Emeric Le Bars – January 24th 2022

What if I tell you there is a way to remove hundreds (thousands?) of birds from your time lapse in only a few minutes (seven seconds), would you believe me? And all this without destroying the quality of your clip.

Well, it is possible with After Effects and one special tool.

I started cleaning my time lapse videos in 2018 when I realized than all those flying birds, planes and helicopters were very distracting on my clips. Having some basic knowledge of Adobe After Effects and knowing what the software could actually do, I started playing around with masks and layers to remove those birds.

At first, I was duplicating my layer, then isolating one single frame, and finally manually create a mask around each bird. It works great, but it is definitely time consuming, especially if you have 1000 images on your time lapse.

So yes sure, you can make sure to shoot with a slow shutter speed and try to remove the birds using your camera settings. But even a slow moving bird will be visible on your images with a slow shutter speed. There is nothing you can do on your camera to fully remove them.

In this quick tutorial, I am going to share with you the BEST way to clean hundreds of birds in a few minutes only.

After looking online for other solutions for After Effects, I came across a much simpler technique that will make you save TONS of time.

Let’s do this.

  • Open After Effects and import your time lapse video.
  • Create a new composition.
  • Click on the tool called Clone Stamp in the toolbar. It will open a panel called Paint.
  • If you don’t see it, go to Window > Paint
  • In the paint panel, click on Duration: and choose “Single Frame”
  • Then Source Time Shift: select 1 f (for 1 frame). Basically that means we are going to paint over the current frame using a frame after. You can also do a frame before using -1 f.
  • Double click on your layer in your composition to open the “Layer” window. You will be painting off every single bird in this panel.
  • Go to a frame with a bird, plane, helicopter and paint on top of it to remove it. You can change the brush size if you visit the “Brush” panel.
  • Hit Command + right or left arrow on your keyboard to move one image before or one image after on your video.

And voilà, that is all. How simple is that trick? I would not recommend doing this technique for big elements, but it works like a charm for birds and other flying objects.

In the following video, I removed over 500 birds in 20 minutes using this technique.

Take some time to clean your timelapse videos if you want to improve the quality. Those are simple steps that will me your work much better and more professional.

Make sure to check my cleaning class “Advanced Cleaning for Timelapse Photography” for other cleaning techniques.

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Emeric Le Bars
Emeric Le Bars
Timelapse Photographer

Emeric Le Bars is a French, now Los Angeles based, motion timelapse and hyperlapse photographer working in the industry since 2011.