So you’ve watched a million moving timelapse videos on Vimeo and YouTube, and that’s inspired you to try your hand at making one yourself.
But where do you begin?
We’ve put together a quick reference guide to answer that very question. From getting the right motion control system to planning your outing to manufacturing the story you want to tell, we’ve got all the necessary tips to get you started off on the right foot.
Getting top-notch results means you’ll need to invest in top-quality gear to create your motion control timelapse videos. Naturally, you’ll need things like a DSLR or mirrorless camera body, a lens (typically under 50mm for most timelapse subjects), and fast, high-capacity memory cards.
Beyond those basics, you’ll need to set yourself up with a motion control system that allows you to get the sequence of images you need while doing so on a plane of motion that you establish. For the money, the eMotimo Spectrum ST4 Shark Bundle is the best buy around. It includes a Spectrum 4-axis motion control unit with a wireless controller, a slider that extends from two to four feet, leg supports to give your rig the stability it needs for clear, crisp photos, and a drive belt for smooth, linear movements.
While having the right gear is obviously important, having gear that’s well-made, will stand the test of time, and is easily portable is important as well. You get all three with the Shark Bundle. It’s constructed of high-quality aluminum and carbon fiber, meaning it’s strong, yet lightweight. You’ll be able to get your gear to just about any location without breaking your back, and setup is a breeze so you can get everything squared away in short order and commence with creating your amazing timelapses!
Don’t Delay Setup
One of the biggest enemies of timelapse photography (or any photography, for that matter), is not planning ahead and getting yourself into position in plenty of time. Think not just about how long it will take you to get to the shoot location, but also how far you’ll have to walk from where you park, how many trips you’ll need going back and forth, whether you’ll have help or not, and other factors that might shorten or lengthen your setup time.
Also think about how your subject will move over the course of the timelapse. When setting up, take into consideration how the movement of the camera will add to or detract from the movement of the subject. Are there any objects that will obscure your camera’s view? Will the sun be shining directly into the barrel of your lens? Is your shoot location going to be overrun with people as time goes by? These are just a few questions to ask yourself during the planning and setup stages to ensure you have the best approach to creating a quality timelapse.
Strive for Variety
When you first start creating timelapses, it’s probably a good idea to keep it simple at first. But once you have the setup process nailed down, try adding variety to your final product by varying the moves your camera takes. Take a sequence moving left to right. Add another sequence moving low right to high left. Shoot at an upward angle, and then at a downward angle. The more variety you create at the shooting stage, the more interesting the final timelapse will be. Viewers will be more engaged, and you’ll be able to transition from one scene to the next with less predictability.
Timelapse photographers must be prepared for just about any eventuality. After all, if something goes awry, it’s not like you can leave your gear and run home to get something you need. Make it a habit of carrying the essentials with you at all times. Leave a small bag in your car that has common tools you might need: spare batteries, extra memory cards, a lens cleaning kit, rain covers, a flashlight, and the like. Then, bring bigger items along with you that you don’t want to leave in the car, like a second camera body and extra lenses.
Also get in the habit of checking the weather before you head out. Timelapses benefit from documenting changes in the weather, so if the forecast isn’t ideal, it might be time for you to get out there and get things set up. If it looks like there’s nothing but clear skies ahead, consider another subject that will change over time - the ocean’s waves or traffic passing by are prime examples.
Tell a Story
Timelapses, like still photography, require that you create a narrative that takes the viewer on a journey. A bunch of frames stitched together will be uninspiring and boring, but finding ways to convey emotions or feelings will help your viewers connect with your timelapse on a much deeper level.
Think about how each sequence you shoot interacts with the others, how you can combine them together into a cohesive whole, and the feeling you want to convey with your work. Reel viewers in with a good hook, tantalize them with stunning shots throughout the timelapse, and, just like a good book, bring everything to a satisfying resolution such that people want to watch the video over and over. If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful timelapse video!