There is a growing trend amongst digital photographers to use their digital SLR cameras to capture stunning high definition time-lapse films. I thought I would start to explore the process using my X-E1 camera but I would stress this post is not a presentation of work, the film at the top of the post is merely my first and very rough experiment.

This post documents my first attempt to capture a time-lapse video and process the images in Lightroom 4 to create a high definition time-lapse film.

Additional Hardware

If you want to explore this technique then in addition to a camera and tripod you are going to need an intervalometer. An intervalometer is a piece of hardware that all trigger your camera at a preset time interval. These range in price from around £15 through to over £100 if you opt for a wireless system. I have purchases the cheapest intervalometers I could find.

I also captured this still at the same time :

Night Sky Test

Intervalometer – X-E1

The X-E1 features a mic/release connector. I tested a canon remote release cable with the X-E1 and it triggered so I took a risk and purchased an intervalometer with the same Canon interface. This unit cost £19 and works perfectly. Click here for more information..

Tip : Rather than have your intervalometer dangle from your camera it is worth putting a little velcro / hook sticker on the back of the unit and on your tripod.

Shooting the time-lapse

With the X-E1 I am more than satisfied at the quality of the JPEG files (set at fine). When setting up the camera my aim was to reduce as many of the “autos” as possible. I took a few test shots to determine the optimum ISO, Aperture and shutter speed. For the time lapse at the top of this post I fixed the ISO, White Balance and Aperture and left the camera on Aperture priority. I found setting the white balance to Tungsten created a blue hue to the output.

I connected the intervalometer and selected a 20 second interval between captures. The basic rule is the faster the movement being captured the greater the frequency of capture. A busy city might need a photo every 1 second whereas capturing the stars and changes in light may need a photo every 20-30 seconds.

I focused the camera on a fixed object and set the camera/lens to ‘manual’. As the lapse developed a started to adjust the shutter speed and ISO. This is a skill I need to develop in that these adjustments are visible in the film. The aim would be to make these adjustments gradually. I went from a 1/280 f/2.8 at ISO200 to 20 seconds, f/2.8 ISO1600, I have probably jumped in with too complicated a setup for my first attempt though. In effect the time-lapse becomes a series of long exposure photographs.

Importing your Time-Lapse Images

I created a new Lightroom catalogue as I don’t want my main catalogue filled with hundreds of images and I wanted to delete the time-lapse images once I have exported a ‘satisfactory’ time lapse film.

Presets & Batch Processing

Once I had imported the image files I took the first image and did a little bit of development treating it as if it was a single still. I applied one of the Long Exposure Lightroom Presets to the series of images and made a few adjustments. Once I had finished the edit I was able to sync the process across all the images in the catalogue.

Time Lapse and the Fuji X-E1

[Click here to read a tutorial on how to sync multiple images]. You can do as much or as little post processing as you need including creating moody black and white images by applying presets from your preset library.

Slideshow Presets

If you attempt to create a time-lapse you are going to need a video preset for the slideshow module to enable you to export your image catalogue as a film. One of the most popular presets are the LR Time-lapse presets these offer both a range of frame rates and range of video resolutions.

Time Lapse in Lightroom

Now that all the images were in Lightroom the next stage is relatively simply. I selected all the images and created the film using the desired preset (I opted for 720p footage at 24frames per second).

I then brought this exported video file into Final Cut to add the credits and fade in/out. I was very aware of the camera getting cold and the risk of condensation so I kept the night time shots as short as I could. I will explore some sort of camera body warmer for future lapses.

Test Two

In Conclusion

In conclusion I am at the bottom of a steep learning curve but I was impressed at the performance of the X-E1 and want to explore the technique further. I realise I have to be aware of battery live so kept a battery on charge for quick change over. Initially I thought changing the battery would ruin the lapse as the camera would change position but I have decided that the camera sitting in a single stationary position isn’t interesting.

I think I have the post production side of things covered so the next step is to master the capture process and then it is time to find some interesting locations to do a proper testing. If you have explored this technique and have any tips please post away in the comments, all advice would be greatly appreciated.

Links:

X-E1 Review
Time lapse Presets for Lightroom

About The Author

David is a documentary and landscape photographer covering everything from dramatic long exposure landscape photography through to live music. David is also an official Fujifilm X Photographer.

  • http://prometheus.med.utah.edu/~bwjones/ BWJones

    Nice work on the timelapse.

    It really is surprising that Fuji and Sony are showing the way forward with smaller form cameras. I can’t wait to see what happens next. There is no reason why we should not have most/all pro SLR features and speed in a rangefinder sized body *including* an intervalometer.

  • http://www.flixelpix.com David

    Like any camera power is an issue. I think I am going to plan the next time lapse with a number of different shots and thus battery changes :)

  • http://www.gunnareld.com Gunnar Eld

    Interesting article but I’m really frustrated that (to my knowledge) my X-Pro1 doesn’t allow for an electronic intervalometer,

  • http://jasonkeefer.com Jason Keefer

    For not being “representative” of your work, this clip is bad ass! I’m sure you already know this, but the X-20 (& X-10) has an AC adapter, which would be perfect for this type of work. I always enjoy your posts and your work is just awesome!

  • http://www.flixelpix.com David

    I am not overly happy with it, honestly. That said I think I know how to develop the technique. I haven’t seen an AC adaptor, do you have a link?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/piyushbedi/ Piyush

    I shot some timelapse footage with the X-E1 a little while ago:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/piyushbedi/8459720086/

    I used almost the same technique you’ve explained. The only difference was that I didn’t attempt adjusting the exposure as the footage was being taken.

    I often shoot time lapse footage and am able to get a lot more footage with my other camera. With my Canon DSLR and am able to get approximately 4000 photos on a single charge of the battery. That is largely due to its allowance to switch as many things to manual, and especially, to turn its display off. Unfortunately the X-E1 doesn’t allow its display to by turned off entirely (AFAIK). With the X-E1 I was able to get approximately 400 photos before the battery was exhausted.

    To save battery power I did a few things. I switched all the exposure settings to manual as you explained. Turned off the image preview, and forced the display to only show in the viewfinder under the assumption that a smaller display would consume less power than the larger rear display. If anyone has more tips on saving power, it’d be appreciated.

  • David Cartier

    Hi David – thanks for pursuing this as I imagine it a subject on the minds of many X shooters – and something I plan to use an X for when I get there.
    I am interested to know how far it is possible to push the battery with relatively short intervals? With Oly E-PL5 I can get over 1,600 shots (!) at intervals of around 1s (I use relatively short intervals to avoid intense wave action in my usual subject).

    Gunnar – I believe the latest firmware addressed the external shutter control issue.

  • David Cartier

    Oh right – tips:

    You have started at the more difficult end of the capture process – trying to manipulate exposure during the shoot. Try some sessions with all manual settings in order to avoid flickering as you, or the camera, make even small changes to aperture, ISO or shutter speed. The end product can easily stand a natural light variation of up to ± 1EV, or more. Also, manual aperture lenses are preferred – or shooting wide open (with your ever-ready ND filter) to avoid the automatic lens stopping down for each frame and introducing subtle variations that will again result in flicker. Likewise, shutter speeds should be around 1/40th – again demanding intervention with ND filter.

    I shoot sunrise and sunset regularly. Often with the sun about 10 minutes from setting, I begin with an exposure of +0.7 or +1.0EV. As the sun goes below the horizon, the exposure will go to zero and then minus in a pleasing natural progression. I then reset exposure to the plus side for a second sequence during the all-important twilight – for later blending by cross-fade.

    You are familiar with Gunter Wegner, as the author of the LR Timelapse presets, but perhaps you have not delved into his ebook: “Time Lapse Shooting and Processing” – as valuable for timelapse as yours is for Long Exposure.

    (Also – the TriggerTrap smart phone app creates a very versatile intervalometer in software and should now work on the Xs via the Canon plug.)

    You will, no doubt, have fun.

  • http://www.flixelpix.com David

    David, this is great, very comprehensive. I will also check out the book too.

  • https://vimeo.com/philcrothers Phil Crothers

    Good to see you experimenting David :) I haven’t posted my trials but I will! There’s a rule of thumb that the exposure time should be half the interval of the shots. So, for one shot taken every two seconds, the exposure should be one second. It’s to fall into the way motion film cameras worked with 25fps (UK) and a relative shutter speed of 1/50th second to retain motion blur, but again this comes down to subject matter and the look of the final piece. Check out https://vimeo.com/24492485 or https://vimeo.com/search?q=Timescapes to get blown away with moving timelapse….

  • http://www.flixelpix.com David

    Thanks Phil, I was just curious to see how it would work. I’m still struggling to get my head around it and it will a long time before I add motion to the mix. I think your stuff is worlds apart from these. I’m also realising shooting RAW is a better investment to JPG.

  • Will

    have you considered not having the image preview switched on at all ?