If you’re like me, you enjoy a good timelapse video now and then.
Fortunately for us, timelapse videos are everywhere these days, from Instagram to YouTube, Vimeo to Twitter.
And the more ubiquitous they become, the more us regular photographers want to jump into the world of timelapse and create awesome videos of our own.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple! To create a timelapse video (a good one, anyway), you’ll need a few bits of gear to make it possible.
In this quick gear guide, I offer a list of all the equipment you’ll need to start creating timelapses that are worthy of sharing and will get other people to exclaim, “Wow, that was an awesome timelapse!”
Obviously, you’ll need a camera to create a timelapse video. And though you can create timelapses on even your mobile phone, to get the best results, a DSLR system is in order.
It’s simple: resolution and file type.
A DSLR camera will get you individual images that are in much higher resolution that your mobile phone. Essentially, the higher the resolution, the greater the leeway you have in post-processing in terms of cropping as well as programming zooms, pans, and tilts into the shot sequence in post.
What’s more, these systems allow you to shoot in RAW format, which gives you access to all the data the camera collects for tweaking when you edit the photos.
Additionally, DSLR systems give you plenty of in-camera controls that address things like exposure, white balance, focusing, and the like, that are simply impossible (or very difficult) to do with lesser cameras. If you want the best results, a solid DSLR like the Nikon D5 is the way to go.
You’ll also need a solid tripod to give your camera an absolutely stable base. Without a tripod that resists the effects of wind, your timelapse images will turn out a blurry mess.
Fortunately, the ideal tripod for a timelapse shoot is an old, metal one.
These can be found on the cheap because few people want to carry around such a heavy beast anymore. But, all that weight works in your favor, because the more weight, the more apt the tripod is to stand up to the effects of wind.
Of course, you can go with something newer and lighter, and simply improve its stability by adding weight to it yourself. Look for a model with a center column hook from which you can hang your camera bag, a bag of sand, or a bag of rocks.
That weight will pull the tripod down, thus planting its feet more securely into the ground. It’s also a good idea to remove the strap from your camera, that way there’s one less thing to catch the wind and cause vibrations.
Neutral Density Filter
Unless you want to be relegated to tackling timelapse photography at night, you’ll need a good neutral density filter. These filters come in a variety of stops that allow you to extend your shutter speeds from fractions of a second to seconds-long or even minutes-long exposures.
But, buyer beware - filters are like lenses in that you definitely get what you pay for. Don’t opt for a cheapo neutral density filter. If you will use it, spend money on a top-shelf filter so it works with the quality of your lens rather than against it.
At the very heart of timelapse photography is the camera remote.
This little guy is what allows you to program your camera to take photos at exact intervals and determine the duration of each shot, that way you have the best assets with which to make the gorgeous timelapse video you have in your mind.
But not all camera remotes are made equal.
For years, timelapse photographers have used intervalometers, but these devices are somewhat limited in their functionality in that you can control little more than the intervals between shots and the duration of each photo.
However, there’s a new gadget on the market - Pulse by Alpine Laboratories - that takes the camera remote to a whole new level.
Pulse gives you wireless control over your camera right from your phone. Rather than relying on a tiny screen and a few buttons like a traditional intervalometer, Pulse gives you a slick mobile app that gives you access to your camera’s settings. Control aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, manage your HDR settings, and even dial in - with just a few touches - basic or advanced timelapse photography settings.
Even better, Pulse gives you image previews as you work, so if need be, you can make adjustments to your camera settings right then and there.
And, because it gives you control over exposure settings, you can create timelapse videos that show the transition from day to night with perfectly exposed images. All you have to do is plug Pulse into your camera’s USB port, attach it to the hot-shoe mount, and you can operate your camera wirelessly from up to 100 feet away.
So, as complicated as timelapse videos appear to be, it’s really just a matter of equipping yourself properly such that you can get the shots you need. A good camera and tripod, a high-quality neutral density filter, and a feature-packed camera remote like Pulse will get you well on your way to becoming a master of timelapse video.