Time Lapse – Basics

Time Lapse

What is time lapse?

Time lapse using Photoshop will compress time and speed up what took a long time to shoot into a much shorter time frame.  For example if you are shooting using long exposures to blur moving objects you may be shooting at a speed like 2 seconds.  You will need 25 of these images to create only 1 second of footage because play back is around 25 frames per second.  So it looks like this. 2 seconds X 25 = 1 second of actual footage. Approx. 1 minute of real time will equate to 1 second of footage.  To figure out how long you will need to spend taking your shots you can use that calculation.  Here is an example: 10 seconds of footage required using a 2 second exposure. 2 X 25 X 10 = 500 frames taking 8 to ten minutes.  This means there is no pause between shots.

Shooting your time lapse imagery

If you want to depict movement and use slow shutter speeds you need to shoot using a tripod and select moving subject matter.  Use a cable release and shoot at lease 300 images per sequence. Remember that when you play your images back at 25 frames per second that you are speeding up time (25 photographs will only produce 1 second of footage).  This is exactly what I did in the below video of traffic.

I’ll soon write a post for advanced time lapse in which I will explain how to enhance images and apply smart filters. Check my Photoshop techniques blog in a couple of weeks.

Creating your time lapse video

To create your video follow these steps:

  1. Place each sequence into its own folder
  2. Head to Photoshop and choose ‘open’
  3. Click ‘open as sequence’ at the bottom of the window
  4. Then select the frame rate of ’25 frames a second’. This will alter the rate that your images are played back. This effects the speed and duration of your sequence. A good idea is to try a few different settings to see how it will change the results.
  5. Click File > export > render video
  6. Select the destination where you want your video to be saved on your computer
  7. Select the size of the video. I recommend 640 x 480 because it will produce a small file and will render quickly. Another option is to select 1920 x 1080 for high definition.
  8. Click Save

Lets give it a go!

Now think about the difference between time lapse and stop motion…