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Category Archives: time-lapse

This was screened at the James River Filmmakers Forum on March 6th, in Richmond, VA

Also shown was “Eye of the Beholder” and “Lunacy:Chasing the Moon”


Allow me to clear something up about the lens mounts for the Canon EOS 7D and EOS 5dmk2.

I’ve owned a Canon EOS 7D since February 2010 and I’m looking at buying another Canon, the EOS 5Dmk2. I have a bunch of APS-C/EF-S lenses for my 7D.

The 7D takes EF and EF-S mount lenses. The 5DmkII takes only EF lenses.

So a lens from a 5DmkII will work on a 7D, but a lens purchased specifically for the 7D (i.e. APS-C) will not work well on a 5DmkII.

They will fit, but they will vignette (fancy way of saying your picture will be smaller than your field of view) due to the 5DmkII having a larger sensor than the 7D.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know that the price of the 5DmkII was going to drop from $4700 to $2500… or else I’d have been more careful and bought EF lenses from the start.

Anyways.. that’s why I’m posting this.. just in case you’re googling around, maybe you’ll find this and it’ll save you from buying the wrong lenses.

Why am I buying a 5DmkII when I already have a 7D? The 5DmkII is a full frame camera with a larger sensor. It has a naturally wider field of view. It captures more light and can run at much higher ISO’s than the 7D with much less ISO noise.

Entry for Vimeo Awards Experimental category. Unique time-lapse set to dramatic music.

Music used with permission courtesy of BigNic

Filmed and edited by Daniel Lowe

How-to:Back Seat Bungie Time-Lapse

Hey Daniel,

Generally, how are you doing your timelapses? I have the Canon Rebel T2i/550, and I can only record for 10minutes (4GB) at a time before I have to push record again, and with a 16gb card, thats about 40 minutes. My camera also tends to start getting pretty hot after recording for longer than 1.5 hours…Can the 7D record straight to a harddrive or a computer? Or are you doing things like I am where I’m baby sitting the camera and changing out SD cards and batteries?



You’re thinking video, which is the hard way to do it. With an HD-SLR, you’re not taking video continuously.. you’re taking still photos and then animating them with QuickTime Pro (or another program like VirtualDub or Adobe After Effects)… this allows you higher image quality than 1920×1080 and much greater flexibility with post-processing.

So.. you’ll need an intervalometer or a laptop in order to time the shots. I have a Satechi intervalometer that I bought from Philip Bloom’s Amazon store for $70. Order it ahead of time, it will take 8 days to arrive unless you live in California.

You can hook the Canon 7D straight up to a laptop with the included USB cable. I suspect the T2i has the same interface.  In most *internal* aspects, the 7D and the T2i are basically the same camera.

That allows you to completely control every aspect of the camera; it can function as an intervalometer, and you can record to the camera, laptop hard drive, or both.

I don’t have a laptop, so I use the intervalometer. The laptop offers the additional benefit of showing you the image in much greater detail, allowing you to fine tune exposure and focus.

For daytime shots, I take one picture with aperture priority at the lowest ISO that lights the subject as desired; then I’ll mirror those settings in manual mode.

Changing light; like a sunset, is a whole diff ball-game, it’s 100% aperture priority with hacks to reduce flickering. Go visit Tom Lowe’s site at and visit the forums for a LOT more information on this issue.

Picking an interval:

For daytime shots in normal light.. it depends on how fast your “subject” is moving. But for arguments sake, start with 10 or 12 seconds. That’s a good interval for clouds. If your subject is a group of people doing something active, or perhaps car traffic…you’ll want to use shorter intervals, even down to 1-second intervals sometimes.

For night time shots, I have to take longer exposures, anywhere from 3-30 seconds. I give the 7D at least 2 seconds to record the exposure before activating the shutter again.

So…For a 30 second exposure, I usually set a 32 or 33 sec interval… For an 8 second exposure I’ll set a 10 second interval, etc.

My settings for getting the stars: Manual, 10 to 30 sec exposure with anywhere from 240 to 1600 ISO; AWB=flourescent (more clear) or tungsten (more hazy or sodium background light).   The more haze and background light, the lower the ISO.  If I’m away from background light, and the sky is really clear, I’ll crank up the ISO to try and get more stars. 

At 800 ISO, away from city light and with a very clear sky (and no moon!) you will can photograph the Milky Way galaxy moving through the sky. EDIT: I’ve now realized you can use much higher ISOs (up to 1600), but I still don’t like the noise beyond about 640-800 ISO.

When I’m taking a lot of images, doing time-lapse, I have, in the past recorded my images in Large JPEG and not RAW mode*. I have a 32 Gb card, but RAW images are like 20mb each, way too big for the 1000’s of images I’m usually taking.

Postscript: now I’ve changed to using RAW; I have purchased a 64Gb CF card.. but let’s not get confused, RAW vs. JPEG is another entire discussion

Check your Auto White Balance (AWB) setting. You NEVER want this set to “Auto” for time-lapse, or else your frames will flicker and show different shades of color.

Start with something simple. Go out on a cloudy day and take 240 JPEGS of the clouds going by at intervals of 10 seconds. You can use Av mode, Aperture Priority, if that makes it easier. The reason not to use AV mode is that it can cause your timelapse to flicker if the light changes up and down.. like if clouds are rolling overhead.. But don’t worry about that too much your first few times out. Just try to get the mechanics right at first.

You’ll want to process these photos with image software (I use Digital Photo Pro, which is what was included with the camera). This is where you can tune the color, and trim and resize for your final output format.

This is part of the flexibility I was talking about. For example in my clip All Stars, All Night, I made 2 scenes from different areas of the same single set of photos.

You’ll have to purchase QuickTime Pro ($29), but it’s the best money you’ll ever spend, because it can take these image sequences and animate them at various framerates, creating MOV files. Later on, If you really want to shell out the big bucks, Adobe After Effects can create lovely MOVs directly from sequences RAW files.

After that, you’ll have a MOV video file, at that point it’s in the hands of Final Cut Pro or your video editing software of choice.

First, it started with an image of my father’s tombstone. Cheerful, huh? And then, I heard this music. Instant marriage. That was 4 months before the rest. I filmed the opening pen script with the 50mm lens, about 2 weeks before the other shots.

If you haven’t seen my short film.. it’s here:

The daytime moon shot is also with the 50mm lens, that was at 4pm in the afternoon. You have to zoom to get a clear moon shot, I’ve discovered. Go to and search for “moon” if you want to know all about that.

Then the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens came in. It cost $644, and I had to order it from eBay from Japan.

But it’s an awesome, powerful tool when used properly. It’s the lens you want in your bag when you visit the Grand Canyon. Check out my good buddy Jake Seegars on vimeo to see even more from this lens:

I went crazy with time-lapse after that. I spent 2 nights at “the Farm”, a family property in rural Virginia, where the sunset, moon, and star scenes are filmed. I dealt with my lens fogging up for the first time and lost some footage. I buffed hand soap into my UV lens filter for the 2nd night. That worked okay, but what worked even better was putting a fan blowing on my lens from the side.

I did order some stuff called Zooke Anti-Fog. I’ll try it and tell you how that works, just arrived.

There’s 2 shots that are b-roll footage from earlier shoots (the swan and the guy), in order to put more “film” into the clip.

The shot of the plants growing was one of the longer shots in reality. The camera stayed in one place about 7 hours and took a picture every 5 minutes. If I do that again, I’ll be more patient and do it for longer.

The lawn mowing time-lapse was with the Tokina lens @ 13mm, taking a picture every second. Then I animated it at 10 frames/second in Quicktime Pro. That’s how all these time-lapses were done, using Quicktime Pro to animate an image sequence, creating an MOV file.

The very last things I filmed were the tombstone time-lapse, the bridge shot and the tour road shot (first film shot). By then I had assembled most of the puzzle pieces I had (in my head).

At some point I realized I had clips that represented the passing of a day. And then that fit right together with my personal tribute to my father.

If you knew my father, the last part makes sense. He did so many things, and for the most part, did them well. He was a general contractor and did construction and demolition. He was a private pilot and owned 2 small airplanes at different points in time. He was a certified scuba diver and owned a few motorcycles in his life. He could drive literally anything that had a motor in it. With an 8th grade education and an alcoholic father, he escaped the rural mountains of North Carolina and made himself, over time, into a successful businessman.

Unfortunately, he also worked 20 years at Newport News (Tenneco, now Northrup Grumman) Shipbuilding. He died of mesothelioma at age 67, a lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos in the shipyard. He has been sorely missed; we are reminded of him daily.

All Stars, All Night