These time-lapse tips are intended for people shooting with Video Cameras, if you are using a still camera see our Still Camera Shooting Tips page instead. By adding the Pclix XT into your video camera's creative toolbox you have the ability to shoot time-lapse images anywhere, anytime. You can also shoot video clips up to 1 hour in length at regular intervals. Over the years I've had countless clients ask hundreds and hundreds of questions about time-lapse. Everything regarding the setting up of their gear, what to look out for when shooting and finally how to put hundreds if not thousands of stills together into a time-lapse movie. Below I'm going to attempt to answer some of the basics to get you up and running. By following these simple rules of thumb you'll at least have a good starting point on which to build upon. There are of course many different approaches to accomplish things in life and time-lapse is no different. Again, this is a starting point, as you get more comfortable and confident with time-lapse shooting go with what works best for you.

 

The listing below and my comments are a work in progress. Over time I will tweak these words to reflect new ideas, thoughts and suggestions. Again, please take it all with a grain of salt as there are always a dozen ways of doing anything in life.

First off, based on my past experience it's a great idea to assemble a time-lapse shooting kit. Besides the obvious things you need like a camera there are some other basic items which can come in very handy at times. It's not that you need it all for each and every shoot but it's nice to have these things close at hand should they be required. So, lets start with a basic equipment list and then build from there.

EQUIPMENT - My basic list includes the following;

 

TESTING YOUR GEAR - Double check everything, and I mean everything;

It's always a good idea to thoroughly test your gear before you head out on a shoot, don't leave anything to chance. Setup your equipment as you would during a real shoot and make sure all is working correctly. Test fire your video camera with the Pclix XT, then ensure your memory cards are empty and your batteries are fully charged.

 

LOCATION AND SETUP - A Few basic rules of thumb for where you are planning to shoot;

 

CAMERA SETUP AND SHOOTING SETTINGS - The Finer Points of Shooting;

There are some basic camera settings which should be considered as a starting point when shooting time-lapse. Things like, always use manual focus, manually setting the white balance, depending upon the light you might want to use a specific exposure mode. Should you shoot raw or jpeg? If jpeg, which image size is best and how much compression? Why should I cover the viewfinder when I'm shooting? Honestly pages and pages could be written regarding the questions above. I'll try and explain as best as I can in a minimal amount of words my thoughts on camera settings.

 

Putting it all Together - A few thoughts on assembling a sequence of images into a movie file;

By following the steps below you will be able to turn your sequence of images into a movie file. This file can then be shared via email, posted on the web, used in television production or feature film work. There are many software programs which allow you to assemble a sequence of images into a movie file. In my experience one of the best ones is Quicktime Pro from Apple. Quicktime is available for both the Mac and PCs running Windows. There are two versions of Quicktime available, one being the free version the other a $30 USD Pro version. I use Quicktime Pro exclusively for this kind of work and it's is what I know best. Quicktime Pro gives you endless options for sizing, compressing and file formats with which you can save your movie. Once you have processed your time-lapse sequence through Quicktime Pro you can then import your movie file into whatever other software programs you wish. This can be an editing program, website application, email program, compositing application etc, etc.

  1. There are many applications like iPhoto from Apple and Picasa from Google which library images. Normally I do not use these types of applications to hold my time-lapse sequence image files. If you do it makes importing the source files into Quicktime Pro much more difficult. Instead I move my time-lapse sequence image files from my memory card(s) into a new folder on my computer. Normally I use the following convention. I create a new folder and give it a name which indicates the contents, for example "Maui Haleakala Clouds Source". This tells me the City, the Shooting Location on Maui, the Subject and finally that the folder holds the Source files. Remember, you are going to end up with thousands and thousands of image files hopefully from many different shoots, start off right at the beginning with a logical way of keeping track of everything.

  2. Now that you have your image files on your computer startup Quicktime Pro. The beauty of using Quicktime Pro is that there is a very simple option for importing all you files at once with a few simple steps. First, under the file menu select the option called "Open Image Sequence", this will give you a dialogue box asking you which file(s) you would like to open. Navigate to the location where you put your new folder holding the images you just saved on your computer. Open that folder and select the very first image of the list and click "Open". You will now be given another dialogue box asking you to select the frame rate at which your movie will be played back at. Normally this should be set to 24, 25 or 30 frames per second. For most of my work I use 24 FPS, this means that it will take 1 second to show 24 frames. For example; if you shot 240 images your computer will take 10 seconds to play back your finished sequence. Select your frame rate and click "OK".

  3. Quicktime Pro will now give you a viewing window which will be parked on the first frame of your time-lapse sequence. OK, a couple of thoughts about computer speed are in order before you attempt to play your sequence. There are many factors that can influence the playback of your sequence. The most important is the speed of your computer, how fast can it process data and then send it to the screen. This is closely followed by how large your images are, generally video cameras shoot much smaller images than still cameras. However what you are asking your computer to do is no small feat, grab a series of images with very little compression at 24 images per second from the hard drive and then play them one after another without missing a beat. Most computers cannot do this. Once you try and play your sequence you'll know right away if your's can. If your sequence pauses or misses frames then the processing power of your computer is not fast enough to play each and every frame.

  4. What makes Quicktime Pro such a great tool for assembling a time-lapse sequence is the different combinations of settings which you can use to save your file. By tweaking a few of these we can very easily get your sequence to play on just about any computer. There are three variables which we can change when saving our movie file, image size, file format and/or amount of compression. You'll start by selecting "Export" under the file menu, then make sure "Movie to Quicktime Movie" is selected close to the bottom of the Export window. Now click the "Options" button. You will then be given the option of selecting a file format and amount of compression and image size. As a very ruff starting point try this. Click "Settings" and change the compression type to "H.264" then in the same dialogue window make the Compressor Quality "Medium", now click "OK". Lastly we'll adjust the output size by clicking "Size", you can now set a custom movie size using the options on this dialogue box. Make the size of your movie 1/4 of the original size. Divide both the X and Y axis by 4, this will insure the aspect ratio does not change. Once you have set the size click "OK". Click "OK one more time to close the Movie Settings dialogue box, now give your movie a name and click "Save". Your computer and Quicktime Pro will now process your new file. Relax, this might take awhile. When finished try playing your new movie file, it should now play properly on your computer. As mentioned above there are many options for saving movie files in Quicktime Pro, experiment with different combinations. We've only just scratched the surface here.

    Final Thoughts - Let's wrap it up.

    Once you get more comfortable and confident shooting time-lapse sequences try different things, challenge yourself. Drive around the city with your camera shooting out the front window, capture you and your family cooking dinner and sitting down to enjoy the meal, shoot whatever it is you'd like to speed up in time. Enjoy.

    Paul Cormack - Pclix - www.pclix.com