This is how you make a spectacular timelapse

Many films, series and documentaries contain a timelapse. A scene with an accelerated rendering of reality. Cars and planes race past. Even the starry sky spins dizzyingly fast over us. Did you know that you can easily create a timelapse yourself?

01 Slow filming

In short, a timelapse is a movie composed of photos taken at intervals of a few seconds or minutes. An ordinary film camera usually captures twenty-five or thirty frames per second. During playback, the same number of frames per second is displayed on the screen. That's why a movie plays as fast as it was shot. What you see on screen moves just as fast as in real life.

But it is also possible to record much slower. At least one frame per second. This is not recommended for ordinary films, because the image then becomes extremely jerky and movements no longer run smoothly. It is the perfect way to record an exciting timelapse.

In a timelapse, time passes considerably faster than in real life.

In top gear

The trick with a timelapse is that it takes photos over a longer period of time, but plays them back in a fraction of the time in the final movie. This speeds up the action enormously. Processes that are painfully slow in real life or seem to stand still to the naked eye, turn into exciting and surprising action scenes. Suddenly, what we cannot see ourselves becomes visible.

With a timelapse you film, as it were, at an excruciatingly slow pace. That can be one frame per second, but also a photo every ten seconds, once a minute, or every few minutes. If you want, a recording per hour or 24 hours is also possible. Patience and the battery life of the device are about the only limitations. The time in which a single photo is taken is called an interval.

02 Just with a smartphone

The easiest way to discover the power of a timelapse is to make your own. That used to be a time-consuming job, but nowadays there are such handy smartphones (and tablets) and now there are ready-made apps for this that really everyone can make a beautiful timelapse in no time.

In this course we use an iPhone with iMotion HD from Fingerlab SARL. The app is free and makes time-lapse movies in HD quality.

iMotion HD is a time-lapse app for the iPhone and, of course, the iPad.

If you have an Android device, there are also various apps available for it, such as Lapse It from Interactive Universe. There is a free Lite version and a paid Pro version (1.99 euros). The operation is broadly similar to the iPhone app.

On Android, for example, Lapse It can be used to create a timelapse.

03 iMotion HD

The basic operation of iMotion HD is simple. You choose new movie on the home screen, check if time lapse is selected, uses the slider to choose an interval, optionally enters a movie title, and taps Start. The camera is activated and the app is now ready. You point the device and tap at the bottom Start.

Choose an interval and press start.

Then the phone continues to record at a fixed rhythm, one at intervals. Until you get up twice Stop ticks. After that, a preview of the timelapse is immediately shown on the screen. Hopefully you will have a nice effect right away. Does it disappoint? Don't worry, we give a lot of directions in this course to make the best and most fun timelapses.

Starting and stopping the timelapse is a matter of pressing a button.

04 Trial recording

A place where people, animals or objects are in motion is a great place to start with your timelapse. Such as a busy road, crowd in a shopping center, cranes at work, ducks in a pond or just some birds in your own backyard or on the balcony.

Since iMotion HD only takes one photo per interval, the app has to run for a longer time to get a timelapse of sufficient length. That is why it is wise to make a short test recording first. This can be done, for example, by letting the app run for a minute with an interval of one second. This way you get a very modest timelapse without having to wait long. Purely and only to estimate what the effect looks like.

With loose hands

Recording a timelapse takes quite a while. Then it's nice if you don't have to hold the smartphone all the time. Rather place the device on a tripod, put it against something, or clamp it between, for example, two thick books.

A smartphone will not fit on an ordinary tripod, but there are special mini tripods, such as the Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand and the Joby GripTight Micro Stand ( If you have a phone holder in the car or on your bike, you can probably also use it to make a fun action movie. After all, the camera is already pointed forward. Even a long drive can be summarized in a nice short timelapse. Short timelapses can also be made by hand. While you are walking for example. These kinds of movies are a bit jerkier because the camera moves a lot, but that gives an interesting dynamic effect.

Make it easy with a mini tripod for your smartphone.

05 Stop and go again

Use the test shot to determine if the camera is pointed in the best spot. By looking at everything that moves, but also what is still in the picture. This way you will almost certainly get some nice ideas.

For example, the flow of cars and pedestrians is already fun, but if a traffic light happens to be in the picture, you will notice that everything at first accumulates relatively slowly before a red light, and then quickly flows over the road as soon as the light turns green. In a timelapse with accelerated time, that looks quite comical. If you let the camera run long enough, this repeating process of accumulating drop by drop and draining at lightning speed can be seen perfectly.

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