Our exclusive video is packed full of top tips for creating stunning timelapses for your films
Timelapses are a fantastic creative way of indicating the passing of time in videos, like a cityscape changing from from day to night, or for documenting changes such as snowstorms blanketing a landscape or a flower slowly opening in the sunlight. But how should you shoot timelapses and what are the top tips that will help to give them more impact?
Traditionally timelapses have been created by shooting a series of still images on a camera – often via a built-in intervalometer – and then editing them together to create a piece of timelapse footage.
Timelapse modes on cameras
Some of the latest cameras, such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, also offer special timelapse movie functions that can automatically stitch together stills into a timelapse movie. In that case all you need to do is set parameters for the intervals between each shot, the total number of shots to be taken (up to 3600 on the 5D Mark IV) and how long you want the final footage to be, in other words the playback time for your timelapse clip.
There are certain key things to remember for shooting timelapses:
Work out the frames needed
To create every one second of video you’ll need to capture between 24 and 30 frames. For example, if you’re shooting 12 hours of timelapse and you take a still every minute you’ll end up with 720 still images and, when converted into a video at 24fps, you’ll get a 30 second timelapse. It’s a good idea to plan out roughly how long you’d like your final timelapse clip to be (whether that be 30 seconds or two minutes) and then you can do the maths to work out how best to shoot it and how many frames to capture.
Speed of subjects
Consider the speed of your subject when deciding on the intervals between each shot. For fast moving subjects, such as cars or people, this will probably be well under one second whilst documenting a slowly changing landscape may only require a few shots per day.
Do test shots
Always do a series of test shots to see if your framing and the chosen intervals between stills will work.
JPEGs or RAW?
Decide on whether to shoot your stills as JPEGs or as RAW files. If you’re planning a 1080p HD movie then JPEGS should be of sufficient quality but if you want your timelapse edit to be any quality above 1080p then shooting RAW files is clearly the best option. Shooting RAW will also give you the flexibility to edit the colours in post or to zoom in or crop on the original high-res image files.
If your camera gives you the option to select a 16:9 shooting ratio do so – this is the traditional cinema ratio so will look more natural in a movie edit.
A steady camera is essential for timelapses, so you must always use a tripod. Check to make sure it is level before setting your camera to shoot so you avoid having to straighten any footage in the post-production process.
Remote controller or apps
If your camera doesn’t have an intervalometer or a built-in timelapse video function consider using an external remote controller for your camera or even an interval shooting app. There are a few such apps available, so do your homework and make sure you check which one is compatible with your camera.
Stills or video?
As mentioned earlier many modern cameras offer timelapse shooting functions but the downside of this is that their maximum footage resolution is just 1080p. You must decide on the quality of final footage you want before choosing such a mode or opting to shoot higher res stills and edit them together in post.
The other factor to weigh up when considering to shoot stills or video for timelapses is that stills will offer you the flexibility to play with exposure times. Shooting video means you must shoot at least 24 frames per second so no exposure can be longer than 1/24th of a second. In contrast, shooting stills will give you the flexibility to shoot longer exposures and potentially timelapses with much more impact, such as star trails or car headlights at night.
Find out more
Whatever options you choose for shooting your timelapses if you follow our tips and choose a great subject you should end up with a great piece of footage – just click on the play button in the video window at the top of this page to watch the full film on how to shoot stunning timelapses.