July 22, 2013

Check out This List of Time-Lapse Techniques You May Want to Avoid

If you're interested in shooting time-lapse videos, or if you're gearing up for yet another, but want some tips on how to make yours better, we've got you covered. Enrique Pacheco, a photographer and cinematographer, who specializes in time-lapse techniques, runs a website containing free tutorials on the basics of capturing time-lapse images. In a recent post, he makes a list of things you shouldn't do when capturing them. So, if you're ready to develop/sharpen your time-lapse skills, hit the jump.

Keep in mind, of course, rules are made to be broken, so these time-lapse no-no's are really just suggestions that you can take or leave. However, if you're new to time-lapse photography, the advice of an experienced professional, like Pacheco, may help you build the foundation of your technique (which you can destroy, reconstruct, or maintain as you become more experienced.)

Check out one of his time-lapse videos below:

Here are a few suggestions from Pacheco's list that I found especially interesting:

Don't Shoot in JPG

Pacheco is absolutely clear on his position to not shoot your images in JPG.

No, no and no! There’s no discussion about this. You must think of this extension as if it were the devil himself -- JPG File works in 8bits, while RAW works in 12 or 14bits, this means greater depth of color and gradation between levels. And you’ll notice this especially when editing an image.

Don't frame moving plants in the foreground

Personally, I really have to second Pacheco's opinion on this one. Seeing plants, or anything that has very easily perceived motion in real-time, takes me out of the surreal moment that time-lapse sequences put me in. To watch as the night sky, full of stars, galaxies, and auroras, glides over the Serengeti as the Earth spins on its axis is a beautiful thing -- but watching the leaves and branches of an acacia tree quivering in the foreground can be, in my opinion, unattractive.

Don't use the music of Sigur Rós

I 100% disagree! Okay, fine -- I'm a huge Sigur Rós fan, and I myself am guilty of overusing their music in my work, but -- I don't care. "Med sud í eyrum" will always remind me of the summer of '09, so I tend to use this band when I want to express "lost youth" or "the good old days." The good thing, though, is that there are tons of post rock bands that offer similar sounds, like Explosions in the Sky, Amiina, and The Album Leaf, whose song "Window" reminds me of the birth of my first nephew and always makes me cry.

Pacheco's point is well-taken, though:

My advice, be original, seek suitable music for your story, with the same emotion as your pictures, but be careful it hasn`t been used previously in a similar video. Seriously, there are thousands of artists, millions of songs, there is no need to use the same tracks over and over again.

You can find Enrique Pacheco's entire list here.

What are you opinions about the list? Do you have anything you'd add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

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Your Comment

18 Comments

that video is awesome

July 22, 2013 at 8:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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drew

I'm going to disagree with his tip about not uploading to youtube. Personally, I have gotten more views and responses from youtube than vimeo. I have found that (at least for me) the same videos show up on the first page when searching on vimeo even if the search words are different. So, I definitely prefer the searches on youtube and I think the quality is pretty much just as good. Although, if you don't have a Pro vimeo account (like me), quality will suffer so much more than on youtube.

July 22, 2013 at 9:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gareth

I still use quicktime 7 to process my files and turn them into image sequences. Shooting RAW is not conducive to that workflow in the slightest since you have to convert every frame into something that quicktime recognizes. That process can get pretty tedious when you have 500 frames to convert at a time. And quite frankly, I prefer not to waste my time with converting when I can completely avoid heavy image editing by getting the look I want "in camera".

Is RAW the superior imaging format? Obviously. Does it need to be a steadfast rule of shooting timelapse? Absolutely not. Saying never to use JPEG's is akin to saying that we should never shoot in ProRes or DNxHD because RAW is so much better; hard drive space and transcoding times be damned! Just plain silliness...

July 22, 2013 at 9:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4512

Raw timelapses are super dooper easy to make--I use After Effects. Shooting JPEG with a DSLR gives me the chills.

July 22, 2013 at 11:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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What's your process in After Effects, if you don't mind me asking?

July 23, 2013 at 1:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4512

there are multiple different approaches but this is what I use.

1.In after effects open import (make sure all of your photos are in numerical order) click the image sequence box at the bottom and import your photos.

2.Once you do that camera raw should pop up. Color correct all or none of your photos.

3.Once you do that you will need to likely scale down your image to 1080p of 720p.

4.You can pan or tilt to give your shot more movement.

5. Then you will click render and then you are done.

July 23, 2013 at 2:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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on step 3 I meant or* not of

July 23, 2013 at 2:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Here is what I usually do:

1) Import Raw image sequence into After Effects. (make sure you are in 16bit mode)

2) Adjust raw image settings (dialog box opens automatically). I usually make mine super flat (if I'm not worrying about any specific color looks at the moment)

3) Now before making a new composition. I right-click my file and go to -> interpet footage. I then change the frame rate from 30fps to usually 23.976 fps

4) I then drag the file into the new composition button on the bottom of the project bin window. This makes a new composition at the same dimensions as the file.

5) I then add that composition to the render que and export a 422 quicktime.

As a side note - is there anyway on nofilmschool.com to get updated when someone replies to your comment?

July 24, 2013 at 11:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I agree. Have shot many TLs for broadcast in JPEG. Had no issues. RAW is great, but not completely essential.
The foliage thing is a great tip I learnt the hard way.
I've said this before on this site - no more Sigur Ros, and there are a few Explosions tracks I can't stand to hear anymore either thanks to edit work. :-)

July 23, 2013 at 12:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Marklondon

In camera is great, unless your outside and not shooting with perfect diffuse light in the middle of the day with constant perfect exposure.

Lightroom 5 (or any other version) to work with my RAW files. Find an image in the "sweetspot" of your timelapse, correct it like you would an awesome landscape photo, select all, hit sync, export to full res jpg, and then walk away. Use QT 7 with your outputted jpg's just like you would with your jpg's from your cam.

September 9, 2013 at 2:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Shooting video or capturing pictures of a refinery in the US can be charged as a federal offense, because it's important for national security blah blah blah. Something I learned the hard way with a crew out in Cali.

July 23, 2013 at 3:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Here is one. DONT SHOOT DEAD TREES AGAINST STARS!!! Its the most over done shot around. I think I've now seen more dead trees on stars now in the past couple of years than 20 years of page turns and lens flares!

Also as funky a gimmick as a moving camera is in a time-lapse, it completely takes the viewer out of the time-lapse. Our brains associate camera movement with realtime movement so moving a camera only works for a few situations without detracting. It has to be a subject that is clearly time-lapse if you know what I mean, like traffic streaming lights, a waterfall etc. To me the strongest effect of time-lapse is a static camera or maybe a slow pan. Just because we can slide a camera through a time-lapse doesn't mean we should...

July 23, 2013 at 4:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Using time lapse as short hand for narrative is over used beyond cliche now. Used AS narrative is not. Check out sequences from Andrew Domink's Chopper to get my point.

July 23, 2013 at 7:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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dan

Anything involving time-lapse is too summer of 2009.

July 23, 2013 at 8:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Pat

Summer of 2013 seems to be for timelapse films that also use the kaleidoscope. Maybe the summer of 2014 will be for timelapse with jittery plants and water in the foreground as part of the concept.

July 23, 2013 at 9:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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rob

Meh, a lot of stuff seems over done and cliche to us because we see it all the time. The general public still finds it interesting and I'd say there are still plenty of people that will pay for stock footage of dead trees, HDR'd to dead, pointed at the stars, on a slider, while Sigur Ros plays in the background. I think there is a difference between not doing something because it results in poor quality and not doing something because it's overdone. It's time-lapse guys, not a Harlem Shake video.

July 23, 2013 at 11:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Andrew

+1

August 16, 2013 at 5:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I'm curious as to whether or not AE CS6 has the same RAW updates as Lightroom 5. The diffference between RAW files in Lightroom 3 and 4 was crazy. About an extra stop of dynamic range in LR-4 Pretty cool to pop an old timelapse that had been finished in LR-3 into LR-4 and have an extra stop of DR magically appear.

September 9, 2013 at 2:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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