Last year I wrote a timelapse tutorial thread to help people to be able to make dope timelapses, but it became somewhat obsolete because the program I wrote it in reference to was updated. The new program, however, can still be downloaded as freeware and operate identically to the full program IF your timelapse is 400 images or less. Therefore, I will be writing this tutorial using the same program because it remains usable with that amount of images.
So, let’s begin.
PS – I’m writing this tutorial in respect to my workflow with a T3i. It will be the same with any other camera minus small details in the actual camera work.
What You’ll Need –
- Tripod – Make sure that it’s sturdy enough that it wont sway in the wind and that your camera wont move at all over the timelapsing time
- Camera – This thread is written for DSLR users. It is applicable to anyone else if they can shoot a timelapse, but some of my referencing is DSLR specific.
- Intervalometer – All of you neat Canon users with semi-modern cameras (T2i series, 60D, 7D, 5D) can have this for free with Magic Lantern! You can get that here: (http://www.magiclantern.fm/download)
- Adobe Lightroom 3 or 4 – (NOTE: Lightroom 5 WILL NOT WORK) I’m sure most of you buggers will know how to get Lightroom.
- LRTimelapse – Download here: (http://lrtimelapse.com/download/) Remember, the freeware version has essentially all necessary features BUT only works on max 400 image timelapses
- ExifTool – This comes with the LRTimelapse download, just make sure to install it.
- LRTimelapse Lightroom Templates – You’ll need these to export from Lightroom into a video file. Install info in download. Download them here: (http://gwegner.de/download/LRTimelapse_Lightroom_templates.zip)
STEP 1 – Photographing the Timelapse
1. Find a neat location. Go on a hike, drive 50 miles, whatever it takes, just find somewhere cool that gives a unique perspective.
2. Prepare your camera for the timelapse.
2.1. Think about what format you want to shoot in. By shooting in a small JPEG file (S1 on Canon, for example) you will preserve space but lose flexibility in the editing process and ability to create movement in post while keeping quality. By shooting RAW you will have great flexibility in post but on a 16 gigabyte SD card you will only be able to shoot 1-2 lapses max before filling the card.
2.1.1 I recommend shooting RAW files, the ability to edit them is valuable.
2.2. Frame wider than you want the final lapse. To keep lapses interesting, you can pan across them in post. This, of course, requires cropping, so shoot wide and expect to crop to give the creative element of movement.
2.3 Consider the length of time you want to shoot for. I recommend shooting over a long period of time, an hour or upward is best. If you are working with the trial version of LRTimelapse and can only have 400 frames, do some math to figure out your interval between shots. Use this equation to figure out what interval you should shoot at (F = total frames, T = time in minutes, I = interval):
I = (T x 60)/F
So, if you wanted to shoot a timelapse over an hour and a half (90 minutes) and wanted to have 400 total frames it would look like this:
I = (90 x 60)/400 -> I = 5400/400 -> I = 13.5
Thus, you would shoot with an interval of 13.5 seconds to shoot 400 frames in 90 minutes (round 13.5 to the nearest possible interval if it is not an option)
2.3.1 I recommend always shooting at least 300 frames. As we will be exporting a 30fps file, 300 frames = 10 seconds, which allows for a safe degree of room to edit (time remap) into a video. You wouldn’t want to shoot a 70 frame timelapse because then you’re left with just over 2 seconds that can’t be lengthened.
2.4 Make sure that your battery is charged and your card is empty or has appropriate space, it would suck to start shooting and end up wasting 40 minutes when your card fills or your battery dies, leaving you with a relatively unusable timelapse.
2.5 Lock your white balance so that it doesn’t fluctuate throughout the timelapse.
2.6 Make sure that your camera is in focus. This is pretty self explanatory.
3. Exposing the timelapse – Refer to (3.1) if you’re shooting in a light-constant environment (during the day when the weather and lighting aren’t going to change much or during the night when the lighting wont change much either) Refer to (3.2) if the lighting is going to be changing drastically (sunsets, sunrises, when a storm is coming in, etc.)
3.1 If the light will remain constant for your timelapse, you’ll want to shoot in your manual mode (M). This will prevent the camera from changing exposures between shots. I’ll leave you to determine what would be a good exposure for your shot, just remember some things: where your lens is the sharpest (f8-11 on most cameras) where you’ll have the least noise (low ISOs) etc.
3.2 If the light will not remain constant for your timelapse, you’ll want to find the (P) setting on your camera. Lock your ISO to something like 400 or 800 if you will be shooting a sunrise or sunset, and to 200 if your change in lighting is not as dramatic. Take a test shot by just taking a photo, then review the photo in the viewer. If it is just right, you’re set, but oftentimes, the auto exposure isn’t perfect and will slightly underexpose or overexpose your image. If you want it to be brighter or darker, locate the Exposure Comp./AEB in the camera menu. Experiment with this by turning it up or down and continue to take test shots until you are satisfied.
4. Set up the intervalometer. If you have an external one, you’ll have to figure out how it works yourself. If you have Magic Lantern for Canon cameras, you may follow this short guide:
4.1 Open the ML menu, locate the “Shoot” tab by going to the right or left, and find the “Intervalometer” button. Press Q on the camera to access the settings. Here you may specify the interval between shots. There is also a “Bulb Ramping” setting – You can ignore this. Press Q again to exit the settings, and select “Intervalometer” to turn it on – make sure the light is green.
4.2 Exit the ML menu and the timelapse will begin.
STEP 2 – Putting the Timelapse Together
1. Transfer all of the images that you took in the timelapse into a folder on your computer. Label it whatever you please.
2. Open the timelapse in LRTImelapse. To do this, simply locate the folder within the file directory along the left hand side of the program and select it. It will automatically load the timelapse. This will take a little while as the program transfers the EXIF data to the XMP files and prepares previews.
3. Once the bar at the top stops loading, select “Initialize”
4. Once the images have initialized, select “Keyframes Wizard”This will automatically add keyframes. For now, you only want 2 – one at the very beginning, and one at the very end. If there are any in the middle, delete them for now by clicking the little blue diamond next to a file name.
5. Select “Save”
6. Open Lightroom. I recommend creating a “Timelapses” catalog that you can use for all of your timelapses. Import the folder of photos that you just worked with in LRTimelapse. You’ll want to isolate the two photos that you keyframed, so along the top of the photos in the “Library” tab, select “Attribute” and select one star.
7. This is where you will be setting the movement in post by creating a dynamic crop. Go to the “Develop” tab and select the first image. Crop it to where you would like the timelapse to begin, remember to make sure it stays at a 16:9 ratio.
8. Once you have cropped, right click the image in the bottom viewer, find “Develop Settings”, hover over it and click on “Copy Settings”. In the copy window, deselect ALL, then select crop only.
9. Navigate to the end/second picture in the bottom viewer. Right click on it, hover over “Develop Settings”, and select “Paste Settings”
10. Click the crop button again, and move the crop to where you would like the timelapse to end. You can resize, rotate, and move this crop, LRTimelapse will automatically transition the movement between the start and the end.
11. Select both photos in the bottom viewer by using the CMD+CLICK (CTRL+CLICK on PC). Then right click one of them, find and hover over “Metadata”, then click “Save Metadata to Files”. Click “Yes” if prompted with a verification window.
12. Go back to LRTimelapse. Click “Reload”
13. Click “Auto Transition”. This is very important and easy to forget, this is what automatically transitions the crop. Once it has automatically transitioned, go ahead and scrub through the viewer in the top left corner to make sure that you see the orange crop marker moving as the timelapse goes.
14. At this point, you’ll want to add other keyframes for times you want to control in the timelapse. While two is sufficient, it’s good to look at the brightness trend of the timelapse and add any keyframes at peaks or troughs (low points). To find these brightness highs and lows, find the blue curve/line in the viewer, and look at places where it goes up and peaks or goes down and bottoms out. Add points there. While the timelapse in this example doesn’t actually need any additional keyframes because the brightness trend does not fluctuate whatsoever, I added one in the middle anyway to help explain the process.
15. Click “Save”
16. Go back to Lightroom, go to the “Library” tab at the top, deselect the “1 Star Rating” filter in the “Attribute” tab near the top.
17. Select all photos with CMD+A on Mac and CTRL+A on PC. Right click on one of the photos and hover over “Metadata”, then click “Read Metadata from Files”.
18. Under “Attribute”, select “1 Star Rating”
19. Go to the “Develop” tab and select the first photo. Edit it to your liking. Graduated filters and selective filters/masks ARE okay as long as you have them on ALL keyframed (three for me) photos.
20. Right click on the image you just edited, hover over “Develop Settings”, and select “Copy Settings”. Click “Check All”, then manually uncheck “Crop” and “Spot Removal”.
21. Go to the next photo in the bottom viewer. Right click the image, hover over “Develop Settings”, and select “Paste Settings”.
22. Edit the photo you just pasted the settings to.
23. Repeat steps 20-22 for every keyframed image that you have until you have edited all of the images.
24. Select all keyframed images in the bottom viewer with CMD+A or CTRL+A. Right click on any one of them, hover over “Metatada”, then click “Save Metadata to Files”
25. Return to LRTimelapse. Reload the edited images with “Reload”
26. Click on “Auto Transition”, then click “Deflicker”. You don’t need to fiddle with any of the Deflicker settings unless you’re so inclined, but the standard/default is sufficient enough in deflickering most lapses.
27. Click “Save”
28. Go back to Lightroom (Again…) and go to the “Library” tab. Uncheck the “1 Star Rating” under “Attribute”.
29. Select all photos with CMD+A or CTRL+A. Right click on any one of the photos, hover over “Metadata”, and click “Read Metadata from Files”.
30. Almost done! Go to the “Slideshow” tab, select “LRTimelapse 30fps” under “User Templates” in the “Template Browser” on the left hand side of the screen. Click "Export Video".
31. Name the file at the top, select the export directory, and choose what resolution you want the file to be exported in. Then..... Click "Export"
Congrats, you’ve just finished your timelapse. Watch it over and over in awe of what you just were able to accomplish.
I’m pretty sure that just about covers it, let me know if you’re confused about anything or have any questions, I’m more than happy to help.
Sorry for funky formatting. I wrote this tutorial in MS Word and the formatting was very screwy upon copy and paste, so I made best do with what I had (for some reason "tab" doesn't work on NS?)