New Mac / Windows app brings your timelapse videos to life without expensive hardware


posted Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 12:10 AM EDT

Snap quiz: What are the hallmarks of every great time-lapse video? Admittedly, the answers are pretty obvious -- time and motion -- but there's a little more to it than that. The best time-lapse videos don't typically rely on subject motion alone. Often, they inject a sense of life into the scene by adding camera motion as well, changing your perspective and guiding your viewpoint as the scene unfolds before your eyes.

The problem for amateurs and enthusiasts looking to get into time-lapse video is that the rigs used to create that motion are typically pretty expensive, and relatively complex to build from scratch. If you want a smooth and attractive result, the camera motion has to be precisely controlled, and the speed just right to match your artistic vision. Add in simultaneous motion on multiple axes, or  a change in the motion at certain points during a panned shoot, and things get even more challenging.

Panolapse cleverly recreates the more immersive look of gradual camera pans in your time-lapse videos without the need for expensive motion hardware.

That's where a new Windows / Mac app called Panolapse comes in. Created by Patrick Shyu, Panolapse was originally intended to be used in the Blue Eden project, a collaborative series of high-def videos shot around the world by Shyu and his twin brother, Henrick. The tool is reminiscent of those used to bring to life still images on video, letting you define a viewport and control motion between two keyframes, but with a twist. Instead of simply rotating and cropping the scene appropriately to generate motion across a number of frames, the app also takes into account perspective.

The result is a fairly convincing rotational panning motion, and you can try it for yourself on videos at up to 720p resolution (1,280 x 720 pixels), completely free of charge. Panolapse detects the focal length and lens type -- either rectilinear or fisheye -- and then allows you to define pitch, yaw, and roll for both starting and ending keyframes. You can also set a global aspect ratio, and an equivalent focal length to simulate.

In the full version of Panolapse, render resolution is essentially limited only by your hardware.

The video effect can be previewed at low resolution before rendering the final scene, which in the paid version of the app can be at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) or above. There isn't a set upper limit here -- it's defined simply by your computer's processing capabilities, camera's resolution, and the size of the viewport you've defined. Both width and height are entered manually, and you can define a quality level for the render.

For the best results, Shyu recommends use of a lens at 24mm or wider on a full-frame sensor, which equates to 16mm or wider on an APS-C cropped sensor. Note that while it can simulate two-axis panning and tilting across multiple frames, Panolapse can't change the simulated focal length between frames, and nor can it emulate Z-axis motion. (That is to say, if you want to recreate motion towards or away from your subject, you'll still need to use a a dolly or rail of some kind.) If you want to simulate zoom during a clip, Shyu suggests rendering at the highest possible resolution and quality, and then using the digital zoom function in your video-editing app, instead.

An official introduction to Panolapse from its creators.

Available immediately, the full version of Panolapse is priced at US$65 per machine. More details on the Panolapse website. Want some inspiration to get your creative juices flowing? Take a look at some of the time-lapse videos we've shared recently.

(via DIY Photography)