Hyperlapse (also called stop motion time lapse, moving time lapse) is a slightly advanced version of the basic time-lapse technique that is used to incorporate camera motion in the frame. Like in time-lapse photography, in a hyperlapse, multiple images (generally a few hundred) are captured and then stitched together during post-production to build a video.
However, there is one main difference.
Unlike timelapse (where the camera is fixed at one point), in a hyperlapse, the camera is continuously moved in uniform units, in a specific direction. It’s time-lapse set in motion.
It sounds and looks more difficult than it is. Seriously!
Shooting a simple hyperlapse (like the one I am going to tell you about now) is all about understanding a few basic principles and then following the recipe. NO more, no less!
Here have a look at two of my favorite hyperlapses to get your creative juices flowing.
Charged up? Let’s get to making one now.
Understanding The Basics
To understand hyperlapse from the ground up, you need to know the fundamental basics of a video.
It is not much really. All you have to understand is the concept of frame rates, i.e, the number of images used to create one second of footage.
Videos are nothing but a bunch of images switched quickly to produce the illusion of motion. The most widely used frame rate which mimics actual human vision is about 24 frames, i.e, 24 images changed in quick succession every single second.
Here is a detailed article which covers all you need to know to start shooting videos with your camera today, How To Start Creating Videos With Your Compact Camera | Starter Guide.
In a video when you press record, the camera starts capturing 24 images every single second and then stitches it together to form one continuous motion. The only difference with hyperlapse is that instead of the camera continuously shooting 24 frames, we shoot images just like normal and then manually combine them together in post production to create the final video.
Now, why would you want to do that?
Because it has a different feel and aesthetic to it. You have seen the video above.
Understanding the mechanics behind a video will also help you with some of the simple calculations that we have to do later here.
Don’t worry, I will explain it all.
The gear list for hyperlapse photography is pretty simple and straightforward. All you need are the following:
- A camera (preferably with manual controls)
- A wide-angle lens (approximately 24mm)
- A solid tripod/monopod to attach the camera to
- A computer
- Image and video post-processing software. Here I use Adobe Lightroom, After Effects and Premiere Pro. You can use any software of your choice. It really doesn’t matter.* Optional: Magic Lantern (firmware addon for Canon Cameras) and an intervalometer.
I reckon you already have most of them, isn’t it?
First and foremost you need to figure out your subject.
Now, if this is your first hyperlapse shoot, I would strongly recommend you to choose some kind of a building, monument or a statue as your subject. Something that is static and stationary and easy to work with.
Next, we need to figure out the duration of the video we need at the end of it. Let us assume we would need about 5 seconds worth of footage. If you think that is too less, wait till you hear the number of images you would need to make it.
You would need 24 x 5 = 120 images. Yes, that’s correct, 120 images combined and stitched together make just 5 seconds worth of video. For a minute long video, you would need a staggering 1440 images (24 x 60).
Since you are new to this, I would suggest you work with fewer files first and get the feel. You can always bump up the quantity for longer videos.
We are going with 5 seconds for now then.
Attach your lens to the camera next and mount in on your tripod/monopod. It really doesn’t matter which one you use as long as you are able to get sharp clear pictures.
Now that you have your camera ready, your next objective should be to find your composition.
Walk around your chosen subject, look for creative, fresh new perspectives. Just bear in mind though that it is not a single image which you are looking to frame. Since the ultimate output of this entire process is going to be a video you need to incorporate movements for your composition too.
For starters, you can choose any one of the following movements:
- Straight towards or straight away: Basically you start from a point near your subject (let’s suppose it is a statue) and then either move towards it or away from it.
- Parallel tracking: Maintain equal distance with the subject for all the 120 images we have to shoot. Just move sideways (right or left) from the subject.
- Around: Move in a circular track around the subject. Something like a 360-degree view around.
There are infinite more movements which you can use. Diagonal, concentric circles, rotate, swivel and the list just goes on. You can even mix and match these movements to come up with more innovative and creative motions.
There is simply no end to this list.
For beginners, however, I would encourage picking one of the first three movements to use for the first few shoots. They are simple and easy to handle with pretty good results.
You need to learn the craft bit by bit and only then can you combine elements to make new ones.
You want to be in Manual Mode for this. Manual everything.
The exposure settings shouldn’t change in the course of the entire shoot or it is going to be a nightmare once you get back home to edit them.
An aperture value between f/8 and f/11 should give you a pretty good depth of field to keep your subject in focus comfortably. Try and keep other elements in the frame, in focus too. Most subjects look good in hyperlapse in conjunction with their surroundings.
You can use a smaller aperture value if you happen to shoot at night.
For the ISO, use the smallest value your camera supports. Most cameras have ISO 100 as their minimum.
Choose a nice long shutter speed, e.g., 1/20th of a second, to bring out some beautiful creamy motion blur. If you happen to have at least some moving elements in your frame (like clouds in the sky or cars), a little bit of motion blur will surely pump up the feel of the video.
If you happen to shoot in bright daylight and cannot get the shutter speed down you can use a Neutral Density (ND) filters. It would block off some light for you.
All the above settings that I just mentioned are suggestive numbers. You would have to adjust them a bit depending on the type of image you have in mind, the availability of light, motion present in the frame, etc.
Lastly, ALWAYS shoot RAW. You are going to spend a huge amount of time and effort on this. You seriously do NOT want to go back home and find some small or petty mistake that cannot be overturned because you chose to save some space and shoot Jpegs.
That is all. I told you this is easy.
Moving on then.
Since in the end you would accumulate all the images into one video, any minor imperfections and inconsistencies in the images are going to be magnified and stick out like a sore thumb.
You want to be as accurate and consistent as possible.
Here comes the concept of a reference point.
It is nothing but a single point in the entire image which is present in all the images that you take (all 120 images in our example). And also be present at the same location in the frame.
Let me explain this a little bit more.
You have heard about the Rule of Thirds, right? Now imagine you have the 2 x 2 grid laid out over your viewfinder. For our example, let us take the top right intersection of the grid lines.
Now you have to pick any part of the entire frame as a reference point. Let us say that you choose the right index finger of the statue as that point of the image.
So far so good?
All you have to do now is align the right index finger of the statue with the top right intersection of the grid lines for ALL the 120 images.
The better you do this, the smoother your video would turn out to be.
You might have the question, why the top right intersection? or why the right index finger of the statue?
Well as I said you need two things to make the images consistent.
- An element in the frame which is consistent and is going to be present in the first and the last image.
- A way to make sure that the chosen element is placed in the frame at the same position in every shot.
Choosing the index finger or the top right intersection was just an example.
You could have chosen any part of the entire frame. Also instead of using the Rule of Thirds gridlines, you can just as easily use a 4×4 grid, AutoFocus points, Magic Lantern crop marks, a transparent film laid over the LCD of the camera and a tiny marker dot. The list is simply endless.
You just need a way to attach a certain element to a specific spot. That’s all.
You have an anchor point now to peg the image onto but what about your own trajectory?
You need a good line of reference for yourself too. Find any such consistent or uniform markings and patterns on the ground which would help you follow the movement you chose.
In our example, we chose ‘move towards’ as our movement. What we need now is a track to follow.
There are some very common examples that you can use for this. Tiles laid on the floor, the curb of the street, any distinct marking, lines or patterns. Basically anything and everything that allows you to move uniformly.
Stick to your track and move the same uniform distance between each shot. Just hold on, I will explain how to calculate the distance you need to travel between each shot in the next segment.
On Your Mark Click, Repeat
The stage is set for you now.
All you have to do now is just measure the amount of space you want to travel between your first and the last shot and then divide them up by the number of images you calculated earlier.
Let’s take an example.
Say you want to shoot a statue. For movement, you want to go straight towards it from a little distance. Let’s assume that you start from a distance of 120 feet. So considering you want a 5 seconds video worth of footage, you would need 120 images.
120 images spaced out over 120 feet. So you need to take one image every foot.
Start at the initial point which is 120 feet away. Take an image and then advance towards the statue by one foot. Take an image again and then move closer again.
Repeat 120 times and voila…you have the necessary images.
Did I not mention, a sore hand is guaranteed if you do this….? Sorry.
One thing that you must remember here is, the shorter the distance between two images, smoother and less jerky the resulting video. Reducing the space between each image also does mean that you have to take more images.
Reducing the space by half would result in doubling the number of images you have to take.
Shoot however you want to; just make sure that whatever distance and interval you choose, it remains constant throughout.
Got your bag of images? Let’s spin it into an amazing video, shall we?
Transfer all your images into a single folder on your hard drive. This will make your job so much easier later on.
- Pro tip: If you happen to shoot many hyperlapses on the same day, what you can do to separate each lot out is to just shoot a dead frame in between. Just cover the front of the lens with your hand and take a shot when you start shooting the hyperlapse and shoot another one when you end it. This way you will know where the image sequence starts and where it ends.
Import all the images onto your choice of image editing software. I use Lightroom for this.
Select any one of the images from the sequence and start editing it to your liking. Fix the exposure, the White Balance, the contrast…Once you are done and happy with how the image looks, select all the other images of the sequence and sync the editing you made to the first one to all of them.
Uniformity is key.
Done with the image editing. Export the images now as high-quality Jpegs.
No matter how well you do your job, your images will culminate to a jittery video once you are done. It isn’t your fault, really!
That doesn’t matter at all since now we are going to fix it.
My weapon of choice for this is Adobe After Effects.
Here is a handy-dandy video from TayloCutFilms which shows you exactly what you have to do next. Just follow along.
Now you have a beautiful video created from a bunch of photos. All that is left is just adding some bells and whistles on it and we are done.
Let’s do that now.
Video Touch Ups
Remember the output that we generate from all the above processes is a video. We should understand and internalize this. This is important.
So, once we have successfully managed to make a good looking, stabilized visual, now we attach the other half of the video…….the audio.
Depending on the type of video you created, you can add a background score, a theme music, jingles, and other sound effects to make the experience as real and crisp as possible. Polish up on any last rough edges and make that video pop as much as possible.
You can even add texts and titles to it if you want.
Just play with it.
That is it, guys. That is all you need to begin and start creating your own hyperlapse videos. Everything I discussed now is just the ground floor of what you can actually create with this simple technique.
By making a few videos on your own, I am sure you will come up with many new and better techniques which work even better.
Good luck with it.
I will be very happy if you share your killer videos with me once you have mastered the art of hyperlapse. Will be waiting for them.
Keep shooting amazing.
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