Eight hours, windswept | An X-T1 time-lapse experiment.
As most of you know I’ve been using the X-T1 extensively — it’s become my main camera. Any minor gripes I had have effectively been swept away by daily use and rewiring most of my reflexes to this new body. I’ve even stopped hitting the dedicated video button by mistake… Although on that front I still have my fingers crossed for a customization update ;)
I’d been meaning to do something with the new Interval Timer Shooting function for some time now, but while I’m often impressed by conceptual photography and projects involving tons of preparation and forethought, in my case it’s not the type of work that comes naturally. I also needed a subtext, a reason to do it beyond “Look Ma! Time-lapse!”…
I’m not going to claim this is the most impressive example of time-lapse photography ever produced — we’re talking baby steps here, a first attempt. But on the whole I’m happy with the results and I think it fits in with what I usually do. So, before we dive into the BTS stuff, here it is (if you click on the HD icon you can see the 1080P version on Vimeo - well, a compressed version of it.)…
The weather was uncertain so I set the X-T1 on a tripod in our living room and aimed it at a raspberry bush through the window. I switched the camera to manual focus to lock the frame down and chose aperture priority to keep my chosen depth of field constant and help with exposure variations I knew would happen throughout the day (sun and clouds playing hide and seek) . I used the XF 55–200mm lens zoomed all the way in and wide open at f/4.8, ISO 1000, resulting in shutter speeds between 1/340 sec and 1/1900 sec — It was extremely windy so this was a compromise between motion blur and possible noise.
First frame was shot at 11:20 AM, last frame at 07:01 PM; one frame every minute for 7.5 hours.
All the files were imported into a new Lightroom 5 catalog created specifically for time-lapse experiments (no reason to crowd my main library with this stuff). The images were shot in jpeg using the Pro Neg Standard film simulation and then processed in LR with one of my goto black and white presets, a tweaked version of VSCO’s Neopan 1600. I chose a midrange shot and synced everything once I was happy with the results.
Assembling in Motion
Obviously, when doing this sort of work the idea is to automate the actual stitching of the files into a sequence as much as possible; doing this manually is the last thing you want to be stuck with. The king of the hill in time-lapse photography for Lightroom users is a plug-in called LRTimeLapse. It looks like a very powerful bit of software that even allows animated variations of parameters, to tweak exposure or any sort of filter across time for instance. But it isn’t cheap and I’m not there yet. Instead, I used Apple’s Motion 5. Motion is a compositing and animation application that’s perfect for these types of very short subjects. More importantly, it supports image sequences — meaning it can treat thousands of images as a single file. Let me explain…
The trick with images sequences is in the naming: you want a naming scheme that will allow the software to properly identify the order of the files. It’s also essentially telling the application “Hey! These files go together Bucko!”. I went with leaves–0001 to leaves–0431, all exported to a single Images folder for the sake of clarity. Then, in Motion 5’s File Browser pane I get this:
Huh? But… but… That’s just a bunch of individual files! Settle down young Jedi… See that little button that looks like a slide with other slides behind it? This one:
That’s the image sequence toggle. When it’s ON it tells Motion to treat image files with identical sequential names as a single unit. Like this:
As you can see the file type has now changed to JPEG Sequence, the name now displays the number of images it contains and I’m even getting an estimate of the sequence duration at 30 fps. We can also now treat this single entity like any other asset in Motion without having to worry about the number of files linked behind the scenes. The entire stitching and assembly has been done for us. Kewl.
Coming back to that estimated duration I mentioned: you may have noticed it was 14 seconds. I did the project at 24 fps which gave me a bit more but certainly not enough to cover the entire length of the video. I’m not going to enter a full blown tutorial but just so you know, I slowed down the sequence and created two sub clips using two different types of frame blending which I then re-imported and used as masters. I used Apple ProRes 422 HQ, a high quality, editable codec to preserve quality (never use H264. It’s a fantastic delivery standard but it’s NOT meant for editing and will give you all kinds of headaches).
Here’s a screenshot of the Motion project:
For the soundtrack — in case you’re wondering — I scored directly to video in Logic Pro X.
A few notes on the Interval Timer function of the X-T1:
- You can only set a maximum of 999 frames. This may actually be standard across cameras (perhaps due to file naming restrictions?) but it somewhat limits what can be achieved.
- The camera goes to sleep between shots if the interval allows it to do so. This is great. Conserves energy and keeps the battery from dying too quickly.
- As mentioned, the camera will meter before firing the shutter in aperture or shutter priority — VERY useful in changing conditions.
I know I probably wont’ be using this very often. But like many other features in this camera, it’s a nice option to explore. Great way to beat back the doldrums too…
Have a great weekend guys :)
P.S I initially wanted to do this in 4K… You know… Buzzword et all. But I got a nice message in Motion telling me my computer wasn’t up to the task. Damn. Can we stop moving that goalpost already? And now 8K? Sigh.