2021 August 21 — 16:11 — Timelapse Process

On August 20th I did what I hoped was a bit of solidification of my timelapse process, through taking and creating a video based on what I had hoped was just some of my enjoying tea...

That “hoped” leads to the question of what actually happened, but it isn't that relevant except when it comes to looking at the results, not the process. Let's for now say I was interrupted.

There are a few different parts that you need to look at before starting this process:

That is before you start to do your shooting, even though much of this (trust me, I've had success without paying attention to much of that) you can get away with just ignoring.

After you have completed (hopefully successfully) your shoot you're going to need to look at a few different things about getting it to a usable video based on those stills you created.

This probably will result in more than 1 post, as this is mostly just a quick summary. Some parts feel like they can be a quick summary here, but really I need to go through and write a full post on it, to feel I understand it.

So, let's look more at details here.

Pre Shooting Setup

When you are shooting, setting up the camera, and everything else before you shoot helps with getting better results.

Camera Settings

The camera settings are pretty important, but there's some debate about some of what is better, and what is maybe not worth it. Some people highly recommend using RAW format, though I don't really see why it's a benefit, and the files are about 10 times the size of a good quality JPEG of similar quality.

For me, I have several settings that I feel are what I want to have with it.

Manual Settings

Setting stuff to manual is important. This means setting the camera to not “think” for you.

That sets things so these things (shouldn't) don't change while you are shooting.

Focus can end up changing because something ends up changing that, (something gets closer or further away that it ends up focusing on) which means that the focus between frames ends up changing.

The exposure is a little less obvious as to why it might be a little bit of a problem. Especially with all three aspects of it possibly changing.
While the manual keeps a good “average” for all pictures, this can end up with changes as to what it's basing that on.

I have seen some videos (live recording) where because of changing light, it ends up flickering. If this is set manually, the difference of lighting, or subject, won't change stuff. Lighting changes can result in some flicker, but it's less likely as it means that the background is less likely to change exposure...

Picture Settings

This is more subjective. The first thing that I feel is important to me, is that I use JPEG only, as with “Large Fine” images on my camera (with current memory card) I get about 1,200 pictures if it's RAW+JPEG, a bit better with just RAW, but with JPEG I think about 12,000 at the same resolution.

1,200 pictures is about 20 seconds at 60fps, 12,000 would be almost 2 minutes. 60fps is probably not what you want unless you are using large numbers of pictures (3 days of shooting at 3 seconds between shots or something like that), and probably as low as about 12-18fps is closer to what you want. The problem with those lower framerates is sometimes they can end up messed up with editing/transcoding, especially when posting online, and it's done very much in the background (say posting to a service like PeerTube).

The next thing I think about is resolution. If I limit it to a resolution that is good for around 1920 by 1080 (1080p) I probably can get more than 10 times the number of pictures. At 3 seconds between pictures, I think I can shoot (JPEG only) about 12 hours at “large fine” with the current card.

With the large fine size, it allows for good quality pictures, if I want to grab a single image from the set.

To Always Check Before Shooting

This is stuff that I think that you should check before shooting, just about any time you go out:

This is largely just stuff that is easy to forget (I've done it more than enough that I have to remember to do it).

Battery Life

This is just something that you should quickly check to see that the battery that you have, has life in it, and that it's likely to last (if possible) through the length of time that you want to be shooting. Some of what can extend battery life is camera settings, so it's worth looking at that.

Shooting with “live view” on when you don't have to, will dramatically reduce your battery life. I know that one time that I tried to do a timelapse, I needed to have live view on, in order for it to work, but I think that was with the in camera way of doing it, but I got a remote release which does that for me (got it because shooting video, I realized that having a remote release is a huge advantage, as the camera will only shoot 30 minutes of video at a time, and I do most of this with just myself.[1]

Available Memory

It is worth it to make sure that you have enough space on your memory card. Depending on how you handle things, it is possible that you have old photos that you want to deal with before shooting, or just replace a more full card, with a card with more space on it.

Lense and Filter

This can go to just making sure you have the right lense and filter on, up to making sure that it is very clean. Ideally I would do both. I just have the one lense, and I think 2 options for a filter (which I'm not sure make much difference to be honest).

I have a circular polariser, and thinking about using that, and how it is supposed to work, I think for a long timelapse (with changing angle of primary light source) this could be something that would end up with changes over your shoot. I haven't really looked to see if anyone has done this or not. This could be what you want, or it could end up being undesirable.

Shot Settings

I am using my remote shutter release for this, and the settings are on the remote release. My camera also has a feature which will do the same thing.

The main thing that I work with is how long between shots, the “interval” that I shoot at. I currently have it set for 3 seconds between shots.

The manual makes a note to set the interval at longer than the exposure.
I'm not sure if that applies to the “long” setting or not. But if the shutter speed on the camera is longer than the “interval” you can have unexpected results. I tried to shoot aurora, but I ended up with basically black frames because the “interval” was set to shorter than the needed shutter speed.

I recommend trying to make sure that when you start shooting, that you end up with something that works.

Resetting Camera Settings

If you are changing stuff from your default, you want to make sure that you reset that before you really “step away” from doing the timelapse.
Ie. Right after shooting your timelapse, try to make sure you return your settings to normal. For this, I do recommend that you take notes of the changes you make. I have a little waterproof paper notebook about an A7 size for taking notes. It's very small, and easy to travel with, about 5 inches, by 3 inches or, 13 cm by 7.5 cm.

I don't really use it anywhere near as much as I would like, but I am actually using it “some” which is much better than not actually setting up to take notes.

Shooting

I didn't mention anything about shooting. Once I have set everything up as I have said above, it is just a matter of pushing a button on the remote, and then at the end, pushing it again to stop. The way you do that will probably depend on how you are handling your shooting. Using the in camera settings, it was similar, but it wasn't actually easy to stop if I have decided to not finish without shooting the full set of pictures.

Post Shooting

This probably will need to be very much expanded. This is a lot to do with personal choice, and how you have your computer setup. I will mostly be talking about my process on my computer.

Importing Images

I have a simple script that I use (and have for quite a while) which uses gphoto2 and exiftool to set things so that I have it imported based on the creation date in a single directory. I've used other tools, including photo management software (I use digikam for some stuff, but not the actual importation of files).

File Management

There are a few things that I do with this, first off, I want to be working with each section I want to have separated clearly marked. For this project, I just took the pictures I did for the timelapse, even though in the end I want to see if I can get the files to be in 3 different sections, for what I got.

Creating Initial Video File

For this I have a simple command which kind of I'm not entirely sure that it's the best way to handle it:

ffmpeg -framerate 60 -pattern_type glob -i '*.jpg' -c:v libx264 out-60fps.mp4

This has been simplified from one that I found. The -framerate 60 and -c:v libx264 I think are really needed. It sets the framerate for the output file out-60fps.mp4, and the video codec to use. I think there may be a good alternative to libx264 for the initial encoding. I find that it is fast, and small enough for my needs, at a quality that works for me.

I think that there's different ways that I could handle the input.
This works... So I'm not sure I'm changing it...

This will create it at the image size of the original files. That makes for a quick creation, and not distorting it.

Creating Final Video File

This for me, I did in Blender (it's not entirely the best tool for this, it's designed to handle 3D modeling, rendering, and animation, but it works for me).

Part of why I use Blender, is because it ends up outputting a working file, that is a format that I know what it is. For this one, I set it to output it as a 1080p60 h.264 mp4 file.

Before I post my files, I re-encode it with h.265, which for this resulted in the file being less than 25% of the original file size, and with our slow internet connection, this is a big thing.

As I've said, I really feel like the process for the computer side of things needs to be handled in a separate file to handle it more fully.
I can see that each of these four parts, being handled appropriately in 4 different posts.

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