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Understanding Hyper Lapse Videos

What is a Hyper Lapse?

Moving time-lapse or hyper-lapse is an interesting genre of photography that demands a lot of knowledge on how to frame your shots accurately, how to use slow shutter speeds especially in low light conditions (I will explain why in low light), a knowledge of shooting at intervals so that they are perfectly timed, and a knowledge of the basic exposure settings.

You will also need to have some knowledge of post processing using Adobe Premiere Pro CC. It uses the same concepts of time-lapsing but involving moving the camera a fixed distance after every frame.

If you are not familiar with the basics of exposure it is recommended that you go through some of the beginner photography articles on this website, especially the ones on exposure settings and exposure compensation.

Generally a moving time-lapse or a hyper-lapse requires you to use a dolly. That can be expensive and it can be out of reach for an amateur photographer. Instead, this article will focus on how to use your tripod and shoot stunning hyper-lapse videos.

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The Shopping List

First, you will need a few things, though. First is a good camera. The latest full frame camera bodies have good noise performance

If you can’t afford a full frame camera, opt for something which offers great noise suppression at higher ISO.

This is because some of the best hyper-lapse videos are produced at dark and in ambient light especially of buildings and scenes that have been artificially lit. Having said that, there are hundreds of creative examples of daylight hyper-lapse videos.

A good lens that is sharp corner to corner. Some kit lenses like the Nikkor 18-105mm VR is not exactly sharp at the corners. Try something like the 18-200mm which is a good sharp lens or the wide angle 35mm f/1.8 DX.

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Okay, you also need a remote shutter release. There is not much of mumbo jumbo in it. So you can get something quite easily on eBay or elsewhere.

An intervalometer would be required to space out the shots. If your camera comes with an interval shooting option then this is not required.

A tripod is a must. Without a dolly, this is your only weapon of choice to shoot without too much of a visual jerk.

A chalk marker and a measuring tape which you can buy from your nearest office supply store.


If you are shooting in low light or after sunset, set the shutter speed to something slow like 1”. If shooting during the day, use a slightly (1/3rd – stop) slower shutter speed to achieve this.

This way you can capture some motion blur which can enhance the quality of your hyper-lapse videos.

The images will blend into each other when you combine everything together in post-processing. To use 1” shutter speed in broad daylight you will need to use an ND filter.

A Simple Hyper-lapse Setup and Shooting Process

The best way to shoot hyper-lapse using a tripod is to shoot on a level platform. Otherwise, there would be a lot of jerk. Additionally, it is a great idea to have something in the frame as a point of reference.

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Let’s say you are going to shoot a building at night. There is a street that runs around it. Mark with chalk the distances that the camera will move after each shot. Let’s assume that you want to make a 30-second video at 24 fps.

That will require you to shoot 720 pictures. If after every picture the camera moves by about 5” then the total distance to be traveled is about 300’.

Set the intervalometer to shoot an image after every 10 seconds. That should give you enough time to move the camera after the first image to the next position and adjust the frame accurately.

You will need to align something against the point of reference using your camera’s grid line.

Also, switch to live view when shooting as otherwise, this whole process will be impossible to accomplish. Once the shooting is complete compile the images in a video editing software (like Adobe Premier Pro), add music and you are good to publish!

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