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Monday
Jul252011

Ten Steps to Creating Your Time Lapse Film

 

This project involved the use of many different pieces of equipment, and techniques.  I've detailed the process below, but I'll be glad to answer any questions in the comment area. 

1) LENS

I used the 12mm Fisheye optic mounted in the Lensbaby Composer.  This unique lens allowed me to include the architecturual features of Grand Central Terminal while still capturing the activity on the floor below.  The Fisheye optic comes with a series of aperture discs that control your depth of field.  I used f8 to make sure I had sharp focus from the foreground to the back wall.   For more on Lensbaby, check out the interview I did with CEO Sam Pardue back at Photo Plus in NY.

2) FOCUS

Since you cannot autofocus with a mounted Lensbaby, I had to rely on my eyes to manually focus.  While I have 20/20 vision, I didn't want to leave anything to chance so I used the wonderful "LiveView" feature.  By doing this I was able to magnify the display on the LCD to 10x.  It's like zooming in on the entire scene withouth actually changing the effective focal length of the lens.  At 10x everything is much larger which allows you to micro focus on any portion in the scene.  Previously I had only used LiveView for Macro work with tiny subjects, but it really shined here as well. 

3) SUPPORT

The camera was mounted on the Gorillapod for DSLR's.  While this little item will never replace my trusty Gitzo, it was perfect for this project as I was able to set everything up on the bannister without being bumped by the bustling crowds.   

4) CABLE RELEASE  

I needed the camera to remain completely still so I used a cable release.  I know there are special wireless and programmable cable releases, but I just used the good ole' manual remote.    

5) TIMING

This scene was shot over 25 minutes.  I took a shot approximately every two seconds for a total of 750 images.  How did I time it?  Easy; everytime the previous image popped up on the LCD I took the next shot.  This worked out to be roughly every two seconds. 

6) SHUTTER SPEED

To create a Time Lapse it's helpful to use a slow shutter speed. This is sometimes referred to as "dragging the shutter".  The idea is to make the motion more fluid and less like blips popping in and out of the frame.  For this piece I found a shutter of 0"6 to be work really well.

7) CAMERA SETTING DETAILS

I used the Canon 40D.  My exposure was set manually.  This is necessary to achieve consistent exposures even with any shift in lighting conditions.  The settings were ISO 400, 0"6, and f8.  I also used custom white balance.  Instead of RAW, I opted for JPEG as RAW files do not generally work with Time Lapse software.   

8) SOFTWARE 

The trick is to have all of your images in numerical order in one folder.  I did this upon the initial upload from the CF card to Lightroom.  I then used Quicktime Pro to open the image sequence and select how many frames per second the photos would play back at.  I experimented with 24 frames per second and 15 fps before deciding on 12 fps for the final piece.  Again, JPEGs are the only file types that would work here.  The software also had a bit of a processing issue with the LARGE/FINE files.  It seemed that Quicktme Pro could not handle 750 ten megapixel files.  I had to use Photoshop CS4 to do a quick batch process and resize the images to 6x9 at 72dpi.

9) MUSIC 

The amazing ominous track is by Nine Inch Nails from their album Ghosts (Disc 1).  It is part of Creative Commons Licensing and is therefore legal for me to use.   My sincere thanks to them as it is one of my favorite instrumental albums. 

10) OUTPUT

As a photographer, it's becoming very common to be asked for more than just "stills". This particular time lapse piece was included in a multimedia piece from the New Yorker. I encourage you to use the steps above to create your own time lapse feature. 

 

 

 

 

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