How to Make a Time Lapse Video for Free (Windows, Mac & App)

Last Updated on Mar. 8, 2024 – by Jayed Miah
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Top Time Lapse Video Creators

Have you ever watched a nature documentary of flowers springing into bloom and thought “how on earth did they do that?”

In this article, you will find out the answer and learn how to make your very own time lapse videos.

How to Speed a Video Up on iOS and Android to Create Time Lapse

There are many different ways to make a time lapse video, including speeding up the playback on a video you’ve previously recorded. You can do this easily on your phone using the video editing app PowerDirector.

Download PowerDirector for free and follow along to make your own time lapse:

Step 1: Open the PowerDirector app and tap “New Project.”

PowerDirector App - New Project

Step 2: Add your video to the timeline.

PowerDirector App - Import Video

Step 3: Open the Edit menu and choose “Speed.”

PowerDirector App - Edit Tab

Step 4: Drag the control slider up to speed up your video.

If it’s now too fast for your liking, drag the slider down to slow it down until you are happy with the speed and length of your clip.

PowerDirector App - Speed Up Video

Step 5: Use “Ease in” at the beginning of your clip or “Ease Out” at the end to make a smooth transition between two different speeds.

Powerirector App - Import Video

How to Speed a Video Up on Windows and Mac to Create Time Lapse

You might prefer editing on a desktop, which gives you more control over your edits and a bigger screen to see your changes. PowerDirector is available on both Windows and Mac for free as well.

Here’s how to create a time lapse on your computer using PowerDirector:

Step 1: Open PowerDirector and drag your video into the “Media Room” and then onto the editing timeline.

PowerDirector - Import Video

Step 2: While holding down the Control button, left mouse click and drag the end of your clip to the left, making it shorter and therefore faster.

PowerDirector - Speed Up Video

Step 3: Release both Control and the mouse.

Watch the clip back to make sure you are happy with the length and speed of the video and make changes if necessary.

If you would like more control over the speed, go to the Tools menu and click on “Select Video Speed.” This opens the “Video Speed Designer,” which allows you to change the time and set the exact speed of your clip.

PowerDirector - Video Speed PowerDirector - Speed Designer

How to Make a Time Lapse With Photos

The most professional way of making a time lapse is by taking a series of still photos and stitching them together into a video. The best way to do this is by using a DSLR camera or a GoPro.

The pros of doing this instead of speeding up a video in post are better resolution, much smoother video, and you can make a much longer time lapse.

Here are the steps for creating a time lapse with photos:

Step 1: Set your camera on a tripod to ensure a still shot.

Step 2: Set your intervalometer for how many seconds you’d like between shots, and for how long.

You may need to buy an intervalometer, which releases the shutter automatically every few seconds for a specified period of time. Many cameras come with an internal intervalometer, so check first before buying an external one.

Here’s a formula for figuring out how many pictures you will need for your overall video. Let’s say you set up the camera to take 1 shot every 2 seconds over a period of 30 minutes. That’s 1,800 seconds divided by 2, which means you’ll have 900 still shots at the end. If your video is 30 frames per second, your final video will be 30 seconds (900/30). Speed it up to 60 frames per second, and your video will be 15 seconds (900/60).

Step 3: Set your ISO, which is the setting that brightens or darkens your shot.

Make sure to set it to MANUAL and not AUTO. If you set it to auto, the camera will keep changing the brightness which will ruin your time lapse effect.

Step 4: Hit the start or shutter button and sit back while your camera does the rest.

A few tips before attempting to shoot a time lapse:

Make sure your camera is fully charged before attempting a time lapse video, since they typically take at least 30 minutes to shoot. Some specialized time lapse cameras have extra long battery life, and the ability to switch to a new battery without turning off the camera.

If your video will take hours/days/months to shoot, try to hardwire the camera to a permanent power source.

If using a memory card, make sure it has room for the hundreds of photos you will be taking.

You should also think about weather-proofing your camera, especially if you are planning to leave at any point during filming.

Now it’s time for PowerDirector on Windows or Mac to turn all those photos into a stunning time lapse video.

Step 1: Import photos into your Media Room in PowerDirector.

Step 2: Drag the photos onto a Timeline Track.

PowerDirector - Import Images

Step 3: Select all photos and hit “Slideshow.”

You will see a bunch of different slideshow styles.

PowerDirector - Slideshow Creator

Step 4: Click “Time-Lapse,” then “Next.”

Step 5: Click on the music note if you’d like to select background music, otherwise click “Customize.”

PowerDirector - Timelapse Slideshow

“SlideShow Designer” will pop up, allowing you to choose the duration of each frame. It will let you know how long your final video will be, so you can keep changing the frames per second until you have the length you want.

PowerDirector - Customize Slideshow

Step 6: Hit “Ok,” then “Next” to preview your clip.

You will have the option to save your final video onto a device, onto a disc, upload to the internet or send it to Advanced Editing to add effects to your time lapse.

How to Shoot a Time Lapse on iPhone

If you have an iPhone 8 or higher, you can shoot time lapse using your Camera app.

Before you begin, make sure you have a full battery and plenty of storage available.

Step 1: Attach phone to a tripod with a smartphone attachment.

Decide whether you want to attach your phone to film Portrait or Landscape, depending on your subject.

Step 2: Turn on the AF/AE lock so that your focus and exposure stay the same throughout filming.

iPhone Film Video

Step 3: Open your Camera app and scroll through the options above the shutter button until you see “Time-Lapse.”

iPhone timelapse Video

Step 4: Hit the red record button and hit it again when you’re done.

iPhone timelapse Video - Recording

Your time lapse video will be saved in your Photos app. An iPhone time lapse video will always be between 20 and 40 seconds, so the longer you shoot, the faster your video will be. You don’t have the option to choose the frame rate, unless you download a time lapse app.

You can do basic editing of your time lapse in the Photos app, including trimming, cropping and adding a filter. For anything else, such as changing the speed of your video, you will need a third-party editing app like PowerDirector.

How to Shoot a Time Lapse on Android

Newer Android devices also come with a time lapse feature.

As with the iPhone, make sure your phone has enough battery and storage before you begin.

Step 1: Attach phone to a tripod with a smartphone attachment.

Step 2: Open the Camera and switch to Video Mode by hitting “Video.”

Android Film Video

Now you will need to find the Time Lapse button. Based on the model of your phone, it could be under “More,” “Video Resolution,” or “Manual.”

Android Film Hyperlapse

Step 3: Hit the time lapse button and hit again when you are ready to stop.

Android Film Hyperlapse

Android devices also come with a choice for hyperlapse. A hyperlapse video is a time lapse where the camera moves. Here’s a good example of a hyperlapse video:

Best Free Time Lapse Editor

Downloading an editing software is a must for making high-quality time lapse videos.

If you use a camera to take hundreds of still shots, they have to be imported into editing software to become a time lapse video. If you record time lapse with an iPhone, it automatically chooses the speed and length of your video for you, without allowing any creative control.

PowerDirector offers simple and easy-to-use time lapse options for first-timers, or advanced editing solutions for professionals. This software gives you complete control over the length and speed of your time lapse videos, allows you to color-correct or add effects, and has “Ease in” and “Ease Out” options to make smooth transitions between speeds.

You can easily add background music to your video from PowerDirector’s large royalty-free music library. There’s even an option to post your time lapse video directly to YouTube! Best of all, it can be downloaded for free.

Time Lapse Video FAQs

1. How do I slow down a time lapse?

Changing the speed of your time lapse can only be done in editing software, either on your phone or desktop.

To do it on your phone with PowerDirector follow these steps:

Step1: Add your video to the PowerDirector editing timeline.

Step 2: Open the Edit menu and choose “Speed.”

Step 3: You will see a control slider under your clip. Drag the slider down to slow down your video.

2. How do I make a time lapse photo?

Step 1: Set up your camera on a tripod and switch all settings to “Manual.”

Step 2: Set your frame rate and shutter speed for taking a time lapse. A standard shutter speed for a time lapse photo is double your frame rate. For example, if you're shooting at 25 FPS, your shutter speed should be 1/50.

Step 3: Click the shutter button and wait till you hear it open and shut before moving the camera.

3. What are some time lapse video ideas?

The most popular are Nature and Travel, but there are endless possibilities for time lapse.

Nature videos could include weather (clouds rolling by, snow melting, flowers blooming) space (the moon rising and moving across the sky), or animals (the life cycle of a caterpillar, ants tunneling through an ant farm).

Here’s a compilation video of some cool nature time lapse videos:

Travel videos could show a hyperlapse through an entire city, or just movement of people at a busy intersection like this time lapse taken in Time Square:

Another idea for a time lapse video is showing DIY, crafts, or art being made at a fast rate. It’s a fun way to showcase a “before and after” besides using two photos side by side.

Here’s an example of an artist making a chalk picture of Super Mario:

4. What are the best time lapse apps on Windows and Mac?

  1. PowerDirector365
  2. Adobe Premiere Pro
  3. Final Cut
  4. LRTimelapse
  5. Adobe After Effects

For a more comprehensive look at each time lapse app, visit 5 Best Free Time Lapse Video Makers in 2022.

5. What are the best time lapse apps on iOS and Android?

  1. PowerDirector
  2. Lapse It Pro
  3. Hyperlapse from Instagram
  4. Time Spirit
  5. Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile

For a full list of features for each app, visit Five Best Time Lapse Apps in 2022.

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