How To Create an Engaging Timelapse Video
A setting sun, a violent thunderstorm, a crowded city sidewalk. Capturing these moments as a timelapse can turn everyday happenings into truly captivating content. From drama films to commercial uses, filmmaker Jay Hall dives into why a timelapse is an essential cinematography technique, and tips that will engage your audience from the get go.
© Jay Hall internationally acclaimed filmmaker with 15 years of experience.
A technique used by photographers or filmmakers, a timelapse plays through a series of still images taken over a period of time at various intervals. The purpose is to show the subject moving rapidly – whether that’s to document slow processes (such as a sunrise) or to further speed up fast situations (such as a bustling city).
In drama and documentary, Jay says he commonly uses timelapses to show a passage of time. However, for corporate videos, they can have any number of uses.
“If you’re stuck for a beginning or end, a timelapse can be an easy solution. Additionally, they can make a commercial asset, an event or location look much more desirable.
“Showing a large number of people is a great tool for clients selling sponsored events or commercial assets. A timelapse can simply be the energy or beauty that adds production value,” he says.
However, filming a timelapse is no easy feat, and it can take hours and hours of shooting to produce a clip that may be used for mere seconds in the final edit. Jay explains how you can best utilise valuable production time to get the shots you’re after.
LIGHTING IS KEY
As with any production, lighting can make or break a shoot. Perhaps the most important thing to know when setting up for a timelapse is when and where the light is coming from.
As an example, Jay was tasked with filming a commercial shoot in Melbourne, showcasing the buzzing city view as a timelapse. After a week of shooting, he found that very few clips truly portrayed the city in its best light.
WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
When it comes to equipment, there are a few essential things that you need to film a high quality timelapse. As a general rule, Jay will shoot RAW on a 6K mirrorless camera, with a tripod and Neutral-density (ND) filters in tow.
When using long exposure or slow shutter speeds to create a timelapse, ND filters are particularly important.
“These settings give a beautiful blurring effect for timelapses that involve a lot of fast motion, however during daylight this will overexpose your shot and blow out any detail.
“This is where ND filters come in – they act as sunglasses for cameras, reducing the amount of light that comes through without changing the colour temperature.”
Whilst not essential, Jay says a gimbal is a great investment to have in your kit in order to ramp into the timelapse.
SET YOUR INTERVALS
Jay’s camera has an internal timelapse feature and shoots 6K with great dynamic range, however, on most cameras to get complete detail you want to shoot high quality stills.
So, what should you set your intervals at? As the timelapse interval is the time between two shots in a sequence, the most important thing you need to consider is how fast the subject is moving.
“If I was shooting something slow building such as clouds, this can be captured with longer intervals without appearing jumpy, say 5-10 seconds,” says Jay.
“On the other hand if it were something faster, such as moving crowds or cars, to avoid having random glitches or skipping in my frame I would set shorter intervals somewhere between 5-10 frames.”
SHOOTING IN RAW MEANS BIG FILES
Creating a timelapse involves taking many high-quality stills in a sequence – and that requires a lot of storage, especially when working with RAW file sizes.
Jay records directly onto the G-DRIVE™ PRO SSD. With 2TB1 of storage in one drive, he can copy all of his footage into one place, whilst taking advantage of up to 2800MB/s2 transfer rates that keep up with the pace he’s working.
“Beyond the incredible speeds, I find this drive really durable. The up to 3-meter drop protection and massive 450 kg crush proof rating3 definitely provides peace of mind when I’m on the road in less than ideal conditions,” says Jay.
Learn more about the G-DRIVE PRO SSD here.
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1 As used for storage capacity, 1GB = 1 billion bytes and 1TB = one trillion bytes. Actual user capacity may be less, depending on the operating environment.
2 Based on read speed, unless otherwise specified. As used for transfer rate, megabyte per second (MB/s) = one million bytes per second. Performance will vary depending on your hardware and software components and configurations.
2 On a carpeted concrete floor.
Jay is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker with 15 years of experience. He has participated in the post-production of award-winning series, films, and documentaries.
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