We’ve all seen time lapse video of moving clouds and rushing traffic. It looks impressive but how is it done? In reality, any camera can do time lapse if the camera is stable and you have the patience to click the shutter every second or so for the many minutes or hours it might take. But that is tedious and impractical. What is needed is a device that will take a series of photos at specific intervals over a period of time. This is called an intervalometer. It can be connected to and control most DSLRs. Some DSLRs have a built-in intervalometer capability and an external device is not necessary.
Using the Intervalometer
But whether built in or external the functions are the same. Pictured here is the Shoot Timer Remote for Nikon. The settings include delay which determines how long the device will wait before beginning to shoot after the start button is pressed.
Interval determines the time between exposures which can range from one second to 99 hours. The number of photos (N) can be set from one to 399 or it can continue shooting until stopped.
It can also open and close the shutter for a predetermined number of seconds when the camera is set to bulb. This is not essential since the cameras shutter presets of up to thirty seconds is usually sufficient.
Converting Stills Into Video
Once you have determined the intervalometer settings, it is a matter of mounting the camera on a sturdy support and starting the process. In the end you’ll have hundreds or thousands of still photos for a time lapse movie. But how do you turn those hundreds of stills into motion video? There is a lot of editing software that will do that and some if it is very expensive. But there is a free program called Picasa that will do the job simply and efficiently.
However, Picasa buries the time lapse capability inside the concept of a slide show. Under Create/Movie choose “From Selection” which is the series of stills that you have imported and selected. You are given a choice of Transition Style which includes cut, dissolve and many others. All these offer a minimum display time of one second, fine for a slide show but not for motion video.
Scroll down to the final transition style selection which is Time Lapse. This will change the available display time to a range of 1/30th to 1/6th of a second, perfect for motion video. From here you can render the time lapse video in a range of resolutions.
Given the right equipment and software it is easy to create time lapse video using a DSLR. A simpler method is to use a smartphone with an app like Framelapse Pro as described in a previous blog. In either case, dependable camera support is essential. HandlePod will stabilize a DSLR or smartphone for solid time lapse video.