Everything Time Lapse

Minneapolis Clouds

I’ve been experimenting with ways to take the best time lapse using the Canon 5d Mark II and I’ve come up with two distinct methods that are worth sharing.  The first method involves shooting normal video and speeding it up while the second involves a more traditional approach of shooting frames and combining them to a final video.  Each method has its benefits and I’ve tried to summarize them below.

In general, I prefer to shoot with an intervalometer and combine the frames in posts.  1080p video is about 2 megapixel.  My camera can shoot 21 megapixel native and this extra resolution allows for pans and zooms around a moving frame that you really can’t do when shooting at 1080p. A time lapse alone is interesting but I really like adding additional motion in post.

My workflow consists of shooting the image as 21mp JPEGs* and processing them against a common preset in Aperture 3.  The resulting images are exported and imported in to either Premiere or After Effects as an image sequence.  From there, the final pan/zoom effects are added.  The extra resolution of the 21mp images allows for subtle movement without causing the blur normally associated with pan/tilt/zooming video.

* I prefer JPEGs when shooting a time lapse because the resulting images process faster and take up less space.  When the images are scaled down to 1/10 the original number of pixels, the added benefits of RAW become negligible, in my opinion.  If I were shooting a video for National Geographic I would use RAW…but I’m not.

Method one: Use the HD Video recording  feature and speed up the clip in post processing to the desired speed.

Pros:

  • It is easy to do
  • you can see the images as they are being taken
  • Produces fluid motion
  • Allow for multiple output speeds

Cons:

  • Resulting video size is limited to 4GB ~15 minutes
  • Final results dependent on the software you are using
  • Limited to 1080P video

Method Two: Use an intervalometer to shoot individual frames

Pros:

  • The final images are much larger allowing for more manipulation in post (such as pan, zoom, etc.)
  • It is easier to achieve the desired video look – you can batch process videos in Photoshop, Aperture, etc.
  • There is no flicker in the final video output if manual mode is used

Cons:

  • You need to reset your counter if you will be crossing the 10k image mark (on Canons, at least..)
  • If you shoot RAW, you will need to process all of the images
  • You need to carry either a laptop or an intervalometer to time the shots

Video Notes:

Scene 1: Method 2

Scene 2: Method 2

Scene 3: Method 1

Scene 4: Method 1

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