If you are a GoPro owner you should take the time to dive into the awesome GoPro time lapse feature and I guarantee you will be in love with it.
So if you are looking to get started on it, as always, I’m here to help you out with a few tips, tricks and examples.
I think GoPro time lapse videos look absolutely dope.
They work really well for travel videos or for moments of your vlog or film where you just want to skip through something really fast, but still give the viewers a sense of what happens in the meantime.
Before we get to it, let’s start with the very beginning, shall we?
What exactly is a time-lapse?
Well, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
So a time-lapse is an effect or technique which happens when the playback frame rate is much higher than the shooting / photographing frame rate.
So when you are doing a time-lapse you could be capturing a frame (taking a photo) every 2 seconds, right?
When you take those pictures and play them at a frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps), you get a time lapse
Because the pictures are played back at a much higher speed, it looks like everything is moving much faster, and the time is lapsing, hence the name – time lapse.
As you imagine, you will need a s**t load of pictures to be able to create a time lapse which is long enough so that it creates a seamless visual experience when you watch it.
You can think of it as the opposite of slow motion from this point of view. Oh, and since we are at it, slow motion is another video technique or effect that I absolutely love.
And the GoPro cameras are great for creating slow motion videos too. Especially the newer ones which can shoot in 120p or 240p at high resolutions.
So if you are into slow-mo too, check out this guide which talks in-depth about how you can create slow motion videos with a GoPro specifically.
How many pictures do you need for a time-lapse?
If you want to capture a sunset, that usually happens in just 20 minutes or so. So if you set your GoPro to take a picture every 2 seconds you will end up with 600 pictures in those 20 minutes.
Then, when you play those pictures back at a frame rate of 24 fps, you will end up with a time-lapse video which lasts for 25 seconds.
If you want to make a time lapse of some seeds germinating you will probably need to take photos for 36 hours straight or so (depending on what kind of seeds you are using).
Obviously, in this case, you will have to set your camera to take pictures at a much longer interval. As there’s not much happening every 2 seconds in this scenario.
Another way of figuring out what interval you should set for taking pictures or how many pictures you will need is by deciding how long you want the time-lapse to be.
If you want to create a time-lapse which is 1 minute long, at a frame rate of 24 fps you will need 1,440 pictures.
Depending on what you are shooting and how fast or slow things are moving in your scene, you will need to set the right time interval for taking those 1,440 pictures.
So it’s all down to basic math actually.
Note that if you use fewer pictures than 24 per second your time-lapse video will look jittery or jumpy.
GoPro time-lapse photo mode vs. time lapse video mode
If you played around with your camera a bit you may have noticed that there are two ways to shoot a time-lapse.
You can make a GoPro time-lapse in photo mode or you can make one in video mode.
What’s the difference between time-lapse photo vs. video
In time-lapse video mode, a GoPro will take picture after picture after picture until you hit the shutter button.
Once you hit the shutter button it automatically takes all those photos and stitches them together, creating a time-lapse video.
In time-lapse photo mode, a GoPro will do the same thing. It will take picture after picture after picture.
But this time when you hit the shutter button, all the pictures will be just sitting there. So you will end up with a bunch of different shots and that’s it.
So why would you even use the time-lapse photo mode when you have the time-lapse video mode doing all the work for you?
Well, just as with everything in life, both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages and disadvantages
First and foremost, by using the time-lapse in video mode you don’t need to put in any editing work.
The GoPro will create the time lapse for you, so you can go and share it with everybody right away. So that’s a big advantage right there.
By using the photo-mode time lapse, you will need to import all the files into a computer and use a video editing software to create the time-lapse yourself.
However, using the photo-mode time lapse will give you much more flexibility and it will allow more room for your creativity.
For example, with photo-mode time lapse, you can take pictures with longer exposure, which is great if you are looking to create one of those night-sky time-lapse.
A video time lapse will use a shorter exposure which will make the shoots to dark.
Also, when you are using the video-mode time lapse, your GoPro will automatically adjust its settings such as the exposure and ISO based on the light conditions at the very beginning of the scene. So if the lighting conditions are changing throughout the time lapse, the GoPro will not be able to adapt it’s settings to that.
The photo-mode time-lapse does. That’s why it’s better to use photo-mode if you are making a sunrise or sunset time lapse, for example.
Another main difference between the two is the resolution and the file size. When you are creating a photo time lapse that can end up taking up to 5-6 times more than a video time lapse.
In video mode, you can only choose between two resolutions – 2.7K and 4K.
In photo mode, you will have 4 different options which go up to 12 MP.
How to make a GoPro time-lapse
So as you already saw above, it is pretty easy to create a time-lapse with your GoPro because it actually comes with a built-in feature for it.
So all you need to do is scroll through the menu and click the time-lapse function. Use either the photo or video mode one depending on the situation.
There you will be asked to select the time interval that you want to use and the resolution.
The time interval can be set to 0.5 (which is the default – given that a GoPro is an action camera and everything should happen fast), 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds.
What you will need
When it comes to gear, there’s nothing too fancy or expensive that you will need.
Here’s a good chart put together by GoPro which tells you how long you can expect your battery to last for depending on which settings you are using. So for those long time-lapse shots, you will definitely need an external power source.
You want to connect your GoPro to the external power source right from the beginning, otherwise, you will probably shake it or move it around when you’re in the middle of the time-lapse. That can mess everything up.
Speaking of which, you will also need a tripod or something that can hold your GoPro still. You don’t want any movement at all.
Use an empty SD card so you don’t run out of space and also have your phone with the GoPro App installed so that you can preview what’s in the shot. This will drain the battery even more though, so keep that in mind as well.
GoPro time lapse ideas
I’m sure you each and every one of you can get really creative, but just in case you need some inspiration, here are some ideas and examples of what you can time lapse with your GoPro.
So as you can see there are a lot of cool time lapse videos you can create really easy with a GoPro and a little bit of patience.
How to edit a time-lapse video
Now to the fun part.
Making a time-lapse video really pop and look good requires a little bit of editing. Even if you are using the video-mode time lapse on your GoPro which puts the video together for you.
By the way, this editing tutorial will work for any GoPro alternative camera as well. So if you are using a different brand of action cameras you are covered.
Obviously, if you already have an MP4 file of the time lapse coming of your GoPro, there isn’t really that much you can do. Just play around with stuff such as the brightness, contrast, saturation and do some color grading. My favorite piece of software for doing that is Premiere Pro or Vegas Pro.
Now, if you are doing your time-lapse the right way – by stitching together a ton of photos, you will have to copy all the images from your GoPro to a computer.
Next, take all those photos and import them into photo editing software. I prefer Lightroom, but anything similar will work.
From there on you want to take the first picture that you are going to use for the time-lapse and start editing the colors, light, saturation, shadows. Or use presets if you’d like.
Once you are happy with how that looks, select all the photos that you are going to use for the time lapse video and apply the same exact effect to all of them. I know Lightroom has a button named ‘Sync’ which will do this for you automatically.
This will save you the time of color grading later on when you put together the video time lapse.
After that, you will need to export all those edited photos. You can choose a lower resolution if you don’t plan on doing a 4k video time-lapse out of it, by the way.
Once everything is exported double check to see if the images look good and if they are in sequence and in the right order. This is extremely important, otherwise stitching them together correctly will not work.
If everything looks good, go ahead and open up Premiere Pro, click File, Import and select the first picture.
Then, you want to check the Image sequence box.
This will import all your photos in Premiere Pro as just one video file which is made out of all those images stitched together.
From there on you can trim your video if needed or do whatever you want to do with it.
Personally, I like to add a little bit of zoom to it or give it that Ken Burns effect look. That combined with the motion of the time-lapse itself makes the whole video so much better looking.
You can either zoom in or zoom out.
What I found to work really good though, if you are trying to grab people’s attention or to point something out in your video, is to slowly zoom towards the object that you want to point out.
You will need to add just a tiny little bit of zoom though, nothing to dramatic. And the zoom effect should last from the very beginning to the very end of the time-lapse.
So that’s pretty much it.
So to sum it all up, you need to remember this.
You have two options to chose from.
Video mode time-lapse where your GoPro camera puts together the finished time-lapse video for you. This is the most convenient way of doing it, no video editing or post-production work needed.
And then you have the photo mode time-lapse, where your GoPro camera will give you a bunch of different photos which you need to put together yourself. So this method will take more work and more time. But it gives you more flexibility and the end video will always look better than the video mode time-lapse.
Remember that the latter option takes up a lot of storage space and power. So be prepared.
Cristian Stanciu is a freelance video editor, owner, and post-production coordinator of Veedyou Media – a company offering video editing services to videographers, marketing agencies, video production studios, or brands all over the globe.