Creating a time-lapse video is easier than ever thanks to intuitive hardware and software. Creating a time-lapse video is easier than ever thanks to intuitive hardware and software. Creating a time-lapse video is easier than ever thanks to intuitive hardware and software. (Photo: Coloursinmylife / Shutterstock)

How to make a time-lapse video

From setup to execution, our expert offers tips for helping you get started in the exciting world of time-lapse photography.

From the glittering, revolving beauty of the night sky to the bustling flow of people at the beginning of the day, time-lapse videos offer a unique glimpse into the movement of time across our world. Thanks to advancements in technology (namely that smartphone in your pocket), they're also incredibly easy to create. Have a home improvement project you want to document from beginning to end? How about a scene outside your window that's begging to be shared with the rest of the world? With a little patience and some practice, you can capture time-lapse videos as good as any by the pros.

In creating the following tips, we hit up videographer and aerial drone pilot Jesse Peters for some advice on the best way to get started. If you find these useful and happen to create your own time-lapse in the process, please share it in the comments below!

1. Grab a device that has time-lapse software

From smartphones to GoPros, most cameras sold in the last couple of years come with built-in software designed to assist you in capturing time-lapse videos. Peters tells From The Grapevine that he uses a Nikon Coolpix p900 because of its excellent zoom and image quality. He'll also occasionally use the time-lapse system on his aerial drone or a GoPro. You can see an example of a time-lapse Peters recently took of sunset on Herzliya Beach, Israel, below.


2. Use a tripod

Without a doubt, you're going to want to use a tripod to take your time-lapse. Risking anything else could result in shaky video that detracts from the moment you're attempting to capture. Plenty of options exist – from a tripod that grips just about anything to one with a motorized head that turns 360 degrees over the course of an hour. If you want to go high-end, you can even purchase a slide rail that gives a bit more dynamic range to your videos. Below is an example using a rail system to take various time-lapse shots of New York City.


3. Plan your shot

Time-lapse videos naturally demand more of your day than standard, quick takes, so make sure you spend a few moments planning out your shots. Peters recommends adjusting your capture settings for each environment, an important tip depending on whether you're shooting from day to night or dealing with the possibility of inclement weather. It's also a good bet to not only make sure your shot is prepared but that you are as well. Dress comfortably per the outdoor conditions and remember to bring plenty of water and food depending on the length of your shoot. As this time-lapse of Lofoten Island off the coast of Norway proves, proper planning even in freezing conditions can lead to spectacular results.


4. Choose the right time-lapse interval

Not everything in our world moves at the same speed, so if you're trying to focus on something specific, make sure to choose the proper time-lapse capture interval.

  • Moving traffic or fast moving clouds: 1 second
  • Sunsets/sunrises or crowds: 1-3 seconds
  • Stars or sun moving across the sky: 15-30 seconds

If you happen to be filming a time-lapse of, say, the world's largest ship in Okpo, Korea, then you're going to want to set your interval to something much longer.

Practicing these tips, and the many more how-to guides on the subject, will turn you into a time-lapse pro in no time. Now get out there – and share with us the results!

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How to make a time-lapse video
You don't have to be a professional videographer to produce fun time-lapse photography. Here are a handful of tips for helping you get started