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Step-by-Step Guide for How to Make a Time Lapse Video (9 Tips and Tricks)

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camera on tripod stand capturing outdoors

If you like making videos and then editing them according to your taste, chances are that you might also have tried your hands on a time lapse video. It is all the rage these days but creating one can be pretty daunting. You must work with numerous settings, tools, and variables to create a masterpiece worth all the effort.

So, if you plan to nail your next time lapse video, here are a few tips and tricks that might be useful. Besides, this article covers all the details that can help you avoid blurry results.

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What Is a Time Lapse Video?

Have you ever seen videos on the internet with some clouds slowly floating or stars moving swiftly through the night sky? How about videos featuring the hustle and bustle of a busy city during an afternoon or animals exploring their habitats in slow motion? These are all examples of time lapse videos that show the dynamics of elements that are hard to capture in specific real-time videos.

Time lapse is a creative video editing and filming technique that can easily manipulate the frame rate. Frame rate is defined by the number of frames or images captured within a second of a video.

Most videos have a similar playback speed and frame rate, while in a time lapse video, the frame rate is pretty stretched, and the time appears to move fast. Take this video as a reality recorded at high speed to unfold quickly in real-time.

Creating a time lapse video isn’t easy for everyone. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you achieve perfection.

mirrorless camera on a tripod
Image By: Fesus Robert, Shutterstock

The 9 Tips and Tricks to Nail Your First Time Lapse Video

Take a look at the nine useful tips below to kickstart your experience. 

1. Know Your Smartphone or Camera

Before you head out to make a time lapse video, ensure you are aware of your camera or smartphone settings. First, make sure that your device is fully charged. If there is a need, always keep an extra set of batteries with you.

You should also be aware of the capabilities of your device. For example, you need to create a shot-to-shot consistency for an excellent and well-curated video. This should be achieved in a manual setting.

Attaining this can be very hard, especially if you haven’t experimented with other types of videos before. So, it is always wise to gain all the knowledge on various tools and settings available to create your distinct video.

When buying your gear for a time lapse video, you should always pay attention to the camera. Luckily, there are many options available in the market that can help you achieve your desired outcome. A digital camera does this job well, and so do prosumer and consumer cameras with built-in time lapse modes.

Certain DSLRs and GoPros often come with special time lapse features and are pretty compelling. Your Android or iPhone device may also come in handy in this case. It is always a good idea to compare different cameras and keep your goal in mind before investing.

smartphone capturing picture
Image Credit: Piqsels

2. Invest in Motorized Heads or Tripods

Investing in a tripod is essential to capture the best time lapse video until you have a flat surface to settle your camera. You can’t capture a time lapse video by holding a camera with your hands only.

You don’t have to spend a lot when buying a tripod. A simple and readily available tripod would be enough for this job. If you have a reasonable budget, some motorized tripod heads are also available that perfectly capture automated hyper lapse.

3. Get an Intervalometer

You may consider this tip an added expense but believe us when we say that an intervalometer can change the quality of outcome by a significant margin. Some cameras have built-in intervalometers in their hardware, but if yours doesn’t have one, get it instantly.

It isn’t a necessary tool but surely amps your video-making skills. This unit is an attachment that fits on a camera and measures short intervals. If you don’t know how to use one, watching a video or asking an expert to guide you on this facility is worth it.

Intervalometer Camera Accesories Cleaning Kit
Image Credit: Renato Martinho, Shutterstock

4. Be Professional When Selecting a Location

If you have a particular scene or setting in mind, make sure to research it carefully. Ask answers to questions such as what it is and what feelings it can evoke. If you aim to film in a natural environment, ensure you are well familiar with the entire area and all the spots you can conveniently cover.

You should also explore areas that can easily accommodate your camera and tripod. The spot selected shouldn’t have any interruptions so that your video displays everything you might want to show your audience.

5. Select the Camera Settings Properly

Adjusting your camera according to your desired outcome can be very tough if you don’t have a technical mind. This task becomes pretty easy for cameras with built-in time lapse functionality, but many available options need to be fine-tuned to achieve perfection.

When setting your camera for a time lapse video, your goal should be to work with the slowest shutter speed. This will help create a smooth video with a good amount of movement.

Even if you don’t want to slow down the shutter speed, you can still create a time lapse video. However, the outcome won’t always be fluid.

There is a technique required to slow down the shutter speed. You need to lower your aperture and ISO to attain a perfect speed without sacrificing the image’s integrity.

man setting up camera
Image Credit: Finn Mund, Unsplash

6. Be Prepared When Shooting a Video

If you have followed the tips above, you may not have any significant issues when shooting a time lapse video, even for the first time. After that, you simply have to mount your camera on a tripod, switch it on and capture as many moments as you want.

When shooting a video, you should always keep a few imperative considerations in mind. These include the battery life and the weather conditions. If it’s raining continuously and you want to shoot in an outdoor setting with the falling water, ensure that your camera has proper weatherproofing.

Simultaneously, your camera’s battery life should always accommodate the duration of the task. So, for instance, if you want to shoot for an hour at least, make sure that your camera’s battery supports your mission.

7. Edit Your Video Like a Pro

After you are delighted with your captured moments, get into the editing process. Now, this process solely depends on the shooting method you might have opted for.

Suppose you shot a video for a long duration. In that case, your editing should involve speeding up the footage and bringing the clips within the timeline. This might result in jittery images, so you must be very careful with the technique.

If you aren’t a professional with editing, it is always wise to take help from software. These programs are designed to assemble your video correctly, so you don’t have to do much of the hard work yourself.

landscape photography using dslr
Image By: Ben Griffiths, Unsplash

8. Choose a Suitable Song or Music While Editing

If you want to create an impressive video, make sure that your choice of music or song used matches the entire essence of your captured moments. Some people plan a music way before they choose a location, which helps streamline the whole process according to a particular theme. If you think that this practice stimulates your creative juices, give it a try or just plan the song later during editing.

9. Don’t Hesitate to Try and Fail

Our final tip is for every videographer who might be reluctant to create a time lapse video due to their lack of experience. It isn’t easy to nail the time lapse technique in just one try. Even the experts take years to master it, so it is always wise to go easy on yourself and keep trying.

If the outcome is not according to your goal, learn from your mistakes and apply all the above tricks in your next video-making venture. 

water photography
Image Credit: structuresxx, Shutterstock

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Summing Up

Whether you are a newbie or a professional videographer, creating a time lapse video can be pretty challenging without some practice. Hopefully, the tips above will help you ace this technique sooner than later.

Just make sure you know your camera and understand its different settings and battery life. Also, for a worthy time lapse video, spend time exploring your location and all the spots that may help you achieve the best results. Even if it requires some investment, get yourself a suitable camera with a tripod to learn an art that very few people successfully ace.

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Featured Image Credit: Dan Meyers, Unsplash

About the Author Jeff Weishaupt

Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.