Let’s learn how easy it is to turn a video recording into a timelapse in post-production. This method of creating a timelapse is excellent for beginners and offers tremendous creative flexibility!
What is a Timelapse?
Traditionally, a timelapse is a series of still images, shot at an evenly spaced interval over a period of time. Then the images are played back rapidly as a video to show the passage of time. This process often requires much preparation, gear, and calculating camera settings and can be very intimidating for anybody needing a timelapse. Luckily, you can turn videos into timelapses too! And the process is much easier and straightforward. (It helps if your timelapse is one continuous video shot, although it’s not 100% necessary.)
Let’s dive into the techniques to turn a video into a timelapse!
Where do you start?
For this concept, we assume you already have a video clip you want to turn into a timelapse. So we won’t jump into too much detail about shooting a video. Essentially all you need to do is set your camera up on a tripod so that the camera is stable and doesn’t move. Then just record a long video clip. You can also record a video clip using a drone. Just make sure the drone is stationary while in the air. The video recording can be as long or as short as you like. I usually recommend between two to ten minutes. However, you can record much longer if you want. Your only constraints are the size of your memory card or if your camera has a video clip time limit.
A longer video clip will allow you to see more of what happens over time. Since you’ll be speeding up the video, the longer it is, the more “exciting” it can be and the more you’ll have to work with. We recommend 2 minutes minimum for scenes with lots of action (traffic, people walking, insects, etc). For slower-developing scenes (storm clouds, sunsets, clocks, etc), 10 minutes is a good baseline, but some could take much longer. You can read more on our blog about how to shoot a great timelapse with any camera.
It is important to note that some cameras can create a timelapse video automatically “in-camera.” That is not what we are doing in our case. Since not all cameras have this feature, we just record a regular video clip. The method we are using will also give us more flexibility in post-production.
With all that said, now you just need the video file you recorded and some editing or compositing software, such as Final Cut, iMovie, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, Hitfilm, Shotcut, or Filmora.
Post-production is where the “magic” for our timelapse will happen. We’ll be able to turn our long video recording into a stylish timelapse. First, open the video editing application of your choice and import your video clip. You’ll need to add the video clip to your editing timeline so that you can edit the speed of the clip. As is, our video clip will just play back at the normal speed. So we need to speed it up using the speed controls.
Adjusting the speed of your video clip will vary depending on your video editing app. We’ll walk through how to change the speed controls in Premiere Pro, but if you use a different app, the general concept of what we are doing will be the same. Feel free to search for how to adjust the speed controls for your video editing app, but here are some quick links to some of the most popular ones: iMovie, Premiere, Final Cut, DaVinci, Filmora, and ShotCut.
For Premiere Pro, simply right-click on your video clip in the timeline. Then select the option Speed/Duration.
You will then see the Clip Speed/Duration setting box pop up. You can now adjust the speed to match the parameters you want for your look. Some editors give you a percentage control, and some allow you also to type in your preferred duration. Premiere Pro allows you to adjust either. You also have a few other options, such as reversing a clip.
The clip I am using is a two-minute-long drone shot. I want to speed this shot up a lot so that it is around ten to 15 seconds long. I prefer to adjust the percentage control in situations like this when I am just experimenting with a look. I’ll change the Speed setting from 100% to 1000%, effectively speeding the original clip up ten times as fast! We can now see the new clip duration will be around 12 seconds in total.
Then just click OK to apply the changes. You’ll notice the video clip is now shorter in the timeline, and you can play it back to see your new timelapse.
And that’s it! This method is a straightforward and easy way to create your first timelapse that can save you the hassle of dealing with potentially thousands of still images. (Each picture of a timelapse is just one frame of a video. So they can add up quickly!) All you need to do now is render and export your video clip in the format of your choice.
If you are looking to add some more creativity to your timelapse, there are some effects you can apply to your timelapse to craft the look even more.
You can set the frame rate for your timelapse in Premiere Pro (and After Effects) using the Posterize Time effect. After speeding it up, apply this effect to your timelapse video clip, then set it to the frame rate you want. This works great for creating a “stop motion” effect. Try it out by lowering the frame rate to something like 12 or eight frames per second.
Other video editing apps will likely have similar effects you can use to adjust the frame rate. In DaVinci Resolve, you can utilize the effect called Stop Motion to create the same look. In Final Cut, you can combine making markers and selecting Jump Cut at Markers. You can also manually cut one frame out of each second from your video. Then put all the frame segments end-to-end. This isn’t ideal, but it’s possible!
You can also add motion blur to your timelapse video to add smooth, natural movement to everything. (This effect can be more render-intensive.) Again, the effects used to create blur will vary depending on your video editing app. In After Effects, you can use Pixel Motion Blur to add motion blur. If you want more of a “slow shutter speed” look, you can use the effect CC Wide Time.
Timelapses are always eye-catching. They work great for establishing shots and displaying the passage of time. This makes them fantastic transitions as well. Once you start planning for them with all these techniques in mind, you can make even better timelapses. Hyperlapses are another fun possibility to create from video clips as well! They work similarly to timelapses but incorporate camera movement through a location or scene.