Shooting Epic Timelapse Videos in 5 Simple Steps

Here are 5 simple steps to shoot epic timelapse videos like the pros, right from your phone.

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Magic happens all around us everyday. Sometimes it happens slowly over time. This guide will show you how to capture that magic. Before you know it you’ll be creating you own timelapse masterpieces.

1. The Basics

A timelapse is a series of images, captured at some interval and stitched together into a video to show the passing of time. Luckily, with smartphones, it's easier than ever to capture a timelapse. Often, all you’ll need to do is set up your smartphone on a tripod, decide on a time interval, and hit the record button. An interesting timelapse could show movement of clouds, a sunrise or sunset, or any kind of motion. There is no limit to what you can capture.

2. Location and Timing

You can shoot a timelapse anywhere. That said though, it’s much more interesting if you’re at an epic location or a lookout point. Research spots near you that are awe-inspiring. Make sure you check the weather ahead of time. If there are going to be clouds, especially around sunrise or sunset, you might be in for a brilliant light show. Alternatively, some weather, like rain or snow, could either detract from or amplify your vision.

3. Plan Ahead

Arrive at your chosen location early enough to give yourself time to set up. If you’re there to capture sunrise or sunset, think about where the sun is going to be. Look around and think about additional shots you can take. A sunrise or sunset filmed in one shot can be interesting, but why not spice things up by capturing the surroundings too? And they don’t have to be super long clips either. Sometimes a second or two is all you need to make for a dynamic cut.

4. Set Up

Once you’ve decided what to capture, it’s time to set up. Mount your smartphone on a tripod, and frame the shot. Make sure the setup is stable, as any movement will show up in the video. Open the timelapse app of your choice (e.g. TimeLapse - Free on iPhone or Framelapse - Time Lapse Camera on Android), and select the interval. This depends on how fast subjects are moving around you (the clouds, for example) and how fast you want them to move in the timelapse. Choosing right intervals comes with practice, but a good default might be 3 seconds. Finally, press record.

5. Post-Processing

Once you’ve got all your shots, it’s time to put them together into a short movie. Open an editor of your choice (e.g. KineMaster on iPhone and Android), and roll up your sleeves. You can do as little or as much as you want, depending on how creative you’re feeling. Even though you’ve captured a still video, you can add movement to it by using the crop tool. This will make it look like the camera is panning. Adding a song that reflects the mood of the capture is well worth it to really pull viewers in. Finally, adding sound effects, such as wind whooshing, birds chirping, or water splashing, to match what you’ve captured can add an extra dimension to your timelapse.

It can be extremely satisfying to shoot a timelapse and play it back to see what “really” happened. Having that short clip of the whole sunrise or sunset for instant playback and to share with friends is an awesome feeling. Remember to have fun with it, and just keep experimenting.

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