Professional Time Lapse Video Tips

A grassy field with clouds in the sky

Professional Time Lapse Video Tips

Here at VMP we have quite a bit of experience setting up and recording amazing time lapse video sequences, from the often-utilized sunrise/sunset sequence, to more complex multi-month time-lapse videos of construction projects. Using all this prior experience we decided to share with you some of our best tips to capture a professional time lapse sequence.

Plan

Planning is crucial for time lapse sequences. It is crucial for all media productions but there are even more factors to consider in preparation of a time lapse. You must consider timing of the year, weather, location, and other practical elements. Knowing if there are changes in elements such as tides, moon cycle, sun position, wind patterns, and weather forecast can make or break your shoot.

When looking at location don’t just consider angles and beautiful scenery, but actually factor in transportation time to your location to make sure you will have more than adequate time to set up your time-lapse before pressing the record button. Also, don’t forget to plan for yourself! This is a mistake that often happens when planning for a time lapse, as you or your team get so caught up in monitoring the weather conditions, looking up map directions, comparing location possibilities, and other details, that you forget to bring enough supplies to keep yourself comfortable and happy during the shoot. Bring enough food and water for yourself, clothing options to account for change in weather as the hours pass and to protect yourself from the elements, and activities to pass the time.

You usually want to go into a time lapse shoot with a fully charged cell phone, book, games, or some other way to pass the time, unless you are setting up multiple cameras and will be fully occupied running between set-ups to monitor the time lapse progress.

Framing

Framing goes hand in hand with the planning process, but this you can’t do until you are on location. Think of how the frame would look as a single photo as this is the shot your entire sequence will contain. You want the best angle to capture the action you are looking to record or mood you desire to evoke. Try setting up in a couple of different spots before setting up the time lapse. Or even better, if you have multiple cameras and tripods then set up a variety of time lapse shots from different angles so you have options. If you do set up multiple cameras you have to be careful that you will not be captured going between cameras to check the progress if you don’t wish to be caught in the time lapse.

framing

Tripod

Use a tripod. This is not a debatable point when it comes to time lapse. The only time you would not use a tripod is if you are mounting a go pro, or other small camera, to a stable object for a time lapse over days, weeks, or months.  You need a tripod that is sturdy for a stable shot as the smallest movement, wind, shake, bump, or jolt can ruin your time lapse by changing the frame. The same thing happens if the lens gets dirty over multi day time-lapses as this can ruin the shot/sequence, so if you have must clean the lens be sure to do it between the intervals of shots and to not move the camera or tripod.

Camera settings

Set up your time lapse manually. This includes shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and white balance. If you set your camera up on automatic it will adjust for each shot throughout the day, according to varying lighting, and this will ruin your time lapse by changing the settings from image to image. Make sure to set up the focus properly before beginning and don’t change it while recording.

camera settings

Choose the Correct interval

You need to choose the appropriate interval for your time lapse depending on your subject/scenery and desired video length. A longer interval means the movement will be quicker, but should be used for time lapses spanning days instead of hours.

Looking for some examples of different time lapses according to subject or scene? Look no further!

  • Slow moving clouds = 10 seconds
  • fast clouds = 3 seconds
  • walking people = 2 seconds
  • the path of the sun = 30 seconds
  • night sky, stars, moon, or landscape = 20 to 30 seconds

Know your time

Take the time and effort to calculate the proper sequence time using knowledge of how long you want the time lapse to be, chosen interval, and the frames per second, usually 25 (except in America where it is 30). This is simple mathematics but if you are super lazy, tired, or just unsure there are applications available for the computer or your phone to help you calculate the time-lapse sequence!

That concludes our compilation of time lapse tips for now, but takes note when you are experimenting with your own video productions as you will acquire many more tips yourself through experience and experimentation. Some will be general like the ones outlined above, while others may be personal preference, such as the use of Velcro for devices to minimize chances of bumping the tripod. Our last suggestion, keep a journal for all these handy notes that are sure to come once you get out there practicing!

VMP is a full service video production company, located at Brisbane’s best – Coorparoo! With over 20 years experience in corporate video and media production, we strive to provide creative, innovative solutions and expert services to all clients. Call us on 07 3324 0900 or click here to get in touch for a free, no-obligation quote, or to chat about your production needs.

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