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Jul 21, 2010

iLife Tutorial – Use time lapse techniques in iMovie

by iCreate Team

Shoot a series of stills at regular intervals, then turn your footage into a high-speed movie

MainSpecsIt’s easy to forget when watching a movie that we’re actually viewing a series of still images. Because these images whiz by at a rate of 25 images (or frames) per
second, the footage appears to run in ‘real time’.
However, if you capture just one image every second (instead of the usual 25) then play the shots back at the usual rate, you’ll see a dramatic increase in the speed at which time passes. This technique is called time lapse photography, and you can produce it using an iPhone and iMovie. You need to capture a series of shots at regular intervals so they flow smoothly. Here’s how to capture and edit your time lapse sequence.

Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.20.16Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.20.30Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.20.42Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.20.56Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.21.09Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.21.20Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.21.38Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.21.46Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.21.57Screen shot 2010-07-21 at 10.22.14

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    • Woohhooo tons of thank 🙂

    • Ben

      Thanks for this. I have a problem when I try to set the duration. iMovie seems to prevent me from setting a duration of less than 0.1 seconds which leaves the timelapse a bit slow. Any suggestions on what I am doing wrong?

    • Dale Mead

      Thanks for this tutorial; it’s much needed. However, a lot of what you say to do isn’t obvious; you may be assuming familiarity with iPhoto I don’t have. Can you please ID which version this is? I’m working with 6.0.3, which comes with 10.4.11.

      I don’t see the Precision Editor. When I try to drag the photos down to the work area, I get the window Photo Settings. It has two unexplained sliders and won’t let me move them till I click Apply. I guess I do so even though I don’t know what they do?

      Pressing “i” doesn’t get me the Inspector; furthermore, I see no menu listings for it, and iMovie Help doesn’t come up with anything relating to Inspector. That’s where I’m stuck.

      Any ideas? Suggestions? Other time-lapse tutorials for (I’m guessing) my older version?

    • PyleStyle

      I can not find the inspector either….anyone?

    • Az

      Amazing post, easy to use and effective. Thank you!

    • Kevin

      @Ben: try systematically removing frames. For example, remove every other frame.

    • Simone

      Great post. Very useful. Thanks!

    • Astrid

      @Ben: I had the same problem. I tried Kevin’s suggestion, and found it works pretty well. Another option is first exporting the sequence of photos (without the music) – and then importing it to iMovie again. Then you get the video inspector by double-clicking on the clip, and you can speed it up, to up to 8 times the original speed. It looks pretty cool. You get to keep all your pics in there and get a smooth time lapse that isn’t too long 😉
      Then add the music and export again.

    • @Astrid, thats a coool idea. Although it is quite simple, I did not realize I could do that. Thank you!!!

    • Ray

      Has anyone else noticed a significant drop in picture quality when doing this?
      I have taken the pictures from iphoto and put them into imovie.
      Next I changed the duration to .1s per still.
      I then exported the stills and then Imported the video in order to speed it up even more.
      Yes, the time lapse is much faster and smoother, however it looks much worse and more pixilated.
      Any solutions?
      Thank you

    • First of all, thank you for the tutorial!! @Ben and @Astrid, I also had the same issue changing the duration, however, after spending a few minutes digging around I found a much easier “fix”. Just go to your iMovie Preferences and click the “Display time as HH:MM:SS:Frames” option and you’ll be in business. You might also want to ensure that your “Show Advanced Tools” box is checked at this time.

    • DUDE!!!!! AWESOME post! Thanks!

    • rozailan

      hi all,
      i have a problem to remove the KEN BURN option, how to do it?

    • Stephen Ashby

      Hi Rozailan,

      Thanks for getting in touch. When you click on a section of your video and hover your mouse over it, you’ll see a small blue button appear with a cog. Click that and choose Cropping & Rotation. At the top of the preview window on the right you will see some buttons appear, including Ken Burns. You can choose either Fit or Crop depending on the dimensions of your video, and this should remove the Ken Burns effect.

      Let us know how it goes!


    • Mats

      Hi all,
      I thought I would share a tip on how to easily use every second picture or third picture (or whatever speed up you need on your time lapse). I had a 38 second long sunset I wanted to speed up 3 times so I wanted to use every 3 picture. First I tried ‘Command clicking’ every 2nd and 3rd picture in the project to mark the frames to get rid of. That was too cumbersome (242 stills) and error prone (missed on a click and lost all the markings).

      I gave on this approach and decided to try to only import every 3rd still instead which turned out to be very easy 🙂 I threw away all of the still photos in the project that were part of the time lapse. Next I scaled the preview size of photo album I was importing from so I got exactly 3 images per row. Select the first image and then just hold down the Command key and repeatedly press Down Arrow key while holding Command Key pressed to select all the images in that column. The same concept should work for other ratios as long as you can get the correct number of previews per row. Good luck!

    • Jarod

      Thanks a million Astrid, great ingenuity!!!

    • Katherine Gailer

      Hi All,

      I am doing a timelapse in Imovie. Suddenly I started having a problem when importing images. For example if I import 100 stills–and after all the import is finished– all the images look like the first one. So 100 stills of the same imag… it gets stucked.

      Any suggestions?