The Still-Image Time-Lapse Video Production Method

An Example: Sunset Time-Lapse – GoPro Still Image Conversion Method Using Panolapse

This is a time-lapse video of the sunset as taken from my front yard using my GoPro camera. As it was a day to night transition, it was challenging to minimize the flicker and achieve the “Holy Grail” of time-lapse.

How I Made This Video

I recorded this sunset time-lapse using the GoPro Hero 3 in time-lapse mode with record settings of 12Mp, wide, for the image size, Protune on, and a 10 second interval between shots. I set the camera up on a tripod, activated it, and left it running for just over two hours. I ended up getting 741 JPEG photos over that time period (makes sense, 741x10sec = 7410sec. 7410 sec./ 3600 seconds in an hour = 2.0583 hours).

I copied the JPEG photos from the camera onto my hard drive and imported them into my Lightroom catalog. I set up a separate Lightroom catalog only for time-lapse, that is different from the one I use for my photos. This way, I can keep them separated and both catalogs will operate more quickly.

Now that I had the images, the question became how to process them to get them into a movie format? It turns out there are some different ways.

What Tools to Use

Through trial and error, I learned when to use my various software programs and tools for combining the still images into a movie. Here is the breakdown for the two main camera types I use:

  1. Using a GoPro Camera
    1. The easiest condition = day. Use GoPro Studio to combine the GoPro files.
    2. Harder = day, but where you want to show motion of the camera in the movie, but don’t have the camera moving at the time of filming. Panolapse lets you do this. Use Panolapse to make the motion as you like it, then use GoPro Studio to combine the files.
    3. Hardest = day to night or night to day transitions. Use Lightroom to adjust the first and last files, use RAWBlend within Panolapse, then use Panolapse to add motion, then use GoPro Studio to combine the files into a movie. The example below uses this technique.
    4. Don’t use the GoPro camera for night time-lapses if you can help it. It doesn’t do as well as a dSLR. But if you do, follow the same procedures as during the day.
  2. Using a dSLR Camera
    1. The moderately difficult conditions = day or night (constant lighting). Use Lightroom to import, then use Panolapse to add the motion. Export as still images. Then, I like to use GoPro Studio to combine the files into a movie.
    2. The more difficult condition = day to night or night to day transitions. Use Lightroom to import, then use RAWBlend within Panolapse to blend the images, then use Panolapse to add motion and to deflicker while exporting the still images. Again, I like to use GoPro Studio to combine the files into a movie.

Note: Even though the dSLR files don’t come from a GoPro camera, it is still o.k. to use GoPro Studio to combine and export them as a movie.

RAW Blend Workflow

Because it was a light to dark transition, I decided to use the RAWBlend tool found in the Panolapse program, so that I could get a smooth blend of exposures and settings when the light in my time-lapse transitioned from day to night. Here is how I worked with the photos:

  1. In Lightroom I adjusted the following parameters of the first image in my time-lapse sequence:
    1. Lens Corrections, upright-only (if needed) (do not correct the fisheye look).
    2. Clarity and vibrance 25.
    3. Auto white balance.
    4. Auto exposure.
    5. Sharpening and noise reduction.
  2. In Lightroom, I copied the settings from the first image to all of the other images.
  3. Again in Lightroom I adjusted the parameters on the last image.
  4. I selected all of the images and saved their metadata.
  5. In Panolapse, I selected the RAWBlend tool and imported all of my time-lapse images in the sequence. I selected the first and last images as keyframes.
  6. With the auto exposure option and cubic interpolation, I saved all metadata.
  7. Switching back to Lightroom, I selected all of the photos in the sequence and read the metadata into them.

The individual images were properly blended with their parameters to ensure a smooth transitioning video, and were ready for assembling in to a movie using Panolapse.

Panolapse Workflow

In Panolapse, I imported all of the still images in the sequence as fisheye. Using keyframes and transitions up/down/right/left/in/out, I had the software make the required motions within the images in order to simulate movement of the camera. I exported the images as another set of JPEGs. I turned on the deflicker option to further reduce light transitions within the frames.

GoPro Studio Workflow

I imported the stack of JPEG files into GoPro Studio and converted them to a MOV file. I combined an MP3 file as the soundtrack, and exported as a 1080p movie with export settings to work best with Vimeo where I would be uploading it.

Soundtrack

I created the soundtrack also and mixed it with the video using GoPro Studio. Here below is a copy of it you can play from my SoundCloud page.

Summary

It is an extremely complex and time-consuming process to make time-lapse videos from still image files. It takes a lot of experimentation before finding the appropriate workflow. I’ve shown only one example here of how I do it and I hope it helps you.

I’ll have more on video and time-lapse in future posts. In the meantime, you can follow me and my videos on my Vimeo page at http://vimeo.com/larslentz.

Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope you enjoyed it!

Glossary of Terms Used in this Post

  • flicker – An unnatural-looking change in lighting within a timelapse video due to changing in light levels and auto exposure settings of the camera while filming. “Deflicker” refers to the removal of the flicker effect by software.
  • Holy Grail (time-lapse) – Filming a day to night transition in timelapse without flicker.
  • Protune – A video enhancement algorithm made for the GoPro camera where the result is more vivid color and sharper, higher-contrast images.
  • fps – Frames per second – a measure of the frame rate. This is the number of frames that are shown each second in a video. Anything less than 23.976 will look jerky when viewed.
  • 1080p – The size of the video on screen. The 1080 is the vertical size. The aspect ratio of 16:9 results in a 1080p video being 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall.
  • Aspect ratio – The ratio of a video’s viewed width to height. 16:9 is common for video. 4:3 is also, but not in 1080p. 17:9 is cinematic (movie theater screen).
  • Vimeo – A video hosting site that is higher quality than YouTube. It is preferred by photographers for this reason (and others).

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