Timelapse Photography Tutorial

We feature many timelapse photography projects here on Picture Correct, but rarely do we find such great examples of how they were made as we have with the Dustin Farrell‘s video that you can see below. Over the 17 minute explanation, Farrell generously shares with viewers the process he uses to capture the tens of thousands of images needed to complete a single timelapse film. Take a look:

Using a Canon 5D MK III and a 14mm EF f 2.4 and 24mm lens EF f 1.4, Farrell manages to capture some stunning visual images which he then renders together in post processing. By walking the scene with his camera, Farrell is able previsualize and get a feel for how the photos will turn out. When shooting night skies, Farrell calls on the iPhone app, Night Skies, to help plan out when the stars will be perfectly aligned.

When taking the timelapse images, he sets up an 8-foot Stage Zero dolly which he uses to capture the slow panning effects found in his timelapse films. The dolly is controlled with a MX-2 Motion Controller, which is fully programmable to move at precise increments and intervals. The controller is usually set to move very gradually, so that when the images are played back via timelapse the pan appears smooth and not to quick.

The phone app, Night Skies, allows users to track the movement of the stars and galaxies.

To help light the foreground, Farrell setup a battery powered 1 foot by 1 foot LED Daylight Flood panel, but notes that is a delicate balancing act between too bright of a foreground and too dim. When shooting on the settings he used–30 second exposure, 2500 ISO, at f2.4–it is easy to overlight the foreground. He set the flood panel to just 10% brightness and bounced it into the ground to further diffuse and soften it.

Farrell also states that he shoots RAW 95% of the time, “because having that RAW data is priceless.” Given the high dynamic range of many of the sunsets and landscape scenes he prefers to shoot, the RAW information enables Farrell to fine tune the highlights and shadows.


Once the shoot has commenced, Farrell moves into his office where the tedious task of editing and rendering the footage begins. He starts by importing the photos into Adobe After Effects which automatically opens in them in Camera Raw where he makes minor adjustments such as lens correction, clarity, and white balance settings. Once done in Camera RAW, he makes a duplicate layer in After Effects and the real magic starts to happen.

Given the nature of shooting night and low light settings, noise will always be an issue when using great cameras such as the 5D MK III. To help combat the noise, Farrell uses the Neat Video Pro plug-in which handles the noise and brings it down to a more agreeable level.

Once all the adjustments are made and the images are edited to perfection, Farrell renders them together and sets them to playback at a frame rate of 29.97 frames per second. He prefers this framerate over a commonly used 24 fps, because he feels it is more pleasing to the eye–and judging by the quality work Farrell has repeatedly turned out his eye is a great judge of what looks best!

For Further Training on Timelapse Photography:

There is a COMPLETE guide (146 pages) to shooting, processing and rendering time-lapses using a dslr camera. It can be found here: The Timelapse Photography Guide

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5 responses to “Timelapse Photography Tutorial”

  1. Mark Zelazoski says:

    Nice timelapse, but his words don’t hold alot of weight since he speaks above the average guy. He makes it pretty clear that you can’t get a good timelapse without thousands of dollars of equipment. I’ve seen many other timelapses done with the same lowlevel equipment I have that rival the ones shown by Mr. Farell.Too bad. He probably dissuaded many other photographers from giving it a shot.

  2. Lee says:

    I agree with Mark. There is video equipment that can do this for thousands less. As I’ve posted elsewhere, why deliver pizza with a Rolls Royce unless your selling pizza at one heck of a mark up.

  3. David says:

    Have to agree with Mark & Lee…

  4. Tony Boicelli says:

    I agree with you to a great degree but there are so many videos showing how to do things on the cheap that those that want to step it up have little reference. I also like how he went into more detail in post rather than just saying “edit in After Effects” like others do. Dustin, I am curious if you have used LR Time-lapse and if so, how it compares to After Effects for putting these together. I do like how LRT can work with Lightroom so that all the images are corrected before any rendering. Dustin, I also appreciate that you showed us your mistakes and how to work around them, normally presenters make it look too easy because they edit out their screw ups. Great video, Kudos!

  5. Robert Michaels says:

    Great ! I use this: http://www.videostudiopro.com/en/pages/time-lapse-video/ to create time lapse videos on my PC but I didn’t know how to do that with my camera. Thank you very much for the help :)

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