It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve finally set up a good workflow for creating time lapse movies. The best part is, it uses all free and open source software.

Tools

  • Gphoto2 for controlling and capturing images from a digital camera with a computer.
  • ImageMagick for resizing, cropping, and otherwise modifying images.
  • FFmpeg for creating a video from a series of images.
  • Audacity (optional) for cutting music down to size to add to videos.

Workflow

  1. I first capture images using gphoto2 over a specific period of time. I have an Ubuntu server that runs a script that calls gphoto2 to capture and save images on the computer. I use an AC adapter for my camera, since the battery is likely to run out over the course of a full day. I usually capture from just before sunrise to just after sunset, and I get my sunrise and sunset times from the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory.
  2. Using ImageMagick, I resize and crop photos if necessary. At this point, I transfer the files to my Mac and I do the rest of the processing there. Since Mac OS X has Unix underneath, I can use the same tools I would use in Ubuntu, but also utilize my faster processor(s) and the extra RAM in my MacBook Pro. I find that my videos are better if I crop the images to focus on the interesting parts. Resizing after I crop will result in a smaller image size so the video encoding doesn’t take too long or result in an unwieldy (and unnecessary) video file size. If I were to use the full size of the images that come off the camera, I could easily create a video in quad full high definition (2160p), which is way past 1080p.
  3. I then use FFmpeg to create a video from the series of images. FFmpeg is finicky with its input file names, so sometimes renaming of the images is needed. This is necessary when there’s a gap in the numbering of the files.

January 18, 2008 in Westfield, MA

I’ve had this video up on YouTube for awhile, but I recently saw the new feature of adding your own sound track. It inspired me to add audio to this video. Of course, I didn’t want to take the easy way out and use YouTube’s lame audio tool, so I modified the last step in my workflow to include an MP3 with the video. I used Audacity to cut the Nine Inch Nails track “1 Ghosts I” off their album Ghosts I-IV. Since that album was licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license, I can use it here in my video.

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December 15, 2008 in Chicopee, MA

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December 17, 2008 in Chicopee, MA

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December 19, 2008 in Chicopee, MA

About 40 seconds into this video, a snow storm starts and the parking lot fills up with snow. Then at 58 seconds, snow slides off the warm hood of a car. Kind of neat.

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December 20, 2008 in Chicopee, MA

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Comments

2 Responses to “Time Lapse Photography”

  1. Very good work!

  2. I’m a property investor! This would be very good to show the various stages of a house being built. But a house takes longer. But it would be something you dont see very often in the industry. Not sure i would ever get around to filming it. Actually about three photos a day would probably do it over three-nine months. Good that there is a well explained site to go back to for instructions.

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