Whether you don't want to mess with a intervalometer, or stitching the photos together yourself, a GoPro is an excellent tool for creating easy time lapses. It's very easy to shoot a time lapse out of the box and have the footage automatically prepared for you in-camera. The older versions of this feature used to take all of the photos at the interval you set and then later you had to stitch them together. Now you can select time lapse video as an option and the camera will do all of the stitching for you.
Time lapse mode contains three capture modes: Time Lapse Video, Time Lapse Photo, and Night Lapse Photo. Each capture mode has its own settings. Time Lapse Video lets you capture a time lapse event and immediately view or share it as a video. Time Lapse Photo captures a series of photos at specified intervals. Night Lapse Photo captures a series of photos at set intervals when there is minimal light. The shutter remains open longer to let in more light in dark environments.
After you select the time lapse capture mode that you want, you'll need to set two important settings. Resolution and Interval. Interval options on the Hero 6 are: 0.5 (default), 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, and 60 seconds. Your interval setting will govern how long it takes to capture one second of resulting video footage. The camera needs to capture 30 frames (The final video will play at 30 fps) so that it can stitch together one second of video footage. If you set the GoPro to the 0.5 second interval option (one frame captured every half-second), you will need to record for at least 15 seconds to result in one second of time lapse video footage (played back at 30 FPS). If the interval is set to 60 seconds (one frame capture every minute), the camera will need to be recording for at least 30 minutes in order to have one second of time lapse video footage. I would recommend taking time lapses at 0.5 second intervals because it's much easier to speed up a time lapse in post than it is to slow it down without the use of third party plug-ins. When recording time lapse video, the time displayed on the camera’s LCD screens reflects the amount of captured video footage; not the time that has passed since you started the recording.
The resolution options are 1080 - 16:9 (Hero 5 only), 2.7K - 4:3, and 4K. I would always recommend the maximum resolution possible because it's easier to scale down than it is to scale up. Another thing to be cognizant of is that a higher resolution time-lapse will consume more battery.
If you're creating a very long time lapse you'll want to consider how long your battery will last. If you want to record for multiple hours you will need to connect an external battery. GoPro has provided some useful time estimates for how long you'll be able to record using just the GoProHero 6 battery at full charge for the regular video modes.
|Video Mode||Time (Minutes)|
If you need to attach an external battery, the easiest way is to remove the side door that covers the USB and micro HDMI ports. GoPro's The Frame case has an opening over this area if you choose to remove the panel. Just keep in mind that this will make the GoPro no longer waterproof! From there you can connect an external battery. I have had good success with the brand Anker, I'll link one of the ones I use below.
The Hero 5 and 6 use a 1220mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery. You can determine the size of the battery you need by using the estimates provided by gopro above. For example, If you want to record 2.7k at 120fps for 24 hours you would need a (1220mAh x 24 hours) 29,280mAh battery. But if you're recording 24 hours of 120fps video you would need an enormous MicroSD card.
The next thing you will want to be sure is that you have a proper mount that will not move at all during the time lapse (the exception of course being a slider but we'll get to that later). When you are filming your time lapse, you will want a steady shot so that the perspective or horizon doesn't change. I have a gorilla pod that I love for almost all of my GoPro shots, but if you don't have it clamped down and the ball-head screwed in tight you might get some shifting during your time lapse.
When mounting your GoPro, you will also want to consider what the content of time lapse will be. If the GoPro will be perfectly still during the shot you can set the GoPro on a sturdy surface that isn't likely to move or a tripod if you need an angle that isn't level with the surface you're recording on. If the GoPro will be mounted to something moving however you will need to get a proper mount that will remain steady for the duration of the shot. These shots can lead to some really creative time lapses, like the time lapse of a cargo ship in the Red Sea. You can see the difference below with Casey Neistat's fixed time lapses on the left and the 30 Days At Sea time lapse on the right.
If you plan on taking a time lapse that the perspective of the camera moves you will want a really good mount. I've used GoPro's suction cup mount in the past and I hate to say it but I don't recommend it. The suction cup isn't sturdy enough and you will end up with small movements in your shots. The tightening knob on the suction cup mount doesn't really hold up well with movement and will shift your positioning. I shattered a GoPro Dive Housing this way when I tried affixing a GoPro to a snowboard using the suction cup mount.
What I've found actually works well is the GoPro Frame coupled with a magnetic mount. My friend is a bit of a handyman and he crafted me a magnetic mount out of an industrial magnet and some stainless steel hardware. I've tested this on the car up to 100 miles per hour and it's stayed affixed to the vehicle without any problems or movement. I haven't had any problems with this mount, but you should always use a safety tether with a mount on the exterior of a moving vehicle. There is an extremely simple trick to preventing scratches on paint when using this mount. I keep a small thin ankle sock wrapped around the magnet base. You'll want to use a sock that is thick enough to protect paint, but not so thick that it will compromise the force of the magnet.
A time lapse is a great way to get some establishing shots or b-roll for a movie. You can do an advanced moving time lapse in two ways, you can use a slider or you can create the movement in post. Having a mechanical slider is generally going to be higher quality but is going to be significantly more expensive and require a lot more equipment. There are a few mechanical spinners and sliders out there for the GoPro specifically that won't break the bank. GoPole makes a great one for about $40. While these won't have all of the same features that a full rig will have, they will allow you to capture a smooth 360 degree rotation over 60 minutes and have a mount built-in. There are a few cheaper alternatives, but I haven't had a chance to put them through their paces, so I can't give a solid recommendation. When it comes to sliders, it's pretty likely that you'll get what you pay for.
Alternatively, if you don't want to mess with a mechanical slider, you can do all zooming and panning for your time lapse in post-production. I've linked a simple tutorial below for how to do this in Adobe After Effects.
I hope you found this tutorial useful and you find yourself creating beautiful time lapses in the future. If you found this information helpful or if you have a technique that you like better, please leave a comment below!