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A Beginner's Guide to Shooting DSLR Timelapse with Preston Kanak: Part 1

08.15.12 @ 9:03AM Tags : , , , , , , ,

I have seen plenty of moving and powerful timelapse videos, but with any technique, it’s all about the artist behind the camera who has to know what they’re trying to capture before they even start shooting. Timelapse videos tend to be synonymous with Vimeo (along with shallow depth of field), and because of that, they seem to be routinely criticized and labeled as amateur. If you’ve ever tried to capture one with physical movement, you know that this is anything but an amateur technique, and it takes a great amount of skill to pull off dynamic movements. Preston Kanak, a contributor to Philip Bloom’s site, gives a quick overview in the video below of everything you need to get started shooting your own DSLR timelapse videos.

Even though Preston is using and talking about Canon gear, timelapses can be done with basically any brand of DSLR (or mirrorless) in existence. Since Canon and Nikon tend to be the most popular DSLRs, it’s much more likely you’ll find third party hardware solutions for those brands that might save a few dollars. That can be especially helpful if you’re just starting out and it’s simply something you’d just like to do for fun.

In terms of third party hardware, the only piece of the camera puzzle that I would not buy from a third party are the internal batteries. Not that they won’t work, but batteries are a very specific product to manufacture, and there are so many things that can go wrong with batteries that are already manufactured correctly, that you’re better off not spending your time on one that might be prone to failure right off the bat inside your camera. Batteries right from the manufacturer aren’t much more expensive, and they will usually last longer when you really start using your camera. On the other hand, I’ve had very good luck with third party hand grips, so some hardware solutions might just come down to your own personal mileage.

Capturing an interesting location with a static timelapse is already difficult enough, but adding camera movement creates quite a few more points of failure. One could certainly argue that going through the trouble of adding movement can give a tremendous amount of character to the shot. Just as camera movement in a film affects the viewer in a particular way, so too can camera movement in a timelapse. If you’re just getting started, however, you might be better off practicing with static shots to get the feel for the way the scene changes over time and how you must visualize what you want the final product to look like before you even begin shooting.

For more information about the hardware used in the video, check out Preston’s post from the link below.

Link: The RAW Timelapse Tutorial – Kit Breakdown

[via Philip Bloom]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 30 COMMENTS

  • Paul Russell on 08.15.12 @ 11:06AM

    No that into this as a guide, too much fried fish and B camera cutaway. Could have imparted the same info in 3 mins.

    Also, the actual clips had lots of foilage…

    Thats timelpase 101.

    • Paul, sorry you did not find this tutorial helpful. You are correct, this info probably could have been cut to 3 minutes. The info could have also simply been a blog post. Everything boils down to taste and what I am trying to do is create something that I would enjoy watching. If you are wanting something cut and dry, feel free to watch some other free tutorials that are online.

      If you have any questions, please email me at prestonkanak at gmail dot com.

  • timeoutofmind on 08.15.12 @ 2:26PM

    i’m always appreciative of these tutorials, but i can’t help but think it’s more of a buy-kessler spot …

  • I found this quite funny.

    Here is one, two, three pretty good products – But the Kessler blah blah formal blah features blah

    Nice video, anywho.

  • Preston, slow down. Your delivery is like listening to a machine gun!

  • When you say “no-name” controller you are clearly holding up the Pixel tw-282. I wouldn’t consider this to be a real “no-name” product anymore!
    I bought it a while ago because I had heard so many good things about it, and it really is a great remote controller that can be used wired and wireless. I bought it for timelapse, but it is also great for long exposures. I did not know before that a wireless remote with an illuminated display could be so much more practical to use for long exposures out in the dark.
    So, definitely a “must buy” piece of equipment that does a lot more than the Canon for half the price!

    • I referred to it as a ‘no name’ brand because many companies are producing virtually the same intervalometer as the Pixel with a different name attached at around the same price. :) I have used multiple versions of the knock-offs and they all work great!

  • weareallhypocrites on 08.16.12 @ 7:07PM

    I have to agree that there are too many cutaways. i read the ethics statement and it still stands that this does seem like an ad for kessler products. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that , i just was expecting more actual tips than simply steering me towards kessler. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the time and effort and the fact he provided this video for free. I just expected to learn a little more from a 15 minute video. Another thing is if he is going to make equipment suggestions, a little more on why would be helpful. For instance, he talks about filters without really saying much more than the kinds he finds useful and that expensive ones are better than cheap ones. Hopefully the next part will be a little more informative.

  • Hi Preston. Thanks for the introduction to time lapse. I’m fairly new to the photography scene where I am still unsure to what gear I would need for shooting a time lapse. Your video helps steers me toward the direction of what type of gear (not brand) that I need… It’s a shame that people are referring to your tutorial as a Kessler advert, when in truth, everyone name drops the brand that they prefer to work with. I have read your ethics page and understand from my own experience that you get what you pay for. The fact that you get to work with Kessler and their product is amazing. Maybe one day I’ll get sponsored with gear from a manufacturer (more than likely not) just like you. The cut scenes are inspiring which makes me look forward to the next part. Keep up the good!

    • Really appreciate your comment! People are free to think what they want about the video. I am simply trying to focus on what I know — focus on the positives experiences I have had as a filmmaker. I’ve made some wrong purchasing decisions that I wish I had not made. I have purchased products that I have not been happy with as I am sure many people have. The key with the series is for me to focus on what I know verses what I think I know :).

      There are also many other great products on the market outside of Kessler but for me, it isn’t just about the product — it’s also about the passion behind the product.

  • Does someone have tutorials or guides about MOTION timelapse? Not just with electric dollys\sliders, but with a manual movement of camera on a tripod and post-stabilizing in AE? (with tracking, not Warp stabilizing).
    I’ve made some tests with pretty good results, but i still want to read some tips from people who has a real expirience. There’s never too much knowledge.

  • I will cover that content in the walk-lapse section. It will cover tracking in AE as well as a few techniques while shooting to improve your chances of capturing a stable shot.

  • Antony Alvarez on 08.17.12 @ 9:19PM

    Really great quality video included, but I would have liked to see more timelapses included instead of the Kessler crane shots. I know there were a few at the end, but I personally think it would have made more sense to incorporate it early on and in between sections as a transition. Also, was not a big fan of the foliage close to the camera in the highly windy timelapse. Oh, and $120 AC Adapter?!? Anyways… thanks for sharing all the great info. Would like to see a guide on timelapsing with Magic Lantern.

  • Hi Preston,

    thank you for your introduction on shooting timelapses. Can’t wait to see more video’s that will tell us more about the different aspects of making, instead of a proper, an awesome timelapse. :-)
    What I find most difficult is choosing the right settings for shooting timelapse. Every situation as you summed it up needs a different approach I think. As in shooting from day to night and ‘star shooting’. I would like to learn more about that in future video’s That would be more then helpfull.

    again thank you so much. And keep up the good work!!

  • Are you using a Hercules head with a carbon fiber tripod? Just bought the pocket dolly and thought I had to go Kessler tripod route.

  • I really enjoyed your video. It was very tasteful. I am interested in part 2 and others. Where can I find more?

  • You have very nice blog here. Only one thing what I noticed, it was very hard to find it from google (at least with my search term). You should check this: I use it on my wp blogs. It will definately help you getting better ranking in google so more traffic :)

  • Thanks for sharing this. Great video!

  • Hi. Thanks for the tutorial. It was helpful overall, but you might want to slow down your commentary. You speak so quickly (like a machine gun) that it’s hard to understand what you are saying. (And I’m a native English speaker.) Narration or on-camera commentary is a skill like any other. Sloooowwwing down is a good idea because you are teaching. (Something I do for a living.)