Your First Timelapse

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By Kyle Randall

I remember it. I remember the first time a timelapse brought tears to my eyes. Cheesy, I know, but true. A friend shared a Ludovico Einaudi playing Nuviole Biache accompanying stunning imagery taken from El Teide, Spain’s highest mountain named The Mountain by TSO Photography — WATCH IT, but maybe not in public, unless you are the “manly enough to cry” type that I identify with (as I sit up straighter in my chair).

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I showed this timelapse to my second grade class (I was a teacher at the time). We all sat just a few feet away from the projector screen as the sights and sounds filled our senses. My 25 kids “Oohhed and aahhed” as nature burst into life before them – captivating them for 5 minutes! A minor achievement, you may think? Then you’ve never taught 7 year olds. After the video finished, I asked my students to tell me what they felt. Slowly stirring back into reality, I noticed a few children wiping their eyes too.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a timelapse only conjures a few. It’s not an essay, rambling its way towards another hypotheses, but instead a poem. It steals the words right of our your mouth, leaving you with couplets of a lyrist’s pen. I am excited to join you as you capture and create your first timelapse. There are some great tutorials out there, so I have borrowed photos and videos from other resources and compiled them in a step-by-step breakdown.

Basic Understanding

When shooting a timelapse, we are capturing a subject over a period of time in steady intervals. Usually, videos are shot at 24-30 fps (frames per second). We will instead capture 1 frame every few seconds or minutes then compile these photos into a video’s speed. When we show these frames at a normal speed of 24fps, 1 second of film is actually many minutes or even hours of shooting, making time move much faster.


For our first timelapse, we will start bare bones with gear. As you become more advanced, there is a world of tools that can help you get your shot. For the purpose of simplicity, we used just the basics.

Camera –As cameras become higher quality and more affordable, DSLR cameras have become a staple in the film and photography industry. If you don’t have a DSLR – no sweat! Most cameras can be used to create a timelapse video. I think it’s worth noting that even iPhones have included a timelapse app as a standard feature. No matter what camera you’re using, these same tips apply.

Tripod – A steady camera is key for timelapse photography. Be sure you have aheavy, sturdy tripod at hand. Your camera will be stationary for hours.

TripodPhoto by Ryan Chylinki – Check out his book “Time-Lapse Photography


Intervalometer – Often called a remote control, an intervalometer is a device that can be programmed to hit the shutter and take a picture at a programmed interval. This can range anywhere from every second to days depending on your subject and intervalometer.

  • If you have an iPhone or GoPro, you can simply use your timelapse apps instead of an intervalometer.
  • Newer cameras can be controlled by your laptop. Nikon Capture 4.0 and DSLR Remote Pro  (for Canon users) are just two examples of many programs that can be used to control your cameras with your laptop!
  • If you have a point and shoot camera, there are time controller devices that could work with your camera. is created for point and shoot cameras, so just be sure to buy one that is compatible with your gear.
  • Hell, someone even figured out how to use a TI-83 Plus as an intervalometer. Remember Algebra? D=RT



1) Make sure your battery is charged! It doesn’t hurt to have a backup ready if you’re shooting all day. Remember, your camera could be on for hours as you shoot your timelapse.

2) Have plenty of space on your memory card! As before, a backup is really helpful. You can calculate how much space you’ll need on our handy timelapse calculator.

3) Be Strategic! Wherever you setup your gear, it has to be out of any danger zones for hours. Especially when shooting cityscapes, it’s never fun to protect gear from traffic or feel like you’re in the way.

So you’ve got the gear – let’s shoot it already!

  • Setup for your shot. Using your tripod, secure your camera and intervalometer. Make sure to center your gear so the camera is stable.
  • Switch to manual mode. Most cameras have a lot of “Auto” features that help with shutter, focus, aperture, etc., but it is important to always shoot in “Manual” for timelapse. When in auto mode, your camera is making decisions before taking a picture. When shooting for timelapse, we will be taking hundreds (if not thousands) of photos. In Auto, the camera will make a different decision for each shot and inevitably adjusts as conditions change over time. These minor adjustments become very obvious in postproduction and create flickering in your video. Some cameras will still have “White Balance” as an auto feature. Make sure you turn this off too.
  • Fire a test shot. Make any adjustments to focus and shutter as needed. There are libraries of books written on lighting and capturing techniques (as well as many blog posts to come!). For now, let’s get our first timelapse on the books. Fire as many test shots as you need until you feel comfortable capturing your subject. Best Practice: Use the intervalometer to fire your test shots once your subject is in focus. The lightest touch can adjust your camera, and even firing the camera can cause unwanted movements.
  • Setup the intervalometer. Connect the intervalometer to your camera. For your convenience, we have made this great calculator to help you program your controller.
  • Hurry up and wait! Once you start the intervalometer, you’re now in it for the long haul. Depending on your subject, it can take hours or even days to capture everything you want for the video.
  • Create the Video. Now you have all the photos you need, it is time to compile them into a video.
    • Quicktime Pro: File > Image Sequence and select your photos to quickly compile a video. Quicktime will do the rest!
    • Time-Lapse Assembler: Really easy software you can download for free. Simply select your folder with pictures, select a framerate of 24-30 fps and the scale of your images. BOOM! You have a movie!
    • Our Forum: Check out some of the programs our Cinetics users prefer to create their timelapse videos.

SOON TO COME… How to incorporate Cinetics’ gear to get your first panning, tilting or sliding timelapse.