Time-lapse photography trade secret

Here is the no-brainer tell-all on what makes for the ultimate time-lapse camera operation to capture the images that will save hours of post-editing to remove the sea-sickening variations and deliver a smooth result – every time.

Since I first started in 2010 I’ve learned a lot of hard and heart-breaking lessons. I’ve had plenty of gear stolen, I’ve endured many variations of installation and it all comes back to one core philosophy: preparation.

That by itself is a pretty vague statement yet preparation is the cornerstone to success in any realm. When it comes to time-lapse photography preparation can be distilled down to a very succinct point: preparation at mounting the camera so rigidly it doesn’t move.

That may seem like a no-brainer but I really mean it – it can’t move even a fraction of a millimeter. It will show up in the end frames when you try to overlay them to create a video clip. The shifting frames will create a sea-sickening journey.

Now here is a key point that goes even deeper: the camera’s innards have to be rigidly mounted. That is the very point-of-difference between the off-the-shelf units and what a professional production will achieve. The very innards of the camera are of a price point they move fractionally – accentuated by temperature fluctuations (I call it thermal shifting). The result is the images captured vary from frame to frame. The more expensive operation uses a camera that’s innards are of superior construction and don’t suffer the thermal shifting that produces those sea-sickening results – the componentry moves in unison (like materials).

Now you can step back out to a broader perspective, and consider the way the camera is mounted. If you can move the mounting location then so too will the weather – the captured images will vary = sea-sick results.

You’re valid in asking if software can fix the problem? Sure it can, to a point. Photoshop has a magic layers aligning tool that works pretty well. However it comes at a cost of frame size as it moves and manipulates the images to align best it can and it can only work with approximately 270 layers at a time. If your project runs in to thousands of frames you’ve got a big job ahead – all for the sake of spending the time at the front-end of the project with some preparation. Similarly, Google has that wonderful anti-shake routine for video clips. That might get some instances out of the cactus, fact is it has been manipulated, and it will show in the end result.

Start with a quality install: you’ll get a quality result and any ‘tweaking’ will enhance over ‘fix’ the footage.

That’s something I learned early on and a point-of-difference I see in other captures – it really does show.

I’m happy to advise, I’m happier to provide.

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