How to really muck up a time lapse video

When it became obvious that the orchid I had been tending for almost five years was about to open its first flower, I decided on an impulse to make a time lapse video to capture the event. It’s possible that I should have put some more planning into this project.

I started by setting up the tripod in the kitchen, in a high traffic area, but I did reconsider this quite soon, and moved to the dining room. I also set up a light, so I was less dependent on the vagaries of the outside light. I hadn’t done time lapse on the camera I was using, and it took a bit to find the right menu settings, but I decided that interval timer shooting was the thing I wanted. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t.

I did use manual focus to cut down on one variable, but given I was using a continuous light source, I should probably have gone to manual exposure as well. But the blooming thing was opening at what seemed like an alarming rate, so I rushed in. My math wasn’t too strong either, and after deciding I wanted one shot every 15 seconds, I inexplicably set the number of shots at 240, which only gave me an hour, and would have produced an 8 second movie.

An hour later, I couldn’t really see any difference in the amount it had opened, so I set it up for another two hours and took the opportunity to put a fresh battery in the camera, something I hadn’t thought of doing before. I managed this without moving the camera appreciably. Or, at least, I didn’t notice it later.

Meanwhile, when I checked on progress, I would stay still until I heard a click, and then I’d move in to look during the 15 second interval. So I didn’t cause any shake in the set-up. It’s a shame I was standing in the field of view while I was waiting, though. I also got distracted with other tasks, so it was about four hours before I followed up. At least I did have the bright idea of taking one last shot of the orchid fully open.

When I went to download the fruits of my labour, I found to my horror that instead of having three short video clips to download, there were over seven hundred individual RAW, high-res photos sitting on my camera. Oops. So that’s what interval timer shooting means. Maybe time-lapse would have been better!

It took a while to download about 18 GB of photos to my computer, and quite a bit longer to convert them all to jpg format. At this point I lucked out and found that my video editing software actually had a built in tool for loading 725 images into an empty timeline – and I had the foundation of a video.

Finally I got to see what I had to work with, and I wished that I had more images of the final stages of opening. And less images with dark parts when I had stood in the background at the moment of capture. However, a bit of panning and zooming of the final image did alleviate that somewhat, and surely no one would notice dark spots. Then I spent an hour using scrolling titles and appropriate music to set the story.

Four hours to produce 25 seconds of video? Sure, why not?

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