HOW TO: Make a time lapse movie

I thought I’d share with you how I create my time lapse movies. It’s quite simple and doesn’t require any special equipment, save for a simple video camera.

I use a Flip HD camera that I picked up before they went out of business (someone, please remind me, why did Cisco kill that business again?). It has a maximum recording time of about 1 hour per movie so I can’t make time lapses longer than that so I need to keep that in mind.

I start by setting up the camera on a tripod to keep it stationary– this is very important and is hopefully obvious. Set it to record and don’t move it (unless you want to change the shot). Let it record in real time and capture everything. Don’t worry about the audio, we won’t be using it.

Afterwards, you’ll be left with a huge Quicktime .MOV file. Using Quicktime 7 Pro, open the movie. Make sure the player window hasn’t been resized (hit command-1 on a Mac). This will be important in the next step. Usually the head and tails of your movie will have a slight bit of motion in them so you don’t want that– trim the heads and tails off from the movie if you need to. It’s all under the edit menu. Use the ‘I’ and ‘O’ key to mark in and out points and use Edit->Cut to remove it.

Next, use File->Export. Choose export as “Movie to Image Sequence” and click Options. Change the format to JPEG. The frames per second you choose here will dictate how fast or slow your final time lapse will be. Let’s assume that your source movie is 1 hour. Choosing a small number like 1 FPS will give you a movie that lasts 2 minutes. Choosing 2 FPS will give you 4 minutes and so on. You can also put decimal numbers like .5 or .25 FPS. You can experiment with this value. I call this frame thinning because you are discarding a lot of the original source movie. This is ok. Also, click “Insert space before number.” Click OK. Make a new folder to put these images in (in the thousands for our example). Give it a base name and click save.

The final step is where the magic occurs. Choose File->Open Image Sequence, navigate to the folder and click the first image from the series. The next dialog asks what frame rate. I choose 30 to keep things fluid. Again, choosing a slower frame rate will make your movie longer. Click OK and wait. Once done, you’re rewarded with a great time lapse. Add some music, export to MPEG-4 and share!

High Speed Movies from a Point and Shoot

casio-exilim-fs100I recently purchased a Casio Exilim FS100 point and shoot camera. At first glance, there’s nothing remarkable about this camera. It’s not too incredibly tiny, doesn’t boast a zillion megapizels nor a battery that lasts for 24 hours.

What it does offer though is the ability to shoot high speed movies from 240fps up to 1,000fps! Below are some example shots of the movies that I recorded. Both movies were shot at 240fps.

The camera is available at for $220 (including a $30 price break until November 28, 2009).

Canon EF-S 10-22mm USM lens

I recently purchased a new lens from Canon. The EF-S 10-22mm USM lens has earned a permanent place in my camera bag. Below are some sample pictures. Zoomed to 10mm you do get some distortion of the images at the edges like you'd expect, but that can lend some nice effects to your images if you compose well.

Since it's an EF-S lens mount, it will only work with the recent Canon digital SLR line up.

Canon Vixia HF100: First Impressions

I recently obtained a Canon VIXIA HF-100 HD camcorder. The first thing I noticed is the unit is extremely light, even with the tiny battery installed. You can look up the exact weight, but spec sheets can't replace holding the unit in your hands.

It has a nice solid feel, the interface isn't overrun with buttons everywhere. There is a simple finger-tip joystick interface for all of the obscured menus to change functions of the camera. It has 16GB of internal flash memory with an SDHC slot for an additional card– I used another 16GB card. Over the weekend, I never came close to running out of space. It always displays the recording time left both for the memory available and the battery life. There are four recording “speeds” that translate into resolution and data rate changes.

It has an AV/headphone out port that is selectable in the software as well as an external 1/8″ mic port in which is really nice to have.

The biggest problem I'm running into is it's very unfriendly to use with a Mac. Despite the fact that AVCHD (the format it records in) is MPEG-4 H.264 standards based video, Quicktime doesn't recognize it, no fault of the recorder but instead of Apple for not providing double-click view of the .MTS file format in Quicktime. The provided software on CD-ROM is only for the still image capabilities of the camera, not the video side (really, who uses their camcorder as a still camera?). You can use it with Final Cut Pro 6 and iMovie 8 provided you have an Intel Mac, something which I lack at the present moment. Hopefully this will be forthcoming and you'll be able to double-click and view the videos right off the card.

So, I'll update later once I'm able to scrutinize the picture quality after I'm able to view it on my 30″ monster screen.