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GoPro HD Hero Time Lapse Photography

How to shoot time lapse video with the Go Pro HD Hero 2

I was popping into town today so I thought I would try another idea that had been with me for a while. I had tried this before with my 5D Mark 2. However, it was too heavy and bulky to work the cheap items I wanted to use for a certain effect. The Go Pro HD Hero 2 was perfect!

What I wanted to achieve was that effect of time lapse photography where the footage spins as well as speeds up time. On a budget. The expensive way to do this is to have a special motorised attachment to your tripod. This then spins at various speeds whilst shooting your images.

The Budget Method

My idea was to use a cheap egg timer with camera attached to the top as it spins (you can now see why this wouldn’t work with a 5D Mark II):

GoPro HD Hero Time Lapse Photography

To make this work wasn't as easy as I first thought but a cinch once you iron out the problems.

Attaching the camera

As you can see above, nothing technical here and really quite inexpensive. Rather than drilling holes and making a mess of everything, I used my normal tripod. I then attached the egg timer to it using Blu Tak. Next I took the Go Pro out of its waterproof case and attached that to the top of the egg timer. Again, using Blu Tak.

Get the camera level

I have noticed in the past that the camera starts to tilt as it spins. The malleable nature of the Blu Tak though, meant it was easy to adjust the angle. I tested it at various stages of the 180 degrees it would be moving. When I was happy it was level (using a spirit level app on the iPhone), I twisted the tripod head to the start position.

Setting the camera

I made the correct settings before the camera was placed on the Blu Tak. This is because pushing buttons whilst attached would have thrown it out of alignment. I set the camera to Time Lapse and worked out approximately how long I wanted to footage to be.

I then set the camera to take a photo every two seconds.

The timer spins a full 360 degrees in 1 hour so a 180 degree spin would take half an hour. 30 minutes at 1 frame every two seconds would give me around 900 photos. I could then divide this by 30 frames per second for the final output (NTSC US standard which is good for stock). This would give me around 30 seconds of smooth footage.

If I was to speed to output up to 60 frames per second as my final output, it may make the footage smoother. However, this would only give me a 15 second clip.

The camera span perfectly throughout the 30 minutes. Once checked, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the 11mp images taken with the Go Pro HD Hero 2. Despite the harsh shadows and bright sun of a winter's day, the shots had a fair amount of dynamic range.

Creating the GoPro HD Hero Time Lapse

I loaded all final 842 photos into QuickTime Pro by going to:

File - Open Image Sequence and then finding the folder with all images in

When you press ok, the software will automatically produce a QuickTime movie for you to check. You then need to render and output to a final file.

I wanted a HD clip of 1920 x 1080 but the file produced by the images was actually 3840 x 2880. A huge resolution video file! Rather than resizing all images and starting again, I went to:

File - Export and used the following settings to render the output:

  • Export: QuickTime Movie
  • Quality: 90
  • Compression Type: Photo JPEG
  • check
    Size: 1920 x 1080 – tick the box "preserve aspect ratio" - select "crop" from the drop-down menu

This produced a 1.3gb 1080p HD file. I then rendered this down to a 39mb .wmv (Windows Media Video) file in Sony Vegas Pro. Say I wanted to zoom in on any part of the image during the duration. The huge file size produced by QuickTime meant I could do this without losing any definition in the final output. Still, I left it as it was):

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