My first time-lapse video with the Nikon D600

If you are a fan of NBC’s Sunday night football,you may have noticed that as part of the showcase of the city where the game is played in, they show a brief time lapse of an interesting part of the city. I think they come a few days before the game to take footage from around the city at night so that it appears that footage was taken on game night. I remembered seeing a couple of guys sitting on the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak Boulevard with some sort of DSLR and a wide-angle lens in Houston’s Galleria area in the week before the Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers and was wondering what in the world they were doing. They seemed pretty legit however and a lot of people were coming up to them and asking them questions.

I didn’t think too much about that until I was watching the game and saw the time lapse that they did of the intersection. The whole thing was absolutely seamless and gave the impression that the footage was from the night of the game. Really, great job guys. During the Texans/Bears game Chicago, while it was pouring rain during the game, it was mentioned that the aerial footage of Chicago along with the time lapse of what I assume was Lake Michigan was also taken on the Friday before the game. Here are some examples of their work from the 2011 season:

I think this is very cool and decided to do my own version of that using the Nikon D600s built-in time lapse feature.  The other way to do this would be to use the built in timer and take pictures and turned them into a time lapse using a video editing tool of some sort, but I am not that patient and didn’t want to deal between future files.  This isn’t a how to do a time-lapse video guide because as I said, this was my first, but I did learn a few things that might come in handy.

The result is the following: (pick 1080P quality for best results)

I wanted to take a longer time lapse; however, by the time I figured out what I was doing, I had already wasted over an hour and wanted to give my camera a break from the work out it was getting. The built in time lapse feature appears to be easy at first but there are a lot of minor details to the process.

The first thing to remember is that the time lapse feature uses the still photography function of the camera and really doesn’t have anything to do with the video feature. This is important to know because when you select to do the time lapse, it will use the settings that you currently have for your photos and not the settings that you have for video. This is true even if you have video selected on the camera. Because of this, my first attempt was severely overexposed as you can see.

The next thing to be mindful of the shutter speed you want to use for each frame. keep in mind that shutter speed in video is not the same thing as frames per second. I wasn’t concerned about noise because the D 600 has very low noise at high ISOs even at high resolution pictures and certainly not concerned about noise for video which is that it considerably lower resolution; however, I wanted to make sure that there was still some motion blur in the pictures to make it look authentic. I think each frame is about 1/20 of a second.

Another very important consideration is the time interval between the pictures. In my case I was taking pictures of fast-moving cars and therefore decided that one second intervals would work the best. At 24 frames per second this would of worsening that I would need 24 pictures to fill one second. It’s not bad really. If I was doing star trails or something slower, I would probably want 20 second intervals or even longer. For that sort of time lapse, you would need to be very patient and leave the camera alone to do its thing.

If you’re doing the time lapse in camera, you should also remember that unlike shooting still photography in raw, all the camera settings matter – white balance, straight horizons, saturation, D-lighting, etc.

Overall, despite my stumble getting started, I like this feature. The only concern I have is that doing it time lapse can use up shutter actuation very quickly so I would have to save this for something where I truly need the artistic look and use regular video for other things.

Here are a couple of still pictures from the evening:

Houston Galleria

Houston Galleria area at night


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