Yeah, time-lapse … I don’t know how to name this in Slovenian, but because the term is so ingrained and well-known, I won’t even bother. Accelerator? Hurry up? No, no … that’s funny. Let it be time-lapse.
For all those who still do not know what it is, here is some explanation. It is simply a video where we speed up the action with the help of a camera or a camera. As we all know, a video is made up of a multitude of consecutive shots that give us a sense of continuous movement when playing. It’s similar with time-lapse shots, except that instead of the usual 24/25/30 shots per second – maybe one every few seconds or even minutes. When we put it all together, of course, we get a clip with a standard playback speed, and on stage, everything happens faster than in reality. Such shots can sometimes be a real feast for the eyes, especially because it takes us to another time dimension. When we play, we see things in a way we are not used to. We see, for example, how a plant grows from a seed in a few 10 seconds. Or we may be fascinated by clouds that fly across the sky in seconds and show us patterns of wind and air masses. The possibilities are limitless …
I made one such shot last year when we were leaving Dugi otok by ferry. I think the camera took a shot every second and a half. So when it comes back, it all happens about 20 times faster than it really is.
How do we go about creating our own time-lapse recording?
If you are not particularly demanding, you can also use your smartphone for simple shots. Most modern devices also support video recording in this mode. Unfortunately, at least on my phone, I can’t really affect the recording speed or the spacing between the intervals when the camera takes a picture. For those who would like a little more control, there is also a set of applications that can be downloaded to the device. There, you can record time-laps in different situations by setting the intervals of individual shots differently. Not all settings are the same for different scenes. About that a little later.
What equipment do we need?
To get started, in addition to a camera or smartphone, we need a practically obligatory piece of equipment that most photographers already have in their collection – this is a stand. The recordings must be made from the same place and without moving the equipment, because we do not want the recording to shake during playback, because we recorded it by hand. Let’s not forget – the final shot consists of a multitude of still photos and these must be taken from the same, stable position (except for the hyper-lapse shot, which I will present once again). For the simplest shots, you can place the camera or phone on a solid surface and protect it from moving, but this is really improvisation. For all those who want at least a little more quality and control, there will be a stand, even the simplest, which is a necessary part of the equipment. Well, here’s a quick basic list of equipment that won’t hit us in the pocket:
Digital photo camera
I recommend a SLR camera or at least a slightly more powerful compact camera that has the option of manual settings.
The camera must be absolutely still during the shots, otherwise the shot will be stressful. The quality of the tripod is not the most important factor, even the simplest will do its job well if there is no severe wind. Just don’t touch it while filming.
This is actually a slightly more sophisticated wired (electric) trigger that allows automatic trigger settings at the intervals (intervals between shots) we envisioned for our project. For a start, you could improvise and use a simple wire trigger and, say, press a button every few seconds, but this option is a bit clumsy, especially if we are tackling slightly longer projects. A cheap and quite useful intevalometer will not even cost us a fortune. We get it for 20-25 EUR.
On it, we will use the software to combine individual shots into a single film / video. We also need software that will allow us to combine shots. About that a little later.
In addition to the listed equipment, it is good to learn some basic rules to be satisfied with the result. Here, too, the great rule is that exercise is the work of a master. Most often we will deal with all this with a digital camera (from now on I will write only about this option), where we need to use the following settings:
The exposure time and aperture must be set to manual setting M (manual). This will avoid the constant automatic adjustment of the camera to different light, as this will cause us to flicker due to differently lit individual shots. The same should be done by setting the color temperature of the light. We mostly take photos with the AWB setting (automatic white balance). Here, however, for a similar reason as in the above indent, we use the manual setting. It can be set to sunlight, shadow, artificial light … depending on where the shot will be taken. It is only important that the setting is manual, because otherwise there will be flicker, not light, but color. We must not forget the important setting and that is the resolution. If we are going to play the final video in HD resolution, we have to (if possible) set it on the camera, otherwise we can adjust and record all the shots later in an editor such as Photoshop. We will only load a little more work. The aspect ratio should be set to 16: 9, as is the standard for most video clips, and this is usually the ratio of your home TV. This will take advantage of the full screen during playback and avoid the risk of “cutting off” anything above and below in the final clip. The standard format on the camera is 2: 3.
Interval meter settings
Depending on the subject, we set the time interval between individual shots. Some approximate values are as follows: Moving clouds 1-3 seconds between shots, traffic 1-5 seconds, sunset or sunrise 5-10 seconds, seed germination 10-30 minutes between shots …
What about the number of shots for such a project? Since the final video will be played at a “normal” speed of around 25-30 frames per second, we need to make somewhere between 250 and 3o0 recordings for a decent recording that will last, say, 10 seconds.
For all those who would take this a little more seriously, it is good to have some small accessories. For example, if we take a shot of a seed germination, it will be a process that will not end in a few minutes. However, constant standby affects the battery in your camera. Even if we set the camera so that it doesn’t show us on the screen (which is known to devour energy), it can still be unfortunate if our battery runs out in the middle of a project, and we don’t notice it at all (no one will). stood all day next to the camera). To avoid this, I recommend buying a “blind” battery, which can be connected either to the mains or to another source of uninterruptible power supply, which will ensure smooth operation. The same goes for the intervalometer, although it will be enough there to be attentive and we always have fresh batteries inserted. It is also very important that we pay attention to the light. If we are going to shoot indoors for a long time (say germination or plant growth), we will need a stable and really even light source, which is crucial for a quality result. In this case, it is advisable to use studio flashes or even a handheld flash. We cannot be dependent on daylight because it changes too much. In general, we run into this problem when we shoot for a few days together, even at night (plants grow even then). At the same time, the intervalometer will trigger a flash, which will ensure even and stable lighting. For longer shots, I do not recommend the use of studio LED lights, because they will burn constantly and, despite their relative economy, are an unnecessary consumer of energy.
Image aggregation software
There are quite a few apps available that allow us to combine footage into video, for my taste the best is LR Timelapse, which requires you to have Adobe Lightroom installed on your computer. It is also chargeable. Fortunately, the developer also offers a demo version, which is limited to 400 clips for each project. This is basically enough for a 15 second shot and is quite enough for most and for a start. However, this is not the only and most ideal option. There is quite a bit of this software available and someone who browses the net a bit will quickly find what they need.
That’s all for now. I hope I have encouraged someone to take up the matter.
Here are some more shots taken on this topic: