Basic TimeLapse Tutorial

So, after years of making TimeLapse and Hyperlapse for a living, I decided -thanks to all of you that supported me- that it is finally the time to write a tutorial about how I'm making TimeLapse and Hyperlapse.

I will start with the basics, then in future blogs I'm going deeper on Post Production, Hyperlapse and Motion TimeLapse.  

Just to let you know, I've learned everything I know from years of experimenting, watching YouTube tutorials and reading blogs all over the internet. Today, the best place where you can learn all the tricks of this technique is definetely TIMELAPSE NETWORK.

GEAR YOU NEED

To make a great TimeLapse or an Hyperlapse you need only four things, a camera, a tripod, an intervalometer and a good location.   

Let's break it down, shall we? 

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- CAMERA: My main camera is a Sony A7RII, I chose this camera to be able t0 create 8K Timelapse and have 14 stops of dynamic range, which is fantastic. It's definitely not a perfect camera, but I love using it. I also use a pocket camera, the Sony RX100 IV that makes TimeLapse in 4K, very useful when access to places is limited.

Saying that, you don't need an expensive camera to make a good Timelapse, my first TimeLapse ever made was with a Canon 40D, without an intervalometer. What you need tho', is a camera that can shoot in manual mode, to control what the camera is doing.

- TRIPOD: A sturdy tripod is ideal, so you don't have to worry about wind shake. I use a Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fibre, because I travel a lot and in my case the priority is lightweight, when the wind is too strong I use my backpack to make the tripod more stable.   

- INTERVALOMETER: Any intervalometer on Amazon will work just fine. I bought mine in Valencia eight years ago, the Kaiser Twin 1 ISR for around 40 euro and I still use it nowadays. I suggest to avoid Internal software as much as possible because normally you can't change any settings during the shooting and sometimes it's an option you need to have. 

PLANNING

Instead of going out shooting whatever is moving and come back with lots of 'OK' Timelapses, you should plan ahead. Here's how I plan a shoot, either for a job or for a personal project. 

- LOCATION: First of all, I list the best locations I would like to cover, then if possible, I'll have a location scout to know exactly what I am looking at and find the best spot to shoot from. If I can't scout it, I'll do it from the palm of my hand with apps like GOOGLE MAPSGOOGLE EARTH or GOOGLE STREET VIEW, which I love, as it gives you a precise view of the locations,

- APPS TO USE: I use several useful applications to plan my shoot, as mentioned above I love GOOGLE MAPS to scout locations.

Other great apps to use is PHOTO PILL or TPE (The Photographer Ephemeris), with these apps I can see where the sun, moon or milky way are going to be at a precise time all year around. I strongly recommend using one of these apps to predict the best time to shoot.  

 
 Photo Pill

Photo Pill

 TPE

TPE

 Dark Sky

Dark Sky

 

Before a shoot I always check the weather and to do so, I crosscheck information of four apps to get the most precise forecast of the day with WUNDERGROUND, WEATHER PRO, DARK SKY and STORM 

To help me with the calculation of the Timelapse interval, I use the TIMELAPSE HELPER app, simply I set how long the shoot is going to be and how many pics I want to shoot. (+150 to get enough seconds).

Another beautiful app I use for Astro Timelapse is SCOPE NIGHTS, this app tells you if the conditions of clear night sky are good or if is better stay warm in bed. 

- PRO TIP: When you are scouting, make sure to check if anything is changing during the time you want to make the TL, for instance, a street light that goes on, adding a bad flare on your lens can really ruin a Timelapse. 

THE SHOOT 

Finally, here comes the fun part. I will talk you through all the camera settings and how I normally shoot. 

- SETTINGS: Everything is depending of what you are shooting at, Sunset, clouds, people, traffic and so on... each of these environment require different settings, but all of them have something in common, all of them must be shot with the Auto Focus and the Image Stabilisation turned off, in Manual Mode and in RAW.

Why? you are asking. Well, let me explain:

Leaving the AF or IS on, will make your timelapse look very bad, with small zooms in/out that will be almost impossible to fix later in post production,

Also, using the camera in manual mode is the best way to avoid flickering, (I will explain what's flickering in a moment) and can be in charge of what the camera is doing.

And always, no matter what, shoot in Raw, if you are in a rush or on a short dead line, shoot Raw+Jpg, but don't forget to shoot RAW, because, if you need to make changes in post production, it will give you a files with so much data to work on and this will help you to fix unwanted errors.  

 
IMG_2585.jpg
 

- FLICKER: Back in the days it was a real pain in the ars... However, today with the great software called LRTimelapse this can be easily fixed in post production.

Flicker is due to a slightly change of the aperture during the TimeLapse because the diaphragm stays wide open before making the pic and closes to the set aperture when it shoot. That tiny difference of the diaphragm can make one photo a little more/less expose than the next one.

There are few ways to avoid flicker while shooting, the more common is to slightly detached the lens from the body so the electronic connection won't work, then select the aperture, with the depth of field button. Honestly, I've never used this technique, LrTimelapse works very well for me. Another way, is to shoot with the shutter speed lower than 1/30, that will decrease the flickering effect.

- INTERVAL: The interval changes depending of the subject, the fastest the subject, the shortest the interval, it's very important to master this point, because it will determinate the speed of the video. For instance, If I want to shoot a sunset, I'd go from 7sec to 15sec to get a smooth transition from day to night.

Below, I added a small list of different scenarios and Interval I'd use.

  • Slow Clouds; 5 Seconds
  • Fast Clouds: 2-3 Seconds
  • Sunset/Sunrise: 7-15 seconds
  • Moving Shadows: 15-30 Seconds
  • People walking: 2 Seconds
  • Street with traffic: 3 Seconds
  • Milky Way/Astro: 20-30 Seconds

 Also, be sure to not have the interval longer than your exposition time, so the camera is able to write down the file and start again. (Buffer). 

- TIMING: Another very important thing to understand, is how long the timelapse will takes.

First of all, let's do a bit of simple math, If I am shooting in European Standard (PAL) the frame rate is 25, that means to get a 10 second video I will need 250 pics, (For Americas standard, NTSC, would be 30fps). Knowing this, I can determinate how many pics I will need and how long I am going to wait. 

Second of all, I need to understand the environment around me, a full sunset or sunrise transition, day to night and vice versa, it takes around 2 hours, That means I need to start shoot at least 1 hour before sunset and finish 1 hour after sunset. If I don't know how long the shoot will last, I will set the number of pics in the intervalometer to infinite or 00 and stop it when is done. 

This won't come easy, to understand properly you have to shoot a lot and make mistakes. It's always good to make mistakes and learn from them.

- COMPOSITION: The most important is to get the right composition. Some people are born with a good eye for composition, others need to learn, this subject is so vast, that if I have to explain it, would take me ages, so what I am suggesting is to read or listen to a book called The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman, this will give you a full understanding of photography composition. 

EXAMPLES

Here I wrote some shoots example that I faced and how I get all the points above to work.

Example nº1 - People Walking with Big Ben in Background

Gear: Sony A7rII - Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fibre - Canon 16-35 f/4L - Twin 1 ISR Intervalometer - Hoya ND 100

Planning: When planning this shot I had to consider a couple of things, the best time of the day to shot and the weather. As I was living in London I knew already where to get it from, the app I used was PHOTO PILL, which gave me the position of the sun during that day and with that I was able to decide when to shoot.

Shoot: Once there I set up my tripod in a place where I wasn't in the way of people passing by, avoiding to get the tripod to be knocked off in the middle of the TimeLapse. To get a motion blur effect of the people and traffic I used an ND filter which is working as Sunglass for the lens, blocking the sunlight and be able to drop down the exposure at 1 sec.

The camera settings were f/8 - 1s - 100 ISO - Raw - All Manual

I set the interval on 2 sec and to get a 10 second final video I made 250 pics. 

 
London.gif
 

Example nº2 - Sunset in Paris

Gear: Sony A7rII - Manfrotto Super Clamp - Canon 16-35 f/4L - Twin 1 ISR Intervalometer

Planning: This was a commercial shoot for BBC Sport, covering the Roland Garros, It was my first time shooting in Paris and didn't have time to scouting, as I only had 3 days to shoot all over Paris. So, I used my trusty Google search to looking for one of the best spot to get a sunset with the Eiffel Tower in the frame, the result was the Montparnasse Tower, then checked GOOGLE MAPS and PHOTO PHILL to see where the sunset would be during that period of the year and Voilà! 

Shoot: The day of the shoot I arrived at the location 2 hours before sunset, because in a busy touristic place, you must be there early to grab the perfect spot. To the top there was a 2m-ish tall glass panel with spaces in the middle to get a clear shot, in that occasion the best way to capture the sunset was with a Super Clamp on the glass. 

The camera setting were f/5.6 - started with 1/160s - 100 ISO - Raw - All Manual

As mentioned before, a sunset last for about 2 hours, so I set a 12 sec Interval and 600 Pics to get a 24sec video. 

During the shoot I had to change the Shutter Speed settings every-time the light was changing to be able to keep a smooth transition from day to night.

Paris.gif

Example nº3 - Milky Way over Durdle Door

Gear: Sony A7rII - Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fibre - Samyang 14mm f2.8 - Twin 1 ISR Intervalometer - Buttery Dummy - Anker AstroPro Power Bank (For extra battery juice) - Hand warmer - Lens Cover. 

Planning: I looked at the NIGHT SCOPE app to check the best day to drive down to Dorset. Once decided, I went to Durdle Door several hours before sunset that day, walking up and down the cliffs and the beach, once I found the spot I wanted, I took my phone out and use the TPE app, to locate the MilkyWay Core rising behind Durdle Door, the exact time the Astro Ends/Starts (Full night) and when the Galactic Core was rising. I then set up 'camp'. I had with me a half tent to protect myself and the gear from the wind and the freezing moisture during the night.

Shoot: Before sunset, I set up the tripod over the cliff, pointing the camera at Durdle Door and choose a composition following the TPE app to get the MilkyWay in the frame from the end to finish. 

The camera setting were f/2.8  (widest I could get) - 25 sec exposure - 6400 ISO - 14mm - Raw - All Manual.

I wanted my TimeLapse to last 5 hours, so I set 30sec interval and 600 pics. 

Last but not least, the most important tool when doing Astro Photography is a couple of hand warmers wrapped around the lens with the LensMuff to avoid condensation on the lens during the night

The result speaks for its selfs! 

DurdleDoor.gif

 

I really hope this tutorial help and inspire you to start doing more TimeLapse in the future.

Of course, if you have any question regarding this tutorial, feel free to ask me by leaving a comment below or through my social media.

Don't forget to say hi on my Instagram Account and subscribe to my YouTube channel!       

I'll see you in the next post! 

Thanks for reading!