Fall in Taipei brings some fine blustery days with clear air and awesome clouds. Perfect conditions for scratching your time-lapse itch.
The thing about time-lapse is that you need an intervalometer. Pronounced in-ter-vuh–lom-i-ter, this is a fancy external shutter release that lets you set how many shots to take and how long to wait between each picture. It’s an extra bit of kit. For the longest time, I’d put off buying one, so I wasn’t actually shooting any time-lapses.
Strictly speaking, however, you don’t have to spring for an intervalometer. There are other options:
- The software that comes with your camera. Tether your camera to your notebook via USB and drive the camera remotely using the camera’s utility program. It commonly has an intervalometer function and probably even lets you save the photos to your computer’s hard disc.
- Magic Lantern! This is a firmware hack for cameras that adds an intervalometer – among many other cool things. Reading the web, it seems tons of very smart photographers swear by it, especially those guys who are into shooting video with their DLRs.
For me, dragging a notebook along into the wild to shoot photos was not really my idea of fun. A DSLR and tripod was plenty enough already. And as much as I love software, I was a little reluctant to risk bricking my camera by messing with the firmware.
So one day on a trip to my favorite camera store, I got myself an intervalometer. Yippee! I was in business.
Enter the gorgeous fall weather.
On a recent morning bike ride, I watch the clouds doing a perfectly excellent dance in front of and around Taipei 101. I knew my time had come. The following day, I set out with tripod, camera and intervalometer to the spot with the amazing view.
- Interval: 1 to 2 seconds for traffic shots, 5 to 10 seconds for landscapes
- Shutter Speed: Slower can be better! Motion blur caused by slow shutter will make your time-lapse movie more visually pleasing.
After thinking a bit, I decided to follow the first bit of advice and ignore the second. An interval of 1 second would give me more shots and hopefully smoother motion in my final movie. (In the back of my mind, I also figured I could use the “drop frame” feature when importing the images into VideoStudio if I really needed to.) And since my goal was to capture cloud detail, sharper images would be better.
So I went for an interval of 1 second and a faster shutter speed. Full manual mode, as Jason recommends. Turned off JPEG+RAW and just shot JPEGs.
My next question was how to frame the shot.
Pulled all the way back, 101 was just too puny. So for my first attempt, I zoomed in and framed Taipei’s landmark front and center.
It was a pretty windy day and the camera strap was blowing around a fair amount. I tried to secure it but felt pretty good that my tripod was solid and up to the task. My better half took off down the road to add some kilometers to her morning ride while the camera clicked away.
After 20 minutes or so it was time for a change. I decided to go for more sky and a wider look.
I like the wider shot better. The clouds just kill me.
After rendering out the video, I was surprised – and a little disappointed – just how much the wind had buffeted the camera in the first shot. That wasn’t what I had in mind. I thought about what might be done.
VideoStudio Pro X4 Ultimate comes with proDad Mercalli, a world-class video stabilization plug-in. I’ve had occasion to try Mercalli on various kind of footage and found it nothing short of amazing. But the plugin works on video clips and I’d been editing my time-lapse projects as images directly on the timeline. Hmm.
The obvious answer was to first render the video and then apply the filter. That would probably work. But I wanted to try another way.
VideoStudio has long been able to treat a sequence of images as a UIS format video clip. I gave that a shot. Presto, the time-lapse appeared as a clip I could move around the timeline and apply Mercalli stabilization. BANG! Rock solid. The rest, as they say, is history. Sweet.