debating between tripods or monopods, an issue I continuously came across in forums was about portability and not having enough room due to people. I never took that argument seriously until I went out myself and started using a tripod. Then I learned, that it isn’t that simple. This is particularly true in touristy areas, where those beautiful shots live. At least in Korea, people have little to no spatial awareness. Despite the large setup, people continuously walk into my camera and shots. Cars drive on sidewalks and trying to force me off midway through my shots. So the more portable the better, but that compromises stability. Likewise in touristy places, it’s really hard to even set up anything, and if you do – goodluck getting people to stop stepping in front of it to use their phone to take pictures of whatever you are trying to get footage of.
Intervalometers: If you are doing tripods, you will need an intervalometer of some sort. They are somewhere in the $25 dollar range but many cameras have it inbuilt, so there’s no worry. If you own a Canon DSLR, chances are you can install Magic Lantern, which has an intervalometer built into the program.
Framerate: When processing your timelapse, you will want your video to playback at a decent speed. Too slow and your video will be chopping, too fast and you may not catch the movement. 24 FPS seems the most natural, 30 is faster but smoother if you have shaky movement. Personally I process at 24 FPS.
Flicker: A problem that tends to occur in timelapse videos is flickr. It is less obvious at wider apertures like f4, but very obvious about f8. There are ways to minimize this. When shooting timelapse, shooting manually is essential. Get rid of autofocus, set manual white balance, set your shutter speed and aperture. This, however, will not get rid of flickr. Between pictures, your aperture will reset to its original position, resulting in flickr still. While there are some programs to remove it, they do not do that great of a job. Therefore there is a trick that works with DSLR cameras.
The lens twist method: Once you have set up your camera settings, hold down the DOF preview button on your camera and slightly twist your lens.If you do this correctly, the lens and camera will not be making cable contact. This way, your aperture will remain constant, and remove all flickr from occuring.
PS. Take off the Lens hood when you do the Twist Cap method, especially on Wide Angles
The Holy Grail: In timelapse, there is something called the Holy grail. The Holy Grail is the method of having a smooth transition between day and night, or night and day. Because if you shoot manually, this results in changes of over 10 stops of light. No one has figured one for sure method, that is why it is called the Holy Grail. There are some ideas. Graded NDs, using transitions in video programs, manually adjusting camera settings like ISO, aperture. This will take, a alot of practice. There is a software which is very helpful for this, but unfortunately I do not yet feel like learning yet another software. LRTimelapse
Image processing: As bad as it may sound, I learned that much of the picture isn’t taken with the camera, but built later in post production. I am a believer in getting it right in the camera, as much as I can – but I will need more practice in lightroom too. As such, its important to shoot RAW if you are serious, otherwise JPEG will get you by. Those stupendously beautiful pictures are usually the result of heavy editing, so don’t have yourself if your pictures don’t look anything like those.
Shoot more than you need to: Remember its 24 pictures a second, always shoot a lot more than you need, otherwise you may be stuck with 2 seconds of footage.
Resources: The best community I have come across is http://www.timescapes.org
How to Timelapse:
With all this information in check, one needs to combine the information to create a good timelapse. The things to remember are:
- Have a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds: to make that blurry flowing effect
- Use an ND filter during the daytime to be able to use such a low shutter speed.
- Aim for an aperture of 8-11 + ND filter, that is the sweet spot.
- Don’t forget to do the twisting lens technique, so you won’t have flicker.
- Keep your ISO as low as possible.
- And choose the proper intervals between pictures, depends on the situation.
- For star photography you don’t have to use the1 1/3 seconds shutter speed.
- The 1 1/3 shutter speed is great for both day and night, but day will require an ND
- Take off the Lens hood on the wide angle when you do the Twist cap method.
- SHOOT more than you should!
If you aren’t using a DSLR Camera:
- You can simulate a low shutter speed by using Adobe After Effects. Press F4 for the extra controls. And turn on Motion blur.
- However, to reduce flickr, you will need to use plugins like Deflikr or LRTimelapse.
Thanks for reading, please share this guide with others and like my facebook page! ROK On! Life in South Korea
PART 1: How to Timelapse: You are reading it
Part 2: How to Hyperlapse