Time Lapse or Interval Recording

The new cameras that are out now have so many features and options that many of us just work out how to take the basic picture and call it a day. But there are some cool things if you dig a bit into the menus. You need to be a bit curious and willing to put in a little bit of time.

For example, on my Nikon D300, I can set up the camera for “Interval Recording” or what we all know as “Time Lapse” photography. This is where the camera takes a picture every X amount of time and then the stills get strung together as a movie. It’s a bit like stop action movies. And if you think about, digital camcorders and HDDSLRs are doing this at 30 images a second or more so it looks very smooth. We want to go the other way though in time lapse, we want to compress a given amount of time into a much smaller amount of time. For example, in my test video below, I shot for three plus hours at a frame every five seconds. This gave me something like 2,000 images at the end of the three hours. I used Apple’s QuickTime to stitch it all together as a movie. Then I imported it into iMovie and crop it a bit and added a sound track plus the eye candy at the beginning and end of the movie. My total time was under an hour to make this two and a half minute clip. And this is just the first test to see how well it worked. There are all kinds of applications for this style of photography, I know a wedding photographer who records the entire wedding and shows off a two or three minute clip which contains the entire cermony and the clients love it.

My equipment was pretty basic.

Nikon D300
17-55 F2.8 lens
Flashp Point carbon fiber tripod
Flash Point ball head
Carton of steel BBs to hang under the tripod

Software was also basic stuff

Apple Quicktime Pro
Apple iMovie

The settings were pretty straight forward. I set the camera to manual mode and locked the shutter to 1/125 and the aperture to F8. I like the ISO be auto-adjusted so the camera could compensate as the afternoon started to go twilight. I had the rig on the hood of my truck away from bikes, skateboards and little hands.

The Nikon D300 only does 999 images and then you have to reset it and start it over. You can get around this by using an external timer but that cost money and up to now, I had not spent anything. Go to Instructables to see how to make a TI graphing calculator into an interval timer. You can also find interval calculators for the iPhone such as this one by ClamClam Video.

I set up the D300 to shoot the smallest JPEG (2144×1424 pixels) which still exceeds the HD standard of 1920×1080 at 24 FPS. This gives me just a touch of room for some minor cropping which I did in my sample below.

Here are some pics taken with my G11 when I was setting up and testing the D300 before I shot the actual afternoon event. The first one shows the settings in the Nikon LCD window.
Interval Configuration

This one shows the basic set up using the carbon fiber tripod, ball head and D300 with battery pack.
Nikon D300 Interval Test

When you open Quicktime, you want to choose “Open image sequence”. You go to the directory of the images and select the first one. You then select the frame rate you want to use. The selection of 24 frames per second is standard for film and digital recordings use as high as 30 frames per second. Alot of web sized video use 10 or 15 frames per second. In my case, I could go as low as 12 frames a second and still have a decent frame rate for the video. I saved the file as the default MOV file because I knew I was going to put it into iMovie for further editing and clean up. I wanted as much data as I could get and I exported it from iMovie for YouTube.

Overall, my test was a success and very easy to accomplish. I already have plans to use this trick again in a more production manner and I can see how one might make a reel from it using several shoots tied together.

In the end, the only reason I did this was because I was curious about it and I thought it might be fun. You should try it. You might like it 🙂

You can see some very cool timelapse reels here at 599productions.com

Addendum-

Here is a way cool DIY to make a tiny circuit that will trigger your camera based on the difference from the first press of the shutter and the second one. it will run till the battery runs out.

How To Build The Smallest Intervalometer In The World

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This entry was posted in editing, editing software, equipment, event photography, Hardware, photography, technique, youtube and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

15 Comments

  1. Kimberley/2b June 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    Very informative and you made it look like a whole lot of fun! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. Richard June 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    I am trying to watch the finished result, but YouTube is saying that the video is unlisted? Is there any chance you could re-upload it as your tutorial seemed great.

  3. Richard June 11, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write the tutorial in such a great and easy to follow way. I have just bought the D300s (upgrade from D40) so am very excited to try this out at the weekend.

  4. Sabrina July 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    This looks like fun! Thanks for the tips. I’ll definitely start looking into the nitty-gritties of my camera 🙂 I could be missing out on a lot!

  5. Manuels World July 27, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    Very helpful post.

  6. event management birmingham August 24, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    It looks good, my cousin’s boyfriend wants to get into photography and I’d love to be able to help him out with some advice and tips and ideas, so that he doesn’t get bored of it. I like the idea of the time lapse recording, could make for some really great shot sequences.

  7. Mountainland Applied Tech December 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    You can do some fun stuff with time lapse. Have you seen OK Go’s music video for End Love. It is the most creative use of time lapse I’ve ever seen.

  8. English Summer School February 22, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    Wow I got some useful tips thanks a lot

  9. Edille March 11, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    Nice post author! Thanks for the great tips.

  10. Great post, I really enjoyed the video demonstrating your interval recording. I find that the most awesome interval recording videos are ones of flowers growing or blooming. I think it’s rare to really enjoy the whole process, unless you’re a gardener or something. You should do a video of that!

  11. David Mann June 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    That a cool thing. Thanks .D

  12. Car Lease Return July 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    Hey, very cool! I liked watching this because it’s cool how the shade just slowly overtakes the street and driveway. Was this your first interval recording test?
    -Amy

    • Mike Sweeney July 1, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

      This was the first time I did a time lapse of this length.

  13. Handyman Hardware September 4, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    Appreciate the tip. I am slowly starting to find my feet in photography. But I am still not very good! You have explained the recording test very amicably, I will definitely try and use it as I get better 🙂 Thanks!

  14. Paseban September 28, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    This is what i looking for, thanks for sharing :)..i dig it

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