GOPRO TIME-LAPSE GUIDE

There have been so many times on our Best Life adventure when I could, or should, have stopped the car, leapt out and set up my GoPro to film a stunning time-lapse video. But if I’d taken every opportunity to capture the sunrises, cloudscapes, market places and traffic chaos that are part of every day life around the world, we’d still be on the road out of Singapore!

Time-lapse sequences add a breath-taking, professional touch to any travel video and are a great way to set the scene, establish the environment or show the passage of time between events.

They’re quickly taking over the world of travel videos by compressing hours of footage into a few seconds of visual narrative that speak right to heart of voyeuristic creatives. With a little bit of imaginative thinking and a dash of planning, creating an epic video isn’t that difficult especially if your gadgetry-arsenal includes one of the latest GoPro’s.

Easy to setup, they have the ability to shoot sequences in a number of ways and when the results are edited can turn a few random clips into works of art that are beautiful to watch.

DIFFERENT WAYS TO CREATE A TIME-LAPSE

When you’re creating a time-lapse video there are two different processes. The first is by taking a series of photos at selected intervals then placing them into a sequence one after another to create a video. The other is by shooting standard video. Both have their benefits and drawbacks.

1. TIME-LAPSE PHOTO SEQUENCE

the most common way of creating a time-lapse. Set the shutter timer interval in line with what you’re shooting and let your GoPro fire away. Once it’s done, take the results, put them into GoPro Studio and let it do the hard work for you!

Benefits

  • Compared to the other methods, a smaller memory card storage capacity is required meaning longer time-lapse sequences are possible. Good for many hours or even days of recording
  • Battery life is also conserved compared to the other methods
  • The high resolution of each photo (12MP) allows panning or zoom effects to be added in post-production, retaining a much higher quality than with standard video
  • The Hero4 Silver and Black cameras have Night Photo mode, allowing you to set the exposure time anywhere from 2 up to 30 seconds for fully customised photos. Night Lapse mode allows you to set both your exposure and interval times to create the perfect night-time time-lapse sequence (see bottom of this post for more info)

Drawbacks

  • The final video can appear jumpy and jittery if too few images are used, so ensure the correct interval timing is chosen
  • More complex process to create a video sequence from the photos than standard video

2. INCREASE THE SPEED OF STANDARD VIDEO

set your GoPro to record video as you would normally (my most commonly used setting is 1080p). Then import the video into your post-production program, and increase the speed until you have the desired effect.

Benefits

  • Seamless time-lapse video

Drawbacks

  • Huge amounts of data are required to create any time-lapse over 10 minutes long (a 10 minute movie creates a file of around 2Gb when filming at 1080p on wide setting at 25fps). Handling these files means you’ll need a fast processor or you’ll waste hours watching your screen whilst your machine whirs away

4K VIDEO TIME-LAPSE

the new and seriously awesome way of creating seamless, high quality time-lapse sequences. Select this setting, choose your interval and the camera will capture everything in glorious 4K – the highest resolution available offering twice the resolution of HD. It’s currently only available on the Hero4 Silver and Black.

When you’ve finished filming your GoPro automatically creates a compressed MP4 file (that’s much smaller than you expect from a similar length 4K video) at 30 FPS and you don’t have to do any of the hard work creating a photo sequence. This is now my go-to setting!

Benefits

  • Produces an incredibly high resolution time-lapse video that’s perfect for adding panning or zoom effects to in post-production with no loss of detail
  • The time shown on the LCD screen on your GoPro reflects the number of seconds of captured video footage, not the elapsed time as it does with other video modes. It’s a really useful feature that means you don’t have to work it out for yourself
  • The MPEG file that’s created is ready to use and small enough to handle

Drawbacks

  • It’ll drain your battery at the same speed as shooting a 4K video – i.e. quickly. Consider using an extended battery or USB power source if you’re likely to be shooting for over an hour, as the standard battery won’t last long!

NOW LET’S PUT THIS THEORY INTO PRACTICE.

GATHER YOUR GEAR

  • One fully charged GoPro with formatted memory card
  • Extra batteries or an external power source (if on a long shoot)
  • One tripod/beanbag/level surface
  • One iPhone/smartphone with the GoPro App installed or a GoPro with a preview screen, if not it’ll take a little guesswork!
  • One incredible location

GET SETUP AND READY

  • Choose your location carefully and think about how the transition of time will change what your GoPro sees
  • Get up high. Looking down on a scene captures a much wider field of vision, so if you can shoot a scene from the first floor of a building or even higher, it will look more impressive than at street level
  • Make sure the centre of your shot is where most of the action takes place and things are constantly moving. It looks great when boats move around on their moorings, cars whizz through your shot or waves crash on the shore. It’s uber-boring when one person every minute walks through your shot!
  • Ensure your GoPro is level and everything is in shot. There’s nothing worse than finding out it’s lopsided once you’re back in the comfort of your edit suite. Use a tripod with a built-in spirit level, line your shot up using the preview screen on the Hero4 Silver, or even better preview it on the GoPro App

THINK ABOUT YOUR LIGHT AND SUBJECT

  • If you’re capturing a landscape then choose a day with lots of broken cloud or even a storm rolling by. The footage will look fantastic when sped up as the clouds twist, form and disappear. Blue skies might look good in a single photo but are really boring in a time-lapse sequence!
  • Experiment by shooting scenes on the banks of a river, at the entrance to a marina, a pedestrian crossing, busy road junctions, airports, or anywhere where there’s lots of activity. Having people, boats, cars or planes pass through your shot looks amazing when sped up
  • The golden hour of sunlight at the start and end of the day looks even better when used in a time-lapse sequence. Seek out tall buildings that reflect the light well and cast long shadows

KNOW YOUR SETTINGS

PHOTO METHOD – decided you want to use photos for your time-lapse? Here’s how to go about it. Below are some common subjects and the suggested intervals to capture them perfectly:

  • 0.5 seconds – Driving time-lapse, creepy crawlies, surfer on a wave, any sports
  • 1 second – analogue clock face, baking cookies
  • 2 seconds – fast moving clouds, crowds of people, rush hour traffic, people walking along the street
  • 5 seconds – clouds moving normally, sunrise or sunset
  • 10 seconds – slow moving clouds, sunrise, sunset, waves on the beach
  • 30 seconds – path of the sun on a clear day, moving shadows, night landscapes, stars and the moon
  • 60 seconds – moving plants and trees, construction site over a day

Work out how long you want your time-lapse sequence to last for and how many photos you’ll need to make it happen. For example 250 photos are required to create a 10 second long sequence that runs at 25fps (frames per second), which is the industry standard.

  • Turn on your GoPro Hero4 Silver or Black
  • Select ‘Multi Shot’ using the front button or via your GoPro App
  • Press the ‘Settings’ button on the side of your GoPro or via your GoPro App
  • Fine-tune the various settings including interval time, image size and resolution, focus point and toggle ProTune. I use the full 12MP resolution at all times
  • Once everything is set up it’s time to frame up your shot and press the top button to start shooting

VIDEO METHOD – prefer to roll standard video and speed it up later in post-production?

  • Turn on your GoPro Hero4 Silver or Black
  • Select ‘Video’ using the front button or via your GoPro App
  • Press the ‘Settings’ button on the side of your GoPro or via your GoPro App
  • Fine-tune the various settings including resolution, frame rate, field of view (FOV) light conditions, focus point and toggle ProTune (I use 1080p, wide as my go-to setting)
  • Once everything is set up it’s time to frame up your shot and press the top button to start recording

4K TIME-LAPSE VIDEO METHOD – here’s how to use (what I believe) is the best option available:

  • Turn on your GoPro Hero4 Silver or Black
  • Select ‘Video’ using the front button or via your GoPro App
  • Press the ‘Settings’ button on the side of your GoPro or via your GoPro App
  • Select ‘T Lapse Vid’ from the top of the menu
  • Fine-tune the various settings including interval time and image size (4K or 2.7K 4:3)
  • Once everything is set up it’s time to frame up your shot and press the top button to start shooting

TRANSFORM YOUR PHOTOS INTO A MOVIE

With loads of options out there for video editing software it’s difficult to know where to start. But the simplest and cheapest solution is GoPro Studio, which offers a simple way to produce seamless time-lapse sequences from your photos and video. Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere and QuickTime Pro do a similar job…they just cost a lot more.

  • Download GoPro Studio from here and install
  • Open the program and select ‘Step 1 – View & Trim’, then ‘Import New Files’
  • Select the folder that contains your images and GoPro Studio will do the rest
  • Play around with the settings under the ‘Advanced Settings’ button until you have the desired output
  • ‘Add Clip to Conversion List’ and ‘Convert’
  • You can either add a number of clips together to create a full movie or export the individual clip in whatever format you desire up to 4K
  • If you’re thinking of uploading your finished masterpiece to YouTube it’s worth using 720p, 1080p or even 4K to maintain the incredible resolution you’ve captured if your bandwidth allows

POLISH YOUR FINAL PIECE

  • Want to add some motion within the frame to your time-lapse movie? Having the camera pan from one side to the other, or zoom into a certain point, isn’t as hard to achieve, as you’d think. You can add these effects in most post-production programs
  • You can even rotate your camera through 360° whilst it happily captures your time-lapse sequence over 60 minutes using a converted egg timer. They’re cheap to make and give amazing results. Check out how to build one here
  • Adding a tilt shift effect to your sequence by blurring the top and bottom of the image, along with increasing the saturation, can give the illusion that the subject has been miniaturised… like a little toy town
  • Want to smooth out the flaring caused by exposure transitions? There’s an option in GoPro Studio under Advanced Settings that can be used on your time-lapse videos called ‘Frame Blend’ on PC’s or ‘Motion Blur’ on Macs
  • Getting everything set up correctly takes a bit of trail and error but it’s well worth the effort
  • Night Lapse. The GoPro Hero 4 Silver and Black versions have Night Photo and Night Lapse modes, which allow you to use your camera for sunrise, sunset and night time shots with more clarity and definition than ever before. Here’s GoPro’s very own explanation of what they’re all about:

Some final tips

  • Keep your camera at the highest resolution possible, be it 12MP for photo or 1080/4K for video
  • Use the Continuous Interval setting when capturing night-lapse photos for seamless video-quality sequences
  • Be brave and use ProTune instead of Auto. Once you get the hang of shooting in low-light, Protunes mode on the Hero4 Silver or Black is a semi-manual feature that lets you tinker with settings like ISO and colour temperatures

Have you captured any epic time-lapse sequences whilst travelling? Share them here and let me know if you have any tips I can add!

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