Making Time Lapse

If you have watched BBC's award winning documentary series Planet Earth, you have seen amazing scenes where time appears to pass very quickly. In some cases flowers grow up from a sprout, or in some instances whole season change. This is done through a technique called Time Lapse Photography, which is relatively easy to do at home, with a few basic tools.

Most digital SLR style cameras have an accessory that you can purchase called an intervelometer.  It is basically a fancy stop watch that hooks up to your camera that you can then program to take photos at  regular intervals. The longer you choose as an interval, the more time will appear to speed up in your video. These devices can be pretty expensive, Canon's offering is over $200 dollars, but I have had really good luck with a cheap $25 knock off I found on the net.

If you can't afford, or can't purchase these add-ons for your camera system, don't despair, a count down and recount stop watch (built in to most wristwatches) and a finger is all you need to replace this, although it is a lot more work on your part.

Another thing you will need is a tripod, as you don't want the photos to change from exposure to exposure.

Next, find a suitable subject or scene that you think might you great when viewed "sped up" over time. Maybe plants opening up, morning rush hour traffic, or a beautiful sunset.

Set yourself up in a comfy spot, make sure your battery is fully charged and hit go on your intervelomter. Then: sit and wait. Standard video shows us roughly thirty frames per second, so if you want to get ten seconds of footage you'll have to take roughly three hundred images! (Maybe consider bringing a beer or two for the summer or a thermos full of hot chocolate for the winter).

Also make sure you pick a slow shutter speed - maybe a 1/15th of a second or lower - so you video doesn't appear "jumpy".

Once you get your images safely back on your computer you will have to purchase one piece of software to make the magic happen. Quicktime Pro (approx $30) lets you quickly and easily make a movie from you photos. You simply choose "File>Open Image Sequence" and Quicktime will auto-magically turn your pictures into a video!

Depending on your computer you might actually have trouble playing the video file, because it will be at the same resolution that your camera shoots at (probably MUCH larger than HD, which is 1920 x 1080) so you will need to save your file out to a smaller size, which takes another few minutes.

This type of video always gets a "Wow, cool!" or "Howdidyoudothat?" kind of response, which is worth it for the intense effort it takes to create these works of art.

Time lapse photography can be a lot of leg work, but in the end creates great impact and also allows you to create some stunning footage, even without a video camera.