TimeLapse and Photo-Video Techniques

September 23, 2009

Here are some of the camera techniques I used in the “Every Photo Shot For The Conan O’Brien Title Sequence” video I put up. Many people have asked how I did the time-lapse, panning and blurring techniques, so I pulled out my camera and tripod to show you exactly how. Enjoy.


  • Nice Camera. I’ve got a Canon 30D but I keep going back and forth if I want to upgrade to the 5D mark II, wait for the 7D or wait for the scarlet.

  • excellent, as always. Thank-you very much!

  • all I can say is you made a lot of places in LA look a lot better than they look in real life…the glory of hdr photography (I could never get it to look as good)…

    Btw the end shot over the hollywood sign, was that shot using ur camera, or with a crane (or possibly an ae composite?)…curious about that technique…

  • nick what about the trade off between jpeg and RAW? Is it ever critical to shoot RAW/

  • Just so happens that I’m doing a photo video shoot today, I was surprised to see this post while checking through my morning sites. Although my shoot will be during the day it was nice to watch this before I went out. Thanks for the tips.

  • Fortunately not everyone needs an expensive intervalometer. For me a cheap, off-brand remote shutter gets the job done, and it has become essential to have. You can pick one up for about $20 bucks on Amazon or other places online even cheaper.
    They do lack some features – like Nick’s with a display, timing capabilities, and they’re assembled cheaper.
    Something to consider, but mine has been going strong for 2 years without any issues.

  • Nice vid Nick. Thanks!

    Also, your re-caps at the end of your videos have gotten considerably shorter ever since you left dk…..hmmmmmmmm

  • Dude I am loving all of the photography stuff on GSG! Awesome!

  • You didn’t explain how you did the…I’m going to call them exposure flashes… that you see in the begining. Are you gradually changing the exposure over time?

  • ahh…. so you used bracketing for HDR shots and thats just the camera doing its own thang. mellow.

  • A short film me and my friend chris shot a few months ago with the same technique


    Hope you like it.

  • so its basically a frame by frame animation made out of photos. now all u need is a massive, giant, huge, monsterous sd card for your cam and and that take a photo remote thingy. that’s the secret?

    oh, and does anyone have a way of just simply importing the photos and just making it right away an animations, or setting each layer to automatically be a frame in some editing program like premiere \ final cut?

    waiting for the bracketing tut. photo/cam tuts are making me j*** my pants.

    • You can load them into most programs as an image sequence. Even Quicktime can do it (it might only be the pro version though, I’m not sure).

    • As Joe said, you can import a series of photos as an image sequence which will be treated as footage by your editing software…

      OR you can change the default duration of an imported still in your preferences. In Premiere Pro its called “Still Image Default Duration” under the General section of your Preferences, and in After Effects its in the Import section of your Preferences. I haven’t used Final Cut Pro in some time so I don’t know exactly where to tell you where to go, but I’m positive it can be done. Hope this helps.

  • I love timelapses. I’ve got a bunch sitting on my drive at the moment, that I should really put on vimeo. Here’s an old one that I did with my Panasonic LX3 in the dead of winter last year:


    It was shot with a fisheye, then undistorted in AE.

  • So for the time lapse sequences do you just import the stills into Final Cut and and drop them into the timeline as a group and tweak their positioning and transitions a bit? Any AE?

  • Hey Nick,
    Great stuff. The whole site is amazing. BigBIG fan of the C4D and AE stuff.
    What’s really got me tweaked is the ‘bracketed” shots you did on this particle project. I’d really like to hear a bit more on how you shot those and what you did with them afterwards. I’m assuming they were used to composite HDR’s. Can that be done in Photoshop or Apature? Is there another free-standing app you prefer?
    Love the tut’s. Keep up the GREAT work.
    Christopher in Burbank. (The real Hollywood)

  • I did this in a similar manner, though I treated it as stop motion—i.e. I animated the set or the camera and shot a new image one frame at a time. I wanted it to look jerky.


  • Hey Nick,
    great..! I´m gonna try the pans! Never thought it would work at night… and actually I´m not sure: I have a D200 *proud! and its light-sensitivity is much weaker than the D300 and D700. I guess I´m gonna get either grainy or blurred pictures… I´ll let you know.

  • forgot to say, im still waiting on the other techniques you used on the opening.
    this tuts are rad.

  • Great tips & tricks as always! Thank you once again!

    Im about to embark upon a stop motion style music video shot with a ton of RAW photos. I would love to see your work flow in After Effects with this sequence or this technique.

  • Thanks for putting some miles on your shutter just for us!

    Also, if your camera has mirror lockup function it makes it much quieter and reduces wear on those parts.

    Good stuff, as always.

  • Do you happen to know of an intervalometer that works with the D90? It seems that the Nikon MC-36 that you use is only compatible with the more expensive cameras. I just got my D90 and have been experimenting with the time lapse techniques (great tutorial by the way :D) but really want to play with being able to set up the timer and step away from the camera. Thanks a lot for your help!

  • Thanks for this awesome video! I was still just a little confused on how used bracketing to achieve the blinking effect in the video. Any explanation would be great. Thanks in advance and keep up the great work!

  • Great tut !

    But same thing, I would have love to know, how you did the exposure Bracking. Manually ?

    Also, what the model of that tripod head ?

    thanks !

  • For slow stuff I use a super cheap intervelometer is the $20 iphone app version. DSLRemote. I use it with my Canon 5d, but I think they’ve added support for the Nikon.

  • Heres a quick montage/video/timelapse thingy I did in Vegas this past weekend. Shooting took 3 hrs. thanks for the ideas Nick..


  • Nice work Nick, and great commentary. Just found your site and I’m enjoying your other videos as well.

    Have to ask you: Was there any technique used either capturing or editing the building lights? I notice they all seem to turn on/off a lot. Was this caught with the camera or just editing tricks?


  • Thanks Nick.
    A little tip you could try on your pans is to apply pressure to a rubber band that is wrapped around the handle of the tripod rather than touch the handle it’s self. If you get the tightness just right on the handle you can produce some pretty smooth pans.

    Many thanks again

  • Thanks Nick, I just bought the D5000 so i will try a timelaps here in Amsterdam, thanks!!

  • Hey Nick
    First of all I really love the Conan O’Brian sequenze and all of youre tutorials are very helpful.
    But nevertheless I have a Question about this Conan O’Brian sequenze :
    How did you made this kind of transition where the pictures are fade in from black and getting brighter. was this effect achieved in After Effects or was it a special photo technique ?
    (Sorry for any spelling or gramatical mistakes I’m a 16 year old student from germany so my english isn’t very well)

    Chears Jonas

  • Here is my First Time Lapse with my 7D and Intervalometer. http://vimeo.com/8826225

  • I think the “flashing” technique is over-exposure bracketing?


  • Nick !
    Can you give me a tipo for a good and small tripod … did your tripod is small?

  • Awesome stuff as always, Nick!
    The video is just great, and the way you explain your techniques seem not so difficult to implement. So, I’m going to try myself most of them.
    Thanks again!

  • Love the tips on camera movement while making a timelapse. Thanks

  • Hi Nick,
    Id like to ask something, it might sound a bit fool.

    Is there any problem by shooting that much?
    hmm… I mean, does the mirror thing or anything mechanic gets weathered by that kind of a use?

  • Hey, I was inspired to try my own time lapse video after seeing this amazing clip.

    I just wanted to mention a few things that I’ve found helpful thus far during my own shooting. First, a lot of new cameras have a built-in interval shooting mode. The shortest interval you can get is about 1 second though (at least on several of the Nikon models that I’m familiar with) so you won’t be able to get the rapid firing that you heard in the video. You really have to be super smooth with your camera movements, but this may be preferable to buying an external button.

    Also, if you’re shooting at night it really helps to crank up the ISO so you can get a longer shutter speed, especially if you’re doing a camera movement or hoping to capture flickering lights. If you’re shutter speed is too long you get a streaky effect that you might not want. This is also where prime lenses with wide apertures come in very handy.

    Anyway, these are just some things I noticed… I hope to share my finished product with ya’ll soonishly.

  • Hello Nick, everyone.
    I used the Nikon D700 and I came accross a limitation. The D700 is limitated to 100 images when shooting in high speed 4/5 frames/sec whne the central button of the intervalometer is on hold. How did you go aroung that built in seting?

    Thank you so much for your reply i’ve been searching for a while now.


  • Hi, I have a Nikon as well, a D3100, it isn’t as fast as your D700 which goes up to 5 FPS,but mine ‘only’ shoots 3.7 FPS. I was wondering if you could explain me how this thing works with the bottom sideways battery mount? How do you make it possible to make it shoot 8 fps while the specifications of the camera go up to ‘just’ 5 FPS. I’d love to shoot more fps with my D3100 as well.

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