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How to Make a Time Lapse Video

Is there anything more satisfying than watching a beautiful time lapse video? The smooth constant motion is both captivating and calming. Because of their simplistic nature, time lapse videos are the perfect social media content to fill out your posting schedule. Here are tips for making a great time lapse video.


What is a time lapse video?

Video is just moving pictures. To trick our minds into thinking the picture is moving, video shows us a rapid set of images in a row - just like a flip book. The only difference for a time lapse video is that the photos are taken with a longer interval between them. While filming a "standard" video, the camera captures 24 to 30 frames (or pictures) per second. While in time lapse mode, you can adjust how often the camera snaps a photo. It can be one frame per second or one frame per minute. When you play all the frames back at the standard 30 frames-per-second rate, the motion flashes by at high speed.

What camera should I use to make a time lapse video?

The great thing about time lapse videos is that many consumer cameras have this function built-in. That means you do not need to spend money on a high-end camera or spend time editing your raw footage. Below are our suggestions for time lapse cameras. We picked these because they all compile the photos into one video file ready for posting (which means less work for you).

  1. iPhone - Simply open your camera, scroll all the way over to the left, and select "Time-Lapse". You are not able to change any settings, but this is a great way to make time lapse videos for beginners. The iPhone records at a 6:1 ratio, meaning for every 6 seconds you are recording, you get 1 second of final video.

  2. GoPro - GoPros are a great upgrade from the simple iPhone set up. They are easier to mount, and you can make adjustments to the speed of your video. You can take a photo every 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds.

  3. DSLR - This is where it gets good. Many DSLR's have the built-in time-lapse setting that allows you to not only adjust the timing of your photos, but the photo elements as well. You can adjust your aperture, ISO, and picture profile. This is where time lapse videos come alive. If you already have a DSLR and are used to playing around with the settings, we highly suggest testing out the time-lapse feature. Once you have that down, pair it with a gimbal like the Ronin-S to create perfectly timed camera movements.

How long will the time lapse video be?

What determines the length of your video is how many frames (or pictures) you have and how fast you show them. The standard frame-rate is between 24-30 frames per second. For this example, we'll stick with 30fps (frames per second) since because most phones and apps like to use this playback speed. WARNING: There will be math.

  • Let's say you set your camera to take one photo every second

  • Let's say you record for one hour (60 minutes)

  • 1 photo a second X 60 seconds in a minute X 60 minutes in an hour = 3600 photos.

  • 3600 photos ÷ 30fps = 120 seconds (or 2 minutes) final video

The more movement there is in your frame, the shorter the photo intervals should be. If you are filming a city street at rush hour, you may want to set your camera to take a photo once every second. When you are filming something with very slow movement, you want to take the photos over a longer period of time. A time lapse video of stars should be set to one photo every 30 seconds. To find out how long you should be recording, you need to work backwards.

  • You want a 30 second video for Instagram Reels

  • You are filming a busy street, so you set your camera to one photo every second.

  • 30 seconds of a final video X 30fps = 900 frames

  • 1 photo taken a second X 900 frames needed = 900 seconds of recording (or 15 minutes)

What is the number one tip for taking a time lapse video?

My number one tip for making a great time lapse video is to lock down the camera. The beauty of a time lapse video comes in the smooth motion of the subjects. Put your camera (or phone) on a tripod and do not touch it. If you are working on a desk, do not set your camera on it. Even the smallest bump to the camera can cause the video to look jittery.


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