Some of you guys have been asking about shooting timelapses, so this one’s for you and anyone else!
3 Tips/Tricks/Secrets to Shooting Awesome Timelapses
The above video is a short film I made when I first got my timelapse intervalometer remote. There are a lot of experimental things I tried and learned from in it. Let me help you learn from my mistakes and what I’ve learned about shooting timelapses since then.
1. Drag Your Shutter!
Shoot on Manual on your DSLR, and make sure to DRAG that shutter as long as you can (well not as long as you can, but decently long). Normally, you would shoot photos at a shutter speed of 1/100 or higher to prevent motion blur, but if you’re doing timelapses you want to dial that down to .5 of a second or more (.3-.7 is my favorite range for daylight). What this does is it gives each picture a little bit of motion blur, so when you put them all together it looks more like video. Things will look smooth and awesome instead of choppy and stop-motion-esque. Now keep in mind the more you drag it, the less pictures you’re gonna get. For example for a starlapse, you’d drag it all the way down to 30seconds or more to take in as much light as possible. Therefore, you’d have to stay out longer to get a longer final video. Here’s a little timelapse calculator to help you determine how long you have to shoot. Say you’re shooting on a really sunny day and you can’t get that shutter down that low…get a nd filter or even better a variable nd filter, I recommend the Polaroid one, more on variable or fader nd filters and why you should get one from OliviaTech.
2. Give your Timelapses some motion!
A moving timelapse is way more cinematic/epic/pleasing to watch! There’s three ways you can do this, depending on how much money you want to spend!
A. Buy a timelapse rig like the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero Dolly, these things are awesome…just a little out of my price range. If I were to ever buy a motorized timelapse set up, it would be the Konova add on (because I already own a Konova Slider) B. Build your own moving contraption…this is more on my level. Things I’ve done in the past… Battery Powered Chicken Rotisserie Motor (attach a string, it will wind the string and slowly pull the camera across a slider VIDEOEXAMPLE). Also, the Egg Timer (attach a GoPro to the top, BAM instant 360 hour long timelapse TUTORIAL & VIDEOEXAMPLE). Combine those two and you get something like this!
Telescope Motor Drive (same idea as the chicken motor, but with variable speed VIDEOEXAMPLE) This is the one I’d recommend you get! The rotisserie grill motor is cheap but you get what you pay for, mine is janky and feels like it’s going to break all the time. Spend an extra 20 and get the Telescope Motor. Having variable speed alone is worth it!
Lastly, there’s tons of great tutorials online out there on how to build your own motorized timelapse rig, so check em all out and have fun!
Don’t just leave your timelapses static, add a tiny bit of motion in post production. You can do this by zooming in a little (remember if you’re shooting pictures…they are HUGE, way bigger than 1920x1080… you can zoom in a lot without loosing any quality). After you zoom in a little, key frame the clip slightly so that it moves from the left to right or vice versa. The key to doing this is do it very subtly, an EXTREME side to side keyframed pan isn’t going to look good, just give it a little motion to up the production quality just that one little bit. You can even have it keyframe zoom in or out a bit too, get creative with it!
3. THE SECRET METHOD
Here’s a method I learned a while back really helps a ton when shooting timelapses where your light is changing a lot (for example, sunset, sunrise, or lots of cloud movement)…actually I would do it EVERY time you shoot a timelapse, it is just going to make things look beter and prevent more work on the backend. Notice at around 4:40 in the above video, see the timelapse that flickers a ton? That is because I did not know about/use this method! Cameras don’t always close the aperture to exactly the same size every shot, and the slight variation can cause a flicker in your final timelapse video. What you do to achieve an awesome full-manual timelapse is called the Lens Twist Trick, this locks your aperture and doesn’t let the camera mess with it at all. To do this set all your settings for your timelapse, then once everything’s ready hit the DOF preview button on your camera (it’s kind of hidden), then while holding that unscrew your lens a tiny bit right until you hear it click (not too much, it’ll fall off!). Here’s a little video to clarify how to do it. *IMPORTANT NOTE* Usually after you do this and shoot a lonnnggg timelapse it is really easy to forget that your lens isn’t attached…especially in the case that you’re shooting in the middle of the night in an open field and THE SPRINKLERS ALL OF A SUDDEN TURN ON! Yes, this happened to Jason and I, and luckily as we were grabbing cameras in the dark our lenses didn’t fall off. So take note, your lens isn’t attached fully, so after your timelapse is done, before you pick up your camera make sure to secure the lens on there!
Other Notes Random Notes…. The shots on top of the car 0:16 & 5:19 are not actually photo timelapses, they are just video that is sped up. My general rule of thumb is if it’s shorter than 5 min, just do video and speed it up later. This allows for really smooth shot BUT shooting on full HD it takes up a TON of space, so consider doing photos if you don’t have ample space to spare. To do this shot effectively, make sure your camera is secure, and I like to make sure to get part of the car in the shot (having a part of the car in the shot gives the viewer perspective and also if it’s a little shaky, the car that the camera is mounted to will always stay still. Now for these shots I did not have a proper car mount at the time, so what I did was I had Tyler open his sunroof and I just stuck my camera out the sunroof and held it down on the top of the car. I had my camera on one of these TINY table top tripods (surprisingly sturdy) with the strap wrapped around my hand for good measure. My hand got FREEZING so I couldn’t hold it for too long, but what came out was pretty sweet.
The Cinemover is an awesome little contraption I got for doing longer moving timelapses, I’ll have a video up soon of it in action. You can make one yourself, but I wanted to support the dude who makes them because he is a cool cat…plus they are affordable! Basically it can clamp onto any rectangular surface (think 2x4’s, ladders, railings, etc etc) and slide on the wheels attached. Pair this with some string and a motor of some sort and you can have super long moving timelapses. I want to find a long bridge and do a moving timelapse across the whole railing!
Alright that’s all I have for you as of now, send me your timelapse videos on facebook.com/stephendiazproductions and enter our Human Slingshot Giveaway, and don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions at all!