Updated: Jun 5
Time-lapse videos are often very impressive, especially during night time! Summer is just around the corner, which means it is Milky Way season again! Thousands of photographers all over the world will be making Astrophotography time-lapses in the months to come, including you! Right?
In this short tutorial, we will not be showing how to actually take photographs for your time-lapse, but rather how to properly and easily process this files and transform them into one video. We will most likely make a similar tutorial about the imaging part in the future, but in the mean time, you can find hundreds of great tutorial on that subject with a simple Google search.
For this tutorial, we will be using Adobe Lightroom to edit our files, followed by Final Cut Pro to make a video out of our photos. Know that you should be able to achieve great results even by using different softwares, although Lightroom really helps to process a batch of images all at once.
The images used for this example were all taken with our usual DSLR camera, the Canon 7D Mark II.
Step 1 - Check your Files and Import them Into Lightroom
Take your SD card out of your DSLR camera, then, stick it in your computer! Transfer all your photos to a new folder. We usually name it "timelapse" but that doesn't matter.
Open the folder and make sure none of your files are ruined. For example, images may get ruined from headlights by a passing car, or if you bumped into the tripod while the camera was shooting.
You also want to make sure that you delete any "test shot" you may have taken before launching your series of photos, or it will give a very strange start to your timelapse video once exported.
After checking your images, you'll want to open up a photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom, and import them all. Lightroom is really great for editing hundreds of photos at once and making sure they all have the same amount of highlights, shadows, saturation, and whatnot.
If you are planning to create a time lapse video that has several different angles, it is a good idea to work on those separately to really focus on each angle's lighting and colors. In our example video, you can see that our final timelapse has 4 different angles, one of them being pointed towards the bright moon.
Step 2 - Select an Image and Enhance it
Pick an image to work on, preferably one that is the most similar to all the others. We will now edit this reference image to our liking by playing with each slider on the right hand side of the software. The goal is to have a beautiful image full of details, with a realistic amount of saturation and a low noise level. Make it look as fantastic as you possibly can, as we will apply these same settings to all the other frames in the next step of this tutorial.
We like to increase the shadows a little bit so we can see the ground better, and try to use the blacks/darks sliders to end up with a beautiful, even night sky that isn't completely black.
If, like us, you live and image from a very hot place like Nevada, it is often a good idea to pick one of your final images to work on. This is because your camera heats up every time it takes a picture and you end up with more and more hot pixels throughout your shots. By editing one of the last frames, you are making sure that the noise correction you are applying will be enough for all the other previous images as well.
Step 3 - Synchronize your Settings
Once you are happy with how your image turned out in Step 2, it is time to make it match to all the other shots.
This is very simple and just takes a couple of seconds. You just need to:
Go to "Edit".
Select "Select All" to ensure that all our images are selected.
Go to "Settings".
Select "Sync Settings".
In the window that pops up (see below), check everything and press "Synchronize".
You can see that our "Crop" options are not checked, that is because we did not crop our reference image and so did not care if this was left unchecked. Upon clicking on Synchronize, you computer might take a couple of minutes to apply the settings to all the images, depending on your RAM and how many photos you have.
Step 4 - Export and Close Lightroom
Now that all our images have been edited to our liking, we just need to export them all to a new folder, ready for the second half of this tutorial.
For this, just go to "File", and select "Export". In the window that pops up, select a new folder and confirm. Depending on how many files you have, this may take a while.
We will not be coming back to Lightroom, so you can now close it!
Step 5 - Import All your Files into Video Editing Software
All your images are now in a folder, waiting patiently to be put imported into video editing software. We are using Final Cut Pro as an example, but any modern video software should work as our task is going to be very basic. To add your files to the software:
Open your video editing software.
Create a new project/event.
Import all your files (either through the import menu or by dragging them all to the project).
Select all the files and drag them to the timeline.
All your files should now be on your timeline, in order and you should now be able to quickly preview the time lapse by hovering your mouse over it from left to right. If they are not in the correct order, make sure they are sorted by name in the project/event folder; assuming you did not rename each file individually for some reason.
Step 6 - Select All and Change Duration
Make sure all the images are selected, then right-click on one of them and select "Change Duration". This will allow you to choose how long you want each image to be. Type the letter "1"on your keyboard so that each image is displayed for 1 frame for a 24 frames per second project.
The number of frames per second can vary depending on the default settings of your project, but it usually is 24 or 30. In short, and without getting too technical, one frame will ensure that there is no "lagging" in your final video. If you did not take many images during the night (that often happens to us too), and your video ends up being way too short to be worth it, you can type "2" instead of "1". Your video will not be as smooth, but it will at least be twice as long!
Now we want to make sure that the video will fit our framing correctly. For that, while everything is still selected, we right-click and select New Compound Clip.
This puts the hundreds of files you have into one single clip, which we can then resize to our liking. You can even add some effects to it or mess around with the colors until you are satisfied. If you realize you made a mistake and want to edit or take out a specific image, you can always double-click on the clip to see "what's inside".
Step 7 - Check the Result and Export
When the software is done processing your changes, you should be able to play the clip and have a perfect preview of the final result. Make sure it is seamless and that it does not require any further edit. Lastly, you can simply export it!
If you wish, you can also add a nice music track to it by dragging an audio file under the time lapse. Make sure to cut the audio when the time lapse ends so that the video does not keep playing the song with a black screen.
And... You're done!
We hope this tutorial will help people that are unfamiliar with time lapses and how to process them. As you can see, it is pretty straight forwards and none of the steps above are difficult :)
If you want to take your time-lapse videos to another level, you can also use a tracker that follow the stars to show the rotation of the Earth. If you haven't seen our review of the Omegon Mini Track, go check it out!
We'll see you next time for other videos and tutorials,
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