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.
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 :
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.