Creating Timelapse Videos with a GoPro
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):
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.
*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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Tags: camera, film, GoPro, jeremy widen, math, photography, quicktime, san francisco, time lapse, tutorial, widen media