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In short, my question is: what are the best metering strategies when shooting a time lapse sequence to avoid visible fluctuations in brightness? I'd like to make the day-to-night transition look smooth.


This is my first try at making a time lapse video. The frames are unprocessed, they're just stitched together. Ignoring other problems and mistakes I made, one annoying problem is the fluctuations in the brightness of the image. What is a good strategy to avoid these? During this sequence, I set the metering to "matrix mode", but there are still several jumps in brightness. An obvious strategy would be using manual settings and fixing both the shutter speed and aperture at constant values. Obviously this won't work during dusk---the shutter speed went from 1/2000 to 1/4 during this sequence.

Since in this particular shot the middle of the picture is clear sky, I thought of trying spot metering next time, so the passing cars and light in the background won't have such a high impact. But I'm not at all sure it will be better. Also, it's impossible to tell if someone will shoot some fireworks right in front of that metering spot (fireworks are very common here). What do you think?

Finally, I thought of hacking the program I used to control the camera, and adjusting the camera settings from the program continuously according to a predefined curve. (I can get the curve from the sequence of shots I already have.) This is a lot of work though, so I'd only use it as a last resort.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You answer lies in this free software plugin for lightroom http://lrtimelapse.com/ When you take your timelapse it is important that everything is set to manual including white-balance, shutter speed, apperture and iso. After you have done that you can use a combination of lightroom and the lrtimelapse software to post process all the pictures to create an exposure curve to compensate light loss or light gain during the timelapse.

Other than that it is important to predict what will happen so that you can chose the appropriate metering for you timelapse. But as said before the biggest help is the lrtimelapse software as it allows you to make gradual changes on all images.

Time lapse photography

Time lapse movies are really fascinating. If you own Adobe Lightroom or Camera RAW you can easily make your own time lapse movies. You can download all templates for free in the download section.

LRTimelapse will take your movies to the next level. It allows you to continuously change Adobe Lightroom or Camera RAW development parameters over the time enabling sort of key-frame animations like in video-processing. The great advantage over post processing in your favorite video production software is the way higher quality of pre processing on a RAW-file basis. Of course you can work with JPG as well.

Furthermore LRTimelapse is one of the best instruments to deflicker your time lapse movies.

Examples and use cases

  • Alter white balance and other parameters over the time (for example for sun sets)
  • Make the "Holy Grail" - (day to night transition) easy peasy
  • Deflicker Make Ken-Burns effects (pan/zoom) Fade in / fade out
  • Continuously saturate / desaturate
  • and many more...
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1  
This program and its deflicker feature looks exactly what I was looking for (if only it didn't require LightRoom...). But one thing I don't understand is why people keep suggesting to fix all settings, even during extreme changes in illumination like what I showed. My camera sensor is simply not capable of capturing decent images under such an extreme variation, making some adjustment is absolutely necessary. Otherwise I either end up with a blown out sky or extreme noise in the dark areas. But the program you linked to does indeed seem to be able to fix the fluctuations caused by A settng –  Szabolcs Jun 18 '12 at 15:22
    
I accept this answer for the idea to get rid of the flicker in software. –  Szabolcs Jun 18 '12 at 18:03
    
It does work nicely :-). Thanks! –  Szabolcs Jun 18 '12 at 20:58
    
@Szabolcs it always depends in what kind of timelapse you are interested in doing. If i would do a day to night transition i would set the day exposure so that shots are not over exposed, and gradually slow down the shutter speed the darker the environement is, so that i can capture everything. A good way to not have any flicker in a timelapse is to use shutter speeds below 1/60. I have found with higher shutter speeds their is more flicker afterwards though i am not sure why. Thanks for accepting the answer ; ) –  xtarsy Jun 19 '12 at 8:47
    
How do you reduce the shutter speed? Do you do it manually? –  Szabolcs Jun 19 '12 at 8:58

I read somewhere that the reason behind flicker at higher shutter speeds is due to inaccuracy of the shutter mechanism timing at higher shutter speeds. It makes sense that shorter shutter durations allow for less leeway because there is less room for error on each end of the shutter cycle. The higher the shutter speed, the more accurate the timing of the shutter actuation would need to be. These timing errors are negligible under "normal" operation, but when essentially comparing sequential images back to back to back at 24fps+. the differences are more perceivable as what we recognize as flicker.

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Really nice effort!

I note that the fluctuations only really start after the sun is setting. Obviously at this time the light entering the camera starts to diminish hence it getting confused.

My suggestion would be to use (M)anual mode on the camera. Use matrix (or evaluative in Canon-speak) to meter the scene in the daytime, and dial in those fixed settings to your camera (don't forget to fix the ISO too).

This will ensure the exposure settings do not change at all -- thereby no fluctuations, and ensuring that the effect of the diminishing light is captured.

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