How-Tos

How to Create a Timelapse Movie: Video 101


The following lesson was created by Vimeo for its Vimeo Video School. It’s used here with permission. Look for a new lesson each week.

Timelapse films are some of the most inherently captivating films there are, which is why they are so popular on Vimeo. The timelapse process takes us outside of our typical human frame of reference and allows us to see everyday life in a new light. The principles involved are surprisingly simple as well. The camera is already designed to take a series of still images (usually 24 to 30 “frames” per second), we merely slow this process down and take fewer images over the same period of time. When we play back these images in rapid succession, our subject appears to be moving in fast forward, with stunning results.

Here are some key elements to making your first timelapse:

  • Turn off the auto focus, you don’t want this changing spontaneously during your shoot.
  • Keep the camera motionless. Your subject will be doing all the work.
  • Set your camera to manual exposure. You don’t want this changing every frame.
  • Use slow shutter speeds to blur motion in the frame for a cool effect.
  • Fast shutter speeds give a more choppy look.
  • Take an image about once per second. This rate is up to you.
  • A device called an “intervalometer” can automatically take frames for you at set intervals.
  • Film/photograph your subject for a long period of time. At least one hour.

Once you have your photographs, you can import them into your editing program and when you line them up sequentially, you’ll have your timelapse. If you were just filming your subject normally, you can speed up the footage in your editing program for a similar effect.

The tutorials below show examples of the typical timelapse process:

And here we see an excellent example of what the process is capable of accomplishing:

We hope to see your first timelapse on Vimeo soon!

Check back next week to learn how to get started with Adobe After Effects or view more lessons at the Vimeo Video School.




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