Timelapse photography has a lot going for it. It’s relatively easy to do (especially if you read our post about it), and you can make it all automated with in-camera settings and/or an intervalometer. It also looks great when it’s done well, and gives a new perspective to the world, cramming a large amount of time into a short video.
The biggest downside to timelapses is that you usually have to remain in a single location (motion timelapses excluded). This is where a hyperlapse comes in and changes all that. You can take a timelapse and ramp it up by adding lots of movement and covering large distances, giving a “hyper” appearance to your video and even bending and warping your scene with certain types of movement. Making a hyperlapse video is tedious work, but it’s very rewarding when you come away with some mind-blowing footage that completely changes the way you create and compose your videos.
What You Need
All you really need is a camera. You can accomplish amazing things by just holding your camera at eye level and making sure you’re pointed at the exact same thing every time, then clicking the shutter. However, if you want to add motion blur or have a very specific height in mind for your camera, or if you would just rather use a tripod, you can absolutely use one. You can also add an intervalometer for easier shutter control in situations where you can’t push the shutter with your hand.
Your lens can either be a prime or fixed lens, or you can use a zoom lens. If you’re using a zoom lens, though, make sure to keep the focal length the same in every frame (unless you’re making a dolly zoom hyperlapse, but more on that later). The whole concept of a hyperlapse is to shoot a frame that looks the same or is similarly composed as the previous one as you move your camera from one point to another. As the perspective changes from the move, the “hyper” look is created.
You’ll want a lens that doesn’t have much distortion, because that can cause strange results in post-production. You’ll normally also want to shoot at the widest focal length possible so you have more room when you’re stabilizing. For your shooting, replicate the basic timelapse settings: manual white balance to avoid any color changes between frames; full manual or aperture priority shooting to avoid any flickering; and a shutter speed chosen to reflect your desired effect. If you’re dragging your shutter, you’ll need a tripod for best results.
If you’ve got the space and time for it, you can shoot RAW images. This will give you way more control over the image in post-production, but the files are huge and can cause camera lag.
How to Shoot a Hyperlapse
Before you start shooting, it’s a good idea to walk or make the move you’re planning on doing to get a sense of how far you want to move between each photo. If you’re moving across a large field, you may not need a photo every foot — you can probably take a few steps between photos, instead. Conversely, if you’re only covering one city block, you probably want to take more photos over the smaller distance, meaning smaller movements between stills.
Next, you need to find a fixed point in the frame that doesn’t disappear over the duration of your move. As long as you keep that point in the same spot in your frame as you make each incremental movement, you’ll have a much better result. Usually, you can use the camera’s built-in grid, a focus point overlay square in the viewfinder, or you can use the square that’s often on the screen in live-view mode. Adjust everything so that your frame is as good as you can get it, which includes the ball-head level, the pan, the tilt, and the height (if you’re on uneven ground). If you’re handheld, just try your best to keep the horizon as level as possible.
Once you set your fixed point, take a photo, then move, take another photo, and repeat. Remember to keep the timelapse formulas handy for figuring out how many photos you’ll need.
(Frame Rate) x (Seconds of Footage) = (Total # Of Frames)
(Total # Of Frames) ÷ (Frame Rate) = (Seconds of Footage)
Pro Tip: Use the same measurement tool for every move to ensure a smooth hyperlapse. You can use a ruler, chalk marks, a cane or walking stick, or whatever else suits you. Just keep it consistent. A bonus to look out for when you’re shooting is cracks in the sidewalk, tiles on a floor, or something else that you can use as a guide. Place your tripod or your feet in the same spot in relation to the measurement tool and take your photo. Try to keep your movements and distances as consistent as possible, or you may get certain frames that “jump” ahead because you added a step or took too long to get set up.
How to Put It All Together
Now that you’ve got your still frames, it’s time to put them into your editing software. You can use Adobe Lightroom or another photo-editing program to adjust one photo and then apply it to all the other photos, or you can import the raw image sequence into your editor and do some color correction and grading there. (It’s usually easier to use the photo editor first.)
Usually, your stills are going to be at a much larger resolution than your video, so remember to downscale the footage once you’ve imported or set your sequence to the correct resolution to get as close to the photos as possible. (4K is 4096×2304, 4096×2160, or 3840×2160, just for reference.)
Once you’ve got your image sequence in your editor, you should be able to play it back and see how you did. If the image is shaky or jumps around a lot, that’s okay, you just need to stabilize the footage, which you can learn more about in our post on Warp Stabilization.
Get the best results you can by tweaking the settings, and don’t be afraid to crop the image a little more, since the photo resolution is usually higher than your video resolution.
How to Make It Even Hyper-er
If you want to add another layer to the hyperlapse, you can add in a zoom while you’re shooting. This can create a dolly-zoom effect on top of the hyper moving effect, which is really mind-bending and fairly unique.
In order to create this, you need to take your photo, move, then zoom as little as you can imagine (almost like you’re not moving at all). By the time you get to your last frame you should be completely zoomed in or out to your final focal length, all while keeping the same point in the same spot in your camera as you go. Here’s an example:
This technique can actually create edit points for you to use between different shots of the same subject, as well.
Let’s say, for example, you were doing a hyperlapse of the Eiffel Tower. You can zoom into the very top of the tower as you move, then cut back to a completely different wide shot of the Eiffel Tower that looks like you’re zooming out from the very top. It’s used to perfection in this video:
This is obviously an incredibly advanced technique, and the creator of this video took weeks of pre-production to get it right, but the point is that with a little zoom added to your hyperlapse, you can go an extra step toward having your work stand out among the rest.
As with anything, the more you practice and work at the craft of hyperlapses, the better they will be, and the more creative angles you’ll think of and work with. For more inspiration check out our full collection of hyperlapse footage.
Top image: Still from 4K Hyperlapse of Skycrapers and Ferris Wheel in Hong Kong by ymgerman