One of my favourite video techniques is time-lapse as it shows a different side to a scene, speeding up the moving elements to give an ethereal feel to the final video. I sometimes use time-lapse as just one part of the videos I produce. I use the technique to fast forward certain clips to shorten the time of that element or I use the time-lapse technique as the main part of a video.
While certain cameras, such as my GoPros and iPhone, can shoot a time-lapse video in camera which is ready for exporting to whatever platform you choose, this is not a function that is currently available on the X Series cameras. As an X Photographer I have had the opportunity to raise this directly with Fujifilm and I hope they will consider adding this feature in the future.
However the ability to shoot with better quality lenses on a larger sensor offers a lot of advantages that I choose to accept that to produce a time-lapse sequence is a little bit more time consuming and I feel the results are certainly worth the extra effort. I have been using the X Series to produce time-lapse videos since I acquired my first X-T1.
I will show you how I use my X-T3 fitted with a Fujinon XF10-24mm f4 to shoot a sequence of time-lapse sequences as the tide receded at Barns Ness Lighthouse in East Lothian, Scotland.
For my workflow I use Adobe Lightroom CC Classic, Adobe Photoshop CC and Adobe Premiere Pro CC to produce the final video but these techniques can be applied to other software platforms.
Part 1 – Setting the X Series camera to shoot a series of images
First of all you need to shoot a series of still images to form the basis for your time-lapse video. This technique will work on any X Series camera which has the Interval Timer Shooting function in the menu.
In the IMAGE QUALITY SETTINGS menu (IQ Icon) I always set IMAGE QUALITY on my camera to shoot JPEG (Fine) only and set the IMAGE SIZE to 16:9 L. I choose 16:9 over 3:2 because videos are shot in 16:9 and the final product will be a video and not a still image. Shooting in 16:9 saves lots of time in post production.
As I shoot in JPEG only it is really important to get the setting right in camera so I set the FILM SIMULATION to STD as I prefer the look of Provia over Velvia. I also select the right WHITE BALANCE setting for the situation I am shooting but you could leave this on AUTO if you prefer.
You then set the camera on your tripod and compose the image. For time-lapse you need a moving element in the shot which could be clouds, water, people or vehicles. I prefer shooting landscapes with moving clouds but I have shot cityscapes with moving cars and people.
As you can see by the images I use a motorised slider to make my time-lapse videos a little bit more dynamic. Using a slow motor the slider moves from one end of the 80cm track to the other in a minimum of 3 minutes up to 30 minutes and when the video is played back the camera position moves from side to side at speed. This can be seen clearly in the video.
Another, much cheaper, option is to use a rotating head. This is usually a clockwork head that can be set for up to 60 minutes to do a full 360 degree rotation. The one I have works very well on the GoPro but is not strong enough the rotate with the weight of my X-T3 and 10-24mm lens attached, so if you buy one make sure it can handle the weight.
Before you start shooting fit any filters you might need. I used a Firecrest Ultra 3 stop ND soft grad filter to balance the exposure.
Now you are ready to start shooting your sequence. I play back my videos at 25 frames per second, so you will need to shoot 25 single shots to get 1 second of video. I shoot a minimum of 250 shots, which gives me 10 seconds of video for each clip.
Now if you shoot one frame every three seconds, 250 shots will take 12.5 minutes to shoot. 500 shots will take 25 minutes, so go prepared for lots of standing about. I always take a second camera to do some stills while the other body is shooting automatically.
Once you are ready select INTERVAL TIME SHOOTING in the SHOOTING SETTING menu (camera icon). The first column is INTERVAL, this is the time between shots. I usually start with 2 seconds but it depends on how quickly the elements in the image are moving. The next column is NUMBER OF TIMES, this is the number of shots you want the camera to take. I usually set this to infinity and stop the camera shooting manually but you can select a specific number if you wish. On the next page is the START WAITING TIME setting, which is the time you want the camera to start shooting. I have never used this function preferring to leave it on zero and press OK to start the camera shooting.
Once the camera has shot the required number of images you can play them back on the image review. If you toggle through them quickly you can see the various elements moving in the images.
Part 2 – Importing and Exporting the Images in Lightroom
Using Lightroom I import the images from the SD card onto my computer. I then choose the images that will be used for the video by highlighting them and then selecting ‘EXPORT’.
The image file names must not have any spaces and the sequence number must be sequential and also have the same number of digits. For example if the file name was ‘Lighthouse Seashore 01.jpg’ this would not work. The reason is the spaces and the sequence number will cause an error when you import them in Photoshop as a sequence.
The format I use it ‘LighthouseSeashore-00001.jpg’, the sequence number is long enough to accommodate up to 99999 images – more than enough.
So in the EXPORT folder select a suitable subfolder in the ‘EXPORT LOCATION’ so you know where your images can be found.
Under FILE NAMING select ‘Rename To:’ to ‘Custom Name – Sequence’ in the drop down box. You can type in the name you want to apply to all the files in the Custom Text box. To change the number of digits in the sequence select the drop down box again and choose ‘Edit’. You will see a new window and at the top you will see ‘Filename’ and ‘Sequence’ with drop down arrows. Select the drop down arrow next to ‘Sequence’ and then select ‘Sequence # (00001). This means the sequence will have five digits starting at 00001.
Under FILE SETTINGS select Image Format to JPEG and Quality to 100.
In IMAGE SIZING decide what size your video will be. I always output in 4K so I have the option of producing the final video in 4K or I can downsize to 1080P if I wish. If you output for 1080 HD then you can’t upscale to 4K later. For 4K click ‘Resize to Fit’ and select Long Edge. Type 3840 pixels in the box below and because you shot the images in 16:9, the short edge will automatically be 2160 pixels. If you want to resize to HD, type in 1920 pixels.
Then click EXPORT and Lightroom will send the images in turn to the folder you selected at the correct size and with the file names changed to the usable format.
Part 3 – Producing the Time-lapse Clip in Photoshop
In Photoshop you need to open the first image file in the sequence. Click on the first image but do not open it yet. In the bottom left of the window you will see an ‘OPTIONS’ button. click this and select the ‘IMAGE SEQUENCE’ box You can now select ‘OPEN’. It then opens up a Frame Rate window. I select 25 and 25 as I will output to the PAL standard but if you are shooting for an NTSC standard you might want to change this to 29.97 or 30.
This imports all of the images in the folder in sequence, which is why it was important to have the file names correctly named and numbered.
In the LAYERS window you will notice that Layer 1 has a film icon and above it says Video Group. To switch the workspace to video go to the top right of the screen where you will see a drop down box. Select ‘Motion’ and the workspace overs a timeline window at the bottom of the page.
In this workspace you can shorten or speed up the sequence as well as shorten it.
You can make adjustments to the exposure, colour etc using the ADJUSTMENTS panel. Do not adjust the exposure or colours in the normal menus because it will only effect the frame you have open. The adjustments panel is a layer that applies the effect to all images in the sequence.
Once you are happy with the look of the sequence you can export it. Select ‘Render Video’ in the EXPORT menu. Select the name for the file and also the export size. If you want 4K make sure this is 3840 x 2160 and the frame rate is set to 25 for PAL and 29.97 / 30 for NTSC. I use H.264 as the encoder format.
Select the folder you want to export the file to and then select ‘Render’.
This will give you a final time-lapse video from the still images you shot earlier.
Part 4 – Adobe Premiere Pro
As you can see from the video that I have produced for this article I have used six time-lapse clips and added music and graphics to give me the final version. I imported all the clips as 4K but downsized the final video to 1080P to make it better for putting online, but I still have the option of rendering the video in 4K should I wish.