How I Shoot: @sweatengine on Capturing the Perfect Time-Lapse Video
How I Shoot is a series where we ask Instagrammers to tell us about the set-up and process behind their photos and videos. This week, Kevin Lu (@sweatengine) shares how he captures time-lapse videos. See more of Kevin’s tips on his website.
Since the launch of video on Instagram last year, New York Instagrammer Kevin Lu (@sweatengine) has been on a quest to perfect the art of capturing time-lapse videos with his iPhone. “Time-lapse" describes the technique of creating a video by stitching together a large sequence of photos taken over time, which makes slow changes appear to happen faster. These days, Kevin’s feed is full of spectacular time-lapse videos from around New York City.
For those interested in trying their hand at capturing a time-lapse video, Kevin provides these tips:
iPhone (4 or later recommended)
"Choosing an appropriate vantage point is crucial to the success of the result. Often the subject of a time-lapse video is movement itself. Pick a subject that changes, moves slowly over time or makes intermittent, unpredictable movements for interesting results.
"As a rule of thumb, each frame of a time-lapse video should also be as good as a still photograph."
"There are many time-lapse apps available in the App Store. I personally prefer TimeLapse (iOS, $4.99) for its user interface and control settings. Lapse It (iOS and Android, Free) is another popular choice. They all do similar things—the difference is usually in control or output resolution.
"When shooting a time-lapse video, pay attention to the following technical details:
- Secure the iPhone (on a small tripod or solid object) to eliminate camera shake.
- Turn off iPhone’s auto-lock feature.
- Make sure the iPhone has enough battery power.
- If possible, from your time-lapse app lock the exposure settings before you start shooting. This will get rid of a distracting effect called ‘flickering’.
"The shoot duration, final length, and shutter speed all contribute to how the final video will look. For a final video length of 15 seconds, I typically use the following shoot settings for duration:
- 5-10 minutes for slow to average city traffic
- 10-15 minutes for pedestrian traffic
- 15-20 minutes for clouds
- 20 minutes or longer for sunrise/sunset
"Of course, as I mentioned earlier, these are not strict rules for this is a dynamic and creative process. It takes patience and practice to get it just right. Some apps let you adjust shutter speed as well. In general you can leave shutter speed on ‘auto.’"
"I do the majority of my editing with an app called Videon (iOS, $4.99). Videon allows me to straighten and sharpen my videos, as well as make adjustments to important parameters such as exposure, contrast, temperature and saturation.
"My editing usually begins with straightening my video, followed by slight sharpening and brightening underexposed shadowy areas. After these adjustments, I trim the video to 15 seconds before exporting it to camera roll. I then use another app called Lumify (iOS, Free) to pair my video with appropriate background music. Frequently I put on an Instagram video filter before I share.”