How to Make a Time-Lapse Video With Your Digital Video Camera

How to Make a Time-Lapse Video With Your Digital Video Camera

(originally written and published by Kevin Rockwell)

Getting the most out of your digital video camera can mean being able to create some really cool stuff. You just have to step outside the manual a bit and find the cool things you can do with your digital video camera and your editing software.

We have all seen them in a movie or a TV show, those very cool shots where they speed up time and capture a long segment of time and condense it into a very short amount of video. My very favorite example of this technique was an arty movie of many years ago that was called Koyaanisqatsi. In that movie they had some very interesting segments where they did time lapse effects to show driving on a bridge, flowers growing, clouds flying by and so on. Another example is many of the TV news stations nowadays have a camera that captures the day’s weather and then they process it down to a 20 second clip to show the clouds and weather racing by on screen.

Well this technique is not just a tool in the hands of the movie makers or the big TV stations. You can do this with your digital video camera gear too. I will go into two ways that you can accomplish this effect and get some cool results for your next video project. This one is worth playing around with in order to find the right settings to get the most dramatic effect.

Technique number one is to use the camera itself to do the time lapse recording for you. Almost all digital video cameras have the ability to do an interval recording. What this means in a nutshell is that you tell the camera how long you want to record for and how long in between recordings and it will go on autopilot for you for as long as the battery lasts or the tape runs out. This is what those cameras at the convenience store do, they record a few seconds of motion every 30-60 seconds giving the overall view of the traffic in the store over time.

Now if you want to capture some time lapse in your digital video camera you will need to get into your cameras menu and find Interval Recording (or in my case Int Rec, as I use a Sony PD 150 for my camera) When you select this option you will decide how long of an interval between shots you want and how long to record each time. If you are trying to capture something that takes a long time to occur and in which not much happens quickly you will want to set the interval at around a minute and the record time as short as possible on your camera. An example would be if you wanted to record a day in the life of a flower or the clouds rolling by in the sky. Suppose however that you want to capture an event that has lots of action and occurs over a much shorter time frame. Then you would want to shorten the interval between recordings and increase the time of each recording. So in this case you might record every 15-30 seconds and record up to 2-3 seconds of video each time.

I used this technique to capture an afternoon of work being done by a team of carpenters on my house remodeling project. The result was a flurry of activity as workers raced hither and yon nailing boards, carrying equipment and building walls. I have added it to my photo collection of the project. (Hey I had to live through the project so I might as well have a great record of it for posterity!)

Now suppose you have one of the great software video editing packages on your computer to work with your digital video camera. Now you can do it in post as they say in the business. You can record any length of video you want (subject to the limitations of your tape length) and then import it into your editing program.

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