Many adventure sports films on Steepedge include Time–Lapse sections. With correct kit and a bit of practice it is easy to make your own professional quality film. Here are some tips.
1/ You need a camera with the ability to take photos at intervals. A DSLR stills camera is best, but many do not have a TL function. So you may well have to buy an Intervalometer. These plug into and control the camera, and can be set take a certain number of shots with a set interval between them. There are a variety of different types and you can buy one for well under $150 / £100. Different cameras require different models of Intervalometer.
Examples of Intervalometers from Amazon.
Cameras can also be driven by laptops loaded with appropriate software to give interval timed shots. e.g.
D Softare (Win)
Nikon Imaging (Mac & Win)
Breeze (Mac & Win)
2/ Mounting your camera on a Tripod is essential. It needs to be rock solid and out of any wind or vibration.
3/ Set your camera manually for exposure, white balance and focus. This is because as time goes by the light can change, both in amount (controlled by your exposure or f stop) and temperature (white balance). You generally want to record this change, for example from daytime to sunset to darkness. If on auto the camera will try and alter the exposure so it looks well exposed. Each shot will be the same, which is not what you want. Also as it gets darker your camera may get confused and the focus can start to ‘hunt’ and look for focus points. Moving objects can also confuse the auto focus. Another tip is to tape zoom lenses so they do not ‘creep’.
4/ Experiment with test shots beforehand at the anticipated brightest time of your time-lapse. Over exposed shots look poor. So you need to set your exposure to the brightest conditions. A good tip is to experiment with slow speeds (say under a sixtieth) to get a slight blur in moving objects. Alter your aperture accordingly. Make sure you are focused on on what you want to feature and with the desired depth of field.
5/ Set the interval between shots according to the action you are shooting. Generally with fast moving scenes like a cityscape or wind driven clouds over a mountain I would set the interval between 1 to 20 seconds per shot. With slow moving you will have much longer intervals. Even up to 24hrs.
6/ Frame rate in a finished film is usually 24 or 30 frames per second. At 24 fps you will have 10 seconds of edited time-lapse film if you took 240 shots. Generally if you mix time-lapse with other footage in an edit you rarely use more than 5 seconds. But it is best to take a good length of footage as you may get unexpected and great action the longer your time–lapse goes on. Calculate when to start your shots as you may want to shoot a sunset over say a 3 hour period. Starting too soon and you will have lots of wasted shots and by the time you get to the really good part your battery may die.
7/ Talking about batteries and power. This can be a limitation in the field especially if you do not have a battery pack. Many camera batteries will only give you 800 shots and this can be reduced by temperature and length of shutter speed. After your test shots always switch off your LCD monitor. If you are near a power supply connect your camera directly to it.
8/ Obviously you will need a big enough memory card to store all the shots you are going to take. Set your camera for medium jpg (e.g. 1080 x 1920 2.1 m pixels & 400KB file size). This will give you plenty of quality. Raw will take up too much storage and a lot of time editing. Also of note is that the latest cameras often take 16:9 which is useful if editing with other 16:9 video footage. If you shoot in the normal stills ratio of 4:3 and you want your final TL film in 16:9 you will have to batch crop or adjust in your editing software. Be aware of this when you compose your shot so as not to loose features such as mountain tops.
9/ Export your shots to a file on your computer desktop and have a quick look at an edit. This is so simple if you have Quicktime Pro 7. ($30 0r £20 Mac or Win)
Go to File>Open Image Sequence> locate the TL photos file >select the first photo>hit> choose the frame rate>Open. Sit back and have a coffee and in a short time you have your TL movie as a .mov (Quicktime movie). Simple as that.
Other software capable of merging your TL photos include film editing software such as Final Cut Pro, simpler editing packages such as iMovie and freeware such as Time-lapse Assembler.
Note you can even take TL with your iPhone with iTimeLapse perhaps being the best.
10/ After your first look at your edited TL film you may well want to make various alterations such as brightness, cropping, white balance etc. It is extremely tedious and virtually impossible to do this without automation.
In Photoshop change one of your photos to how you want the rest to look (crop, white balance, exposure etc.) once you are happy with the changes go Actions and Automate.
This can also be done in Lightroom by editing in the Develop Mode then Sync e.g.on You Tube tutorials
You may also get a few ‘rogue ‘ photos where a bird of plane goes across the sky creating a distracting flash in the time lapse. Identify the frame and take the object out using photo editing software such as the clone stamp tool in Photoshop. Once you have done your adjustments merge the photos again.
Keep experimenting and you will get some amazing results.