Time lapse is a video effect where it looks like a scene is moving faster than normal time. Like if you fast forward the time. If you like me is impaired by having a still camera that cannot record real video then time lapse is your only option to make videos with your camera.I have made a couple of time lapse videos with my camera, but this is based on the most successful of them.
Recording and Post Processing
First you have to record a scene. Scenes that are suited for good time lapses are scenes where something happens over a long period of time. The could for instance be a building site; where something is build; where something to torn down; the build of a stage for a concert; an arena being filled with audience; a sports match or as in my case traffic on a street.
My recordings were made from a balcony on a rooftop apartment on Ingerslevs Boulevard in Aarhus, Denmark with a view over Harald Jensens Plads. The recording was done in an hour on a Saturday morning in May. I knew I wanted to do a miniature effect on the pictures, so I applied the rules of thumb that applies for this when I recorded the pictures. I put an empty 4 Gb memory card in my camera and set the image resolution to a minimum to increase the amount of pictures I could fit on the card. Then I balanced the camera on the ledge of the balcony and made the necessary adjustments to camera settings. When you record for time lapse it is important that you do all the settings manually. If some of the automation is enabled on the camera during the shoot there is a risk that the camera will change some of the settings in some of the pictures - e.g. the aperture. A change in aperture during a time lapse sequence will give an unnatural and disturbing blink in light intensity of the pictures. It is better that a few of the pictures are under- or overexposed. I also set the focus to manual after having used the automation to get the desired focus. Finally I installed my trigger and set it to record a picture every second until I would manually stop it.
I then started the recording and went inside to enjoy a cup of coffee. I didn't have a clean idea on for how long I wanted to record pictures but was thinking something like an hour or two would give me sufficient material to work with. However, this question ended up answering itself as I hadn't considered how many pictures could actually fit on the memory card. Each picture is about 1.4 Mb and if you divide 4 Gb by this you get that I could have 2993 pictures on my memory card. With one picture taken each second this amounts to just shy of 50 minutes of recording. When you are making a video you need at least 24 frames per second to make the video look smooth and you don't notice flickering as the eye can distinguish each single frame - 30 frames per second gives a better result. So with the 2993 pictures I had captured I had enough for a video sequence of about two minutes. I was pretty happy with this and took down the setup.
When I got home I imported all the pictures to my computer and started preparing to apply the miniature effect to the pictures before I was going to make a video out of them. I made the miniature effect in Photoshop which I have previously written a detailed description on how to do. In Photoshop I recorded the steps to get the miniature effect into an action. I then chose to execute that action as a batch job on all of the pictures from the shoot. It took more than 30 seconds for the batch job to open each picture, execute the action, save the picture and finally close it again. With 2993 pictures this ment that my computer was busy digesting pictures for more than a day before all the pictures were processed. Here it would probably have been a good idea to consider the format of the video that I was going to make an reduce the picture size accordingly during the post processing. This would not have taken longer - on the contrary supposably - and it would have made editing and working with the video easier. Clearly an experience I took away with me from this project. Now all the pictures had had the miniature effect applied and they were ready to be made into a video.
Choise of Music
When you are working with video you need to realize that you are working with a media that has several more dimentions than when you are working with still pictures. If you do not realize this then you shouldn't get your hopes up about getting a good result from your video project. One element of a video that is equally as important as the images is the audio as this highly affects the mood of the images. Also, the audio can be essential to how the video should be edited and put together. Therefore I decided to fint the audio to use before I started editing the video.
Naturally I didn't have any audio from the recording and decided to exclusively use music for the audio track of the video. As the project mostly was for me to play with and learn about time lapse and miniature effects I didn't want any music to overpower the pictures. Therefore, I chose some music without vocal and some music that isn't too well known.
After having lived in Sweden for a while I had gotten to know the Swedish band Slagsmålsklubben, who makes electronic bitpop - often without vocal. Their tunes vary greatly in mood so there was a good selection to choose from to get exactly the mood I was looking for.
For this video I found a tune called USSR, and I was ready to start editing the video.
The editing itself I did in Adobe Premiere. I will not go into details with how you do each editing step, but only go through the overall steps I took.
I start out by creating a project in the dimentions that I want to work in. The I import the post processed pictures. I Premiere you choose to import a picture and in that dialog there is a check box to chose if it is a picture sequence that you would like to import. By checking this box Premiere will automatically import all the pictures that are in the folder you point out to it - in order of the filenames. If you have a lot of pictures the camera file naming can wrap around so the file names does not represent the order in which the pictures were taken. Then you will need to rename the files so they end up in the order you need. Alternatively you can import the pictures as two seperate sequences and put them together inside Premiere instead.
Going throung the raw recording revealed that there is most activity in one part of the frame. To make the video more exciting I chose to crop the frame and leave out the more static part of the scene. Movemest is after all more exciting in videos than static scenes.
Then I imported the musik so I had something to base the editing off of.
To have a little introduction to the video I decided to fade in from black while the music intro was on. As the musik has a pretty distinct transision from intro to the main part of the track I thought that I wanted to take advantage of that to start off the video. Therefore I held the first frame frozen until the music reached the end of the intro. To focus on the movement in the scene and to make sure the video was less boring and static I zoom in in the begining of the video to crop the frame. I am able to zoom in the picture because the raw pictures are so large and there are thus no quality impact by zooming. On the other hand it had been a very advanced task to do the zoom during the recording, so the post processing way is clearly tractable. When I have zoomed sufficiently on the movement in the frame I stop the zooming and let the video play.
As a nice closure I fade to black towards the end of the video. During the fading I also fade out the music.
Then the video is fully edited and I was happy. But first the video had to be rendered/exported to a usable format that could be played outside of Premiere. First I exported without doing any modifications and ended up with a high resolution video file at 1.6 Gb. Thus was pretty big to move around so I adjusted the frame size to something more resonable and exported again. This time around the file ended up at 16 Mb which is much more resonable.
The Final Resultat
And finally the result of the whole project.