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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Advanced Time-Lapse Gear Guide

Filmmaker Todd Sali talks about his favorite accessories for taking your time-lapse projects to the next level

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Hähnel Giga T Pro
Another unique intervalometer is the Pclix XT. It allows me to change the interval during a shot, which I do frequently. Think of a multi-hour time-lapse where the sun finally breaks through the clouds. Changing the interval gradually from 10 to 2 seconds results in a movie that lingers on that moment. Another clever wireless remote is the DSLR.Bot, a very inexpensive remote for time-lapse, HDR time-lapse and lots more although it's not as full-featured as pricier remotes. Lastly, the Hähnel Giga T Pro is a very compact, easy-to-use 2.4 GHz remote that a lot of time-lapse shooters like.

Cover your eyepiece to help avoid flicker.
Flicker, And How To Avoid It
Slight fluctuations in frame-to-frame exposure result in the dreaded flickering time-lapse shot. Here are some quick tips on how I avoid flicker.

Due to imprecise iris mechanisms, only a fully open aperture will guarantee flicker-free time-lapse. While ƒ/2.8 may not usually be your first choice for landscape stills, final time-lapse shots are often perfect, as video favors a slightly softer image.

Cover the eyepiece.

Petrol Bags PD510
Select a shutter speed of 1⁄5 sec. or slower. Use ND filters as needed to get a slower shutter speed.

Set the rig to Manual. Any auto settings invite the camera to make the sorts of adjustments that result in flicker.

Use a bramper. The bramper will let you alter exposure without getting flicker. It's an incredibly useful tool for anyone interested in doing a lot of complex time-lapse shots.

Camera Duck
Protecting Your Rig
I shoot time-lapse in all sorts of conditions, day or night. This means the camera can be subject to dramatic temperature swings, as well as humidity changes. My Camera Duck sports silver and black sides, takes no space and has interior pockets for hand-warmers, which prevents lens fogging during night shots. The Camera Duck also provides some general protection from heat, water and condensation. Another anti-fog solution is DryEye Lite from DitoGear. It has three lens warmers with user-selectable temperature controls. When I'm shooting in the rain or with the possibility of rain, I use the Petrol Bags PD510. It will handle an aqua assault, and it has room for accessories. In these conditions, I keep the lenses clean with Purosol, an environmentally friendly, solvent-free, natural lens cleaner originally developed for NASA.

Varavon ProFinder
Loupes And Skirts
Bright conditions overpower the camera's LCD monitor. I rely on Live View with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D, so I use a loupe to shade the monitor and give me a good view. The Varavon ProFinder is the most flexible I've found, and it has a low-angle configuration that's nice when I use the camera in an awkward position. When I'm shooting through glass—a car window or from inside a building—I use the LENSKIRT, a simple tent that suctions to a window, preventing reflections.

Adding Subtle Motion To Time-Lapse
Moving the camera can increase perception of depth, bringing more life to time-lapse shots. Drive-lapse—car-mounting via suction cup—is the simplest way to add motion, but I've used trains, boats and planes, too. Make sure you drag the shutter for the best, smoothest effects.

A slowly moving camera over time reveals dimensionality and adds drama. You can see this in many of the best time-lapse clips. Simple, precision motion-control systems are available from Cinevate and Kessler Crane. I use a portable three-foot Kessler CineSlider, which drives the camera along a smooth track. The Kessler ORACLE Controller sends commands to motors and controls duration, interval and speed ramping. It's programmable so moves are recorded, stored and later played back at your desired rate, from minutes to days.

Kessler CineSlider
I add rotational controls to my CineSlider with the Kessler Turntable, and I use the Kessler Revolution Pan & Tilt System for full 360° multi-axis moves. In Shoot-Move-Shoot mode, the camera fires, moves an increment, then fires again, capturing sharp still images. Continuous mode creates one nonstop move, adding cinematic motion blur. The shots possible with this rig are awesome. It's a different way of working compared to a rock-steady camera, though. Adding just one variable—the slider, for example—can negate time-lapse perception if not done right. I use the Kessler guidelines for degree of movement over time.

See Todd Sali's time-lapse videos and his elaboration on gear and techniques discussed in this article at his website, www.sandboxla.com.

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