All you need to know about time-lapse

Today, we are going to learn something that most cameras are able to do, time-lapse. 

Before we continue…

What is time-lapse?

Time-lapse is a technique of filming whereby the frame rate when capturing or filming is much lower than the frame rate used for playback. Hence, when playing the footage, the video will look as if time passes very quickly. In other words, it is fast-forwarding a clip.

It is also the opposite of slow-motion, whereby the frame rate used to capture is much higher than the frame rate used to view or playback.

Another thing to note is that time-lapse is technically available to all cameras, unlike slow motion where only certain cameras can.

Some other things to note:

The average video is about 24fps. Hence if you want a 10s time-lapse video, you would need 240 frames. And one frame would last about 0.04s.

What is the use of time-lapse?

It is to create something very beautiful such as the clip above.

Types of Time-Lapse

There are 2 types of time-lapse modes available in most action cameras such as the GoPro.

  1. Photo Time-Lapse
  2. Video Time-Lapse

The main difference between this two is that in for photo time-lapse, it takes photos at set intervals which still requires processing or stitching, into time-lapse. Whereas for video time-lapse, it records video frames at set intervals and automatically creates a time-lapse video.

Now you may think, isn’t video time-lapse better because it does not require any editing. Well… no.

Despite not having to edit and you are rewarded a time-lapse video instantly, the quality can’t be compared to the photo mode because if photos are always nicer because they have enough time to adjust the settings between each frame to get more saturation and exposure but for video frames, they can’t and hence, quality is compromised in the video mode.

Oh and for those whose cameras can only record normal videos, you can look below to see how you can do it.

video vs photo in action cams time-lapse

This is taken outside my apartment. The picture on the right is using photo time-lapse while the picture on the left is using video time-lapse. Though the quality difference is not very noticeable unlike the video above, another thing that you should notice is that photo time-lapse has a wider field of view as you can see from the top and bottom of the picture which the video time-lapse does not cover.

Some apps you can use for Video and Photo Time-Lapse

If you are using a GoPro, you might already know Quik, which in the past was named GoPro Photo Studio, an editing app made by GoPro to help edit your footage.

Another app that I use is iMovie which should not be a stranger to you if you happen to use a Mac.

Essentially, no matter what app you use, you just have to fast-forward it, if you have a video time-lapse. As for photo time-lapse, you would have select all the images and decrease the time per frame to about 0.1s but regarding the time, you would have to try out to see what suits best but it should be around 0.1s.

If you want to make it something smoother, you can decrease the time per frame to 0.042s for a 24fps time-lapse video.

That’s it for now.

If you want to know more about how you can film time-lapse, check out my tutorial here!


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Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or queries about action cameras or action photography, please feel free to drop down a comment. Thanks!  🙂

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4 Comments

  1. i am a videographer since 1997 and i used time lapse first time somewhat around 2000, without knowing that is called that way. i actually wanted to shoot a progress of a building creation, so at first it was just a super-fast forward video,but then i realized that it will be way easier to go every day at certain time and take a photo. later i would connect those photos to a PAL standard (25fps) and have a video of the building progress. cool stuff!

    1. Oh I see, interesting to know!

  2. Wow! That is amazing, I didn’t know such editing power is possible. You think this technology can make a rainy day into a sunny day like in the after shots? Do you think this type of tech would make it to the smartphone? Now that would be awesome! Great write up

    1. Haha Luigi glad this post helped u understand more about time lapse. Actually, this is just simply fast forwarding of a video so it doesn’t require much editing power haha. This feature has already made it into our smartphones actually. =)

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