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Time-Lapse with the FX6


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Time-lapse is a filmmaking technique where a cinematographer shoots a series of still pictures (generally of the same frame) at a chosen regular interval for a series of time.  These pictures are then played together in sequence, showing an event unfolding in rapid speed.  Think clouds racing across the sky, the frenetic race of cars in a city, or a flower blooming.  Basically, it’s a trick made possible by the camera that shows us something we wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye.    

People have always been able to shoot these with their video camera simply by hitting record for a length of time and then speeding up their video in post.  Digital photography presented a better, and more controlled way to do it by taking single frames on a DSLR or mirrorless camera and then compiling the images in a program like After Effects, Davinci, or Premiere.  

This is still the leading way to create time-lapses in my opinion, but it is also far more tedious and requires a lot more work in post to bring it all together.  Sometimes, it is easier to use the tool you are already shooting with.  Enter, the FX6.

The FX6 has a built-in interval shooting mode that allows you create time-lapses within the camera.  You can choose your interval and how many frames you want to record.  I always just choose one frame - this is what you’re doing when you use a DSLR to shoot time-lapse, so it makes the most sense to me.  

A more creative decision is which interval to choose.  A shorter interval (1-3s) is going to create slower movement overall.  A longer interval (5-10s) will speed up the motion even more dramatically.  Experiment a bit with what works best for you, but I prefer something a bit slower, in the 3-4s range so the movement isn’t so frenetic and crazy.  Set up your shot, choose your interval, and then hit record.  Boom!  That is all there is to it.  Now you just need to sit back and let the camera do it’s thing.  When you hit stop record, the time-lapse file will appear in your thumbnails for you to watch.  

One thing to remember:  you need to let it run long enough to get a useable shot.  If you want a 10 second time-lapse in 24p, you’ll need 240 frames.  If you’re shooting a frame every 3 seconds (20 frames per minute), you’ll need to let the time-lapse run for twelve minutes.  Math!

Have you ever used the interval feature in your camera to shoot time-lapse?  How did it go for you?  

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All good information, Danny, I’ll just add one of my own tips.

Many time-lapse shots look best if they contain some smooth-flowing blurred motion instead looking like a series if snapshots.   For example, you might want to do a time-lapse of traffic and have the vehicles blurred as they move down the road.  This is especially effective with streaks from headlights or taillights of the cars.   Or you might want a time-lapse where the movement of people walking on a city street are blurred.  This is a cool effect if you have someone standing stationary for the duration of the time-lapse (maybe looking at their phone or a map) while the chaos of city life buzzes all around them.

The FX6 does not have the traditional “SLOW SHUTTER” mode you that usually find on other Sony cameras, but you can get the same effect by simply dialing the shutter speed down below the camera’s current frame rate.

For example, if your camera is set up to shoot 29.97p and you dial the shutter speed slower than 1/30th, then you have entered what would traditionally be called the camera’s “slow shutter mode” . . . 2 frames . . . 4 frames . . . 16 frames . . . down to as many as 64 frames of light accumulation. 

This concept is easier to grasp if you express the shutter speed as fractions instead of “frames”.  This list assumes that a 29.97p recording format is being used. The numbers would be slightly different for other frequencies.

2F = 1/15 sec.

3F = 1/10 sec.

4F = 1/8 sec.

5F = 1/6 sec.

6F = 1/5 sec.

7F = 1/4 sec.

8F = 1/4 sec.

16F = 1/2 sec.

32F = 1 second

64F = 2 seconds

So, a bigger number equals a longer exposure, and that is what causes movement to become blurred. A slower shutter speed also means more light will captured, so the FX6’s electronic variable ND filter comes in really handy to help you ensure a perfect exposure. 

You can even use the Auto ND feature to allow the camera to seamlessly adjust the exposure during a time-lapse with changing lighting conditions – if you want.  Personally, I prefer not to let the exposure change during a time-lapse, but that is a creative decision.

I even like to use slow-shutter when I’m shooting clouds or a landscape because it will tend to blur blur out any fast-moving birds or bugs that inevitably fly through my shot.  Without slow shutter a bird will suddenly appear as a dot on one or two frames, and have to be erased in post. But if I I’m using a super slow shutter speed, birds and bugs will usually be blurred out and not visible at all.

 So, if you want to capture a smooth-flowing time-lapse you'll almost always want to use some measure of Slow Shutter with Interval Recording.  That’s what I do, and I love the look.

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