Things to Consider When Shooting Timelapses

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Things to Consider When Shooting Timelapses

I have been doing timelapses for some time now and I have it down to a science [I think]. I started out in photography and slowly migrated over doing video work. How did I make the transition? Timelapses. I can’t remember on how I started to study and watching timelapse videos but I can remember my first video. As I look back at it, it is still pretty bad. But that is not the point of this post. Timelapses can be tricky, especially if you are just starting out. This post will help you if you are just getting started.

There are few tools that you will need to get a static timelapse. You can add movement into your timelapses once you get more advanced. Below are the essentials tools you’ll need.

  • A Camera – I prefer the Canon 5D Mark II
  • Intervalometer  – Some DSLRs have this feature built in
  • A sturdy Tripod

There are other items that I always bring a timelapse shoot as well as the things above. These items might include:

  • Flashlight/headlamp  – to see at night, light my subject, or painting
  • Snack/drinks – you never know
  • Sun Seeker App
  • Extra clothing – Warm clothes, a hat, rain jacket, etc.

These are just a few of things that I bring on a shoot depending on where I am going, etc.

set up for pittsburgh

Once you have these essential tools you can begin timelapsing. Well, not quite yet. First, you are going to want to find your subject.

Once you think you have found your subject, turn around! Do a complete 180. I do this to find the best vantage point of my subject. Sometimes it doesn’t work and I stumble on the best spot when I get to my subject, but I still do this. – I have found this out by going out with other photog friends and I’ll start to set up my shot and they are behind me sometimes 20 feet or more. Once I have viewed their images, I wished I took the time to look around before shooting. This is just something that I do that helps me out. Give it a try to see if it helps you too.

set up for kingstreet metro

That being said, while you are looking around for you best spot. Take notice of your surroundings; how things are moving, swaying, what direction(s) your subject is moving, how fast your subject is moving and anything else that may affect your shot. These factors will ultimately help you determine what interval to set on your intervalometer or other device. Finding the best interval to use will take some practice. For fast moving a subject(s) you will want to use a shorter interval; while for a slow moving subject(s) you will want to use a longer interval. Having a purpose and knowing the story you are telling with the timelapse will also help determine these factors.

ballston traffic

OK, so you have your subject, you have your vantage point. What’s next? Set up your gear! Get your tripod in the right spot, angle, and height. You might want to think about adding sand bags or extra weight to your tripod for extra stability. Once you have the sticks up, set up you camera. You may have to readjust height and or angle of your camera/sticks depending on height of camera etc. Once the camera is set, compose your shot. TAKE A LOT OF TEST SHOTS!!! Get your foundation of exposure, then experiment a little. Change aperture, ISO, shutter, white balance (if you want). Keeping in mind light may change. If you are doing a long timelapse, notice how the light will change. This will have an effect on how you expose your shot. This is also the time when I use the Sun Seeker app to view the sun’s path.

I usually take about 10-25 test shots before starting the timelapse. I also try to change my settings within the time of my interval that I am thinking of. Why? When I am reviewing my test shots I can get a better idea if I need to increase or decrease my interval timing. Sometimes this does not always work if you are working with light that is fading fast.

Once you are satisfied with your subject, composition, and settings go ahead and start your timelapse. The length of how long you want your timelapse it’s entirely up to you (and your intervals). Take into account post production. If you are editing for 24fps, then you will need 24 frames (photos) for one 1 second of video. So if you have a very short interval, such as one second, you get 10 seconds of video with 240 frames in 4 minutes of shooting (real) time. If you have a long interval, such as one minute, you get 10 seconds of video with 240 frames in 4 hours of shooting time.

That might sound tricky, but there are tools or apps, such as the Kessler Crane iPhone app, to help out. Again all this takes time and practice.

If you are satisfied with your intervals and length, you are ready for post-production! I will cover this in another blog post.

But remember there are three things that you need for a basic static timelapse:

  • tripod,
  • DSLR, and an
  • intervalometer

Find your subject and set up your gear, and take test shots. Consider your intervals and length of video that you want. And last but certainly not last, HAVE FUN! This is supposed to be enjoyable! Good luck on your next timelapse and let me know if you have any other questions or comments!

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