You've heard a lot from us lately on how popular and potentially lucrative good time lapse presentations are becoming, so I'm not going to start this off with that point. Instead, I'm going to tell you that, just like selling your still photos, the first step in making money with time lapse videos is creating the kind that makes people want to see them. As a matter of fact, most everything that applies to shooting great photos applies to these presentations, too. After all, they're made up of still photos.
One quality that particularly helps is dynamics, that is, a sense of constant change, progress or activity. Now, in a medium that creates the feel of motion, this may not seem important. Any professional in the field of any kind of video production will tell you that it's one of the most important elements of a successful presentation. Your time-lapse videos are no exception.
To make the sense of dynamics in your videos more powerful, we turn to the same tools used to instill it in photos – the rules of composition. Many of these basic rules are employed to cause a viewer's eyes to migrate through your photos. With a few tweaks, we can use those rules to involve viewers even more in your videos and give them a stronger impression of movement. Let's look at a few rules that apply and how you can use them in planning and creating your time-lapse movies.
Giving a subject room to move within the frame is an important way to convey to viewers that the subject is going to move. By maintaining space in the frame ahead of the motion of your subject, you'll keep that same feeling in your videos. Rather than center the subject in the frame, start with it farther from the side of the frame that it's moving toward.
Whether your camera follows the subject as the timeline progresses depends on the purpose of the video, but if your subject is going to arrive somewhere, maintaining lead space until the later part of the video will help emphasize the travel. Try gradually decreasing the leading space by varying the camera position over time for a real sense of motion. Another interesting effect is to gradually move the camera around behind the subject as it moves away, while keeping it trained on the subject. This initially increases the leading space, then decreases it as the destination aligns more with the camera.
One of the strongest ways to pull a viewer into your shots is through the use of leading lines. Whether the line is a row of trees, a road, path or other feature, these elements can be used to direct the eyes of a viewer to a point in the frame. In a time lapse video, you have the option to physically follow these lines with the camera to enhance their effect. When used in PoV-type presentations, this can be very effective. One great example of following leading lines is keeping the tracks of a roller coaster in the shot as you ride it.
While perspective is used chiefly to convey depth in a still photo, time-lapse production gives us another option. By setting up so that changing the PoV affects the perspective, you can enhance the feeling of motion in the final video.
A motorized slider setup on a diagonal path can cause a dramatic shift in perspective, particularly in objects closer to the lens. Horizontal or vertical setups can, of course, cause the same effects with some subjects.
This effect is also used mostly to convey a sense of depth in a still photo. The basic idea is to align the shot in a way that causes objects nearer the camera to overlap those farther away. In a time-lapse video, we can pull viewers into the frame by “walking” objects out of the frame as the camera advances into the scene. This can be achieved in a few ways, including moving the camera along a curved path, zooming between exposures, or walking/driving directly into the scene. Any of these 3 methods can successfully add a sense of dynamics to your videos.
These are only a few of the ways to create a more dynamic feeling in your presentations. You'll certainly want to try some of your own ideas, and going over the rules of composition is always a good place to start. Keep in mind that, when it comes to camera motion in videos, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so avoid overusing any of these techniques.