Time-lapse videos are quickly taking over the world of travel photography. Whether it’s clouds, stars, sunsets or city scenes, compressing hours of footage into a few seconds of visual narrative speaks right to heart of many creatives.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to create something professional-looking with a bit of creativity and a GoPro camera. Thanks to the camera’s built-in functionalty, time-lapse sequences are easy to shoot, simple to edit and beautiful to watch.
Here are my five steps to building an amazing time-lapse sequence that’ll give the BBC’s nature department a run for their money:
1. Set up like a pro
- First things first: Get your camera level. Use a tripod or mount so you’ll have a consistent frame in each of your photos.
- Think carefully about the framing of your shot – it’s the most important point. The focus of your shot should be an area where things are constantly moving. Try to have some action in the foreground like a tree moving in the wind, waves breaking on the sand or boats on moorings.
- Use the preview screen, or iPhone App on the later models, to make sure everything is framed up as you want it.
- Get up high. Looking down on a scene captures a much wider field of vision, so if you can shoot a scene from the first floor of a building or even higher, it will look more impressive than at street level.
2. Consider light and subject
- If you’re capturing a landscape then choose a day with lots of broken cloud or even a storm rolling by. The footage will look fantastic when sped up as the clouds twist, form and disappear. Blue skies might look good in a single photo but are rather boring in a time-lapse sequence!
- Try shooting scenes on the banks of a river, at the entrance to a marina, busy road junctions, airports, or anywhere where there’s lots of activity. Having people, boats, cars or planes pass through your shot looks amazing when sped up.
- The golden hour of sunlight at the start and end of the day looks even better when used in a time-lapse sequence. Seek out tall buildings that reflect the light well and cast long shadows.
3. Use the correct interval settings
- Set the shutter speed relative to what you’re shooting i.e. sunrise/sunset happens slowly so a shot every 30 seconds would work, whereas a surfer on a wave moves much quicker so one every two seconds will capture the action well.
- Work out how long you want your movie to run for and how many photos you’ll need i.e. 250 photos lasts 10 seconds at 25 fps (frames per seconds)
- Take into account the standard GoPro battery only lasts between one to three hours depending on the model, you could add the extra battery pack or externally power it for longer sequences.
4. Transform your photos into a movie
- I prefer to use QuickTime 7 for the simplest way to produce a seamless time-lapse sequence. Of course, Final Cut Pro and Premiere would do the job just as well (if you have the budget)..
- Select ‘Open Image Sequence’ from the File menu.
- Select the first image from the folder that contains your images and QuickTime will do the rest.
- Play around with the number of frames per second until you find the right speed for your sequence.
- QuickTime will create a movie (.mov) file, which can be saved and uploaded directly to YouTube or used in your post-production editing software.
5. Give your time-lapse an edge
- Why not add some motion within the frame to your time-lapse movie? Having the camera pan from one side to the other, or zoom into a certain point, isn’t as hard to achieve as you’d think. You can add these effects in most post-production programs.
- You can even rotate your camera through 360° whilst it happily captures your time-lapse sequence over 60 minutes using a converted egg timer. Cheap to make and it gives amazing results. Check out how to build one here.
- Adding a ‘Tilt Shift’ effect to your sequence by blurring the top and bottom of the image, along with increasing the saturation, can give the illusion that the subject has been miniaturised… like toy town!
Don’t expect to get everything right first time around. Trial and error is the name of the game! Keep trying different angles and locations, and play with your interval settings. Before long you’ll be able to create an entire movie based around time-lapse.
Feature photo by blunty on Flickr