Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Apple > Audio & Video

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Creating Time-lapse Movies and Animation

Our minds are mesmerized by animation, whether it’s a time-lapse movie of a brewing storm, some claymation that brings Play-Doh to life, or the hand-drawn artistry of a classic cartoon.

With some inexpensive software and a video camera, you can put your world into motion. The process is simple, if time consuming. For animation, shoot one frame of video at a time, moving objects or changing a drawing between each frame. Time-lapse movies are easier: point your camera at an interesting scene, then go to the mall while your software snaps a frame at whatever interval you like. When you play your final movie, clouds will billow, and flowers will bloom—you get the idea.

A time-lapse or animation project can be a fun school or family endeavor. Here’s a look at the tools you’ll need, along with some tips and project ideas.

The Tools

To put your world in motion, you need a camera, a tripod, and some software. To get the best video quality, connect a miniDV camcorder to your Mac’s FireWire jack. If you don’t have a camcorder, an inexpensive Web cam, such as Apple’s iSight, will also work.

iMovie HD 6 can create time-lapse movies, as can several other programs. Boinx Software’s iStopMotion was designed specifically for the task. It works with DV cameras as well as Web cams.

You can also use Web-cam software, such as Evological’s EvoCam or Econ Technologies’ ImageCaster. For links to these and other animation tools, see www.macilife.com/imovie.

The Techniques

Prepare your gear. Mount your camera on a tripod and plug the camera’s power adapter into a wall outlet—batteries won’t last long enough.

Many DV camcorders shut themselves off after a few minutes when you aren’t recording to tape. You can usually bypass this auto-shutoff by taking the tape out of the camera. If your camera still insists on slumbering, try leaving its tape door open.

Connect the camcorder to your Mac, launch your software, and you’re ready to go. Here are some possible destinations.

Toys in motion. For an easy stop-motion project, put some toys in motion: the Matchbox Car 500. For your animation stage, choose an area where the lighting is going to be fairly consistent over several hours. If you’re relying on light from windows, try to shoot on a cloudy day. Dramatic variations in lighting from one frame to the next will ruin the illusion of motion.

For animators, patience isn’t a virtue—it’s a must. Move objects slowly and gradually—just a fraction of an inch between frames. And whatever you do, don’t bump your tripod between frames.

To save time, try shooting two frames, instead of just one, between each move. Animators call this animating on twos, and it takes half the time but usually delivers fine results.

Kids in motion. For a variation on the previous theme, animate some kids: point the camera at the backyard, and have the kids take a small step between each frame. In the final movie, they’ll appear to move without walking.

Time for time-lapse. Making time-lapse movies is much easier, since your subject does the moving on its own. All you have to do is set up your scene and start capturing.

In iMovie HD, choose Time Lapse from the camera icon’s popup menu, choose an interval, and click OK. Then click Import to start recording (see page 226).

What to shoot? A snowstorm, a rose, the clouds, a burning candle, a glass filled with ice, the shadows cast by a fence or set of window blinds. Anything that moves or changes shape slowly in the real world is a great candidate for time-lapse photography.

Sunsets and sunrises make spectacular time-lapse movies. To avoid damaging your camera, don’t zoom in on the sun or point the camera directly at a midday sun.

How frequently should you capture a frame? That depends on how quickly your subject is changing and on how long you want your final clip to be. For a time-lapse of a rose blooming, I used a one-minute interval, which turned an hour of real time into one second of video. For some cloud scenes, I used a 15-second interval.

To calculate the ideal frame interval, begin by determining the duration of the real event, the desired duration of your final clip, and the number of frames per second you want the final clip to have (20 frames per second is a good starting point). Say a rose bud takes four hours to blossom, and you want the time-lapse clip to play for nine seconds. Multiplying nine seconds by 20 frames per second yields 180 frames. Finally, divide the duration of the real event by the number of frames you need. In this example, 240 minutes divided by 180 frames equals about 1.3 minutes—or about 80 seconds between frames.

Post-Production

After creating an animation, enhance it.

Make a montage. When researching animation and time-lapse techniques, I shot a variety of time-lapse scenes, then edited them into a montage.

After shooting the clips and importing them into iMovie HD, I added a music track. I’ve always loved Koyaanisqatsi, a film comprised largely of beautiful time-lapse photography; its Philip Glass music score is a perfect complement to time-lapse scenes. A quick search of the iTunes Music Store led to the soundtrack album, and 99 cents later, I had my soundtrack. (Remember, you can’t use copyrighted work in commercial projects.)

Next, I imported my time-lapse movies into iMovie HD and added them to the timeline, cropping each clip so that the scenes would change roughly in tempo with the music. Then I added a cross-dissolve transition between the scenes.

Run it backwards. To put a different spin on a time-lapse clip, reverse it: see a rose close itself or a glass of water turn into a glass of ice. After adding the clip to iMovie HD’s timeline, select it and use the Fast/Slow/Reverse effect.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.peachpit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020