How to create a Hyperlapse: my workflow and video tutorials


Active time-lapser
I'm starting this thread to share my experience and gather all the info we can about hyperlapse making. I don't master this technique yet so I hope to create knowledge base here.

So you want to do hyperlapse ? Even though the technique is not new, I first came across hyperlapse watching Zweizwei video on internet. I soon discovered other HL masters such as Kirill Neiezhmakov or b-zOOmi.
I'm not going to cover the basics here. Internet is full of tutorials but most of them are very basics and go like this:
- Find a reference point
- Move your tripod and aim your point as precisely as possible
- Import your photo in AE and apply Warp Stabilizer

Well, once you've done that and depending of how precise you are, you will most likely end up with some entertaining sequence but nothing close to what the HL masters can achieve. Why ? Because hyperlapse is by nature very complex and this is impossible to simplify the whole thing in a magic three-step process.

Here is what I've learned to far:

1.CAPTURE: The shooting step is key. No amount of post processing or manual tracking can fix a bad initial capture. Identify a clear and obvious point of reference with X & Y axis and aim at it. Be precise, a few degrees off can ruin a shot.
2. MOTION: I tend to do big moves (50cm to 100cm) at the beginning but it only complicates the shooting and most of the time leads to bad results because of perspective issues. Small (10-30cm) to very small (2-5cm moves are better and will be easier to post process with warp stabilizer because the software will have more material to work with (easier to blend/warp near images than big gaps). As a general rule, the closer the subject, the slower you should move and vice versa.
3. PERSPECTIVE: no matter what, you'll have to use some sort of post stabilization. A sequence with close foreground (eg, light pole) against far background (eg. city) will require smaller steps otherwise the post stabilization will get confused with fast moving foreground elements Vs slow moving background. The result will be bad stabilization effect.
4. CROP MARGIN: Frame your subject with a 10-30% margin for crop because this is what post processing will need.
5. LENS RESOLUTION: This lead to the importance of of having good resolving power to allow to crop without loosing too much resolution. Get a decent lens and check its best settings for resolution and distortion in DXO depending of the focal and aperture. (for instance my Tamron 24-70 f2.8 has its lower distortion point at 38mm).
6. LENS DISTORTION: is the enemy of Hyperlapse as it confuses the post stabilization an makes manual alignment impossible if not shot perfectly. Image distortion is a very big problem because when the image is tilted or misaligned between two shoots (which happens all the time in hyperlapse), the tracking and post stabilization software won't be able to manage this misalignment. Why ? because the pixel are not evenly and symmetrically distributed across frame due to lens distortion.
Think about taking a photo with a 50 mm lens and a 14 mm fisheye lens and then trying to merge and align the two photo, you may be able to align the center parts of both photo but corners won't match. That's the same with hyperlapse but on much smaller scale (but enough to fucked up the stabilization).
It's possible to use wide angle lens but you'll have to do micro steps. No matter what, when shooting RAW, try to correct distortion in lightroom (or DXO, Capture One) and enable the lens profile correction (note that correction is usually made by the camera when shooting JPEG with native lenses)
7. TRIPOD vs HANDHELD: It's possible and sometime useful to shoot handheld but you'll loose the blurriness on moving subjects (people, cars). No big deal on certain shoots when there isn't much subject motions (no car or people passing) such as shooting the top of a building. Apply a bit of blurriness/motion blur in effect in AE to soften the sequence and make it look more natural.
8. ALL MANUAL: this is obvious but just in case: shot everything in manual (focus, WB, expo), turn off the IS even on a tripod. Also turn off all auto enhancement (light optimizer, noise reduction, etc.)
9. GET A NICE LIGHT TRIPOD: a typical sequence requires to lift the tripod/camera about 100 to 200 times in 30 minutes. Invest in a carbon tripod and it will pay back over time.
10. FLARE: Don't forget to use a lens hood to get rid of light pollution and flare, especially at night
11. PREVIEW & RECONNAISSANCE: Frame your shot and do 3 preview pictures: one at the beginning position, one at the middle and one in the end. Check the 3 preview photo and see if your reference points are always visible. Also check if there is any potential source of disturbance (eg people, obstacle), vibrations (eg bridge moving when a truck passes) or light pollution (eg light pole at night that could create a nasty flare when you get close)
12. LIVE VIEW or VIEW FINDER ? I personally use the live view on tripod and view finder when shooting hand held. This distinction make sense for DSLR. You can do whatever you prefer on mirrorless camera.
13. GROUND: a flat and even ground will make it easier to shot but it's not mandatory. Just set a longer interval when shooting on uneven ground because you'll need more time to move the tripod, lock it firmly on the ground and readjust the framing.
14. GROUND MARKS: marks on the ground (pavement, tiles, etc) will help to adjust the move (eg move the tripod one tile at the time between shots) and to keep a steady trajectory
15. TRAJECTORY: aiming at the reference points correctly is very important but you must also keep a regular trajectory during the sequence. Bad and inconsistent trajectory can ruin a sequence. Go from A to B with a smooth trajectory (can be round, straight, etc). Again, use ground marks if possible or follow stuff around you (eg ramp).
16. INTERVAL TIME: the faster the better but you need a minimum amount of time to move and re-frame accurately between two shoots. So far I managed to do it in 15 seconds max but the pro are much faster (how ? I don't know, maybe they have better gears or post stab skills than me)
17. TRIPOD POSITION: put the tripod with the 2 legs left and right from you. The pointing leg will be in front. This allows to stand in front of the camera without having a tripod legs in your way. I also wrap/attach the camera's neck strap around the tripod because it can generate bad vibrations on windy days. Attach the strap but leave enough room to move the tripod head.
18. POST STAB: Once I'm done with LR or DXO, I import the photo in AE to do a timelapse sequence. At this point there is 2 options: using warp stabilizer (WS) or do manual tracking frame by frame. I usually use a combination of both. I start applying a little bit of warp stabilization (around 2%) selecting "position, scale, rotation" or "position" instead of "subspace warp". Then I create a sub-composition and try to add another layer of WS with subspace warp this time (2 to 5%). If it doesn't work you may need to try different combinations (manual stabilization with tracking first and then WS). In problematic sequences, you can also try to play with the AE "optic compensation" effect to deal with the distortion. Unfortunately I work by trials and errors. The key element is to get a clean capture during the initial shooting process. It helps tremendously.
19. PERSEVERANCE: hyperlapse is very demanding and not forgiving. It's also very time consuming to capture and post process. Be ready to fail a lot. So far half of my shots went to the trash bin (but I want perfect shots, not ok one)


Good intro to hyperlapse

Good tutorial with useful post-production info:

Some more details:

The Vertigo Hitchcock effect

Morph Effect Tutorial (usefull for transition)

Manual Tracking with AE

Correct lens distortion in AE

Some of my early attempts:
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Time Lapse Network Founder
Staff member
This is a fantastic resource post Oliver, thanks for sharing.
I'd be honoured if you could write up a post for the TLN site actually, giving you credit (you'd be the author) and having it in our Knowledge Base.

What about that mate?

I've done a lot a hyperlapses these days. (I'll post my final video very soon). Everything you write is true, specially the number 1 that is the most important : capture. It's better to loose 10 minutes shooting than 3hours post processing (or sometime even more). I do quite all my hyperlapses with ultra wide lens (10-18mm on a APS-C camera and more often near 10mm than 18mm) so aiming well is very important in that case. Here are some usefull tips that I would add :
- you can use x10 zoom in liveview to aim even better.
- for Canon camera, I use magic lantern intervalometer, it shows the time left on the live view (maybe new camera have that option, I don't know - I have a 550D), so you know how many seconds you have before leaving the camera untouched
- disable Image Review, you'll win 2sec for aiming
- you need the most fluid tripod head. I have a manfrotto 804RC2. It does the job but it's not really as fluid as I wanted for extreme precision.
- level is also important. I can be corrected in some ways in post but it's better getting it ok while shooting (the wider your lens is, the more precise you must be on shooting).
- love the clouds but also hate them. With long intervals like 10 to 15sec, natural flicker will be more important and annoying, so be carefull of the weather and where the clouds are - behind the sun or not. It can ruin a shot.

For post processing stabilization, you can animate a mask to hide close foreground objects (eg, light pole), make a new comp, and apply warp on that new comp. Just disable the mask after the stabilization is done. That way, the warp stabilizer won't be annoyed by thoses objects and the stabilization will be better.

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Time Lapse Network Founder
Staff member
Yannick, amazing input and great suggestions - what about gathering all the info we have (also already on the site) and create the definitive guide to hyperlapse photography?
Writing a definitive guide would be a lot of work if you want it to be complete and could be a entire book by itself if you want to start from the beginning. Like Olivier said, there's a lot of tutorials for beginners on the net (and lots of them are yet very informative). Maybe just sorting out videos by category (shooting, stabilization, effects) and difficulty plus adding tips could be a good start. I can share the videos I've found usefull if needed (the most part are yet posted in Olivier's post ;) )


Active time-lapser
Thanks Yannick for your input. I heard about the masking technique but I never tried it yet, do you do everything in one video track or do you add a video track on top with the mask (the "exclusion" track) and apply warp stabilization on the bottom sequence ?

As for the tripod head, some guys like it super fluid, other prefer geared head like Manfrotto 410 or 405. I personally have a cheap oben ballhead with extra greasing. Works best for me I use the live view zoom but sometime it makes it easier to aim at your point but it also make it harder to level the the framing on X & Y axis. Really depends of the situation.
In the end, what frustrate me the most is my interval time. I haven't managed to got below 10 seconds between shots and 15 seconds is my usual interval. I wish I could be faster on the move-reframe-stablize-shot.

@Marco: Sure I'd like to write about it but I should finish my project first. I still have things to learn. I'll be more legit that way. In the mean time I'm going to continue to share my experience on this thread with the help of Yannick and the others. As for making a guide, I was thinking about that at the beginning but there is so much things to say !!! That will be the next step but I'm up for it.
I heard about the masking technique but I never tried it yet, do you do everything in one video track or do you add a video track on top with the mask (the "exclusion" track) and apply warp stabilization on the bottom sequence ?
First, this only works on After Effects. I usually have a comp with my video and the mask applied. I make an other composition from that one and apply the warp stabilizer. Then I just disable the mask on the first one. No multiple tracks for me.

For the level, I use a 3 axis bubble fixed on the flash (cheap and fast for leveling : ) so no need to look a the live view. Some camera have built in level, not mine.

For interval time, it depends, I'm at around 12sec with 2sec shutter speed and no leveling. I add 2 or 3 sec if I have to level on each shot.

One other very important thing is to use long shutter speed (let say between 1 and 3sec) to smooth people moving. It make the hyperlapse way better. I always use a ND filter (10 stop) in dayligh hyperlapses.


Active time-lapser
Thanks mate.
I have ND filter as well (Hoya ND10x).

When you say "For interval time, it depends, I'm at around 12sec with 2sec shutter speed and no leveling. I add 2 or 3 sec if I have to level on each shot."
How do you manage in post production without leveling ? I found that being off by only a few degrees makes a big differene and can ruin a shot.

Also, could you share some of your work ? Thanks
For me, being slightly off level when shooting is not that problematic (I'm talking about 4-5 degree max I think). I usually do a first pass with motion tracking to stabilize position, and then rotation. After that I apply warp stabilizer. If I need to, I correct leveling but this doesn't really affect the stabilizing. Unless the ground is not solid, the changes in level are not that big between each frame, it's more like a little on each frame due to the ground, so the warp stabilizer can handle that easily.

For some of my work, I've just finished my sort of flow motion timelapse/hyperlapse project (a 3min30 video) started 5 month ago and will upload it this week I hope (just need to receive the wav version of the soundtrack before).

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