Creating Time Lapse movies with the Nikon P6000

On the weekend after shooting the 12×12 timelapse video, I was talking with Angela who also owns the Nikon P6000. She wanted to know how I shot the timelapse. I figured it would make a good blog post so here you go…keep in mind this is how I do it and there are many other ways/options to create these kinds of movies. I’ve made a lot of ‘test movies’ that have never seen the light of day as I experimented.

One of the reasons why I bought the P6000 was the fact that it had built in support to shoot time lapse movies. With support for large SD cards and a power adaptor, you should have no problem shooting 1000s of frames. I use a 16gb SD card in mine and can get well over 2000 frames with the settings below. The P6000 is also nice and small and easily put on a mini tripod or clamp to tuck it out of the way to make a good timelapse.

Nikon P6000

It can do this two different ways, one via the Movie mode (on the dial) and by choosing the ‘Time-Lapse Movie’ function or via the method I’m going to outline here. The benefit of using my method is that you have more control over the end result and each frame will be treated like a still photo.

You’ll need to be in something other than the auto mode…I usually use aperture priority but feel free to experiment with the settings as they can create some interesting results.

First thing you’ll want to do is setup your shot using whatever settings you’d use to capture a good still image. This includes focus, exposure, aperature, shutter, etc. Take a few test shots to make sure it works for you.

Then enter the MENU and under the SHOOTING option, choose CONTINUOUS:
Nikon P6000

Then choose INTVL TIMER SHOOTING:
Nikon P6000

Then choose your interval time:
Nikon P6000

Depending on what you’re hoping to capture, this can vary and you’ll want to experiment. Unfortunately, the P6000 can only do intervals as short as one frame every 30 seconds. I wish this went lower but it’s probably a safety measure to ensure the sensor doesn’t burn out. I almost always choose 30s. You’ll want to think about how long the end resulting video will be. In the case of the 12×12 timelapse (at the end of this post), I planned for about 5 hours of shooting (the length of the event).

You’ll also want to adjust the image quality for your timelapses:

Nikon P6000

I always set it to FINE (jpeg)…it yields great image quality without excess filesize….as I usually shoot in RAW for stills, make sure you check this before starting or you’ll fill your memory card up faster and also run into issues later when creating the movie.

Nikon P6000

I usually set the IMAGE SIZE to 1600×1200 which gives me slightly better than HD image sizes that gives me a little room for cropping/letterboxing the image frame for HD later (iMovie 09 handles this without doing anything). As the P6000 doesn’t shoot HD video natively, this is the best way to do it that I’ve found.

Hit the shutter button and get ready to wait for awhile to get a substantial amount of frames. This could be a few hours or all day. Ideally you won’t move the camera at all but if you plan it right, it can add some interesting results to the video.

Once you’ve finished shooting your timelapse, you’ll have to turn the camera off to stop it from shooting anymore or navigate to the menu and change the shooting mode from CONTINUOUS.

Creating the Movie
I’m using a Mac with Quicktime 7 to create my video but there are probably a bunch of different apps to do this on a PC or Linux. If you’re running OSX Snow Leopard, you’ll need to install Quicktime 7 from your Snow Leopard disc as it’s not installed by default (Quicktime 8 is).

Upon launching Quicktime 7, you’ll want to open an IMAGE SEQUENCE:
Importing an image sequence

Point this at the folder of your memory card and choose the first image in the sequence. Quicktime will know to import the rest of the sequence. This can also be fun to do with still images to create a fun movie but that’s a topic for another post.

Another minor shortcoming of the P6000 is that time lapse sequences are limited to 200 images per folder. This means you’ll have to create multiple image sequences (depending on the length of your timelapse) and join them later in your editing software. Repeat this process for each of the folders of images, again depending on how many frames you shot.

Creating an image sequence

You’ll then be prompted to choose a frame rate. Once again, this will require some experimentation depending on what you’ve shot.

Creating an image sequence

Once you’ve selected the frame rate, Quicktime will build a movie from your images. This can take some time and if you used the settings I described, it may not even be very playable on your computer due to the high resolution nature of the sequence. Make sure you save the file as it doesn’t do this by default. If you have multiple sequence folders, repeat this process and name the movies accordingly.

The end result looks something like this once dropped into an editing package (in this case iMovie 09 where I added titles, music and fades):

I exported the resulting video in HD from iMovie and then uploaded it to Flickr which supports short HD movies. I’m also a fan of Vimeo and occasionally use YouTube.

Keep in mind that while I’m using the P6000 in this example, similar functions exist in other cameras and the basic concepts should apply to them all. I recently bought an intravalometer for my DSLR to accomplish the same thing with the added flexibility of other lens options….something which the P6000 is also capable of, albeit more limited.

Have fun!

8 Comments

  1. Masey says:

    Awesome post John. I’m going to go grab my brand new Canon G11 now and see if I can’t achieve the same kind of thing…

    • John says:

      I’m pretty sure the G11 supports it Masey…the trick is usually finding the mode in the menus. Make sure you drop me a note/link to anything you make…I’d love to see it!

  2. Angela says:

    Thank you for this John! I can’t wait to give it a try. I’m a PC so I’m going to have to play around with Premiere but you’ve given me a lot to work with :)

  3. David Crawford says:

    That’s a really superb posting, I’ll give you 10/10 for that one!

    I’m very interested in time lapse photography and am considering buying a compact camera for this. I am constantly switching between the Nikon P6000 and a Canon G11 – with an external intervalometer.

    The Canon with a seperate controller has the big advantage that it could be set to take photographs much quicker than every thirty seconds, but your posting has suddenly raised the issue of burning out the sensor! I never thought about this…

    Is this something you know will happen, or is it more a concern? I don’t really know too much about the technical end of this hobby, some would say I don’t know much about the practicle side of it either(!), so if you could help or advise, I’d really appreciate it.

    • John says:

      I don’t know for sure that it would burn out the sensor…I just know that it’s one of the reasons why my D90 can’t be in live view for too long as it overheats the sensor and shuts down…not sure if there is something in these compact cameras to prevent it like some kind of auto shutdown but I’d say it’s definitely something to consider…although the compacts are a lot cheaper to replace than a DSLR.

  4. Great blog. I will give you a 5 star rating in the Nikon directory. Alot of blogs on there are really bad.

  5. Nikola says:

    Very helful post John, thanks. Love timelapse movie. By the way, do you crop pics before you do the movie on quicktime, or do you leave it on their original size? And what seize do you save the movie if you wanna work it later with iMovie?

    I have made around 3 hrs of HD video with my Nikon D90. I know i shouldn’t have done it, but every tiime it completed 4:59 sec and it stops, i reset and start recording again. It reaches the point it only records 29 seconds, i did the same ( as i was filming something important and had no camcorder) Finally, had no isuse, nothing hapen to the sensor! Anyway, got my Canon HF S11 now so no need to torture my Nikon D90. Got intervalometer to try it this month on some timelapse movies though, can’t wait to go in the suny Albania.

    • John says:

      Nikola: as I mentioned in the post, I typically use 1600×1200 for my image sizes which is larger than I need but too much so. The Quicktime image sequence process creates an uncompressed video that I pull into iMovie which then crops it for HD. It seems to be the best image quality balanced by file size for the output. I’d need a bigger SD card if I wanted to go larger for a long time lapse – although I have in the past forgot to switch the P6000 off RAW mode.

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