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How to Create a Time-Lapse Video

Time lapse video is the practice of shooting one place over a long period of time, then creating a video that shows the changes over time much faster than real life. Most films are a series of photographs that are played in sequence at a rate of 24 to 30 photos per second. At that rate, the images are moving too fast for the human brain to distinguish one photo from the next, so it creates the illusion of smooth movement. Time lapse video allows a lot more time to pass between each photograph, so when it is played at the rate of 24-30 frames per second, it appears that time is has been sped up quite a lot.

This allows us to see the effect of time and to appreciate how things that we may not notice will change quite drastically over long periods of time.


These days, anyone can create compelling time lapse videos. Before you get started, try to incorporate these tips:

  • Ensure you have your shot set up before beginning, as you won’t be able to adjust the shot once you’ve started. Take a test shot before you begin to check that everything is as you like it.
  • Think about what is going to change in the video (light, passers-by, weather) and try to emphasise just one of those changes.
  • Use a high-end tripod to ensure the shot stays consistent throughout the filming. Really great tripods will often withstand being knocked into, which means you won’t have to worry about having wasted your time if someone near the camera is a bit clumsy.
  • Stay patient. The nature of time lapse means you will be shooting for a long time for a short video. Moreover, it may take a while to get the video you want, since you can’t guarantee that the light will follow the path you expect, that enough people will pass to make an interesting shot, or that your cat won’t accidentally knock your camera over.

These tips are the same, however you decide to create the time lapse video. Once you have filmed it, there are several ways to create the time lapse effect that you want.


Video camera with an ‘Interval’ record mode

If you have a new digital video camera, you likely can use an ‘Interval’ recording mode. It may be called something different, but it will essentially work the same way. The camera will film a few frames at specific intervals, whether that be 20 seconds or 10 minutes.

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This is probably the easiest way to create time-lapse video, as it does all the work for you. Simply shoot and play back. This may not create the smoothest video, though. When the video films the frames, it will film a number of frames in each burst, and that number is not always consistent. This creates a video that looks bunched up or jumpy. The smoothest time lapse is that which records only one frame at a time.

Speeding up a regular video

Speeding up a regular video can resolve the smoothness issues of the method above. Record your video as normal, then save the file to your computer. Open the file up into video editing software, like  Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro or Windows Moviemaker (which may be included with the Windows operating system). In the program, apply an effect called “Speed up, Double”. This will speed up your video by double. If you keep applying this effect, it will really speed up your regular video footage, creating a time-lapse video.

The downside of this method is that you do not have as much control over the speed of the video as with other methods. You can only increase the speed by two each time you apply the effect.


Creating a video from digital photographs

Time lapse is like most things, where you get out what you put in to the process. To that end, the best way to create a time-lapse video is the most complex and time-intensive.

First, you need a quality digital camera that takes photographs as regular intervals. Digital cameras tend to take higher resolution images with better image sensors, which will create better visuals. Set the camera to the interval setting. This process is largely the same process as filming in bursts, but it will only take one image at a time.

Connect your camera to your computer, and use the interval recording to save photographs to the computer regularly. You may need to use some software to ensure your computer and camera are compatible and can work together, but this software is usually fairly cheap.

Once the photographs have been captured, you need to create the videos. Software like GBtimelapse, HandyAvi or iStopMotion are designed to do this. You could use the programs mentioned above, but this software allows you to precisely control how fast the video goes.

Play around with the software, and figure out what you like best. Save that video file, and get ready to wow your audience with your gorgeous time-lapse video.


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About the author


Naaz is a web designer and loves to find new tips and tricks for creativity purposes and likes to share them with the people.

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