How to Deflicker a Timelapse

When creating a timelapse, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. So while you may easily capture all the available frames you need, you can still end up with a less than pleasant viewing experience. Thankfully, your timelapse project doesn’t have to end there. To avoid scrapping the entire project, professional video producer Rob Nelson shows how you can deflicker your project to create the amazing footage you set out for:

What is Flickering?

To deflicker a project, you first need to understand what flickering is. Flickering occurs when the exposures vary between photos, creating an abrupt frame change from dark to light within your video. Since there is no foolproof way to have the exact same specifications while capturing each image (especially in cases where you are photographing outdoors), deflickering is generally completed during post-processing.

How to Decrease Flickering in a Timelapse

However, there are a few helpful tips to keep in mind while you’re in the field for a photo shoot.

First and foremost, always try to shoot your images in RAW, and if you can’t, you will have to convert the files to DNG before starting the deflickering process.

Secondly, shoot your images in manual mode. This includes all aspects: Aperture, Focus, ISO, Shutter Speed, and White Balance. In most cases, this will require you to manually go into each aspect through your camera’s menu system.

Last, but certainly not least, always keep your tripod as stable as possible. Remember, even small amounts of wind can easily jiggle a tripod, so if needed, weigh it down.

How to Deflicker a Timelapse Sequence

  • When you’re uploading your files, make sure to avoid renaming them. Otherwise, your files may not be read in chronological order by the editing program.
  • Before you start, check the format of your images. If needed, convert them to DNG.
  • Once you open the files within LRTimelapse, the first thing you most likely notice is the amount of photos you have versus the few seconds of video it will translate into. Ideally most timelapse movies are at least 10 seconds long—or around 300 images. Therefore, as you snap your photos, you need to figure out how long you need to be there to capture the specified number of photos.
luminance graph curve LRTimelapse

The abrupt ups and downs on the Luminance Curve show what areas need to be fixed.

  • Use the Luminance Curve and metadata in LRTimelapse to gain insight into the images you’ve captured. Each abrupt drop or gain within the graph will show the areas needing fixed. To begin, create a couple keyframes (one at the start of your film and the other at the end). Click Save, and import them to Lightroom by clicking and dragging the Drag to Lightroom button over to your Lightroom program. (This will import all your files.)
  • The only files you want to manipulate are the keyframes (images with 4 stars). Adjust the keyframes as necessary (e.g. increase Clarity), copy any changes to the second keyframe, and make any required additional adjustments.
  • Save the new metadata to the files (Photo > Save Metadata to File > Continue).
  • Go back to LRTimelapse and click the Reload button to replace the keyframes with the new metadata information. Click the Auto Transition button, Save, followed by Visual Previews. Once completed, click Visual Deflicker; and use the slider bar to drag the slider until you create a smoother Luminance Curve.
deflicker LRTimelapse highlight selected section

Highlight a section of the image without flickering for comparison.

  • To get a new visual preview, click Save.
  • If you still have any flickering, select a portion of the image that is not affected, and click the Visual Deflicker button. Refine the image as needed, and then Save.
  • After saving, you’ll need to go back into Lightroom, and (with everything selected) add your new metadata (Metadata > Read Metadata from Files > Read). The new data will be added to each of the files.
  • Once you’re satisfied with your results, Export the new files by placing them into a new folder using JPEG format.

While you can use AfterEffects, Adobe Premiere, or Final Cut Pro X, Nelson uses Final Cut Pro X. Using these programs, you can render the final image sequence to the exact specifications for your project. However, it is important to keep in mind every project time will vary. The process length depends on the number of images you’re working with, the overall capabilities of your workstation, and your available computing power.

Note: While multiple programs can be used to accomplish these tasks, for the tutorial Nelson uses Adobe Lightroom, LRTimelapse, and Final Cut Pro X.

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One Comment

  1. Jinsheng says:


    Nice tutorial, but the workflow is slow and complicated.

    I created a time-lapse de-flicker tool (called TLDF) that simplifies the time-lapse flickering removal.

    Just take all the pictures in any auto exposure mode and import the files to TLDF, which will generate a new sequence of de-flickered and de-noised files. There are two key features in TLDF: 1. Pixel level adjustment: Instead of globally changing the exposure for all the pixels by the same value, TLDF adjusts brightness of each pixel individually to optimize the flicker free effect for overall sequence. Most photo editing tools (Lightroom and plugins etc.) cannot do this. 2. Noise Reduction: Some of the flickers are caused by the noise. TLDF’s noise reduction algorithm will further reduce the flicker from time-lapse sequence and generate beautiful clean skies.

    It is available on Mac App Store. There are versions: free (renders up to 720p) and full (up to 8K). The apps are called “TLDF”.

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