Creating Time-Lapse Movies

How I do it.

I’ve been fascinated with time-lapse photography for as long as I can remember — and believe me, that’s a long time. I love the idea of compressing a series of still images into a short movie. But what I love more is the way it speeds up the process of things that happen slowly: clouds moving across the sky, shadows changing with sun angles, and things being built or moved. There are a lot of time-lapse movies on this site; click the time-lapse tag to explore them. I do want to stress that my time-lapse movies are very simple. If you want to see something amazing, look at the work of a master like Ross Ching’s Eclectic series.

I rely on certain equipment and software tools to create my time-lapse movies. Since I’ve been sharing daily time-lapse movies of the construction of my home, I thought I’d take a minute to explain how I make them.

The Camera

Hero HD
I use my old Hero HD for most time-lapse work these days.

The first thing you need to create a time-lapse movie is a camera capable of snapping an image at a regular interval. These days I use a GoPro. Although I have three of these great cameras — Hero HD, Hero 2, and Hero 3 — I tend to use the oldest (the Hero HD) for this kind of work so if it’s lost, damaged, or stolen, it’s not a huge deal.

The GoPro has an interval or time-lapse mode that I use quite often. Because the process of building my home is relatively slow, I set it to the most amount of time between images: 1 minute.

(In the past, I’ve used a Pclix intervalometer — that’s a time-lapse timer that triggers a shutter release on a camera at a preset interval — attached to an old Canon G5 digital camera. Again, the camera was old and worthless so if someone walked off with it, no big deal. Losing the intervalometer would have been worse.)

Skeleton Housing
The skeleton housing gives me access to the USB port and SD card on the GoPro.

Power is an issue when you run a camera for hours on end. I use the GoPro Skeleton housing around the camera so I can run a USB cable to it. The cable then feeds into a window on my RV where it plugs into a power source. The added benefit is that I can remove the SD card without opening the housing and changing the camera angle. I use electrical tape to cover up the two sides of the housing to keep dust and rain out.

The Camera Mount

For time-lapse photography, it’s vital that the camera be held still (or moved smoothly, if you’re going for that kind of effect). That means a tripod or camera mount.

Pedco UltraClamp
This is a must-have mount for anyone with a GoPro or lightweight digital camera.

I routinely use a Pedco UltraClamp with my GoPros. I can’t say enough things about this clamp-on camera mount. With a GoPro, all you need is a tripod mount adapter and you’re good to go.

For my construction project time-lapse movies, I clamped it onto one of my RV slide-outs, pointing at the construction site. Easy.

The Software

Okay, so the camera has been running for hours and it has collected hundreds of images. Most of my time-lapses run from 6:30 AM to 4:30 PM. That’s 10 hours with 60 shots per hour. 600 images.

The images are 2592 x1944 pixels. That’s way bigger than I need. In addition, I want a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is better suited for video projects these days. So I need to do some processing.

EasyBatchPhoto IconThe first thing I do is run the images through a program called EasyBatchPhoto. (Remember folks, I’m using a Mac.) I have the app set up to crop the image to 1920 x 1080 — that’s standard high definition. This basically crops away the edges of the image, focusing on what’s in the middle. The app also slightly sharpens the image and applies a date and time stamp watermark based on the EXIF data saved with the original file. It then saves it as a medium-high quality JPEG in a folder I specify. I do this for only the images I want to include in the movie; no reason to process them all. The rest of the images are discarded when I wipe the SD card.

EasyBatchPhoto Settings
EasyBatchPhoto can process huge batches of images at a time.

I should mention that you could probably do all this with another app. This happens to be the one I use. I’m sure some readers will share their solutions in the comments.

QuickTime Player 7 IconOnce I have the images in a folder, I open up QuickTime Player 7, which I’d updated to the Pro version years ago. This is an old version of QuickTime. The current version does not have the feature I need, which is the Open Image Sequence command. I use that command to get a dialog box prompting me to choose an image. I select the first image in the folder containing all of the images for the movie.

Choose the First Image
Use this dialog box to select the first image in the folder of images for the movie.

Image Sequence Settings
Use this dialog box to set the frame rate.

I’m then prompted to set the image sequence settings — basically the frame rate for the movie. There are a lot of options on that pop-up menu. After some experimentation, I decided on 15 frames per second for this project. That compresses 10 hours worth of images into about 40 seconds. Any faster and you miss a lot of the action. When I click OK, QuickTime makes the movie and displays it in a window. After taking a look at it, I save it to disk, usually in the same folder as the images.

Why YouTube?
I was really pissed off to discover that Viddler, the site I used years ago to host video, has made my videos unavailable for viewing. I think it’s because they expect me to pay for hosting, which just ain’t gonna happen. This screwed up a lot of embedded video on this site. Because some of the videos are very old, I can’t find the source files so those videos are gone forever. So I’ll use YouTube on a go-forward basis for all video sharing. It’s free and very easy to access.

The last thing I do is upload the movie to YouTube. I do this with the current version of QuickTime. I just double-click the movie’s icon to open QuickTime and use the share command to share it on YouTube. QuickTime prompts me for a movie description and tags. Within minutes, it’s online and available to anyone who wants to see it.

The entire software process takes about 5-7 minutes and is mostly automated.

If you make time-lapse movies and use a different set of software tools, please do use the comments to share your process. It’s always nice to learn about new software that might make things easier or just plain better.

MacVoices Interview Now Online

Watch it!

Chuck Joiner & Maria LangerChuck and me through the miracle of Skype.

Chuck Joiner interviewed me recently for his excellent MacVoices video podcast. We talked about flying, my Twitter courses for, and social networking with Twitter and Facebook, and working with

Chuck is a great interviewer and he really knows what to ask to get me talking!

You can see or hear other interviews with me on my Appearances page.

MacVoicesYou can also go to the Show Notes page to get the free 7-day pass for that I mention in the interview.

What Part of “Leave Me Alone” Do You Not Understand?


It seems that every time I register a software product or sign up for a website or give anyone my email address for any reason whatsoever, a whole bunch of new email crap results. For the “reputable” organizations, I dutifully click the link in the email message to get off the list they’ve put me on. It usually works. For the rest, I just click the Junk button to flag it as junk and let my email app take care of it.

But lately even the “reputable” organizations don’t seem to understand when I tell them — using software tools they provide — that I don’t want to receive email from them. AOPA is notorious for this; they seem to make new email lists and subscribe me to them as quickly as I can unsubscribe.

Microsoft both annoyed me and made me laugh this morning when it sent this email message:

Email from Microsoft

Just getting the email pissed me off. I don’t want to receive any kind of product announcements, news, etc. from Microsoft. I don’t care about Microsoft.

But what cracked me up was the following line:

Did you know your current contact settings have cancelled our email communications to your inbox?

Yes, I did. But apparently those settings don’t mean shit to Microsoft when they send me an email message to tell me that they’re not allowed to send email messages to me.

Needless to say, I did not click the Re-Subscribe Now link.


Keep the Social in Social Networking

Stop wasting time chasing likes and accumulating followers and “friends.”

Twitter LogoToday, my friend Andy started a job at Twitter.

Andy and I met a little over seven years ago on Twitter. He, in fact, was the first person I followed there.

Back in those days, Twitter was only a year or so old and no one really “got it” yet. Actually, I don’t even think the folks who made Twitter got it. They promoted it as a “microblogging” platform, a place to share very brief comments with others. Did they ever dream that it would become what it has become? A valuable and timely source of news and information? The world’s “water cooler” for chatting, venting, and sharing?

This morning, when Andy announced that he was tweeting from Twitter’s U.K. headquarters, I realized that not only had we met on Twitter, but that Twitter had become a source of our livelihoods. Andy works at Twitter now, so he’s on their payroll. And I’ve written courses for about Twitter, so I get royalties for sharing my Twitter knowledge.

Funny how that worked out, no?

The Frustration of Facebook

Facebook LogoI really don’t like Facebook, but like so many of my friends, I find myself drawn to it. It has so much potential to be a truly valuable social networking service and enough of my friends understand that to make it worth visiting.

But at the same time, I find it immensely frustrating, mostly because of the number of people who just don’t seem to get it. I let some of that frustration out the other day after reading a post by one of my friends — coincidentally, someone else I met on Twitter — that proved how little she understood the “social” aspect of social networking.

She’d shared a humorous photo that had made the rounds at least two weeks before, presenting it as if it were something new. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much except for three things: (1) she considers herself a social networking “expert,” (2) her accompanying commentary clearly indicated she thought she was so clever for finding and sharing the image, and (3) I know she’s friends with at least one of the people who’d shared the photo when it made its original rounds so she should have seen it when the rest of us did. It’s this last point that bothered me most: she obviously wasn’t looking at anything that the rest of us shared. She was just posting whatever she found.

And posting and posting. Dozens of Facebook status updates with links and images every day, about half of which I’d already seen days or weeks before.

For some reason, Friday’s post was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I posted a status update that said:

If some people would READ their Facebook timeline as much as they POST to it, they’d discover that about 50% of what they post as new and novel was shared by their friends on Facebook 2 weeks ago. #JustSaying #FunnyThenNotNow

I know I wasn’t completely off-base because 12 people “liked” it. That’s slightly above average for a status update that doesn’t include a photo. (More on that in a moment.) But one of my friends commented to say, “Wow…that’s kind of mean.” And another one added, “New, novel, Facebook all in one thought? Oxymoron there fly lady. Think it’s vacation time. Don’t pack the cranky pants.”

And that’s when I realized I needed a break from Facebook. So I pretty much took the weekend off.

Chasing Likes, Follows, and Friends

I began to realize a few years ago that a lot of people were using social media as a way to stroke their personal or business egos. (Hell, it’s a lot easier than blogging, which actually requires you to come up with original content.) I think that realization hit me when I heard about Klout. That’s a social media monitoring service that tells you how “influential” you are. Your Klout score is a number and apparently a lot of people who should have more important things to think about think their Klout score is vitally important.

I’m not sure how you build up your Klout score. I’m not sure because I don’t care. I don’t have the faintest idea of what mine is. From the way people talk, I suspect it has to do with how many Twitter followers and Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections you have and how many Google+ users — yes, there really are some — have you in their circles. It probably also takes into consideration things like retweets, likes, and shares — at least it should.

Stop Hijacking Tweets!

One of my pet peeves with certain Twitter users is the way they retweet content by copying and pasting tweets instead of using Twitter’s built-in retweet feature. What they’re doing is hijacking content. Even if the author’s name appears in the tweet (usually after RT), the hijacker’s account is the one that appears when it’s subsequently properly retweeted by others. It’s like taking credit for someone else’s comment or link or photo.

It’s a slime bag way to use Twitter for self-promotion.

And if you don’t know what I’m talking about and want to learn, read this.

As a result, to some people it becomes vitally important to accumulate followers, friends, connections, and circlers (or whatever Google+ calls the people who supposedly monitor your activity). And it’s equally important to post new content on the social networks with the ultimate goal of attracting attention to pump up that Klout score. So lots of these people post all kinds of things all day long.

I guess they figure that if you throw enough crap at a wall, some of it’s gotta stick.

Or maybe they just assume that everyone who follows them on social media does it they way they do: a quick glance a few times a week to see what others are saying. They figure that if they post a ton of stuff, something will be seen. So they go after quantity and not quality.

Of course, there are dozens of “viral” websites cropping up every day to provide content that’ll get social networkers the likes and shares they crave. Any site with the word “viral” or “share” in its name exists solely for that purpose. They have staffs who comb the web for interesting or amusing content and repackage it on their sites surrounded by dozens of ads. They write headlines designed to hook bored readers and drag them in. You’ve seen them: “This second grader’s revenge against Common Core math will make your day” and “Bella Thorne Suffers “Major Wardrobe Malfunction” at Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards: Picture.”

Quote List
How many of these do you see on Facebook every day? Too many, I’ll bet.

Then there are the lists: “16 Alarming Airline Secrets That Will Change How You Feel About Flying.” Or the simpler lists that just appear in images.

And the inspirational quotes, superimposed over (often inappropriate) photos.

Love Mom
I didn’t share this. What does that really mean? That I don’t love my mother? Or that I don’t want to clutter up my friends’ news feeds with idiotic crap?

And the short stories of friendship or love or faith — that end with a statement implying that you’re uncaring S.O.B. if you don’t share it with everyone you know on Facebook.

This is the (mostly) crap people are “sharing” in search of likes and shares and retweets. And the people who share this (mostly) crap don’t understand that they are being manipulated into promoting websites that have hijacked content solely so the hijacker sites can get hits and maximize ad revenue.

And Facebook doesn’t help matters. Instead of showing me everything that the people I follow post on their own timelines — like Twitter does quite faithfully — it uses some mystery algorithm to determine what appears, what order to put it in, and how many times to show it. So I wind up missing half the content posted by the people who tend to share interesting stuff and get stuck looking at a lot of crap because my friends happened to comment on one of their friends’ mindless drivel.

Social Is More than Sharing

It’s all about likes and retweets and favorites. Apparently, that’s what most people want. It’s a good thing, too. Because most people can’t be bothered to participate any more than with a simple click on an icon indicating their approval.

Deep discussion is rare. Very rare. I’m fortunate that I follow a few interesting and thoughtful people and they follow me. I’m fortunate to get the few exchanges of comments and ideas that I get. I know that now.

But it still frustrates me.

How can something be social when there’s no real interaction between people? I post a photo, 20 people click a like button. Is that a real “social” activity? (Tip: Updates with photos are far more likely to get “likes” than those without.)

I share a link to an article Hobby Lobby trying to use a claim of “conscientious objection” to avoid providing health care to employees that includes birth control coverage and I don’t get a single comment. Is it possible that no one has anything to say about this?

(And don’t get me started on the people who do comment based on an article’s headline but obviously haven’t read the article.)

Maybe the problem is what I expect from social media. I expect a two-way exchange. I expect civil discourse, conversation to carry an idea forward or sideways or simply expand it.

That’s why I got hooked on Twitter so quickly — I was building relationships with people there. These people were keeping me company throughout my work day, when I was stuck in a home office in front of a computer. They were there when I needed a break. They were my water cooler companions.

There were plenty of two-way exchanges. I was even meeting Twitter friends in the flesh — I remain very good friends with more than a few.

To me, that’s what social networking is all about: making and communicating with friends.

It’s social.

Real People, Real Friendships

Andy lives in the U.K. I’ve never met him in person; I’ve never even spoken to him on the phone or on Skype. Yet I know that he’s a techie, he loves Lego, and he’s been through a divorce. He’s someone I can communicate with every day, the guy I can find at the “water cooler” and exchange links, comments, and gripes with.

There’s a pretty good chance I’ll meet Andy in person in April. He’s coming to Twitter headquarters for some orientation. I’m in the Sacramento area with a wide-open schedule. I’ll work my schedule to meet his.

To me, social networking is social. It’s an exchange of information and ideas — an exchange that works two ways. I’ve built good friendships with the folks who understand that, folks like Andy who see how social networking can truly enrich our lives.

You Can’t Get There from Here

Another Apple Maps fail.

I’m planning a trip to Pullman, WA next Thursday to attend a beekeeping seminar. I got the street address of the college campus building I need to go to in an email message. Under OS X Mavericks, I can point to the address to display a map of its location, like this:

Address in Email

I clicked the Open in Maps link to open the location in the Maps application that comes with Mavericks. Then, because I was curious about how long it would take to make the drive, I clicked the Directions button in Maps. I filled in my current location in the Start box and Maps recognized it as my current location. Then I clicked Directions.

Here’s the result:

Maps Fail

If you can’t read the note on the right, here’s what it says:

Directions Not Available
Directions cannot be found between these locations.

Of course, when I went to Google Maps and plugged the same info in, I got complete directions:

Google Maps

Hello, Apple? How about leaving the mapping to the experts? I never asked for Apple Maps on my phone, iPad, or desktop computer.

The apps you provide with the OS are like tools for getting a specific job done. When you provide tools that don’t work, it’s like reaching for a hammer and having it break when you need to bang in a nail.