Friday, March 05, 2010
Tips for time-lapse

Last week we challenged the community to try out time-lapse videos to tell a local story, with stunning, global results. You can see the highlights in a new piece on CNN.com today. (It's all part of our new weekend assignment project -- the next challenge starts tomorrow, jump in!)

 

Along with videos and local stories, several of the contributors shared tips on trying timelapse. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge yourself, take heed from others who’ve done it before:

 

Richard Misek, London
I'd just say if you want to shoot a time-lapse, experiment and put some ideas into it. Don't just shoot a time-lapse of something because it will look beautiful. Beautiful is boring. A sequence usually only becomes really interesting when the film-maker puts something of him/herself into it.

 

Elliot Darren, St. Etienne, France
Be patient.

 

Egberto Willies, Kingwood, Texas
I am not qualified to give advice on this issue. However, just do it. It is a rewarding project.


Wil Massenburg, Yorktown, Virginia
Have lots of time and be patient with the process and always use a tripod!


Keith Schomig, Annapolis,Maryland
The subject matter should be something that evolves over time at a rate too slow to perceive normally but obvious when sped up (e.g., weather patterns, rising tide, growing plants).

 

Lulis Leal, Cedar Grove, New Jersey
Patience.  I realize there are many cameras today with a time-lapse feature conveniently built in, however, I wanted to show that even the simplest point and shoot camera can create a time-lapse effect.   I will enjoy practicing and perfecting this new technique.

 

James Dourney, Fort Pierce, Florida
Don't be afraid of trying it – it’s not only fun, but surprisingly easy to do.

 

Hannah Slagle Palmer, Atlanta, Georgia
No need to get overwhelmed with intervalometers and extra software. You can do this low-budget and low-tech. Be patient. Commit to one scene and watch it unfold. The smallest changes are the most surprising!

 

Sabri Akin, Istanbul, Turkey
I'd suggest them to keep their tripods stable and being careful on 'f' value according to weather/light in the composition and I'd ask them to go with minimal compositions besides crowded flows.

 

Shawn Kendrick, Cambridgeshire, England
Use manual focus when capturing your frames, and make sure your tripod is steady; this will alleviate the jitter you sometimes see in time-lapse videos. A good friend tipped me off to this after a few lackluster attempts. Oh, and have fun!

 

Jose Maria Cuellar, Madrid, Spain
Try the camera settings I did: aperture priority and let the camera choose the exposure time. Auto white balance is also very important if the lights conditions are going to change. For example in my time-lapse, the first photo needs day-cloudy white balance and the last one tungsten white balance. If the exposure is going to last several hours, plug in your camera. The battery will not be enough.

 

Mark Leslie Cruz, Toronto, Canada
Always, always and always use a tripod. Use manual focus mode and white balance and have a lot of patience.

 

Charles Quinn, Sleepy Hollow, New York
Experiment.  You don't need to buy lots of fancy equipment or software.  A quick search of the internet or even the software that comes with your digital still camera, and you'll find ways to do some interesting time lapse.

 

Jamen Percy, London
Trial and error. Have a play and check google for tips and methods. Make the effort, you will surprise yourself at what is actually happening around you.

 

Raphael Rodolfi, Peoria, Illinois
Protect your camera from wind gusts. Be behind or next to a bigger object or use your body as a shield. And take a folding chair.

 

Kaard Bombe, Laguna Niguel, California
Find a good location and make sure it’s something that you won't mind filming; there's nothing worse then filming something boring for 30 minutes.

 

Jeffrey Martin, Coffs Harbour, Australia
Just experiment and enjoy this fascinating application ... making mistakes or not.

 

Miriam Cintron, New York
My advice would be to make sure to pick something that shows dramatic change over a period of time. I don't think it's necessary to shoot every few seconds as I did if the subject is one that takes a long time to change. The effect would be as dramatic if shot over a 24 hour period for example.

 

George Kuzni, Pocono Summit, Pennsylvania
As far as advice for time-lapse video makers, I would say, don't invest the money into the equipment, instead invest the time and discipline, and catch all those rare moments.

 

Owen Buckley, Pacifica, California
It's easy to do. Never touch the camera once you start taping. Use a wall outlet for power (never a battery).

 

James Brierton, Athens, Georgia
As outlined in the instructions: don't move the camera, don't change the interval and just let the video speak for itself. Trying to get too fancy with it will just make it that much more difficult to understand.

 

Joshua Shearer, Plainfield, Massachusetts
Find a good way to keep your camera powered! A batteries are good but they die quick.

 

Ash Davies, Melbourne, Australia
Photograph everything and keep everything.

 

Brian Pace, Marina del Rey, California
One thing I've found very helpful to do is just to experiment.  I've been surprised at what actually moves over a long period of time.  The first time I photographed a star I got a streak.  I thought it was because the tripod was shaking, but it was because I was actually seeing the earth's rotation!  I've photographed clouds before and seen them do strange things.  In one video, the clouds were just traveling across the sky and then suddenly went downward.  I have no idea why that happens!  That was pretty cool.  It all happened just because I took my camera out to just to see what happens, I had no idea it was coming.

 

The only other thing I would add is that it is a really good idea to understand exposure.  One of the first things I wanted to do was shoot a sunrise from the balcony of my apartment.  It took me three tries to get it right.  The second one was almost there, but I was using longer exposures, which looked great ... until the sun came up.  So the footage was several nice frames of the courtyard at night, then the sun started to rise and ... WHIIIIIIIITE.  I have 300 frames that are all white.  Woops. Once I worked out how the exposures worked in daytime photography, I was able to get my sunrise.

 

Kevin Palivec, Hawley, Texas
Be patient! When you're shooting a time-lapse, you tend to feel you could get a better shot or angle after it's started and you're tempted to stop or move the camera. DON'T! Trust your initial instincts when setting the camera up. Look at a scene or event and in your mind. Envision it moving at fast forward! Typically what happens is, when you play it back after moving your camera you find that the original placement was good and the new placement doesn't work as well.

 

John W. Oliver, Santa Barbara, California
If they want to shoot a time-lapse with the sun in frame they may have trouble getting a proper exposure throughout their shot. There are neutral density graduated filters out to purchase that will tone down the sun to allow you to properly expose for both the sky and the foreground.

39 Comments
March 5, 2010
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Longer Exposures are great when shooting people or traffic.  They eliminate the pixilated look you sometimes get and make the motion seem very smooth and fluid.  Try 1 second or even longer exposures if you can.  You can always use ND filters to cut the light down and that way you can even get this look during the day.  Also, I'm sure others have posted this, but be sure to set everything to manual.  Exposure, white balance, etc.

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