How To Make A Time-Lapse Video With Your Digital Video Camera

Getting the most out of your digital video camera can mean being able to create some really cool stuff. You just have to step outside the manual a bit and find the cool things you can do with your digital video camera and your editing software.

We have all seen them in a movie or a TV show, those very cool shots where they speed up time and capture a long segment of time and condense it into a very short amount of video. My very favorite example of this technique was an arty movie of many years ago that was called Koyaanisqatsi. (view trailer) In that movie they had some very interesting segments where they did time lapse effects to show driving on a bridge, flowers growing, clouds flying by and so on. Another example is many of the TV news stations nowadays have a camera that captures the day's weather and then they process it down to a 20 second clip to show the clouds and weather racing by on screen.

Well this technique is not just a tool in the hands of the movie makers or the big TV stations. You can do this with your digital video camera gear too. I will go into two ways that you can accomplish this effect and get some cool results for your next video project. This one is worth playing around with in order to find the right settings to get the most dramatic effect.

Technique number one is to use the camera itself to do the time lapse recording for you. Almost all digital video cameras have the ability to do an interval recording. What this means in a nutshell is that you tell the camera how long you want to record for and how long in between recordings and it will go on autopilot for you for as long as the battery lasts or the tape runs out. This is what those cameras at the convenience store do, they record a few seconds of motion every 30-60 seconds giving the overall view of the traffic in the store over time.

Now if you want to capture some time lapse in your digital video camera you will need to get into your cameras menu and find Interval Recording (or in my case Int Rec, as I use a Sony PD 150 for my camera) When you select this option you will decide how long of an interval between shots you want and how long to record each time. If you are trying to capture something that takes a long time to occur and in which not much happens quickly you will want to set the interval at around a minute and the record time as short as possible on your camera. An example would be if you wanted to record a day in the life of a flower or the clouds rolling by in the sky. Suppose however that you want to capture an event that has lots of action and occurs over a much shorter time frame. Then you would want to shorten the interval between recordings and increase the time of each recording. So in this case you might record every 15-30 seconds and record up to 2-3 seconds of video each time.

I used this technique to capture an afternoon of work being done by a team of carpenters on my house remodeling project. The result was a flurry of activity as workers raced hither and yon nailing boards, carrying equipment and building walls. I have added it to my photo collection of the project. (Hey I had to live through the project so I might as well have a great record of it for posterity!)

Now suppose you have one of the great software video editing packages on your computer to work with your digital video camera. Now you can do it in post as they say in the business. You can record any length of video you want (subject to the limitations of your tape length) and then import it into your editing program.

Sidebar:

I use Adobe Premiere Pro for my editing jobs, but I have also used Avid DV Express, Final Cut Pro, and others in the non linear editing world. These are all great programs and are very powerful products that can create some very professional looking videos. You don't have to have these products to create your own videos but if you are serious about digital video editing it might be a good idea to take a look at these options.

I digitize my raw video of the scene I am doing time lapse on into my computer (big hard drive, video eats up GB's of space) and then import the clip into my time line. From th3e timeline you can then select the clip with a right click. From there you will be given a menu with options depending on the software you use. Select the option that says "duration", "speed" or something similar. Change the speed of the clip so that time will speed up considerably. If you have an hour of video in the clip and want to shorten it to 2 -5 minutes then you need to increase the speed of the clip to 3 or 4 thousand percent of normal. This will require your software to render the clip at the higher speed and may take some time top process depending on the speed of your computer.

Once you have rendered the video clip at the new speed you will want to play it to see if the movie flows evenly or if you will want to readjust the speed setting to make it better. Sometimes you may want to shorten your raw video and adjust the speed down somewhat in order to get a smooth flow of action. Once you have rendered the clip at the new speed you can now cut and splice it as you see fit with the speeded up action intact. There are some things you will record that might only need a slight speed change, take for instance some digital video of your kids playing sports. Double or triple the speed of the clip and show it to them and you might have them rolling on the floor.

You can also use these techniques to capture the growth of a flower or plant over the course of days or weeks. Simply set you camera in exactly the same place at the same time each day and record an interval that works each day fro however long you want to document. May be you get the seedling just breaking soil and follow it all the way through turning into a full grown plant.

Another interesting idea is to capture the path of the moon across the night sky. Set up your camera on a tripod in a spot that can see the path of the moon for several hours. Set the camera to interval record and put the moon on one side of the frame so that it will pass across the frame as the night passes. This one may require some testing in order to get the exposure and framing right as well as the right interval to record at. Most likely you would want to set the interval as long as you can and the record time as short as you can but do a test run first to see what works.

I can't stress enough that using your digital video camera can be great fun and you can achieve some cool results. Play around and test. You just might find yourself creating some very creative digital video to share with the rest of the world.

Kevin Rockwell worked as a network TV cameraman for 20 years shooting news and sports. Now a devoted fan of digital photography and video he works to gather information, tips and news for digital camera users. Oh and he loves to shoot pictures of cool and interesting things all the time. http://www.great-digital-cameras.com/gdcj.html

In The News:


Huffington Post

Ten steps to improve your photography
BBC News
Whether you take pictures purely for your own pleasure or have ambitions to build a career for yourself through photography, there comes a time when you have to stop snapping and start making pictures. Here, professional photographer, writer and ...
Street Photography Has No ClothesHuffington Post
10 Tips for Getting Hired as a Photographer, From Industry ProsPetaPixel (blog)
Manik Katyal on a new grant for Asian photographersBLOUIN ARTINFO

all 6 news articles »

College offers outdoor photography course
Daily Astorian
Clatsop Community College offers an intensive outdoor photography course, “Outdoor Camerawork” from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with well-known photographer David Lee Myers. Each day, participants will go out and photograph a series in a ...


Hyperallergic

Silhouette Portraits from the Days Before Photography
Hyperallergic
Before photography, the silhouette was a popular form of portraiture more affordable than oil painting, where the outline of a face in profile was cut in black. “It was very popular to have a silhouette cut, especially if you were getting married, or ...


The Southern (blog)

Blog: Zen and the Art of Photography Maintenance
The Southern (blog)
Most individual photographs I take are exposed at somewhere between 1/60th of a second to 1/500th of a second — a very short time. In reality, it takes much longer to take a good photo because the opening of the shutter and exposing of the frame is ...


The Phoblographer (blog)

How Do I Set up a Photography Business?
The Phoblographer (blog)
If you think that quitting your day job, going out there and consistently shooting is the way to go about doing business as a photographer then you're not totally wrong. However, it's not the most legitimate or smart way to go about it. There are lots ...


Red and Black

The art of science: Researcher gains acclaim for photography
Red and Black
His passion for photography slowly birthed from his scientific research, which deals much with microscopy. Microscopy is the field of viewing minute images with a microscope and sharing that information through pictures. “I work with plants, so ...


Huffington Post

Fine Art Double-Exposure Photography: Human Nature
Huffington Post
We shared our photographs, blending landscapes into the silhouettes of renown dancers, Neguin and Alegria Silva, superimposing the ligaments, muscles and bones of nature, creating collaborations to unify human and Earth as we embrace their complete ...


New York Observer

Milk Studios Exhibits Civil War Photography for the Instagram Age
New York Observer
Entitled “Soul-Lit Shadows: Masterpieces of Civil War Photography,” the exhibition is a photographic archive of the landmark period in American history, as demonstrated through the work of a number of 19th century photographers. On display in the West ...


The Hidden Surprises of Wedding Photography
Huffington Post
I have three favorite photos from my wedding. The first is of my husband and me kissing and being photographed by our wedding photographer. The picture was taken by our photographer's assistant. I love it because it's not only a great picture of my ...

and more »

Zanesville Times Recorder

Andrew Silvia's photography on display
Zanesville Times Recorder
ZANESVILLE – Photographer Andrew Silvia is the guest artist for the production of “The Addams Family” at The Renner Theater this weekend. “I picked up my first camera at North Kingstown High School in Rhode Island, and that was back when we used ...

Google News

Crooked Horizons in Your Photos? ? Here is a Five Minute Digital Fix

Remember the good old photography days?Film camera in hand, you... Read More

Canon Digital Camera - from Humble Beginnings to World Class Company

Started in a single-room by three Japanese men in the... Read More

How to Easily Select the Important Photography Category for Your Home Based Business

You may have already started to make money from your... Read More

To Camcorder Enthusiasts: What Does Reality TV Really Mean? - Great News for the Camcorder User!

Reality TV is experiencing an upsurge in popularity and its... Read More

Photography Has No Gender

Women photographers are fortunate. Unlike other titles, photographer has no... Read More

Tiny Cameras, Big Pictures and Make Your Photos Great!

The path to picking a digital camera usually leads to... Read More

Light and Depth of Field

With such a fantastic device as the digital camera for... Read More

A Guide to Underwater Camera Cases

If you are buying a new underwater camera or video... Read More

Online Photo Sharing: Not Just for Family and Vacation Photos

You may have joined the photo-sharing craze to share your... Read More

How to Take Better Photos of Your Baby or Toddler

Every Mom wants to take great photos of their babies... Read More

Digital Camera Basics

Digital Camera Basics? The VocabularyShopping for a digital camera can... Read More

Tame Those Memories

Family vacations, summer weddings and family reunions are in full... Read More

Top 10 Digital Cameras - What You Need To Know About Them

There are a large number of top 10 digital camera... Read More

Megapixel Cameras: How Many Megapixels Do You Need?

Knowing which megapixel camera to buy can be intimidating. There... Read More

The Beauty of Nature Photography

Nature is all around us, and its beauties are unlimited.... Read More

Bracketing and How To Use Tt Correctly...

What Is... Exposure BracketingExposure bracketing is a simple technique professional... Read More

Infrared Photography and Big City Crime

One of the major problems of the larger cities of... Read More

Photography 101 Part 1

Photography 101 Part One Equipment: camera, meter, flash, tripod This... Read More

Digital RAW Workflow for Beginners

Having an efficient work flow is essential for photographers. In... Read More

The Truth About Pixels, Part 2-1: Printing 4x3 Inch Photos

Why is a 3 megapixel camera better than a 1... Read More

A New Way to Use Old Snapshots

If you're like me, you have hundreds of photographs sitting... Read More

Buying Your Child A Digital Camera - What You Need To Know

Purchasing any gift item for your child is a mind-numbing... Read More

Basics of Photography

Understanding light is one of the very basic principles of... Read More

Removing Cracks and Creases when Restoring Old Photos ? 5 Minute Digital Fix

A common problem with old photos is that they often... Read More

Understanding Digital Photography

Most serious photographers and all professionals use a Single Lens... Read More