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How to Do a Timelapse in Final Cut Pro

Written by Published in Final Cut Pro Tutorials

Give me 5 minutes and I’ll show you how to do a timelapse like this, this and this, in Final Cut Pro. Time Lapses look so cool, are really popular and can give your videos that extra bit of production value. Not to mention, they’re really easy to do. So whether you’re just starting out with Final Cut or you’re an experienced user, I’ll share 6 high powered tips including one that if you skip, it will leave you looking like an amateur.

Tip #1. Perfect Project Settings

In Final Cut Pro, go to File, New, Event or press Option + N to create a new event. Name it, select the library where you want to store it and check the Create New Project box. Set your video Format. For this project I’m going to use 1080p. Next set your Rate. This is important because project frame rate will determine the length of your timelapse. Imagine each image as 1 frame in your timelapse. I’ll use 24p for rate and a good rule of thumb is for every 24 images, I’ll get 1 second of video. I have 175 photos so my timelapse will be about 7 seconds. Next, click ok.

Now we need to add our images. Go to File, Import, Media or Press Command + I. Find your images and press Command + A to select all. Enable Add to existing event, select your event and click Import All. Let Final Cut do its thing.

Click on your project and rename it. Then double click it to open. Make sure your images are in order. Click on the Appearance and Filtering Menu, make sure Group By is set to File Type and Sort By is set to Content Created.

Select your first clip, press Command + A to select all and then press E to add your pictures to the timeline. Each image was added as a 10 second clip and that won’t work. Click in the timeline and then press Command + A to select all, then press Control + D to change the duration. The timecode changed to purple. Enter 1 for 1 frame and press enter. Play it back. Not bad!

Notice the black bars on the left and right side? This is because Final Cut Pro automatically adjusted the size to fit the entire image in the viewer. While all the pics are selected, go to the video inspector and at the bottom change Spatial Conform Type to Fill. Much better!

With all the images selected, turn them into one compound clip for easy editing and adjusting. Go to file, new, compound clip or press Option + G and name your compound clip. From here you can color grade or add effects. Speaking of effects, in just a minute I’m gonna show you how to make your time lapse look like tiny toys.

If your timelapse is too fast you can double click on your compound clip, select all the pics and change the duration by pressing Control + D. Let’s try 3 frames. That looks kind of like a stop motion effect. Reset back to 1 frame for each image and press this arrow to go back to the timeline. Select your compound clip and press command + R to retime the clip. Click and drag on the end of the green bar to make it faster or slower.

Tip #2 is a cool way to add some movement to your timelapse.

Select your compound clip, right click in the viewer, select Crop and click on Ken Burns. This effect will transform the clip from the green start to the red end like this. Click the reverse button in the upper left corner to swap start and end points. Move the end to focus on a section of your timelapse. Press the preview button in the upper left corner. The effect lasts the entire duration of the clip. That looks cool!

You can add custom movement with keyframes. Select your clip and in the Inspector, reset Crop. Go to the beginning of your clip and set a keyframe for Scale and Rotation. Go to the end of the clip and increase scale to 130% and change rotation to -7. Ooh. That’s a nice subtle rotation. I dig it!

Are you ready to make a timelapse in Final Cut Pro? Has this video been helpful? If so, hit that like button so others can see this video. Thanks! In just a second I’m gonna show you my favorite time lapse effect that gets me all nostalgic.

Tip #3 is perfect for making a timelapse out of video footage.

If you’ve got a long clip you can quickly turn it into a timelapse. Select your clip and open the retime editor by clicking on the Retime button. Hover over Fast and select how much you want to speed up your clip. You can go up to 20 times as fast. In the timeline you can speed up your clip by clicking and dragging the end of the green bar. The middle percentage will tell you how fast you’ve sped it up. The higher the number, the faster the retime. Once you’ve got your clip at the right speed you can close and open the retime editor by pressing Command + R. 

Tip #4 is a technique nobody’s talking about but should. It gives you that unique Stop Motion look. Select your clip, click on the Retime button and select Reset Speed. Go to the clip’s start and press M to add a marker. Press the spacebar to start playback and add markers as fast as you can while it plays. They don’t have to be evenly spaced out. In fact that will give it a better look. Click on the retime button, go down to Jump cut at markers and select 3 frames. This will remove 3 frames at every marker. Select your clip and turn it into a compound clip by pressing Option + G. Open the retime editor by pressing Command + R, click and drag to the left on the end of the green bar to speed it up. Give it a look. Reminds me of those old Christmas claymation movies. I snuck 3 bonus tips into the last tip which is coming up soon but first…

Tip #5 Tilt Shift Look.

This is my favorite way to spice up timelapses and make them look professional. Don’t skip this step or you’ll look like an amateur. A tilt shift effect makes everything look miniature like small toys. This works best with time lapses or footage of people or transportation and shot from above. I’ve got a timelapse I made of people leaving an event. Can you tell where this is? Tell me where you think it is in the comments. Open the Effects browser, select the Blur category and drag and drop Focus onto your timelapse. Go to the Effects section under the Inspector. Set Width to 100 so the section in focus goes all the way across. Use the on screen control to adjust your focal point. Adjust the height to increase the focal space a bit. I’ll leave the other parameters as is. Let’s add a bit of color pop to it. Go to the color inspector and add color wheels. Reduce the shadows and increase the Global saturation. Doesn’t that look amazing? It’s like I’m a giant watching a bunch of toys run around. I love it!

Tip #6 is actually 3 bonus tips rolled into one!

When shooting a timelapse, try to take pictures in manual mode. This will allow you to control everything like aperture, timing, shutter speed and more. Your photos will look better once you’ve dialed in all the settings in manual mode.

Use a tripod. If you try to shoot a timelapse by hand your images won’t line up and the sped up effect will be lost. Put your camera on a tripod, compose your shot and lock it in.

And the last tip is to use a power source. Time lapses can take a long time to shoot. You’re usually compressing hours into seconds and sometimes batteries can’t keep up. If possible use a power source to run your camera and at the very least have spare batteries on hand.

Now that you’ve learned how to do a timelapse you may want to check out this video I made called How to make a mask in Final Cut pro. I share how to use all 5 mask types in Final Cut and a cool animation trick. Click here to check it out.

About Gian Solamo

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