Shooting Time-Lapse with the Nikon D5000

When I first got my D5000 I spent some time like I do with all new cameras, searching through all the menus.  When I reached the bottom of the Shooting Menu I found a setting entitled Interval Timer Shooting.

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I was surprised to find this feature as it is usually only found on more expensive DSLR models.  Since I have a job next week that involves a 24 hour time-lapse shoot I thought it would be fun to play around with some interval shooting this weekend but for a much shorter duration.  Making time-lapse videos is not extremely difficult but it does require a little pre-planning.  There are two factors to consider when setting up the camera.  The first is exactly what the frame rate will be.  Frame rate will dictate how often the camera fires.  The D5000 has a limit of 999 images that can be captured in the interval shooting mode, which means that the rate will be effected by the duration of the project.  If I wanted to capture a scene for 2 hours, I would not be able to set the timer to take more than one frame ever 7 seconds.  Another consideration is what the final frame rate of the time-lapse movie will be.  At 30 frames per second, a time-lapse video made from 999 frames will last about 33 seconds.  Luckily time-lapse vedeos usually look more interesting at slower frame rates like 15, 10, or even 6 frames a second.

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Lucky for me, I was only interested in creating a short video from 600 frames so I set my capture rate at 1 frame every 3 seconds.  I also set the camera to shoot JPEGs using the smallest image size possible (2144×1424 pixels) because my final video would only be 640×480 so shooting at full resolution would be a waste and require longer processing times.

Once I had set up all the parameters I let the camera do it’s thing and record my 600 images.  Once done, I transfered the images to my computer hard drive to make the video processing go smoother.  Next I created the video using QuickTime Pro.  There are a lot of ways to make time-lapse videos using different software but QuickTime Pro is by and large the easiest method I have ever used.

To create the video, go to the File menu in QuickTime Pro and select Open Image Sequence…

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When the Open dialog opens, locate the folder that the sequence images are in and just select the first image. and click open.

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The next step is to choose the frame rate that you want the video to be.  I selected 24 fps for my short video.

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QuickTime will then create then render the video at full resolution.  I reduced the size on the screen so I could see the whole thing and then played the video to see if I was happy with the current frame rate.  If not, all I had to do was close the video without saving and just run through the Open Sequence process again and choose a different frame rate. I was happy with the 24 fps but, because I want to upload it to the web, I chose to export the video at 640×480 using the standard QuickTime video settings.

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That’s all there is to it.  My final time-lapse was then uploaded to Viddler so you could check out the final result.  If you would like to use QuickTime Pro for your time-lapse video creations, you can purchase a copy for about $30 by visiting the Apple QuickTime page.  It is available for both Mac and Windows.

As a side note, the D5000 actually has a time-lapse feature in the Retouch Menu called Stop-motion movie.  It is pretty nice and actually creates the video right in the camera using sequence images on the memory card using any number of frame rates.  The only restriction is that it can only handle 100 images so it fell short of my particular needs this time.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the tutorial, I have two time lapses waiting to be reconstructed from jpgs but was disappointed to find that iMovie no longer supports this capability.

    I’ve also been waiting for my University to get on the Adobe Licensing Bandwagon so I haven’t yet gotten Premiere Pro which would also do this, and hadn’t considered Quicktime Pro so that’s a good new option. $30 is a pittance to pay to get this capability but we are under 2 weeks from WWDC and I’d hate to upgrade today only for Apple to release a whole new version on June 8th, and QTP upgrades are always full price, you get no discount for having upgraded to previous versions.

  2. You can still download the older iMovie HD for free. It does time-lapse movies:

    http://support.apple.com/downloads/iMovie_HD_6_0_3

  3. I’ve been playing heaps with timelapse videos, but using my Nokia N95 camera phone .. not my d3 or d3x rigs.. The N95 can be setup to take photos every 10seconds, 30, 1min etc etc builtin !

    now interesting thing is, http://picasa.google.com/ which is free from google guys, actually lets you select as many frames as you like and creates timelapse movies for you.. you can set the frame rate and size and everything.. and the software is FREE.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rexyinc/3529235687/

    for an example straight out of my N95 nokia camera phone :) Here i drove to a photoshoot, you see a bit of the shoot and the pulldown of the set and driving home again..

  4. thanks for the info… will ahve my own to show off soon enough !! how did the battery hold up for 600 frames?

    • The battery did just fine. I gave it a full charge and I also closed the LCD with the screen facing inward to save a little power. I still had over half my battery life when I was done. Another thing you might consider is to use the autofocus to set the initial focus point and then turn the lens to manual focus for the duration of the sequence. There really shouldn’t be a need to re-focus but if the camera is left in AF mode, it will try and focus for every shot. This also consumes battery power.

  5. How does one aquire in RAW.nef files to create a time lapse movie file?

    I have FCP and I want to create some 24fps movie files. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Chas

    • Hi Chas,
      I’m not sure if you can render in a RAW format. All of mine have been from JPEG files. Also, using RAW would take up a huge amount of space. It takes a lot of images to make a time lapse movie. at 24fps you would need about 720 images for a short 30 second clip. If you want to shoot RAW, I would suggest making your image corrections in Lightroom and then exporting the files to JPEG. You might also try using the free Instant JPEG from RAW utility available at RAWWORKFLOW.com. It does an amazing job of extracting a JPEGs from your raw files and you can even have them resized during the process. Remember that RAW files are huge, much larger tha hi-def movie resolutions.

  6. I was getting excited about the D5000 interval timer. But only 999 shots? That’s a bit disappointing.
    Guess I’ll have to save more money for the D300s :(

  7. Matt,
    All of the Nikon Cameras have a 999 max on the interval timer, that includes the D700 and the D3. I’m not sure why but they just do. If you want to get more, you will have to do one of two things. You can use Camera Control Pro software and have your camera tethered to a computer or use something like the MC-36 programmable remote cord.

    Jeff

  8. Can you do this in windows media player?

  9. Stephen says:

    Can anyone tell me the settings I need to enable/disable in order to allow me to use this feature? It’s greyed out on my camera and when I try to select it I get a message saying: Cannot be used with current settings.
    Thanks in advance.

  10. ok so im trying to take a short 2 hour video. how do make the camera take pictures faster. the clouds are moving fairly quickly. i set it to like 400 but its stll taking a picture every 2 minutes. set the interval higher??

    • i dont understand. i set the time to 30 minutes and the interval at 720 and its shooting every 30 seconds i want it to shoot every 10 seconds. how do you do this?

      • changed the interval to 990 and its set to 30″ and it is still shooting every 30 seconds. why is this??

        • ok nevermind. i understand how it works now. i took it as the time divided by the interval where its just the opposite it is the number of pictures and the time between each. now i understand.

          • Hey Drew, sorry I didn’t see your comment sooner but it seems as though you figured it out. The key is figuring out how many frames you want to shoot in a given time span as it relates to the length that you want your final video to be. A 2 minute video moving at 30 fps will require a total of 3600 frames. If you want to cover a 2 hour time span you need to divide 3600 by the number of minutes (120). That comes out to 30 frames a minute or 1 frame every 2 seconds. The only problem is that the intervalometer on the D5000 only goes of to 999 shots so you will probably have to increase the time between intervals and decrease the playback frame rate. With only 999 frames, your 30fps video would only be about 33 seconds long.

Trackbacks

  1. Useful instructions on doing time-lapse photography with recent Nikon DSLR cameras and assembling movies with Quicktime. http://is.gd/EkiX

  2. amvona says:

    Shooting Time-Lapse with the Nikon D5000 http://bit.ly/vWMxu

  3. Jeff Revell says:

    @Navesink I used QuickTime Pro to assemble the time-lapse. Check my blog today for the full walk explanation. http://bit.ly/12wBdr

  4. Como fazer Time Lapse numa Nikon D5000: http://bit.ly/drDKw8

  5. [...] Shooting Time-Lapse with the Nikon D5000 [...]

  6. B. Moye says:

    RT @Photowalkpro: Shooting Time-Lapse with the Nikon D5000 http://t.co/CJOsRjdz

  7. Shooting Time-Lapse with the Nikon D5000 http://t.co/szcWfXBj

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