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February 7, 2014

How to shoot a time-lapse video with your Nokia Lumia: Part 2

Last week, Olivier Noirhomme showed us how to capture photos for a time-lapse video. This week, he’s sharing his tops tips on how to make the video itself.

So, you’ve come up with an idea, choosen your app, fixed your Nokia Lumia camera settings and now hopefully have hundreds of photos. (If you haven’t done those things then head on over to part 1 to see how.) But what next? Do not fear our time-lapse maestro is here to tell all. Take it away, Olivier.

How to organize your photos

What to do now that the capture is over? Well, you obviously need to transfer the pictures to a computer. Put them into a folder with no other files. Be aware that the file names generally have to follow each other to be recognized as a sequence so you may have to rename all of them. Luckily, there are utilities to batch rename files. I use Bulk Rename Utility, it offers a lot of renaming parameters.

Most of the time, the app you used names the files with the date at the beginning and some sequence numbers at the end. When renaming them, only the end has to be changed. The beginning has to stay the same for each file to show they’re from the same sequence. For example, “20140203_0001” shows that it was taken on February 3, 2014 and that it’s the first picture in the sequence. The second file has to be named “20140203_0002” and so on for the following ones. If the date changes in the name of one of the next files, it won’t be considered part of the same sequence.

Which video editor to use

For regular time lapses, a media player with an image sequence functionality like Quicktime (Pro version only if that’s still the case) will be enough. You just need to open an image sequence, select the pictures (or sometimes only the first one) and choose the framerate. The player will directly make a video. Older computers may have a hard time playing it smoothly as it requires a lot of computing power. You can then render the video to a file in your format and resolution of choice. MP4 is the best compromise : great image quality, less space on the hard drive (and thus less time to upload too).

There are limitations with this process tough : no zoom, pan, music, sounds or effects and some media players can’t handle very high resolution pictures. For instance, Quicktime (as of version 7.7.4) can’t handle 34/38MP shots. Here’s an examples of a time lapse, which is possible using 5MP pictures and Quicktime, with no zoom nor music.

How many frames per second?

The framerate depends on what you want. 24fps is the regular movie framerate (blu ray, cinema) so it’s great for a movie feel. I wouldn’t recommend going below 24fps. You’ll see the gaps between each picture and the movements won’t be so smooth. Personally, I almost always choose 30fps. It’s a good compromise between video length and smoothness. More frames per second is also great and ultra smooth but your video will be shorter (1000 pictures at 30fps : 33 seconds, 1000 pictures at 50fps video : 20 seconds) and the movements could be too fast.

If you want to do 50 or 60 fps video but are afraid the movements will be too fast, just reduce the interval time between each shot. You’ll have more pictures in then end and less changes between one picture from the next one.

For advanced time lapses, you will have to use a video editor and have some idea about editing notions. There are several editors, each one with its pros and cons : iMovie, Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, etc.

Importing a sequence of pictures may be different in various editors but it’s more or less the same pattern for each one : import option, pictures selection, framerate choice and validation. The editor directly makes a sequence of pictures and import it as a single media in the timeline or in the project files.

Firing up your creativity

Now, you’re free to do whatever you want : zoom, pan, cut, copy, crop, go backwards, go faster, go upside down, add effects, etc. Add text, music or sounds too if you want. Here’s an example filmed on my old Nokia 808 PureView with added sound, recorded right before the capture.

How to create a slow motion effect

It’s also possible to play with the speed of the video to do slow motion parts. For that, you’ll have to choose something like a 90fps or 120fps general framerate for the video. Then you can do slow down parts until you’re back at 30fps (3x for 90fps, 4x for 120fps). Imagine a cloud coming very fast at 120fps and then slowed down 4x for a few seconds and then back at 120fps. It could produce an amazing effect. Don’t make the transition between the normal and slow motions parts sudden and abrupt. The transition has to be gradual to be smooth.

However, you’ll need A LOT more pictures to have a decent length video (at 120fps, 1000 pictures = 8,3 seconds) but, again, you can reduce the interval between each shot to have more pictures and a not so longer capture time.

If pictures are 33,6MP or 38,2MP ones, you can be even more creative. Imagine a virtual camera the size of the video you’ll render afterward (1280*720, 1920*1080 or other) going wherever it wants, in every direction, in the much, much bigger scene (7712*4352 or 7136 × 5360). You’re really able to find stories within the main story, make a lengthy video with only one scene by showing various spots in it, take the ZoomReinvented philosophy to the next level.

What’s really effective is to start from a maximum zoomed spot and then zoom out until the whole scene is displayed or from the whole scene to a maximum zoomed point. Ideally, it is done with a slow zoom in/out to really enjoy it and to give an endless zoom feeling.

Rendering your masterpiece

When the editing is done, all is left is to render the project as a video. MP4 is again the best choice : high picture quality and smaller file size. There always are better quality format but they will take more space on your hard drive. The rendering can be very long, depending on your computer power, sometimes 10x longer than the video for a simple one or 20x longer if you added effects. And remember to make sure the rendered video is exactly like you wished for before deleting all the pictures to regain space! Here’s another video shot on my old smartphone to show all the advanced techiniques in action.

Another fantastic tutuorial from a man who has been there and done that, first with his Nokia 808 PureView and now with his Nokia Lumia 1020. Hopefully, his advice and his time-lapses will inspire you get out there and give it a go. In the meantime, if you have any questions be sure to share down below.