How to make Timelapse Videos in 4K

The Magic of Timelapse

A Timelapse captures a long scene in a short video clip by increasing its speed. At normal speed, shots of landscapes or cities look a bit boring sometimes, because there isn’t happening much. Speeding it up makes invisible motion visible. The possibility to watch things you never could before (because they would be to slow to recognize) is what gives Timelapses their magic.

Basic Equipment you need to create a Timelapse

  • a photo camera with tripod mount, a manual exposure and white balance mode, and either a continuous photo shooting mode or remote trigger
  • For 4K: a image resolution of 3840*2160 px or more (~8 megapixels at 16:9 format)
  • one large memory card. 1 second of video requires 25 photos! (replacing it during the shooting is not a good idea, could make your Timelapse shaky)
  • tripod
  • basic video editing software

The Basic Workflow


sample settings on a Canon DSLR using remote trigger (this was a quite dark scene)

sample settings on a Canon DSLR using remote trigger (this was a quite dark scene)

  • mount your camera on the tripod and align it to your scene
  • Go to the manual exposure mode. Set ISO to a low value (e.g. 100 to 200), aperture to a medium value (e.g. f8 to f10). Now increase exposure time (if image is to dark) or decrease (if image is to bright) until it has the brightness you like. (Fastest way to set this is using Live View mode if available, otherwise you have to shoot some test images and adapt the settings after each)
  • set the right focus (easiest way was using the autofocus), and afterwards disable the autofocus!
  • disable auto-white balance! Select one of the available profiles like (sunny, cloudy, artificial light). It needn’t match perfectly, you can easily adjust this in post production. Adjusting a video with changing color mood each image (that’s what you usually get using auto white balance, especially on cheap cameras) can be quite more difficult!
  • disable the image stabilization if your camera has
  • For 4K: Make sure your camera captures with a resolution of 3840*2160 px or higher!

That’s it. Now you can start shooting. You have to shoot some hundreds of images now of this scene without changing the camera position or settings! The time gap between each image should be constant!

Some cameras have built-in modes for that, e.g. the Timelapse mode on GoPro or an iPhone running iOS 8. If your cam hasn’t got this feature use a remote trigger and trigger the camera manually. Don’t use the built-in trigger button because pressing it could move your camera a little. That could make your Timelapse shaky.

I hope you brought some time with you. Timelapsing can need a lot, especially if you set a long exposure time as it is required for dark scenes. For the most scenes it is suitable to shoot about 400 images. 1 second of Timelapse requires 25 photos => 16 seconds. That’s enough for the most scenes. But in doubt shoot more!

Post Processing

possible export settings for 4K video in Adobe Premiere CC

possible export settings for 4K video in Adobe Premiere CC

Import all photos of your scene into your video editing software (Adobe Premiere, Magix Movie Maker, …) as image sequence. The length of each image should be one frame (otherwise this will look more like a slideshow than a Timelapse). To make your Timelase‘ aspect ratio and resolution fit widescreen displays, TVs and the YouTube viewer you should crop your video to a size of 3840 by 2160 pixels (= aspect ratio 16:9). If you want you can now apply some color or brightness corrections, but usually less is more! Now you should be able to watch your Timelapse clip. Don’t wonder if it does not look fluid. Processing this large amount of data is too much for the most computers, they can’t play it in real-time. To view (or share it) export it as video file. For all newer computers and YouTube or Vimeo exporting it as H.264 (.mp4) is a good choice. Its compression is very efficient, you can get a good quality with a relatively small file size. Set 3840*2160 as resolution again to export it as 4K video. The Bitrate depends on which file size was ok for you. Everything between 20.000kbit/s and 100.000kbit/s is a good choice, the higher the better the quality!

You’re ready to go outside and shoot!

With these basics in your mind you can now go outside and try! If you got any ideas, questions or great content you created after reading this feel free to contact me or use the comments!

Another advanced Tutorial for how to improve your Timelapse will be there soon!

Be creative, there are lots of possibilities to make your Timelapse unique! To come to an end, here’s some inspiration 😉

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