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How To Edit Astro Timelapse Image Frames – Weekly Edit Season 2 Episode 7

By Matthew Saville on April 25th 2014

One thing that Lightroom is an absolute champ at is batchprocessing high volumes of images, especially when each image requires almost exactly the same editing as the others.

True, you could create a Photoshop action and automate the process, or create a similar batch workflow. However the advantage of Lightroom is that it works entirely within it’s non-destructive environment, allowing your computer to avoid the time-consuming process of “open, edit, save, close” for every single image.

If you want to create just one second of timelapse video that plays back at 30 frames per second, you’re going to need 30 individual images. Each image has to be edited separately and then arranged into a video format.  So just 10 seconds of timelapse will require 300 images.  Want to create a 10 minute long video?  You’ll need, oh, 18,000 images.  Usually, RAW images if you’re timelapsing a very dynamic landscape.

In today’s video, we’re going to briefly demonstrate our process for “prepping” individual RAW landscape images that will be compiled into a timelapse clip.

Watch The Video Tutorial

Gear Used: Nikon D5300, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 11mm
30 sec. @ f/2.8 & ISO 3200 (all 600+ images!)
Syrp Timelapse Genie, Revo 47″ Slider, FotoPro C5COben CT3451 Tripods

Original Timelapse Image Frames


Timelapse-Frame-Prep-Original_2 Timelapse-Frame-Prep-Original_3Timelapse-Frame-Prep-Original_4 Timelapse-Frame-Prep-Original_5 Timelapse-Frame-Prep-Original_6


Final Timelapse Image Frames

Timelapse-Frame-Prep_1 Timelapse-Frame-Prep_2 Timelapse-Frame-Prep_3 Timelapse-Frame-Prep_4 Timelapse-Frame-Prep_5 Timelapse-Frame-Prep_6

If the light had been exactly the same during these entire timelapse sequences, I might have been able to get away with editing just one single frame from the entire set, and then exporting the whole thing without a second thought!

However, since the moon rises during each of these clips, I want to be sure to inspect the results at three or four different points during the timelapse, and make minor changes (to all the images) if necessary.  In this case, I chose to focus mainly on the part of the clips where the moon was shining, even if the initial parts of the sequence were a little too dark.  This, I felt, made the moon’s rising seem even more dramatic.

The final JPG images, at 1920x1080p, were easily converted into an MP4 movie file using an app called “Zeitraffer” on my Mac.  This way I don’t have to worry about importing hundreds or thousands of images into Adobe Premier, Apple Final Cut, or iMovie etc., which are much more complex editing tools.  Done!

We hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to Timelapse frame editing! In future tutorials we’ll get more in-depth with the overall process, and how to take your Timelapse editing to a more advanced level.  Thanks for viewing, folks!

Take care, and happy clicking,

=Matthew Saville=


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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jeff Morrison

    I can’t wait to try time laps

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  2. Chad Whiting

    Anyone who has dabbled with time lapse will be familiar with a few hard realities:
    – Dramatic changes in lighting (like a moonrise) require you to adjust exposure settings. Specialized software on the editing end is required to compensate for the jumps in exposure and smooth the transitions between subsequent frames.
    – An interesting video is one that shows a transition and does not remain static to the point of boredom.
    – Time lapse can not be done well on the fly. It must be planned, its execution monitored carefully, and its editing done methodically.
    – Smoothness and a natural look will give a fine finish to any still image or video.
    – Good time lapse videos cost money in startup costs (hundreds to thousands of dollars).

    If you are willing to spend the extra money (I think 70 euros), there is a program available called LR Timelapse. It will smooth out exposure jumps, give you a great deal of control over how you edit the raw images in Lightroom, and handle the video export to professional standards. I have used it for several months now, and have been glad I spent the time and money to learn it.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Chad, while I do agree with you that in general a timelapse photographer ought to be READY to adjust their original frames individually for lighting changes, I do find that very often I can get away with a single adjustment for an entire set, if I simply focus on what I want to be the important part of the scene. In other words, having shadows be “too dark” did not bother me at all in these particular clips.

      And yes, we’ve been working with LRTimelapse extensively and in fact it was our friend Sean Goebel’s video Mauna Kea Heavens that got the attention of that app’s creator, when Sean mentioned that he disliked certain changes in the software’s recent form.

      All in all, we’ve got plenty more content to dive into with this certainly massive subject; we’re just barely scratching the surface with this video. But as usual, our main goal is to prove that you can do more than you think with less than you think. Case in point: I think both of these two sequences look pretty good with nothing other than simple affordable equipment and simple, affordable / free post-production software.


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  3. Ryan

    VirtualDub is a free Windows program that will convert your image sequence to a movie quickly and painlessly, though I think it’s a little more limited in terms of video file types.

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