Hallowindows Time Lapse

Since we moved into our space on Main Street in Carrboro, now nearly two years ago, we've talked about doing window art. Joel put the pieces in place to make it happen this past Friday for Halloween. Lenny Terenzi dropped in to paint life-sized versions of his awesome Lunchbox Monsters. They turned out great.

Making the Time Lapse

We decided to try and shoot a time lapse of the windows being painted. I'd never shot or created a time lapse before, so it was a fun challenge. There are certainly better, more professional ways to put together a time lapse, but for the casual photographer who wants to put one together without super specialized software, here are few tips.

Stay Warm

If the temperature is anywhere below comfortable outside, don't underestimate how hard it is to stay warm while sitting still for a few hours. Luckily NMC had an extension cord and a space heater which helped.

Me Trying to Stay Warm

Canon EOS Utility

Canon cameras come bundled with a program called EOS Utility. It allows you to control your camera's settings over USB and shoot photos directly to your computer. It also has a timed shutter release feature that works well for doing time lapses. Its only limitation is you can't use an interval less than 5 seconds. EOS utility worked well enough for our purposes.

Image Quality Settings

I knew there would be a large number of frames, which would consume space fast in my 5dII's RAW format. The time lapse wound up at 2300 frames. If I shot in RAW, that'd be upwards of 50gb of data. I dialed down to the smallest resolution, high quality JPG mode. In retrospect, if I knew I would be able to consistently crop all of the shots of the same composition I would have probably gone to the middle resolution, high quality JPG mode. One composition wound up needing to be cropped below the video's 1080p resolution.

Lightroom Bulk Editing with Sync Settings

If you ever need to apply the same edits to a series of pictures, Lightroom's "Sync Settings" feature is a game changer. I didn't even know it existed prior to doing the shoot. I wish I had. It's like the Copy/Paste Settings functionality for an entire selection of photos. While in the Develop tab, select the batch of photos you want to edit, then focus on the photo with the correct settings, then go to Settings > Sync Settings.

The Magic is in Post-processing

Armed with Lightroom, you can turn average source photos into a pretty good looking time lapse. Because the time lapse already feels disconnected from reality, you can be more aggressive with post-process editing than you might otherwise be with stills. At least, that was the theory I operated under. It's fairly rare to see a photographer's before and after post pictures, so I thought it'd be fun to share a few frames. If you don't like knowing how the sausage is made, look away!


Candy Before


Candy Corn After


Candy Corn External Before


Candy Corn External After


Frankenstein Before


Frankenstein After


Zombie Before


Zombie After


Store Front Before


Store Front After

iMovie Time Lapse Tips

iMovie isn't really made to do time lapse or stop motion videos, but it can be done. Dragging in 2,000 images makes iMovie cry and beach ball. Be patient. Once your shots are on the movie's timeline, select all to change the crop away from the Ken Burns Effect Crop and to reduce the duration of the frame. iMovie's lower limit for frame durations is 0.1s. That's OK, because the best way to play with timing is to export this project as a 1080p movie and then reimport that movie into iMovie for the real timing and editing. Trying to do timing/editing with the individual frames would be a world of pain.

Happy Halloween, Folks!