My First Attempt at Time-Lapse Photography

time lapse

On Friday i wanted to do something creative & different. I stumbled upon a few time-lapse videos of sunsets and stuff and thought, “Hey,  i can do that”. I was going to set up my digital camera on my gorillapod and leave it recording a sunset but then i thought of something more complex & challenging…

Making my webcam work

I was staring at my webcam and thinking to myself “Hmm… it’s about time i worked you more”. I discovered my webcam could just about stretch to the skylight window above my desk and from then on i knew i was on to something…. i couldn’t get it to ‘stick’ naturally or by wedging it in place so i had to improvise with a cable tie.

webcam

Automation

Recording hours of video in Full HD wasn’t something i was looking forward to. Well, more precisely, *editing* hours of Full HD video wasn’t something i was looking forward to. I hate editing / rendering huge files. It can take hours. I want to edit a video and have it done and dusted and uploaded to youtube in 10 minutes 🙂

So i then started doing my homework on automating the picture-taking process on a webcam i.e. get software to capture a photo every minute or something and store all the photos in a folder. I went hunting for time-lapse webcam videos and eventually found some explaining  what software was used and how they set everything up.

I discovered Yawcam (Yet Another Web Cam) software which allows you to use you to stream video online, upload via FTP to a remote server, automate photo taking…. i carried out a few quick experiments and it did the job perfectly.

I set it to take a picture every 10 seconds and store them all in a ‘timelapse’ folder on my desktop. This is the end result.

Learning

Whilst i was very happy with my first time-lapse video i knew there was something ‘missing’ from it. That something missing was ‘land’. You see land never moves, so it acts as something for you to compare to the clouds. You can’t get an idea of the speed or direction the clouds are moving in unless you can compare it to something static.

I woke up on saturday morning and decided to do it all over again. I lowered my webcam ever so slightly so you can see the tops of nearby hills and a road in the distance. I kept the same settings as the day before and then went off to Dublin for the day leaving everything running.

When i came back that evening i stitched together the video again (using virtual dub) and this is how it turned out…

Go forth and create your own time-lapses

Now that i’ve done this and have a fairly good idea of how it works, i’m starting to think bigger and more complex. The problem with a digital regular camera is that you’re usually limited by battery life. So if you’re recording video you’re gonna need to stop at some point and swap the battery out. You’re also gonna quickly run out of space if you just have a 2GB SD card recording in Full HD. It depends on the camera of course.

If you can use your camera as a webcam, well then all you need is a laptop, yawcam and perhaps a tripod or gorillapod. On Saturday, I took 3,200 pictures over a 10 hour period but storage space wasn’t a problem because they were being stored on to a 500GB hard drive in my PC. That’s the advantage of recording straight to a computer. Plus if you use a webcam, it should be powered by usb which means you just have to charge your laptop or plug it in to mains.

Here’s some random ideas for you;

  • Traffic lights, roundabouts (always busy, so chances are something interesting will happen)
  • Car parks (e.g. in college the car parks go from empty to full in about 1 hour – that would make for a fascinating time-lapse)
  • Inside a stadium (watch a stadium fill up / empty)

In a nutshell

In summary, here’s what you need to create your own time-lapse photography / video;

  • Webcam
  • Yawcam software
  • Virtual Dub (an easy, quick way to stitch all photos together in to a video)
  • Time & Patience

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