-How To Do A Moving Time Lapse-

   Two of my favorite shows on TV are Breaking Bad and its prequel spin off, Better Call Saul. They both combine great character arcs with entertaining cinematography. A visual staple the shows' creator, Vince Gilligan, frequently uses as a transitional tool is the time-lapse. Understandably, the vast majority of those reading a blog on the Bevisgear website are Top Shelf camera bag owners, and thereby photographers. Therefore, most will know the basics of a time-lapse, however, few may know how to achieve a moving time-lapse. This technique can bring an extra dimension of dynamism to any video.

EXAMPLE

There are a few different methods to achieve movement of the camera in between shots. There are 'all-in-one' sliders that will take care of the movement and camera timing, like those made by Edelkrone, although they can cost over $1000. As much as I would like to work with such a capable tool, I ended up going with the Zhiyun Crane 2 gimbal, which I also use for video. 

Selecting a suitable time-lapse scene follows many of the same photography rules for composition. Leading lines, foreground/background, and symmetry all play an important role in getting that eye-catching shot. The one key feature that differs from standard photography is motion. If nothing is moving, your time-lapse will be pretty dull. Clouds, cars, people, and even lights turning on and off can create movement when taken over a period of time. If you are creating a moving time-lapse with stars, always try to ensure you have a foreground object, like a tree, to create something for the sky to move against.

EXAMPLE

Once you have your scene picked out, you are ready to set up! Of course, you'll need some gear: 

  • Programmable gimbal or slider
  • Intervalometer with remote trigger (built-in may suffice, but an external one gives you more control)
  • Tripod
  • Headlamp (if shooting at night) 

Since your camera will be moving you will want to frame the beginning and endpoint while taking into account what will be in the frame in between. Depending on the gimbal you are using, you can typically set this up through an app on your cell phone. Remember that you will need to take the exposure while the gimbal is not moving, so use a photo or TL mode on the app if it has one. After you have set up your beginning and endpoints, you are ready to set up the timing as follows:

  1. Have the camera set in manual mode, as well as the focus
  2. Make sure the shutter mode is in silent or electronic mode (if possible)
  3. Turn off photo review
  4. Set desired exposure time in camera (take a test photo)
  5. Add a 3 sec movement buffer before and after the exposure time to get the photo interval time and set it on the intervalometer (E.g. 5 sec exposure + 3 sec buffer before + 3 sec buffet after = 11 sec timer interval total)
  6. Set the photo length on the intervalometer to 0 secs (the timing for the exposure is more reliably controlled through the camera)
  7. Set the gimbal movement to the same amount of time as the interval timer total
  8. Set a delay of 3 sec on the intervalometer 
  9. Press start on your gimbal app and then start the intervalometer timer once the gimbal timer starts running

I would not recommend connecting the camera to the gimbal as it might interfere with the remote trigger. I have found my gimbal has an automatic moving time-lapse mode, but it doesn't work since it moves right before the photo is taken, making the image blurry. 

In terms of figuring out how long to let your camera snap photos, you can do so with the aid of an app like Time Lapse Calculator.

Once you have the photos, there are many methods to create a final video. Personally, I process them through Lightroom and then make them into a video using Adobe Premiere. There are plenty of resources on YouTube to help in that regard.  

EXAMPLE

While I'm sure that with dedicated equipment, the process is easier. However, this is my workaround using what is essentially a video gimbal. Surely, it takes a little bit of effort and practice, but once you see the results, it will all be worth the time invested. Although, having that quick access Top Shelf while setting up certainly makes the task a little easier! 

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