November 25, 2016

5 Top Time-Lapse Tips you Need to Know

Here at LA Media, we have over 10 years under our belt of creating professional large-scale time-lapse for both the web and broadcast.

From the crafting of giant sand sculptures to the creation of huge buildings, we have time-lapsed numerous projects, both manned and unmanned.

In this blog, we would like to share with you the professional time-lapse tips that we’ve gathered over the years on the various projects we’ve delivered.

Video by LA Media '2016 Time-Lapse Showreel' 

Why use time-lapse?

A time-lapse video is a useful tool for companies. It allows them to showcase ongoing projects over a period of time. Not only is it a versatile marketing tool but it also acts as an archive of the project. There is something incredibly satisfying when watching two years’ worth of work come together smoothly in two minutes.

When you are making a time-lapse there is little wiggle room for mistakes. If you mess up - or the camera fails - you cannot get back the time and progression you've lost.

Say you muck up three months of construction progression footage you can’t really go back to the client and ask them for a do-over.

Simplicity is not so simple to attain!

While time-lapse may look easy, they aren’t so straightforward. It takes real skill to make something look that easy! Apps and auto time-lapse cameras are perfectly good if you are only creating a video for your own personal social media feed. However, if you are looking to show off your brand, company, or work then you will need to invest in something with much higher quality. With our handy time-lapse

Apps and auto time-lapse cameras are perfectly good if you are only creating a video for your own personal social media feed. However, if you are looking to show off your brand, company, or work then you will need to invest in something with much higher quality.

With our handy time-lapse tips, you will learn how to run a practically perfect production!

time-lapse tips

Great Expectations!

Nowadays, you can buy a time-lapse camera that is fully automatic; however, we wouldn’t recommend this, as they often don’t provide you with still photographs. Often, the resulting footage is in a low-resolution format, which can leave the client feeling underwhelmed.

Another major drawback is that you cannot remotely monitor the project with this type of camera. You will have no idea when, and if, something goes wrong until you physically go to check up on the equipment.

Basically, the risk of error is very high with this sort of camera.  Despite all the new technology time-lapse is still an incredibly fragile process: you're only one glitch away from having no product.

Our five time-lapse tips ensure that you can deliver a professional quality final product


1. Don't skip the recce

An on-site recce is essential. An extra day for a recce may seem like a faff but it really helps you to establish the challenges of the project. For example, how will the project evolve in terms of size and height? Where will you place the time-lapse installation and will you need special access, security assistance or equipment e.g. cherry picker rental?

This recce ensures all costs are identified allowing you to present the client with an accurate budget for the effort involved.

2. Waterproofing

Come hell or high water, the time-lapse must prevail, so let's talk about weather-proofing. A plastic bag or an umbrella over your camera ain’t gonna cut it. You need to make your own special apparatus. This is basically customising a weatherproof box to protect your equipment.

Inside it needs to have the following: an adjustable mounting position for the camera within it, a glass frontage to allow the camera to see out yet remain protected, weather-proof access for power leads, interior fittings for 4G routers (a telephone connection) & Mac minis. Without this, you are risking the client's product and your equipment.

3. Plan Ahead

After you have the client agreement, you need to think about installing and starting the time-lapse. This process usually takes a day. Wherever the camera is perched it must be secure. Mother nature can be a fickle lady and may just throw all her might at your camera. So plan for the worst but hope for the best, and make sure it is so well secured even Zeus's thunderbolts wouldn't shift it.

4. Do the math!

Time for the maths bit...don't panic it's really simple. The next thing you have to decide is your frame rate: this is determined by the nature of what you are looking at. If it is a construction project i.e. a building, you will want one frame every ten to 15 minutes.

This is a good starting point, but you need to know how long the client wants the overall video to be. Bear in mind that video runs at 25 frames per second of video: this should help you calculate your frame rate. For example, if your client wants 5 minutes of video footage, then you need to capture 1,500 frames just to make one minute of video. Therefore, your five-minute video will require 7,500 frames in total.

On top of all that, make an allowance for frames that you won't use e.g. periods of inactivity such as night-time and weekends. If you are shooting people you need a much higher frame rate. You want people to look smooth in their movement, not like a badly animated gif, as funny as that would be. You’re looking at something like one frame every 0.5 seconds.

Still with us? Don’t panic this is a real mind buster and even in our office we always defer back to our most senior director to do the maths!

5. Get connected

Finally, start the installation on-site and make a phone call back to the base to confirm that the remote monitoring via the 4G router is working.

People often forget to check these small but crucial things. Once everyone is off-site you are pretty much snookered if you haven’t got the connection.

We hope that these time-lapse tips help you on your next shoot!

We hope you've found this blog helpful! Let us know what you think in the comments, tell us if we've missed something out.


If you enjoyed this blog don’t forget to follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for your daily dose of media & drone chat!

Visit our website and if you have any questions, e-mail us at [email protected] or give us a call on 0131 622 0220