After shooting timelapse videos for the past 8 years, I often ask myself what makes a timelapse a good one? Is it your composition? your subject? your interval? Well actually, a little bit of everything, and more.
Ingredient #1: Your subject, angle and composition
Okay, those are 3 ingredients at once. But see them as salt, pepper and garlic, they mix really well together and make your food taste delicious!
There is no secret, having a good timelapse subject is key. But having the right subject does not necessarily mean you will end up with a good timelapse. Find the perfect angle to enhance your subject. If you like cityscapes as much as I do, shooting towards the West at sunset will create a beautiful sky above the city skyline, and same thing for sunrises while shooting East.
There are hundreds of timelapse locations in cities, specially big cities like Los Angeles or Chicago. They are amazing timelapse playgrounds. And whatever city you live in or travel to, make some research prior to going on location to find the perfect angle.
Once you are happy with your subject and angle, get the right composition for your timelapse. Make sure to include all the important elements, don’t crop buildings if possible, keep some space for the sky and create depth with foreground/background. The law of third can sometimes be useful, but don’t always stick to it. This is not THE law that will make all your timelapses better. Be creative and experiment!
Ingredient #2: Your interval
No need to say that your interval is also very important when creating a timelapse. It will affect the speed and smoothness of your subject, which also means the entire look of your final video.
See your interval as your side dish. If it’s not a good one, it won’t really be a big deal, but it will not go well with the rest of the food in your plate. Same thing here! At the end of the day, you can shoot your subject with any interval, but only one or two will fit perfectly.
So Emeric, how to select the right interval?
Ask yourself one simple question: How fast is your subject going? The faster your elements are in your composition, the faster your interval should be in order to get a smooth result. Elements such as cars, people or boats usually go well with an interval of 1 or 2 seconds. Clouds usually move at the right speed with an interval between 2 and 4 seconds.
Full day-to-night transitions work great with an interval between 5 and 7 seconds without ending up with too many frames and crazy long videos. At night, since you are already shooting with slow shutter speed, use the fastest interval possible, such as 2″ shutter speed > 3″ interval or 3.2″ shutter speed > 4″ interval etc…
There are tons of others subjects to shoot in timelapse photography, but just ask yourself how fast your elements are going, and you’ll be able to easily select the right interval.
Ingredient #3: Color Correction
Color Correction can be seen as your cooking temperature. Too much and it’s not going to taste really good, not enough and it will taste like raw food. Oh wait… raw… like your images, pun was not intended!
Over the years, my color correction style changed quite a lot. I often come back to some old timelapse sequences and edit them with today’s style and tools I have. I am surprised how much the color correction really does affect the final video. It plays a HUGE role on the look of the final product.
Even though you are working with a sequence of raw images, the final product is a video file. You cannot do as much color correction as you would do with one single frame, it just does not work!
Stay natural, create contrast but not too much to avoid contrast flicker. Analyze your sequences to see what colors are more present than others and how you can make them more vibrant. Utilize filters in order to drag the attention to a specific area, and don’t forget to take the time to fully deflicker your corrected sequences with LRTimelapse before exporting the video!
What to remember
Creating a timelapse video is like cooking. You mix different ingredients together in order to create an amazing product. You can’t really eat your timelapse, but you can watch it, enjoy it and use it to share the way of seeing the world around you. Take the time to think about those 3 ingredients when you want to shoot a new timelapse, and you’ll see that you will be very proud of your work at the end of the process.
Merci et à bientôt !
– Emeric Timelapse