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March 18, 2014

How to shoot macro time-lapse videos with your Lumia

One of iconic sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke’s famed laws of prediction is that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Happily, there’s tons of magical things you can do on your Nokia Lumia that fulfill this criteria and one we never tire of is time-lapse video making. Last month, the maestro of this amazing art form, Olivier Noirhomme, shared his top tips. Now, he’s back to show us how to take time-lapse macro. Over to you, Olivier.

Why I’m mad about zoom

We all know the Nokia Lumia 1020 features a monstrous 41MP sensor, with a maximum output of 33,6MP (7712*4352) in 16/9 and 38,2MP (7136*5360) in 4/3. As you may have seen saw in Part 1 and Part 2 of my previous How to shoot a time-lapse video articles, it can be very useful to capitalize on these crazy resolutions to make insane zooms and pans in a landscape scene. It really allows you to find little stories within bigger stories and to show various spots of a same scene, one after the other, before getting back to the whole scene. This creates that amazing endless zoom impression.

Now, to make things even more interesting and even more original, it can also be used brilliantly for other types of scene: the close-up and macro. To see for yourself, check out this video below.

Like I explained in Part 2, think what kind of zoom is possible with a 1080p video in 33,6MP or 38,2MP pictures.  Imagine a 1920*1080 rectangle inside a 7712*4352 or 7136*5360 one. It will look tiny and this little rectangle in the huge one is exactly the full screen image you’ll get in your video with the maximum zoom.

So, even if the Lumia 1020, for example, has a minimum focus distance of about 15cm, you can still zoom and zoom and zoom in the pictures and get really close to the objects in the scene.

Part 1 of How to shoot a time-lapse video provides detailed explanations on each of the available setting. The same principles apply to macro scenes. However, there are some other things you need to know, too.

Focus on focus

As with the landscape time lapses, a locked focus is mandatory. It has to be the exact same focus on each shot. Even a small difference will be obvious right away. It’s easy for a landscape scene. You just have to choose Infinity or Hyperfocal and you’re good to go. For a macro scene, it’s more difficult.

CameraPro allows you to choose a focus by selecting an area on the viewfinder. Cleverly designed, the app will remember the focus you choose before the first shot picture after picture. It will stay the same until you stop the interval capture. If you have trouble focusing on a close object, selecting macro mode will sometimes help or you might just be a little too close to the object, so back up a bit.

Get into the scene

As for the scene itself, it can be anything : a candle, raindrops slowly covering a window, melting ice, a bathtub filling with foam, snow covering the ground, a growing plant and so on. Use your imagination, think about things that have a slow evolution in time, try to look at them from unusual point of views and perspective, imagine them with a fast forward effect. Anything can make a good scene. It just has to have movement.

All of these examples could be great simple time-lapses but what’s really amazing with close up/macro scenes is the zoom. It enables you to get very close and show things you probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Melting ice at the maximum zoom is a great example. You’ll see all the little bubbles and air holes moving and the ice transforming into water. The  candle gives an awesome result too with its wick slowly burning.

Unless the scene is an outside one, try to have as little natural lightning as possible. The ideal case is to have artificial lightning that will stay exactly the same during the capture. If there’s sunlight it could partially ruin the video because it will change over time and clouds may pass in front of it.

Let your imagination go wild

Just like non-macro scenes, you’re only limited by your imagination and creativity. The available zoom range enables you to show several spots of a single scene and make a longer video out of it. Your virtual camera can go wherever you want, can turn upside down or show things from another point of view like waterdrops falling upwards. Use time too. You can go backwards and/or faster/slower to make great effects like a candle reforming itself, ice transforming into water and again into ice, a glass filling up with water.

Make it unusual, fun and creative. Make it look like everything is alive and breathing. Add music maybe. It can really add something special and give the video an incredibly hypnotic feel.

We hope you’ve enjoyed both Olivier’s priceless tips and his breathtaking videos. If there’s anything else you’d like to know about this awesome art form, drop your question in the comments below. In the meantime, we’re off to marvel at Olivier’s macro mastery again.