Time-lapse photography is an excellent visual magic trick. What takes hours, days or weeks to unfold can be condensed into seconds for our viewing pleasure. There are countless ways and means to accomplish a time-lapse but probably the easiest way these days is with a GoPro camera. I'm going to show you the basics of doing this and a few tips and tricks I've learned along the way.
Step 1: Recommended Items
- GoPro camera
- 8gb or above micro sd card. I like using a really big one like 32 or 64gb so you just don't have to worry about running out of space as much.
- Way of mounting or affixing GoPro to wherever you want to capture the magic. I like the mini gorilla podbecause it can grab a bunch of stuff. Magic arms from manfrotto are also great - you can get them with clamps or add a magnet to them. Gaffers tape is a great thing to have along if you need an improvised mounting solution.
- Light! The sun, LEDs, a lamp - whatever! GoPros aren't great in low light so this is key.
Step 2: Setting Up the GoPro to Capture the Magic
The best way to capture a time-lapse on a gopro is by using the self-timer option. That's the one with the camera and a clock on the screen. Some people are scared of this and will use the video setting instead but this will create huge files, fill up your card really quick, waste battery power and your time when you are transferring files. If your time-lapse is going to be less than an hour and you want parts of it to be video then choosing the video option will probably work fine though. But this instructable is really meant for time-lapses over 1 hour. I've gone up to 60 hours.
You will need access to a video editing program later to import these as an image sequence. Premiere, Final Cut Pro, After Effects and Avid can all do this.
- Go to settings on the gopro screen (the wrench one)
- Cycle to the image size setting and choose whatever you want to use. I usually pick 7mp wide but if you are taking time-lapse where you will want to zoom in on a particular section of the frame you may want to choose 12mp. Clearly this will affect how large your files will be. If you have a smaller card I recommend 7mp.
- Then go to the time interval setting. If you're going to be doing a time-lapse under an hour = .5 seconds or 1 second, a few hours = 5 seconds, and over a day = 1 minute. But it's up to you and how long you want your final playback time to be.
Step 3: Check Your Memory Card's Capacity
You should ideally delete everything off your memory card before starting this process but if you can't there is a way to see how many photos you can take before running out of memory. In the photo above the big number (2234) is how many photos are on the card already and the little number (89) is how many you have space for. This changes based on what megapixel setting you are using.
You can also see this information on the gopro smartphone app which will be explained later.
Step 4: Set Up Your Power Source
Here are your best options:
- Chargeable battery pack
- Phone charger with usb
- Computer and usb
I always set up some sort of power source to plug into the mini usb port on the side of the gopro. It's best to turn on the gopro before plugging into power source to avoid various issues. Once the power source is connected you'll either see the battery level indicator charging up on the screen or a plug icon in the same spot.
The newer gopros have better battery life but if you're going more than a couple hours you should consider this. The downside is you won't be able to power your gopro with the waterproof housing on so this won't work so well if your camera will be underwater or in the rain.
Important note if you use a computer for a power source: you need to turn on the gopro first before plugging into computer. Otherwise the computer will read the gopro as a hard drive and you won't be able to turn on and record.
Step 5: Set Up Your Mount
This part takes creativity and some forethought. It's best if you have the GoPro app on a smartphone so you can preview that everything you want is in frame. It would be a real shame if you spent hours recording somethingyou don't want none of! I'll go over smartphone access in the next section.
Things to consider when mounting:
- Make sure the mount/gopro won't be in your way or in the way of any action. Getting bumped messes up all your hard work. The image above is a good example of a mount that will probably get bumped - not good! Tape that sucka down!
- If you are using gaffers tape or any tape great! But take into consideration that the camera heats up a lot and sometimes the tape can slip or come apart when hot.
- Make sure the the mount won't move or adjust at all over time.
Step 6: Preview With Smartphone App
Connecting the gopro to a smartphone for preview is a great way to make sure everything is going to work out.
Things you need to do:
- Download the gopro app to your smartphone.
- Set up your gopro to be connect via it's wireless signal. Very good guide on how to do that here. Pro tip: if the gopro is new and you need to get emergency access to wireless the default password to the camera is "goprohero".
- Go to your camera's wireless connection screen and connect to your gopro. Its best to stay on this screen until the connection is established. I've had weird issues launching gopro app when I don't do this.
- Open gopro app and click on the "Connect and Control" button.
- Check out how everything looks and adjust mount if needed.
- You can also make adjustments to the camera's settings in the app. If you want to change the photo size, time interval or start the recording you can do that here.
- Important note! Make sure you turn off wifi signal on camera before you start recording if you aren't plugged into unlimited power. Generating the wifi signal uses a ton of juice - and buddy you need all the juice you can get! Also, once you start recording you won't be able to see the preview on your phone anymore.
Step 7: Start Your Time-lapse!
This is it! Make sure to check that the record mode is set to self-timer (not video). Press record and sit back and relax. I recommend checking the front display in the first couple minutes to make sure everything is good.
**Important note: It is a long-standing and I think entirely worthy tradition among serious and amateur GoPro users alike to have the first couple frames of your time-lapse feature your big face with a questioning look on it. Will GoPro goblins take away your first born if you don't? Maybe, maybe not. I think it just feels like the right thing to do.
Step 8: Offloading Media
When you access your micro sd card you may see that the gopro has split up your time-lapse into separate folders. If you are going to use Premiere leave these folders as is. If you are going to use After Effects (which I recommend) move all the photos into the same folder. That way you'll be working with just one video clip in After Effects.
The big downside to Premiere is that if there is any interruption in file naming throughout the sequence (if there is a missing file or the numbers jump because of how gopro organizes things) Premiere will only import up to the last sequential file.
This is the choose your own adventure part of the Instructable! After Effects is like the Wizard and Premiere is the Knight. If you are a Wizard go to Step 9. If you are a Knight skip now to Step 10.
The time-lapse dragon will devour you either way.
Step 9: Importing and Exporting With After Effects
After Effects is scary to a lot of people but so are dentists and you have to go there. Just do it.
I made a bunch of screen caps here to help you.
- Open After Effects and select "create new composition" and use HDTV 1080 24 preset
- Once its open save your file
- Select "Import--File" under File tab
- Select only first file in folder of all compiled images, then check "jpeg sequence", then check "Force alphabetical order" - This is the magic button that will bulldoze right through any non sequential naming obstacles!
- Then click Open
- Now drag Jpeg sequence (its really a video but its called a jpg sequence) down into the timeline - you will see that the video is way too big. You need to shrink that bad boy - or don't!
- Click on the clip so it is highlighted and press the "s" key on your keyboard. This will open the scaling transform function. Click and hold down on the two 100s and drag to the left and you will see the numbers go down - go to about 49%.
- Reposition just by clicking and dragging on the big image on the upper right. It should slide around wherever you want.
- Now you need to time the clip to the right length. Most likely it is way too slow now. You can test by clicking "ctrl" and "0" (zero) which show you a RAM preview. This takes a while to render but you can see just a part of it if you click the space bar while it is rendering.
- To speed up the clip right-click on your clip, go to "Time" and then click on "Time Stretch"
- You can either reduce the stretch factor (the smaller you go the faster it will play) or you can type in a "New Duration" below that. (Those numbers are hours:minutes:seconds:frames). I took mine down to 3%. Now Press "ctrl" and "0" again to see if that speed works.
- The clip should now be shortened. Now decrease the "work area" by taking your play head to the end of the clip on the timeline and then press "n". If you don't do that you'll end up exporting everything on the timeline including black after the time-lapse finishes.
- Now go to "File -- Export -- Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue" (I know its a lot of steps - hold tight!)
- Click on "Preset" and on the new window to the right change export format to quicktime and select ProRes as your codec (if you want to edit this in Premiere). Or if you're going straight to web change format to H.264 and preset to Vimeo 1080p 23.976. Select "Ok" at bottom right.
- Click the green arrow in the middle of the Encoder window and you should be good to go!
That's it! Go time-lapse like a maniac! Then share them with me!
Step 10: Importing and Exporting With Premiere
- Open Premiere and select "Import". Open the first folder that your gopro created and click on the first image. You should only need to click on the first photo and then check the box next to "Image Sequence" at the bottom of the import window.
- This should automatically import the photos as a video clip into Premiere. You will need to repeat this step for each folder. So you will end up with as many clips as there were folders. In the photos above I didn't have them separated into folders so I had to find where the sequence break happened manually and click the first image of that second sequence. I did this to confuse you.
- Drag these clips into a new sequence set to the settings I show above. It will ask you if you want to change sequence settings to match clip - say no.
- Remember that these are 7mp or 12mp photos so they are much larger than a 1080p video sequence. You'll need to scale down the media to fit in your 1080 sequence. So that you don't have to rescale and reposition each clip one by one you should select all clips on the timeline, right-click on them and select "nest". Choose a name for the nest and press ok. This will group all the clips into one clip. Now you can resize and reposition just that one clip. You can still access the separate clips if you open the nest.
- Or since the original clip is bigger than your final output size you can animate scale or position to make it seem like the camera was zooming or panning throughout the time-lapse! You can make people believe you had a fancy motorized slider system.
- To change the length of the time-lapse in your editing program you can change the playback speed settings of the video clip. You usually need to drag the clip into a timeline before this is possible.
That's it! Go time-lapse like a maniac! Then share them with me!