Time-lapse made easy
Is it possible to shoot video with a Canon 350D (or Digital Rebel, 400D, 450D, or any number of pre-video SLRs)? Yes. They are all supplied with the necessary software and cabling to shoot time-lapse films.
Is it fun? Yes. For the sake of a couple of hours not really being able to use your computer or camera you’ll be presented with a really neat little video clip that helps bring any project to life. In the example I admit that I just pointed the camera out of my window at my local corner shop, but even then the effect is enthralling; watching the shadows slowly creep across the ground, the vehicles shoot by, and — near the end — someone deciding to have a sit down next to the cake shop.
How is all this achieved? It’s actually terribly simple. All you’ll need is Canon’s original software, your USB cable, and the camera:
1) Fully charge your camera’s battery – sadly it doesn’t take it’s power from the USB.
2) Connect the camera and computer using the USB cable.
3) Set up the camera pointing towards your subject and launch the Canon EOS Utility. (If this is your download app, it might be wise to set a different target folder in Preferences.)
4) Use the mock LCD display to adjust your camera’s settings; click once on a setting icon, then use the left and right buttons beneath to pick a setting. (The camera’s physical control dial is set on Manual). Remember as you do this that the light will likely change over time – manual settings mean that you’ll see this reflected in your video getting brighter or darker.
5) Take a test shot by clicking on the Shutter icon big round one). You can then preview the file on your computer screen.
6) Choose Tool > Timer Shooting from the menu and set up the speed of your sequence. The delay time lets you set a pause (in minutes and seconds) before the first shot is taken. The Shooting interval, is the number of seconds between each shot. I went for 20, and 500 shots (though as it turned out my camera’s battery didn’t quite have that in it). When you’re ready, click start.
7) Click Start. A small delay time will allow you to retire without knocking your camera.
8) When you’re done, open QuickTime Pro (yes, sorry, Pro), and choose File > Open Image Sequence. Pick the first file and click OK. You’ll then be asked to choose a frame rate. 25 for Europeans, 30 for Americans, and 24 for film-lovers!
9) To create a movie file, click File > Export and allow QuickTime Pro to create one to your specifications. Use the options button to make advanced choices, including that to either crop or letterbox to preserve the aspect ratio, otherwise you’ll end up with a squashed picture (as I did here!).
And there you go, QuickTime automatically opens files that are sequentially numbered, and the camera automatically numbers it’s files sequentially. Until they’re exported, however, they’re not compressed into a traditional video format, so very hard to play on anything less than a supercomputer.