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Adventures in Time Lapse

I should really be doing my taxes. Instead, I’ve been on a mission to learn how to do time lapses. I should preface this with a warning - you won’t learn much about time lapses by reading this. These are primarily my notes from going through the process of shooting a time lapse and working on it in Premiere Pro while also testing out Quick Time’s ability to record one’s computer screen (useful for creating tutorials).

Bottom Line Up Front as they preach in the government/military (yes, the acronym is BLUF).

Conclusions:

  • Stop reading this and visit Griffin Hammond, Peter McKinnon, and Adobe for far better posts about doing time lapses.

  • Still here? It takes a lot of time and effort to do a good time lapse. You’ll need a camera, a tripod or stable foundation, the means to shoot at intervals (my camera has the function built in), a lot of space on a memory card, and a charged battery (or two or three).

  • Don’t overdo it. Unless the time lapse is the featured part of your video, you don’t want people to walk away remembering only that they watched a time lapse. That will mean that a lot of time and effort is going to go into creating a small portion of your video. It is a nice touch, though.

  • Over shoot. Shoot a lot of photos. You can delete them after you finish your video.

  • I did my first time lapse “wrong”. My shutter speed was too fast, and the interval between shots was too long. In most of the videos I have watched, the film makers / photographers recommend slower shutter speeds and short gaps between photos. Most of them also seem to prefer wider apertures (closer to the f/2 side of the house rather than say f/16. I’m not entirely sure why yet, but I know if I want to do that I’m going to need to invest in some neutral density (ND) filters.

  • When you download your photos from your card, it’s probably a good idea to isolate the time lapse photos into a separate folder, either on the hard drive or in Lightroom. Make sure the files are numbered or labeled sequentially. In Mac and Premiere Pro, you’ll click import and then open the location of the time lapse photos. This step threw me a few times - if the files are listed sequentially, you click on the first photo and then click at lower left on the Options tab. Select image sequence. Import. That should combine the images into a clip.

  • I’ll stop there. I think I’ve got the basics of creating the time lapse video down, but I’m still confused about frame rates and export formats. With respect to shooting the time lapse, I need to get better at deciding the mix between manual settings and program settings. For example, the lighting will change significantly while you're shooting. If you go fully manual, your scene is likely to be over/under exposed as you go along. The white balance will change as well.

  • Oh, one last thing - time lapse clips based off of still images seem to behave much differently than regular clips in Premiere Pro. I’m not sure why. I tried to add a text box to my time lapse clip, and it was an exercise in frustration. I think it’s smarter to render/export the time lapse video and bring it into a larger project for additional effects work.

I made a short video about my attempt to create the time lapse video. It’s a terrible video. But it was my first time using Quick Time to record my computer’s screen. I’m adding it for posterity. It’s really not worth watching.