The Complete Guide to Timelapse Data Management

If you’ve ever tried your hand at creating timelapses, you know how time consuming they can be. Just one clip can include hundreds of large RAW images, all needing to be named, placed into the correct folders, edited, and exported. Managing all of this media can become a total headache if you don’t have a streamlined workflow and a solid system of organization. To help in all of this, established timelapse filmmaker Preston Kanak created the following tutorial, walking the viewer through every element of his timelapse workflow:

Media management isn’t the most exciting part of creating an amazing timelapse, but it’s fundamental to your time and resource management overall. Having the right software, organizing your images so that you can find them easily, and having a streamlined workflow can literally save you hours (and maybe even days!) of post-processing.  And while you certainly don’t need to do it the way Kanak does it, you do need to find a system that works for you.

The Workflow

Kanak’s workflow uses a number of different software applications, all calibrated to make his post-processing quick and easy:

Importing

Kanak imports directly to his Mac using the desktop Finder, but you can also use Shotput Pro or Red Giant’s Offload.

Organizing

For organizing and previewing all of his files, Kanak uses Photo Mechanic, a standalone image browser that allows you to preview all of your huge RAW files as quickly and easily as if they were just puny JPEGs. Believe me, that’s something that matters in the timelapse world. You can also get a preview of your clip by simply scrolling down the left hand sidebar! It’s pretty expensive, but worth every dime if you shoot timelapses often. You won’t ever have to use low resolution JPEGs just to preview.

This is the time to make any notes about things you’d like to change in the post-processing to come.

Creating the Timelapse

Once you’re finished with the preview, it’s time to get to the fun part–creating the timelapse. To begin, Kanak simply imports his photos into LR Timelapse and follows the prompts from left to right.

Editing your files using LR Timelapse

This is where you decide on if and how many keyframes you want to define. Keyframes define the starting and ending points to any smooth transition in your video. They allow you to adjust whatever properties to the specific keyframe image you want, and then apply different adjustments at a different place in time. They’re helpful if you’re shooting in manual or want to make creative transitions through your shots. They’re also particularly useful if your timelapse has large transitions in it (i.e. night to day).

Once you’ve finished prepping your files in LR Timelapse, it’s time to jump over to Lightroom to process the keyframes and make any other enhancements.

Now it's time to balance out your images using Lightroom

Final Editing and Export

If you have access to Adobe After Effects, you’ll want to use it here. After Effects allows you to composite your images in a way that saves quite a bit of time (i.e. Kanak’s bird removal technique). It also allows you to batch export multiple timelapses in many different formats.

Smoothing out the water in After Effects

Kanak recommends batch exporting in both full and low resolution for ease of cataloging, as well as keeping the RAW files and their metadata.

Again, you don’t need to use all or even any of these programs in your workflow–it’s just one example of a quick and relatively painless system from getting from import to export efficiently. If you already have a method that works for you, great! But if you’re still getting mired in time-consuming processes, you might want to try this one out.

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