Creating Timelapse Videos with a GoPro

16Aug11

Everyone loves seeing timelapse videos. And creating them using interval frame rate cameras is easy. It’s even easier with cameras like the GoPro (GoPro Review). But visualizing the final product before you shoot can save you hours of shooting and rendering. By “visualzing” I mean, not only the visual aspect, but also the math behind timing your timelapses. Many people have trouble with that last part. First let’s talk about how to create a timelapse with a GoPro and Quicktime 7. **Note: Quicktime X doesn’t allow you to create Image Sequences, so you need to use version 7. You can download it here from Apple (apple.com).** Check out my video tutorial (text of the video follows below):

Video Text:

Start by turning on the camera. Then use the menu button on the front to toggle through until you see “settings menu.” Use the shutter button on top of the camera to enter the menu.

Then use the menu button to navigate through the menu until you see “default power-up mode.” Hit the shutter button to choose between the options until you get to “photo every “x” seconds.”

Once again use the menu button to nave through the menu until you see “photo every “x” seconds.” Your options are 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, and 60. Use the shutter button to toggle between them. I think 5 is a good place to start.

Then use the menu button again until you get to the exit screen. Hit the shutter button to exit the menu.

Now would be a good time to restart the GoPro. when the camera restarts, it will now be in time-lapse mode; indicated by the blinking camera icon. Now go out and shoot your video.

Once you’ve got all your images ready, drop them all into the same folder. They should already be numbered for ease. Then, open Quicktime7, and go to file, “open image sequence.” Navigate to your folder, choose the first image, and hit enter. For the frame rate, I chose 29.97 because that is a standard video rate.

Let’s bring this down to size. Now your sequence is ready, but still can’t be used in FCP. It’s time to export. To do this, go to file, then choose “export.” Name your file and click the “options button.” Make sure video is checked and hit settings.

Now you need to choose compression type. I use “Apple ProRes 422” because it works well in final cut. Hit enter and go into the size tab. This is where you designate the exported file size. I like 1280×720. Hit ok, twice, then hit save.

Depending on the length and the dimensions you chose, exporting may take a while. Once the export is done, you can now open your finished time-lapse. It’s also ready to go into final cut pro, or any editing platform you may need.

The Math:

*I apologize beforehand if this section is a little dense.

Now that you can actually create a timelapse using a GoPro and Quicktime, we need to go over the math behind a timelapse. It’s not really hard math, but it’s something that you need to think about and plan for. This way, you can save yourself some valuable time in post.

When shooting timelapse on the GoPro your options are 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, and 60 seconds. What does that mean? Well, basically you’re telling the camera how often to take a still. So, it’s 1 frame every 1 second, 1 frame every 2 seconds, 1 frame every 5 seconds, 1 every 10, 1 every 30, and 1 every 60 seconds. The shorter the time between frames, the less of a jump there is in the final product. So, if you shoot something that takes 10 minutes, and you have the camera set to 1, then the math looks like this:

1×1 (1 frame every 1 second) = 60/ minute
60×10 minutes= 600 frames in 10 minutes

Whereas if you shoot on the 60 second setting, you get this:

1×60 (1 frame every 60 seconds) = 1/ minute
1×10 minutes= 10 frames in 10 minutes

So how does all of that translate to choosing the right setting? If you’re shooting something that will take a long time (like traffic over the course of a day) you may choose a longer interval (at 60 you end up with a total of 1440 frames). But if you’re shooting something short (like a person walking down a single block) you may choose a shorter interval (this way you get more frames to work with).

So what happens when you bring all these frames into a timeline? You guessed it; More Math! This is where it gets tricky though; because we’re dealing with frame rates. The two standard frame rates for NTSC are 24 and 29.97 (and it helps to know beforehand what you want the final output to be). Let’s take my example of traffic over the course of the day, shot at 1 frame every 60 seconds:

1frame per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day
1x60x24= 1440 total frames

If we take our 1440 frames and drop them into a 24 fps timeline (1440÷24= 60) our timelapse will last 60 seconds, or 1 minute. But if we drop it on a 29.97 timeline (1440÷29.97= ~48) the total length will be just over 48 seconds.

How does knowing the math help you? Well, what if you’re editing a project and need a timelapse to fill exactly 33 seconds of time. If we know the math, we can work backwards. Let’s say we’re on a 24 fps timeline. So, 33×24= 792 total frames. If we have 792 total frames, and we shoot at 1 frame per second, then we will have to shoot something that is 13.2 minutes in length (792÷60 sec/min). But if we shoot something at 1 frame per every 60 seconds, then we have to shoot something that is 13.2 hours (792÷60 minutes). Likewise, if we shoot for 13.2 hours, we know it will boil down to 33 seconds on a 24 fps timeline.

So, now you know the math. You know how to create a timelapse. You have the tools at you disposal. ITS TIME TO SHOOT! Timelapse videos look really good. They work well in edits of both documentary and narrative footage. Having timelapses in your arsenal of shooting styles will help you stand out that much more from the rest of the pack. Good luck, and happy hunting.

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41 Responses to “Creating Timelapse Videos with a GoPro”

  1. 1 Ethan

    is it possible to create a time lapse of the stars using a GoPro?

    • You can; but you might have to do a test to make sure that your unit can set exposure for it. I have two units, one can handle it, the other cant. If you’re working with the GoPro Hero2, the new model, then it should be able to handle it easier.

      As far as setting it up, I’d make sure you have a Battery BacPac. This will extend your battery life another 4-6 hours. For your frame rate, I’d use either 1/10 or 1/30.

  2. 3 Christy

    Quik Pod is a monopod made to be used with Go Pro and lets the user take his or her own photo. Check it out on http://www.facebook.com/quikpod

  3. 4 11rdub11

    Check out my Go Pro time lapse.

    I used 10 second intervals and shot for two hours.

    • Nice video. You should try to turn the the camera so it’s flush with the window. The wide angle of the GoPro plus being pointed at a window on an angle cause the distortion in your clip.

    • 6 Trevor

      i have a question i just got a gopro hero 2 and i’m having troubles with how to set a time lapse and not having it be still shots can i please have help

      • When you create a timelapse, the camera takes stills, then you have to stitch them all together in an editing program. I use Quicktime7. But, GoPro has CineForm a free app that lets you stitch your stills.

  4. 8 tperrett

    Thank you so much for posting this – really really helpful – made my time-lapse in seconds – really appreciate your time in putting this together

  5. 9 Jay

    Hi guys. I am new here. I just got a GoPro at Costco.
    I have a question about the battery – if I set it to take a picture every 60 seconds, will the battery still only be good for 2 hours, meaning I will only get 24 +/- pictures before the battery needs to be recharged?
    Your answer greatly appreciated, thanks in advanced.

    • On a single battery charge, you should get between 4 and 6 hours at 1/60seconds.

    • To make longer time lapse videos, you can use a controller that turns the camera on and off to save battery life.

      Cam-Do.com makes a board that plugs into the back of the GoPro camera and gives you a lot more flexibility for longer recordings.

      • except that the gopro has a built-in intervalometer.

      • Yes Jeremy, but it can’t be set for longer than 60 seconds and it uses up the batteries in a few hours.

        By turning the camera off between shots, you can go for weeks on the internal battery with a 10 minute interval, or for 36 hours with a 60 second interval.

      • but that’s not why i would use a gopro. you have to use the right camera for the right situations.

      • You are quite right.

        This is a solution for the person who already owns a GoPro, or wants a reasonable HD camera in a waterproof enclosure that runs for more than a week without external power and costs less than $300.

        Those with access to other cameras or more to spend have other solutions.

      • true. but you can find nature cams that will shoot for months, in HD, and are waterproof for under 300. they’re also going to have better low light sensitivity.

      • 17 Vince Chiaro

        This might be dumb, but for time lapsing why not just plug in a power adaptor to the wall and connect it to the GoPro?

      • You could do that, but most of the time when I do timelapses I’m nowhere near power.

  6. 19 Seb

    Hey nice tutorial, but when I import to my Quick Time and play the video,
    the images are stuck.

    • If you haven’t fully rendered the export, then it may chug. If you have rendered, then try dropping the export onto your hard drive (basically, just get it off the desktop), playing from the desktop can also cause issues.

      Thanks for the compliment.

  7. 21 Tom Siow

    Hi there, great tutorial.

    How do I get a nice 16:9 aspect ratio on the final clip? As the JPEGs captured are not in 16:9, the final clip after exporting to mov is not 16:9. If I render it as 16:9, the clip is stretched to fill the 16:9 aspect ratio. and it doesn’t look nice.

    Thanks.

    • If you set your photo resolution to 1080×720, in the GoPro, you should get a 16:9 aspect. If you’re working with a 4:3 aspect, you can bring it into a video editor (FCP, Premiere, Avid) and create an anamorphic file that is faux 16:9.

  8. 23 Dave

    Jeremy, first off, this is by far the best Time Lapse tutorial I’ve seen in my month long search. I’m researching for a 6-8 month time lapse project that unfortunately has to be my first attempt. I’m starting to think the GoPro, although simple, it may not be the best choice for said project. I’ll only be snapping pics during daylight hours; I’m limited by power but am looking at solar chargers and probably looking at 1 every 15 to 20 minutes for 6 months? I’m scared to death of trying to start the math part….HA! So far I’m thinking power shouldn’t be an issue, I’ll resolve storage of frames via bi-daily visits and a hand full of 32 GB cards. Any quick feedback on the GoPro as my choice and the fpm would be greatly appreciated. Keep up the great work.
    From your newest fan, Cheers!

    • As much as I love my GoPro, I wouldn’t use it for long period time lapses. It simply doesn’t have the capacity to handle it. However, if you are going to just be shooting during daylight hours, then stitching the videos together in post, I would recommend purchasing a Battery BacPac (which in time lapse mode should give you ~8 hours of life) and using a 64GB card. The other thing to note about the GoPro is that it’s longest span is one frame every 60 seconds, so your 1/15-20minutes wouldn’t be possible.

      I would recommend looking at nature time lapse cameras. Something like this: http://www.shop.com/Outdoor+Nature+Cameras+BirdCam+2+0-287344697-p+.xhtml#pop_pcd_tabs0. These are made specifically for long period time lapses.

      The other option is to use a DSLR w/ battery grip and an intervelometer to perform your time lapse.

  9. 25 Wilson

    Wow awesome tutorial! Just wondering though, can i use the same settings when exporting to i Movie 11?

    • Yes. My application of choice just happens to be FCP. As long as you choose an export codec that iMovie likes (probably h.264) and make the frame rate something that matches the rest of your project, you should be fine.

      Glad you enjoyed it.

  10. i need to shoot a 24 hour time lapse and condense to a 30 second clip…given that 9 hours will be darkeness, ill probably shoot 1 frame every 1/2 minute with the 90 degree FOV….ill edit in AVID as opposed to FCP…any time saving tips?

    • Looks like you’ve got it mostly covered. My only suggestion would be to make sure you double check the recording every few hours to make sure nothings wrong.

  11. 29 miles daly

    hello so i have a gopro and i want to run a time lapse over 2 or 3 days all day long. I would use 1 pohto every min. and a 128gb memory card… how should i power it and how many times would i need to change the card..
    P.S. i am using the wifi bac pack. I also believe i will be able to get a power source. PLEASE HELP!!!!

  12. 30 Dennis Buchanan

    You really took advanced concepts and made it conceivable to understand for us intelligent amateurs. THANKS.

  13. 31 Ken

    Thanks, Jeremy–super helpful. I’m shooting with a Panasonic HPX170, but this is still a really helpful tutorial.

  14. 32 Jeff

    I am planning on filming a trip in my aircraft (small plane) using a GoPro HD that I just bought. I am thinking of using time lapse as the trip will be 8 hours (a couple of stops each around 2.5 hours apart to change battery refuel, etc). Would you suggest a certain frame rate for this sort of application? I was thinking every 5 seconds but am open to suggestions. I am going to mount the camera on a suction cup. At five seconds I should end up with around four minutes / 14 Gigs of storage.

    Each leg may end up with the camera in a different position but that is ok, as I will just cut/fade between camera shots.

    My first GoPro so any help would be appreciated!

    What software would you suggest to stitch it all together. I am planning on overlaying an audio track (or two).

    Thanks!

    • The frame rate you choose, in this case, is dependent upon where you will be flying. Usually when you travel at faster speeds (like when in a car) you want shorter intervals to make the motion seem smoother. But, if you’re going to be in the air, and there won’t be a lot of rapidly changing environments, then you can go with a longer interval. The best advice I can give you here is to just try it and see. 5 seconds should be a good place to start, but you might even go as high as 10.

      As far as editing it together, I use Quicktime7 Pro to create the actual video file of the timelapse. To then add music and do simple edits to it, I use Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro. These programs might be more than you need though; so I would recommend Sony Vegas for PC, or iMovie for Mac. They have the functionality you would need without having to break your budget.

      Hope this helps, and good luck. I’d love to see the results once you finish.

  15. 34 DJ

    Great tutorial with Quicktime, just wondering, will the video be able to be uploaded to youtube?

    • If you’re not bringing it into FCP, then don’t export as ProRes. If you’re not going to edit it at all, then just export as h.264 and YouTube will like it just fine.

      When you get it posted, I’d love to see it.

  16. 36 Vinh

    Great tutorial! Do you know what is the best frame rate for running a half marathon?

    • Thank you.
      In general, the higher your frame rate, the more your camera has to process. I would recommend this setup:

      -Skeleton Housing (unless running in a damp environment or rain)
      -If you want straight video, 24fps. If you’re timelapsing it, I’d go 1 frame every 5 or 10 seconds (photo every “x” seconds mode)
      -128gb SDXC card (you might be able to get away with a 64)
      -Chest Mount (a head mount would work too, but if you’re runnin 13 miles, it could get a little heavy and tedious)
      -Battery BacPac (having the extra battery space couldn’t hurt)
      -Anti-Fog Inserts (if you are running in a damp place or in rain, the inserts will help keep the water-proof housing from fogging up)

      I’d also recommend looking into a lens flattening solution to eliminate the fisheye distortion. Unruly (lifeisunruly.com) has some good options.

      I hope this helps, and I’d love to see the video once you’re done. Good luck.

  17. Heres a Panoramic Timelapse I created using the GoPro Hero 2 and a Camalapse attachment

    http://elgey.com/?p=5

    Let me know what you think

  18. here is a time lapse i did recently for Penn

    http://finalreport.upenn.edu/

    • by the way, this was shot 1 frame every 30 seconds for 56 hours powering camera with a coleman battery pac via a 12 volt auto chargr. We chose the best 18 hour segment and condensed the overnight section…


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