Here’s my first real timelapse video (as in, not shot on the “timelapse” mode of my point-and-shoot). Timelapse is well-suited for subjects that move slowly — so, of course, I decided my subject should be bike racers, whose sole purpose is to move fast. Why would I do that?
Well, it seemed like a good opportunity to show the event — the Sea Otter Classic — in a new way, and it was a good opportunity to experiment with timelapse.
This whole movie is made up of frames from my regular digital camera. If you consider that each second of the video is 24 frames, then I had to shoot 240 frames for ten seconds of footage. Then all those frames are combined — at full resolution — into a Quicktime movie file. A huge file. The benefit to doing this is that because you have all this resolution, you can pan around inside your video, which I did throughout.
In most timelapse videos, a frame is shot every second or so. But because I was trying to capture fast-moving bikes, many of these clips were shot with the motor drive going full blast, eight frames a second. I turned down the jpeg quality to medium (hey, this is web video) and was able to shoot for quite awhile before the buffer filled.
There are quite a few things you’ve got to wrap your mind around before successfully doing a video like this, and I had a lot of help from smart people online. Here are the resources I used to learn how to do timelapse:
- Timothy Allen’s timelapse tutorial on his BBC blog
- Philip Bloom’s timelapse tutorial
- Zach Wise’s timelapse tutorial
- The forums at timescapes.org
Here’s the top three useful things I learned about making timelapse videos with a digital camera:
- Your shutter speed should be about half of the time between exposures — so if you’re taking a picture every second, your shutter speed should be about a half second.
- To get those long shutter speeds in bright sunlight, you need good ways to limit the amount of light getting into your camera — like neutral density filters that are almost completely black.
- A lens’ aperture blades don’t close down in a perfectly consistent manner every time — so even though every one of your exposures was a half second at f32, some frames will be brighter than others, and that will be noticeable when the video is played back. It’s called flicker. To minimize this, find a way to get your aperture blades locked down for the entire sequence. If you’re shooting with a Canon DSLR like me, you can hold down the depth-of-field preview, then twist the lens halfway off the body like you’re going to remove it. This will decouple the lens from the camera’s controls but the aperture blades will stay stuck down. Tricky!
Other notes: I composed the music for this video using apps on my iPhone and a multitrack recording program. Edited in Final Cut Pro. Total number of frames shot: I have absolutely no idea!