A timelapse is a series of still images taken over a period of time that are compiled together in post-production and played back as a video. They are an excellent way of showing a large amount of movement over a short period of time. Think of a colorful sunset, clouds drifting over mountaintops, or a crowd shoving through a train station at rush hour. Some filmmakers make videos that are comprised solely of timelapses, while others incorporate a timelapse here and there as an added effect. Below, we've included a few examples of timelapses that we incorporated into our films. Let us know what you think, and reach out if you have any questions. We'd love to chat!
Depending on how long you want your timelapse to be, it will often require planning and calculating for proper exposure. Because exterior lighting changes throughout the day, you will need to adjust your camera to accommodate this. Timelapses can be filmed over the course of minutes, hours, days or years. Have you ever seen one of those films showing a human growing from a baby into a teenager? That's some dedicated timelapsing! The smoothness and fluidity of a timelapse is determined by the intervals at which you capture an image. Let’s use the example of a growing flower. If you photographed a flower once a day for three months, you would see the flower grow a little day by day. Compare that with a flower being photographed ten times a day for three months. The latter would create a much more fluid timelapse, while the former would be choppier. Neither one is better; it all depends on the look and feel you want to create.
So how do you create these cool effects? There are a few different ways.
Many new cameras, even GoPros, have internal timelapse capabilities as a menu function.
If your camera does not have this function, or you want more control and accuracy over your timelapse, we recommend you buy an intervalometer. These nifty devices give the photographer a lot of control over time intervals and exposure, making it lot easier to capture what you want. Additionally, most DSLR cameras are limited to exposures of thirty seconds or less. Intervalometers can increase the exposure time to minutes, or even hours, which will produce a different type of image.
A third way to record a timelapse is by speeding up actual video footage. For example, aiming your camera at the starry night for twenty minutes, then speeding it up in post down twenty seconds. This can achieve a look similar to timelapse photography. Keep in mind that this takes up a lot more storage space. If you try this method and leave your camera running for any extended length of time, you'll want to record at a high frame rate, 60fps or 120fps if possible (shoot in a high frame rate when slowing down footage as well). At a regular frame rate, such as 24fps, sped up footage may appear blurry and of lower quality. A higher frame rate will capture more visual information, helping you to avoid some of that quality loss.
A hyperlapse is similar to a timelapse, but instead of using a tripod or slider, a photographer will typically walk/bike/sail along, continuously snapping photos or shooting video over large distances that will later be compiled into what's called a "hyperlapse." An example would be if you took a road trip from New York City to Los Angeles and took pictures along the way. Hyperlapse typically shows a stretch of distance, where timelapse shows the passage of time.
The new frontier of timelapse photography is incorporating high-dynamic range (HDR) imagery. In brief, HDR is a technique where, in a click of a button, the camera captures an underexposed, properly exposed and overexposed version of the same image. When these three images are combined, it creates a very eye-catching, illuminating effect with stunning shadows and highlights. Again, an intervalometer will be very helpful when making an HDR timelapse.
There are many factors that go into producing a beautiful timelapse. It'll take some experimenting, but the great part of having digital cameras is that you don't waste film. So get out there! The seasons are in motion. Set up a tripod and share with us what you capture. Leaves are changing color, pumpkins are being carved and hayrides are being taken. Happy shooting!