© Steve Heiner
With Time Lapse photography, you set the camera’s interval timer (select Nikon digital cameras have the feature built-in), to snap a photo at specified intervals over a select period of time. After you’re done shooting, depending upon the interval and length of shooting time, you may have dozens, hundreds or thousands of individual frames that will need to be combined into a finished movie.
The individual frames—when viewed as a movie—will show your subject over the course of time that you had set it to be photographed.
Favorite Time Lapse subjects include stars moving across the night sky, sunrises and sunsets, and even flowers blooming.
In the days of film, an intervalometer or interval timer, was an optional accessory that had to be connected to your camera, but nowadays it’s built right into Nikon DSLRs and even Nikon 1 and some COOLPIX digital cameras.
Certain Nikon DSLRs, such as the D4, even feature a dedicated Time Lapse Movie mode that records the images at the intervals you set, for the specified amount of time, and processes a completed movie in the camera, saving it as a .MOV file.
The great advantage to using the Time Lapse movie mode is that you don’t have to deal with the hundreds or thousands of individual high-res files in post-production to manually create the movie file.
So, if the Time Lapse movie mode is so convenient, what’s the benefit to using the interval timer function and “doing it yourself” so to speak [read: processing the image files into the finished movie during post-production].
Well, there’s a trade off. The Time Lapse movie mode doesn’t save the individual image files—when its finished processing the movie file, you’re left with only the .MOV file. So, had you wanted to do something with the individual files, you can’t. The camera doesn’t save them.
Secondly, there are a few other modes that you can’t use simultaneously with the Time Lapse movie mode, but that you can use together with the interval timer. This includes the built-in HDR mode as well as bracketing of exposures.
If you want the full res individual files, or want to combine two shooting modes, you’ll have to use the interval timer. In this mode, the camera will save each individual full res file (if of course, you’ve set it to capture images at full resolution).
You can also set the camera to shoot HDR and use the interval timer simultaneously for HDR time lapse. After shooting, simply combine the frames into a finished movie using a non-linear editing system.
Another reason you might want the larger original files is to be able to zoom or pan around the frame while creating your time lapse movie, and with larger files that offer higher resolution and detail, you’re able to do this on the computer with software in post-production. This is known among multimedia artists as the “Ken Burns Effect.”
Setting the Time Lapse Movie Mode on the D4
Setting the Interval Timer for Time Lapse Photography with the D4
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Dedicated Time Release Movie Mode and Time Lapse Using the Built-in Interval Timer
Deciding which technique to use with the D4 DSLR.
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