I've been doing time lapse photo shoots for a wee while now, and been watching tons of other neat videos on the net. I always find the most interesting ones are the ones that pan across the image to give even more of an illusion of motion.

How do the achieve this? I assume it's in some software (rather than turning the camera on the tripod) - what software can be used? I use a mac mainly, but could use windows if software wasn't available for mac.


3 Answers 3


There are two ways to do this...

Method #1

This is the "easy" way. Since HD is (by definition) a frame size of 1920x1080, using a bigger set of images than 1920x1080 means that you can pan around in that frame using your post-production software of choice. For example, I'll often take timelapses using Medium sized JPEGs (4080x2720 on my Canon 5DmkII) and that gives me all kinds of room to add movement in any direction (or multiple directions) as I see fit. The downside to this is that it isn't "real" motion, so to some extent it looks... well... fake. This is because with a real pan the foreground objects and the background objects would move at different rates (this is called parallax), and in this solution you're simply sliding a video with no motion around a frame. Many (if not most) post production video editing suites will be able to accomplish this without a problem... I do it in both Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects right out of the box.

Method #2

This is the "hard" and "expensive" way. Simply put, you move the camera. There are lots of DIY solutions for accomplishing this, but (as of this writing) there is no out-of-the-box and off-the-shelf solution available. As the topic of building your own motion rig is a bit (OK, a lot) outside the scope of photo.se.com, I'll speak in general terms and say that you'll be using a combination of microcontroller-based stepper-motor control (such as Arduino, or those produced by Parallax, Inc.), sliders/dollys (such as the Pocket Dolly by Kessler Crane), and/or pan/tilt heads in order to achieve motion. I've put more than $2,000 and hundreds of hours into the construction and programming of my motion control rig, so it's not an undertaking for the faint of heart. :-)

The benefit of this method is that it is true motion. Parallax is present, and it looks great. The downside (obviously) is that you need to have a fair amount of solid-state programming knowledge, be handy with a soldering iron, and have the money to put it all together. If you're interested in exploring this option further, there are lots of us over at the timescapes forums that are developing lots of different approaches to this method of motion control.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can't ask for better than this... \$\endgroup\$
    – BBischof
    Commented Jan 30, 2011 at 23:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! This is just what I was wanting to know. Do you have a recommendation for which software to use? Preferably one with the lowest learning curve. Method #2 sounds very interesting, and perhaps something I should look at further down the track - do you have some examples of videos you've shot in this way? I'd love to see. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Ciaocibai
    Commented Jan 30, 2011 at 23:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I have several timelapse tests that I did earlier last year here: vimeo.com/search/videos/search:jeff%20lanctot%20timelapse/…... All the motion in them is using method #1 however, as my motion capture rig is still a work in progress and I haven't taken anything that I've been happy enough with to publish yet. :-) In terms of software... I'm an Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects user, so beyond those two I don't have a lot of direct experience. Any package that gives you the ability to 'animate a video across the stage' will be able to do method #1... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2011 at 23:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anyone have any examples of Method #1? The link above does not work \$\endgroup\$
    – user5309
    Commented May 24, 2011 at 14:38
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is really the inverse of shooting a panorama. When you are shooting a panorama, you should turn the camera around the nodal point (to avoid introducing any parallax effects), then correct the perspective and stitch – in ideal conditions, the end result looks exactly as if you had a single wide-angle shot. Conversely, you can take a single wide-angle shot, crop parts of it, fix the perspective, and the end result looks exactly as if you had several telephoto shots (from a single location, but with the camera pointing in different directions). \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 24, 2011 at 16:59


I have not used one of these myself, but I have heard many people raving about the Gigapan. It is a kind of programmable robotic head which will do exactly what you want (if I understand your question correctly).

Of course, it's not cheap...


Another great solution is a film style dolly set up - see Dynamic Perception Stage Zero 6ft Dolly at http://dynamicperception.com/products/stage-zero-6-foot-bundle - i have nothing to do with this company - was curious about this after watching the intro to the Netflix series House of Cards - found this through www.primalearthimages.com. Hope it helps (even though this post is from some time ago). AE


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