There are three common arguments against shooting RAW files for time-lapse sequences:
1) The file sizes are too large, so you run out of space on the memory card too soon.
2) JPEG files are good enough for video, since the final viewing size will be small.
3) There's just too much work in editing all of those individual files for white balance, exposure, contrast and such.
In my opinion, all three arguments are invalid and I'm going to tell you why.
The first is easy enough to dispose of. Most DSLRs have at least two quality settings for RAW files. For video purposes, it's perfectly alright to select the lower of the two. The difference in file size will be substantial, but you'll still have the advantage of all the image data from the sensor to work with in post processing.
The second is even easier to dismiss if you've watched many timelapse videos. On the average, most of the ones that are too contrasty, lacked highlight and/or shadow detail and are full of artifacts were created with files that were converted to JPG in the camera. If you're going to create stunning HD video from a sequence of images, those images should be exported from your camera as RAW files. This is the only format that really gives you all the data you need to get the most from each image.
For the third, I'm going to ask you to watch this short video tutorial by Gavin Hoey. It's an older video and there are a few more recent ones, but I like the way Gavin presents the processing half of this tutorial on using Lightroom to create a video from your images. You'll notice that he's using Lightroom 3, so this functionality has been around for a while. It's only improved with more recent versions.
I think you'll pick up several good tips from this video on both shooting and processing a time lapse sequence, but for the purposes of these arguments, I want you to pay particular attention to the editing half. Gavin is going to demonstrate how easy it is to edit one RAW file to provide the best possible image and then sync the rest of the files to produce the same results. I think you'll find that it eliminates the third argument.
Here's the video. Check it out and then continue reading for some more information on creating time-lapse sequences and news about what's coming up in future articles:
I hope you'll agree that this demonstrates that working with RAW files is much simpler than you may have expected. Keep in mind that Lightroom CC is now available, so having this functionality is more affordable and accessible than ever.
So, now that you've seen how easy it is to get the highest quality possible for your sequences, you can worry less about the processing side and focus more on the photography process. Using RAW files will help you get the most out of your effects, too, when you're ready to make your movies more dynamic by adding camera motion and other techniques. The market for great time-lapse movies is becoming lucrative, so now is the perfect time to take yours to the next level.
Lightroom isn't the only application available to process time-lapse stills and I'll be talking about some others in upcoming articles. I'll also be showing you how to use some great gear for making your movies stand out as well as providing more tips for both shooting and processing the images. Meanwhile, I hope this article has convinced you that RAW files are the best choice for creating stunning time-lapse videos.