I've been doing some experiments with shooting timelapse videos, and I'd like to share information that could be useful for others (or future me looking for it again..).

Far from being a guide, I'm just pasting here the commands I used.

Just as a reference, I'm using a Nikon D3300 and Archlinux, but I assume tethering is supported for most modern DSLR cameras.

Shooting the actual photos

I'm currently using the dumbest way of doing this: ask gphoto to shoot one frame every 5 seconds and download to the local hard-drive:

gphoto2 --capture-image-and-download -I 5 -F 250 --filename 'cap-%Y%m%d-%H%M%S.jpg' --skip-existing

I like to download photos to local hard drive to avoid the risk of filling the SD card; as a matter of fact, I don't think it's a problem when shooting 24MP JPEGs, as the camera battery is going to die before you can fill a 64Gb SD card, but anyways..

You can shoot more than one frame each 5 seconds, if you want the video to be slower, but keep in mind you'll have to make sure your exposure time never gets longer than your frame duration.

In the example, I'm shooting 250 frames, which will take approximatively 21 minutes to shoot and produce a ten seconds video.

I like to keep names tidy and unique, so I changed the filename to contain the current date.

The last argument, --skip-existing, was added as it looks like sometimes gphoto2 tries to write a file with the same name of an old one, even when timestamps are used..? This will prevent the shooting process to get stuck.

Creating the video

I use ffmpeg for that, and usually create a FHD (1080p) version for uploading / sharing, and a 6k version to keep as an archive copy (then I tend to delete the original images, as they can easily use huge amounts of storage).

Create the FHD video:

ffmpeg -f image2 -pattern_type glob -i 'cap-*.jpg' -r 25 -vcodec h264 -vb 4096k -acodec null -s 1920x1280 -pix_fmt yuvj422p video.mp4

for the 6k version (same as my camera resolution):

ffmpeg -f image2 -pattern_type glob -i 'cap-*.jpg' -r 25 -vcodec h264 -acodec null -pix_fmt yuvj422p -s 6000x4000 video-6k.mp4

Btw, I'm not sure these are the best possible combinations of codecs etc., I'm not expert with that, but I found those settings to work pretty well in creating a nice-looking video for uploading to YouTube.

Warning: shooting the sun

While shooting a few pics of the sun shouldn't be a problem with a DSLR camera and quick exposure times (unless you're using the Live View mode), always keep in mind that you're concentrating a huge amount of energy on your camera's mirror.

While I couldn't find any definitive answer on whether this could actually be harmful, keep in mind that when shooting a timelapse video, you're repeatedly exposing your camera mirror to (possibly) quite a lot of energy, which will build up heat with time.

As a rule of thumb, if looking at the sun harms your eyes, then it will probably harm your camera too. You should be perfectly fine shooting timelapse videos of sunset / sunrise (I did a few myself), but you should probably keep the sun out of your frame when it's high in the sky.

Camera settings

I've been using mostly aperture mode, maximum aperture (f/3.8 shooting with 24mm on the Nikkor 18รท55 lens), ISO 400 (sometimes ISO 100, but keep in mind you're likely going to get exposure times longer than 5 seconds which will result in the video looking accelerated when it's still dark).

Manual mode would be the ideal in order to avoid getting "aperture flicker", but especially when shooting the sunries, you'd have to change your settings quite a lot as the day becomes brighter.

I'm planning to try using the "P" mode with (limited) auto-ISO, but I suspect it wouldn't be flexible enough anyways (especially as when shooting timelapse you're interested in avoiding sudden spikes in exposure change, but the camera is not keeping any "state" between frames to take that into account).

So the solution would probably be to have the camera settings changed via software; the simple way would be to just figure out the settings you want at the beginning of the shooting and at the end, and some script interpolate them for you; a more advanced system could evaluate the light from the previous frame, and keep changing settings while avoiding sudden changes in exposure.

Example output video

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