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Creating Time-Lapse Movies with a Digital Photo Camera

Abstract: What This is All About

Interval timer board [14kb]
[click to enlarge: 134kb JPG]

With some cheap tricks, even inexpensive consumer-grade digital cameras can produce fancy results which otherwise require expensive specialized equipment. For example, repetitive actions which are too fast for the human eye can be caught by clever photo flash timing, as presented on the drop crash and ball impact pages. In contrast, some processes like the formation of clouds in the sky, are too slow for the human eye. While we can of course see the process at any time, the eye is unable to conceive the dynamics behind it - unless viewed as a time-lapse movie.

Such fast motion films basically make slow things fast. They can easily be produced by taking a photo of a scene in regular intervals and then assembling the sequence of images into a film. Certain (improved consumer grade) cameras already include an interval shot function, yet they commonly lack desired features like arbitrary interval times, fixing exposure, or they even refuse to take more than 100 photos. There is a separate page for those interested in the technical details.

First Time-Lapse Movies

Viewing these films: These films can be viewed with MPlayer which is available for Linux as well as for Windows (for free). Other players may or may not work.

Smoke trail

Smoke Trail film [4kb]

The weather was wonderful and sky was blue without a single cloud anywhere on Sunday, March 11, 2007. Don't know exactly what this is (allegedly a cogeneration plant) but leaving a nice smoke/dust trail, it was the only interesting thing around. Due to heavy zooming and windy conditions, the camera is moving slightly.

Time compression factor: 100
Fixed exposure.
Film: [1800kbit/s 640x480 FMP4, 7.3Mb]

Sunset over Munich

Sunset over Munich film [3kb]

A beautiful Sunday without a cloud in the sky until the evening, so I tried to capture the sunset. The exposure was left variable but the focus was fixed (manual focus). During the film, one can see how the digital camera adjusts exposure (or image brightness).

Time compression factor: 400
Variable exposure.
Film: [1800kbit/s 640x480 FMP4, 7.1Mb]

Trying Some Clouds

Experimental clouds film [5kb]

These are three different short sequences trying to capture the formation and movement of clouds. Conditions were not optimal but it's nice to watch anyway. This is probably more fun in summer when cumulus clouds build up.

Time compression factor: 375
Fixed exposure.
Film: [1800kbit/s 640x480 FMP4, 2.0Mb]

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Last modified: 2007-11-06 00:49:18