From the ever changing sky to the constant flow of people at a busy traffic intersection, time-lapse movies are a way of compressing a long lapse of time into a short video form. In this article, I will be explaining the recommended camera settings as well as sharing tips and tricks to produce a good time-lapse movie. (Report by Noboru Sonehara)
Time-lapse movies are videos created by piecing together many still images shot at a fixed interval over a period of time. As such, you are able to show events that usually take place over a long period of time within a short time frame.
There are probably many people out there who have seen time-lapse videos uploaded to video sharing services, such as constantly appearing and flowing clouds, and things like the blooming of flowers.
Hearing the words “time-lapse movie” might be a little nerve-racking for some, since doing so would previously have required special equipment to first take the photos, followed by uploading them to a PC and doing editing, which is difficult for many people. Fortunately, the D5600 has both an interval shooting function as well as a built-in time-lapse movie function which can automatically create time-lapse movies in-camera. The photographer just has to set the interval and shooting time, and the camera will do the rest. With the D5600 in hand, you will be able to create beautiful time-lapse movies easily.
When talking about subjects in motion, it does not necessarily mean fast moving subjects such as sports or animals. The main kind of movement you should be looking for is gradual movement over a long period of time. Things like the blooming of a flower from a bud, or things like the movement of people at a busy traffic intersection, to things like the slow movement of clouds or the movement of the sun, just to name a few examples.
As time-lapse movies portray the flow of time differently from what we are normally used to, you might be lost on how to shoot a nice scene at first, but you might be surprised that even the most normal of scenes can be effective as time-lapse subjects. Slowly learn to get used to looking for potential subjects which might be good for time-lapses videos.
We should first decide how to compose the photo while keeping in mind how much the subject will have changed by the end of the shoot. For example, if you are shooting a scene of a sunset where the sun is sinking slowly beneath the horizon, you have to take into account the fact that while you have light when you start the interval shooting, the light will slowly disappear as the sun sets. Another example would be when shooting time-lapses of blooming flower buds, where you have to take precautions that the blooming flower petals do not extend beyond the borders of your screen.
I will try to explain what I mean using a time-lapse movie that I shot as an example. The scene is showing the gradual change of the sun during a sunset. Firstly, I had to decide on a composition such that the position of the sun setting (B) does not extend outside the right edge of the frame. Next, I anticipated that the bridge on the left of the frame (A) would be lit up as the sun set, turning it into a highlight. Hence, I placed it on the left side of the composition as an accent. Lastly, as the strong winds on the day of the shoot gave rise to rather dynamic cloud movements (C), I predicted that the sky would change quickly and adjusted my shot to include as much of the sky as possible in my composition. By doing so, you will be able to include the changes that happen from start to finish all within the frame of the time-lapse without leaving out any important aspects.
When doing continuous shooting for extended periods of time, there is a possibility that the lighting of the subject will change gradually over time. As such, it is better to shoot in an automatic exposure mode. In particular, shooting in Aperture-priority Auto (A) mode is recommended as it allows you to easily adjust your desired depth of field in order to achieve the scene you want. In addition, turning on the [Exposure smoothing] function enables the camera to average the brightness and contrast of the previous and preceding shots with the current one, giving rise to a smooth transition of brightness in your time-lapse movies.
After selecting Aperture-priority Auto mode, next order of things would be to decide on your aperture. In order to prevent cases where the subject is out of focus, we should use a long depth of field. In the case of the D5600, an aperture of f/8 and above is a good estimate.
While in normal daylight, an ISO range of 100-200 will usually suffice. But if you are aiming to shoot a time-lapse of a sunset, in order to prevent the shutter from getting too slow as the sky becomes darker, an ISO setting of 400-800 would be better. Furthermore, turning on the [Auto ISO sensitivity control] function in the [ISO sensitivity settings] menu may help in dealing with more drastic changes in exposure.
In order to shoot for longer periods of time, a tripod is an essential item. As the time-lapse can be ruined if the composition shifts even a little during shooting, you should use a tripod to stabilize the composition first before starting.
Before going to shoot a time-lapse movie, there are 3 main settings that you should take note of: [Shooting time], [Interval], and [Frame rate].
The meaning and setting guidelines of each will be explained in the diagram below. A point to take note, however: the [Interval] timing has to be a longer duration than the shutter speed that you are using. As shutter speeds during night shooting can easily go upwards of tens of seconds, do take note that your interval is longer than the slowest anticipated shutter speed.
|Shooting time||Determines the total duration of the time-lapse.||Taking the movement of the subject into consideration, try to estimate when to start and end the time-lapse.|
|Interval||Determines the time in between shots.||For city time-lapses, 1 second intervals can be used, and 2 second intervals for natural scenery. If recording the growth of plants 30 second intervals might be optimal instead.|
|Frame rate||In video, this refers to the number of frames played each second. 30fps (frames per second) is the normal rate for most videos today.||Cinematic videos are usually 24fps, and smoother videos are usually played at 60fps.|
As seen above, [Shooting time], [Interval], and [Frame rate], are the 3 main factors in calculating the final playback duration of the time-lapse video.
For example, if shooting a changing subject over a duration of 1 hour (3600 seconds), and you wish to create a 1 minute (60 seconds) long movie with the [Frame rate] being the standard 30fps, the [Interval] will have to be set at 2 seconds. If you wish so halve the playback duration of the final video to 30 seconds, you can either increase the [Frame rate] to 60fps, or set the [Interval] to 4 seconds instead.
You should decide on a shooting time first while taking the movement of your subject into consideration.
After starting the time-lapse, the camera will repeatedly take pictures according to the set [Interval], for the set [Shooting time] of the time-lapse. In this way, the camera might take a few hours continuously taking thousands of photos. Hence, to prevent any disruptions halfway through, when setting up your camera at the start, please take extra precautions before starting.
Firstly, to prevent the battery from going flat halfway through the shoot, remember to fully charge your battery beforehand. Next, during the time-lapse, do not touch your tripod to ensure that it does not move. Also, while waiting for your time-lapse to finish, there might be occasional strong gusts of wind or changes in weather which will create problems, so you might want to wait somewhere near where you placed your camera. Also, take care not to move the focus ring on your lens while shooting is underway.
Furthermore, if you wish to end the time-lapse prematurely, you can just press the OK button. By doing so, the time-lapse movie recorded up until that point in time will be saved to your SD card, and the camera will resume its normal function.
Firstly, select the [Time-lapse movie] setting from the [Shooting menu].
[Interval] and [Shooting time] settings can be adjusted here. Don’t forget to turn on the [Exposure smoothing] option as well.
The settings for [Frame rate] are not found in this menu, but instead can be located in the [Frame size/frame rate] menu under [Movie settings].
After the settings have been adjusted, select [Start], and press the OK button, or simply touch [Start] on the LCD monitor. At this point, the LCD monitor will display a message saying “Preparing”, and after about 3 seconds or so the time-lapse will start.
After the shooting is finished, the time-lapse video will be complete. Conventional means of doing interval timer shooting would usually mean amassing huge amounts of still images and uploading them to a PC for further editing. The automatic creation of the time-lapse movie straight after the shooting is done is one of the key features of the D5600. This means that the photographer can instantly view the final video on the LCD screen, and can also transfer the file to a PC and enjoy the video on a larger display device.
Furthermore, if you use the free Nikon ViewNX-i software, you will be able to easily make edits to your video. As such, as you become more used to shooting time-lapses, you will be able to make edits and cut out portions of video that you need from longer time-lapses.
Through the ViewNX-i software, you will be able to view/edit the videos that you captured using the D5600. The easy-to-use interface means that you will be able to easily cut out parts of the time-lapse that you need for your time-lapse movie, so you can give video post-processing a go.
Time-lapse movies have been gaining massive popularity in recent years, with more and more people getting to know about it. While there are applications on smartphones which can create similar looking time-lapse videos, there is a significant difference in the image quality. The D5600 is able to accurately capture the beauty of the scene even in the harshest of shooting conditions, such as the bright sun or dark starry skies. Vastly different from smartphones, another main draw of the D5600 it the plethora of different functions and settings it offers, such as the [Exposure smoothing] feature that can be freely used in any situation.
The result of spending long hours to shoot a time-lapse video? The sweet feeling of completion when you finally see the finished product. Let’s try to capture the passing of time, which cannot be captured by human senses, using the various subjects around us. The D5600 can also use Nikon’s SnapBridge software to make it easy to upload your videos to video sharing websites.
Born in 1971. After completing postgraduate studies at Shinshu University, he worked at a video production company and then went freelance as a photographer. He mainly shoots for various magazines, and also writes for camera information magazines. His photo exhibitions include "Inside the Walls of Istanbul".