I had planned for this to be the last part of this series, but I’m going to have to do a Part Three and maybe Part Four, because some of the tips require a lot of information. Part One of this series is available here.
Shoot Long Takes
When you’re working with static shots (water, wind effects), shoot longer takes. You never know how nature can effect your shot. Changing light and shadow can give a totally different look than what you started with. Insects and animals may wander into the shot. In the sunset framegrab below (click for full size) I shot that take for about 5 minutes, and near the end a bird flew from the bottom of the marina to the tree on the right. My minimum shot length is 30 seconds, but I average about 2 minutes per shot. Yes, it takes longer to review your footage, but those rare moments when you capture something unexpected can make all the difference. Long takes also make me more productive because while I’m shooting them, I’m walking around looking for other shot opportunities.
Explore Your Location and Visit it Often
In early summer I shot a timelapse at a hayfield:
I was using my Olympus C-8080 compact cam, and I almost always shoot a timelapse for at least an hour. The field had just been cut, but the edges were full of interesting shot opportunities, so while the timelapse was going, I grabbed my Canon HF10 and got some nice video:
In the first shot of the four, I grabbed some dandelions and shook them over the plant. Slowing that sequence down in Sony Vegas made for a nice effect.
If a location is close enough, I will visit it many times. For example, the hayfield looks very different before it is ready to be cut. Some of my most popular still shots on flickr were taken at that hayfield at different times of the year.
I usually set my WB to approximate the conditions I’m in at the time of a shot. Since I shoot long takes, I don’t want the color of my light to change if a cloud covers the sun. One tip I can give here is to try experimenting with your white balance. For example, when shooting a sunset or sunrise, set the WB to Shade for a warmer effect. You can also try Cloudy for a more subtle warmness. The sunset framegrab below has the WB set to Shade:
Another nice effect to try is to shoot twilight with Fluorescent WB, which gives a nice blue tone. Below is a framegrab from a video and a still photo (shot with an Olympus e410 DSLR). I particularly like this effect for cityscapes at dusk:
Most of the time I use my Olympus C-8080 Compact digicam with an intervalometer attachment to shoot timelapse footage. With the Olympus I can do “dolly shot” post effects in Vegas because the frame size is about double the width of HD, and it also frees up my video camera so that I can shoot other stuff while the timelapse is going. However, if you don’t have a still camera that can do timelapse, try shooting with your video camera. Set Manual focus, Exposure and WB, and then shoot for an hour.
I use Sony Vegas 9 Pro, and I have a few options for making a timelapse: I can insert a velocity envelope, or I can CTRL-Click the right side of the clip and drag it to the left. Both of these methods have the disadvantage of probably having to do multiple renders to achieve the speed you want, and you also need to use a lossless codec such as Cineform.
My new, preferred method is to use the “Render to Image Sequence” script:
- Drop your clip on the timeline and then click it
- Go to Tools/Scripting and select the “Render Image Sequence” script
- Select how often you want an image rendered. For a fairly slow timelapse I choose one second
- After the script has exported your images, import them into vegas by clicking the filename of the first image and then checking the box at the bottom to import a still image sequenceVegas Movie Studio (“home” version of Vegas) does not include scripting. Only Vegas Professional does.Below is an outake I posted on YouTube using the image sequence method. Crappy composition, but you’ll get the idea.Again, most of the examples I’ve shown here can be viewed in this video at Vimeo: