Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Time Lapse Painting Videos, an amateurish how-to!

I produce a time lapse video of me painting a large piece of work maybe once a year ish... the hassle of rigging up the camera everytime I want to paint and then putting it together then puts me off doing another for a bit, until I then try and get the bloomin thing on YouTube, spend hours uploading files that don't work, and then vow that I am never doing another time lapse video as long as I live!! Once it's finally on YouTube though, and over time I forget how much of a nightmare they are to make, I decide actually I fancy making another... but by that point SO much time has passed that I have completely forgotten how to do it, much less how to avoid all the mistakes I seem to have to go through with YouTube everytime, and the cycle begins again. Until now, because I am going to blog with instructions on how to make a time lapse video so that I can read how to do it next time (if there is a next time!).

I will try and make my instructions reasonably full so that they could possibly of use to people other than myself too! I am sure there are loads of different (probably better!) ways of producing time lapse videos but this is how I generally make mine.

1. First of all you need your camera to take photos automatically at set intervals. There are lots of cameras that have this as a function these days, sadly my Nikon dSLR isn't one of them! I stick my camera on a tripod, link it to my laptop with a usb, and use Nikon camera control software to take my time lapse photos.

2. To make a nice smooth time lapse video I understand you need about 20-30 frames/photos per second of video, so before you start you'll need to work out how long you think the painting will take you and how long you want the video to be, so that you can work out how often you need your camera to shoot. I usually have mine taking a photo about every 10 seconds, although I wish I had reduced that for my current video as it didn't take as long as I expected and the video ended up a bit short!

3. Even to make an HD video you don't need the photo file sizes to be massive- I select the lowest size/quality option on my camera and still have to batch re-size them smaller at the end (very quick job using Photoshop Elements). You are best off re-sizing them to a 'standard' HD video pixel size e.g. 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080, it saves a lot hassle when it comes to uploading to somewhere like YouTube.

4. Set your camera up on a tripod, each time you sit down to paint make sure all is in focus and the photos looking good then paint! Be sure to try and stay out of the way as far as you can- something I find tricky but resolve by sorting through photos after each session and deleting any with my head blocking the camera.

5. Once you have finished the painting it's time to sort through all the 1000s of photos and delete any blurry ones or ones where the view of the painting is blocked, or ones where you have wandered off to answer the phone and the camera has carried on snapping.

6. Get yourself something like Apple Quicktime Pro. I am sure there are plenty of different types of software but Quicktime was the one I heard recommended for time lapse videos and it only costs about £20.

7. In Quicktime Pro select 'File', then 'Time Lapse Photography' and then choose one (any) of your time lapse photos. It will ask for you to choose the frames per minute. It can take a while (several minutes sometimes on my poor laptop) but eventually, viola, your video appears on screen!

8. I tend to start/finish my videos with a still image/s detailing my website, a photo of the finished painting, yadda yadda. I am SURE there is a quicker way but I end up saving the same image I want to use for the number of frames per second I want it to appear for... takes ages. My attempts at putting together different bits of video fail! If anyone with more sense than me knows how to do this an easier way let me know and I'll update this bit!

9. Export your finished file to a YouTube friendly format. In Quicktime I click 'Export' and then select the option to convert from Movie to MPEG4, and select an HD option in the size bit of the 'Options' button- I leave the rest of the settings. Be prepared for your video to take a long time to save, sometimes a very long time.

10. Upload to YouTube. This takes ages if you are uploading an HD video, sometimes hours if like me your gutless laptop protests! Seems to always take me several attempts, mainly due to getting something wrong along the way! Hopefully this post will help me get it right next time... if there is a next time.

Here's my latest video anyway...