- A DSLR camera: An entry level camera will do just fine.
- A lens: A kit lens will work, and a medium to wide angle will cover lots of subjects.
- A tripod or other solid mount for the camera.
- An intervalometer, also known as a timer shutter release, matched to your camera model. You'll find they're available as an accessory from brand-name manufacturers or from third parties, and both will do a good job.
- ND filters or a variable ND filter to help reduce shutter speeds
- A motion slider or dolly to add dynamics with camera motion
Check your gear. Make sure your memory card has sufficient space and that your batteries are fully charged. (camera and intervalometer)
Compose the shot. Motion isn't enough to make a great video. Take the time to compose your shot carefully, just as you would for a fine art image. Make it unique and interesting. Keep in mind the kind of motion that's going to take place and compose to compliment it.
Solidify your setup. You want your camera to be rock solid. Don't extent the legs of your tripod any more than necessary and avoid extending the center column if possible. Suspend a bag of sand or rocks from the column to anchor it. Make sure your mounting plate is tight.
Determine and set the interval. The amount of time between shots will depend on the type of motion you're shooting. Getting it just right will require some trial and error, but as a general rule, start with 1-second intervals for fast motion, such as traffic, and longer intervals for slower motion, up to 5 – 15 minutes for things like building construction. Set your intervalometer.
Set the exposure or exposure mode. If you're shooting a scene with lighting that will change, like a sunset, set your camera to aperture priority mode and set the appropriate aperture for the scene. The camera will maintain your exposure throughout the the sequence. If the light in the scene will remain constant, set your exposure manually. This will help you avoid flicker in your movie.
Note: always be sure that your interval is 20% to 40% longer than your longest exposure time will be. Failure to do this will result in dropped frames (exposures that weren't on time because data was being saved).
Note #2: Use ISO and aperture settings that call for slightly longer shutter speeds. A slight motion blur in the individual images will actually make the video appear smoother and more natural.The optional ND filters mentioned earlier can also be used to extend exposure times. This technique is known as “dragging the shutter”.
Set the white balance. If you prefer to shoot JPG, setting white balance manually will eliminate the need for the camera to calculate it for each shot and eliminate color casts caused by changing light conditions, etc. If you shoot in RAW mode, you can disregard this step.
Set the focus. Manual focus is almost always the best choice for time-lapse. Turn off the auto focus and image stabilization. Focus carefully. Zoom in using Live mode if necessary, to ensure proper focus.
Start the timer. Now that you've got everything ready, let the timer and camera do their work. Be sure to keep anything that might disturb your setup away from the area.
If you've watched some of the incredible time-lapse videos out there and wondered how hard it would be to make one of your own, I have good news: it's not that difficult. What's more, it doesn't require a bunch of expensive gear. The one required item that you may not already have can be purchased inexpensively. Let's take a look at how to take still images for a time-lapse video from start to finish:
What you'll Need
There are 4 necessities for shooting a digital time-lapse sequence:
That's the entire list for a time-lapse motion sequence. We'll revisit some of that optional equipment later in this tutorial, but for now let's keep it simple, since this is your first time. Now that you've got your gear together, find yourself a subject and let's go through the process step by step.
Following this basic procedure should have you producing good sequences in a fairly short time. Practice will help you learn the settings that work best for you and your gear.
(Success Tip: The trick to mastering Time Lapse is all about the right gear. See what you need here. )
When you're ready to add some dynamic special effects to your presentations, a camera slider or dolly can create a whole new dimension by allowing you to add synchronized camera movement. One of my personal favorites is the dolly from Revolve. It lets you move the camera along a curved or straight path and can even be mounted on a rail system to move vertically or diagonally. I'd recommend taking a look at all of the very affordable motion gear they offer.
Hopefully, this short tutorial has helped show you that using your DSLR camera to shoot time-lapse sequences isn't as difficult as you may have thought. Of course, the next step is to combine those images to produce the final video. There are several good applications available to do that, and I'll be showing you how it's done very soon in a separate tutorial
Meanwhile, I know you're not going to want to wait around with all these new sequences you just shot, so check out Windows Movie Maker, or iMovie on a Mac. Both of these applications will let you easily import a series of photos to create a video. Have fun!