Time-lapse films are a fantastic way to tell a story, and, with the amazing imaging potential of modern cameras, dazzling videos of incredible quality are more accessible than ever. Sam Deuchrass, whose recent time-lapse work in the South Island has attracted millions of viewers across the internet, shares his top tips for creating 4K time-lapse masterpieces.
PLAN AHEAD In planning an outdoor time-lapse sequence, the location is everything. It is important to travel to the location well before the shoot to get an understanding of the conditions, the limitations, and the challenges that it presents. For example, the Nugget Point Lighthouse in the Catlins is in an exposed area that gets a lot of wind. This requires a heavy tripod and a set-up that is lower to the ground to prevent shaking. If you are planning a sunset shoot that performs a simple left-to-right panning motion, you should work out the duration of the clip you would like to achieve, the speed of the pan, the start composition frame, and the end composition frame. For a location like Nugget Point, another thing to bear in mind is keeping the horizon level throughout the sequence. The simple things done correctly in planning a sequence like this make a significant difference to the final product. WHAT TYPE OF CAMERA? I use a full-frame Nikon D800 and D810 to capture any landscape time-lapse sequences. Three things to keep in mind are to shoot in RAW mode when possible, consider the dynamic range of the camera that you are using, and whether the conditions you are shooting in are reflective of the camera’s ability. PICKING YOUR GLASS My preferred lens option would be a fast wide-angle, such as a 14–24mm f/2.8 or 24mm f/1.4. This is due to the outdoororiented shots I capture. Also, the astrophotography that I incorporate involves capturing vast horizons wide open at f/2.8 or similar, so it is important to have high-quality lenses that reflect the camera body’s potential. MANAGING MOVEMENT I use Syrp motion-control time-lapse equipment that allows me to easily add linear motion to time-lapse sequences. This involves the use of a ‘magic carpet’ track, a 360-motion device for the tripod, and a pan-tilt bracket, which, when used together, produce a unique and engaging perspective for the viewer. FIND YOUR SPOT Ideally, the location adds depth to the shoot, with a foreground, midground, and background. This helps the sequence to not look flat. For example, the sequence I captured at the Hooker Lake at Mount Cook utilized the iceberg-filled lake, the mountains in the distance, and the rolling clouds at sunset. This allowed me to capture the motion of the icebergs, the changing light conditions (shadows) on the mountain range, and the motion of the clouds during the sunset. HOW LONG TO SHOOT The time frame you are shooting over is largely dictated by the frame rate of the final video, the duration of the clip that you would like to achieve, and the exposure time for each frame.
A 10-second sequence at 24fps (standard film rate) capturing the Milky Way at night at an exposure time of 30 seconds per frame leaves you with a period of 12 minutes per second, or 120 minutes, to capture the entire 10-second sequence. This becomes more complicated once you begin to incorporate motion-control equipment into the sequence, as the gear requires a three- to four-second buffer to slightly move the camera between each frame without causing the image to shake. POST-PROCESSING When it comes to post-processing, it is important to be consistent across all frames. Whether it’s the colour palette, the light, the tones/contrasts — if it is consistent, the final product will have a smooth feel and be more realistic. If the time-lapse has been manually exposure-ramped during the sequence shooting, then I find software such as LRTimelapse 4 to be a useful tool to help smooth out the frames. In essence, the less you have to manually change the ISO during the shoot, the easier the editing process will be. AUDIO ACCOMPANIMENT Music can be a great tool to add emotion to a time-lapse sequence. I prefer to use classical instrumental music to complement the landscapes and to time beats in the song with changes in the clips.
MILFORD SOUND, FIORDLAND
NUGGET POINT, THE CATLINS
LAKE MARIAN, FIORDLAND