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::   Packafoma’s popular iOS Time-lapse Calculator app is now 99¢   ::

Time-lapse Calculator app

Update June 7, 2014

Now available for iOS: Time-lapse Calculator app for iPhone & iPad

time-lapse app

  • Calculate shutter interval, target duration (final clip length), or event duration (recording time)
  • Optimized for iPhone and iPad
  • No advertisements
  • Only 99¢

The web version will remain available below for free, but the iOS app has more features and is optimized for your iPhone or iPad. It’s ad-free and 99¢.

Use my free time-lapse calculator below to quickly determine the shutter interval (time between shots) that you should set to achieve your desired clip length for a given recording duration. This utility also estimates the memory card storage that will be required for RAW or JPG image files. Scroll down for a more detailed description and time-lapse photography tips.

time-lapse app

Time-lapse Calculator

99¢ iOS app for iPhone & iPad

Time-lapse Interval Calculator

Recording duration:
 
: : :
D H M
Target clip duration:
 
: :
H M S
Frame rate:
fps
Camera res (optional): megapixels
Shutter interval: seconds
Number of still images:
frames
Speed:
x
Storage requirements (RAW):
GB
Storage requirements (JPG):
GB

Description

I was recently searching for a good time-lapse app and discovered a number of free or cheap tools. However, each of them exhibited the same frustrating flaw. The app would ask you to enter the recording duration and shutter interval. It would then calculate the duration of the video clip that would result. This could be useful on occasion, but most of the time it’s backwards.

I usually know how long I would like the final clip to be and how long I plan to continue capturing frames to cover the event (approximately). It’s the interval variable (time between exposures) that I need to calculate.

So I decided to develop my own solution. In addition to serving as an intervalometer, my time-lapse calculator estimates the memory card storage capacity that will be required. The storage calculations are calibrated for RAW and high-quality JPG settings on my Panasonic GH3 but will provide a general estimate for any DSLR or DSLM based on megapixels.

I created this web app to save myself some time (no pun intended), but my mama always taught me to share! Hopefully, other photographers will find it useful.

Time-lapse tips and example: New York City Marathon

The example above captures runners passing through Brooklyn at the 10 kilometer checkpoint of the New York City Marathon on November 3, 2013. The participants are headed north on 4th Avenue along the western edge of Park Slope towards Downtown Brooklyn, and, because the D and R subway lines “run” underneath 4th Ave, there are even more people traveling this corridor beneath the surface!

I shot this time-lapse video with my Panasonic Lumix GH3 using my calculator tool to determine the time between shutter activations. In the GH3’s time lapse mode, I set the Shooting Interval to every 15 seconds and recorded for 7 and a half hours. The result was a clip that was about 1 minute long when imported into Adobe Premiere Pro as an image sequence at 30 frames-per-second.

I recorded all 1800 stills in RAW format (.RW2 on the GH3). Thanks to the storage estimator, I knew that I could fit the necessary 36 GBs on my 45 GB SD card. The RAW image format allowed me to really maximize the dynamic range of the photos in Adobe Lightroom before importing them into Premiere. Even though I used aperture priority mode so that the shutter speed would automatically adjust with each exposure, it was still difficult to predict how the light would change over the course of a day. So having flexibility in post was crucial.

Here’s an important Adobe Premiere Pro CC tip for importing image sequences: The frame rate of an imported image sequence is determined by the Indeterminate Media Timebase setting in Preferences > Media. It is not determined by your current sequence settings. (By the way, I bet you read that as intermediate media timebase. Take another look.) I wish Premiere would simply allow you to select the frame rate during import, but I have no shortage of gripes about Premiere Pro.

And finally, with the full 4:3 aspect ratio of the Micro Four Thirds sensor and a resolution of 4608×3456, I had extra pixels to play with, particularly in the vertical direction, even when cutting the video as a 4K sequence. This allowed me to animate the position of the frames to give the appearance that the camera was craning up throughout the shot.

The 1080p Vimeo version of the final video is embedded here. You can also download the full 3840 x 2160 Ultra HD version in .mp4 format. It looks pretty stunning on my Retina MacBook Pro: UHD time-lapse video: NYC Marathon 2013

Discussion

10 comments on “Time-lapse Calculator app
  1. James Billett  

    This tool is really useful! I have been looking for exactly this for ages because I had the same problem as you – I knew how long I wanted the final video to be but didn’t know how frequently to make an exposure. Nice one!

    • Dax  

      Great to hear! I’m glad you find it helpful.

  2. Eva  

    Thanks for this. It is a very helpful tool. I often do time lapse images with my kids. They love seeing them on youtube.

  3. Jerry Davis  

    This is hands down the best time lapse calculator I’ve found on the web. Thank you so much for sharing it!

    • Dax  

      You’re welcome, and thanks for the compliment! I’m happy to hear that.

  4. Dax  

    A number of people have asked if this time-lapse calculator is available as an iPhone app. It is now!

    You can purchase it from the App Store for just 99¢: Dax’s time-lapse app

    I plan to keep this web app freely available on this page, but the iOS version is much better suited for mobile devices and is ad-free. It works on every version of iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS 7 or higher.

    The overall functionality of the app is extremely similar to the web version, but if you have any support questions, please leave them here.

    Happy time-lapsing!

  5. Philip  

    Do you worry about shutter activations? Do you think any of the newer DSLRs have a maximum lifetime shutter activation limit?

    • Dax  

      I do not worry about shutter activations. In the case of my GH3, I don’t believe Panasonic has ever published a shutter “life expectancy” based on actuations, but shutter failure seems to be pretty rare among modern DSLRs. Then again, maybe that’s because so many photographers buy the latest model before the previous model wears out! So maybe I should worry about it, but I bought my camera to use it. And I like to use it for making time-lapse videos!

  6. Tony G.  

    Hey Dax,
    This is really a great tool and a crucial online find for anyone starting out in the time lapse world. Frankly, I’ve been shooting stills and video for more than 40 years professionally and like everyone else out there I’m sure, struggled with the math when it came time to actually press the button on location… so thanks. It’s been a great help and huge time saver when your trying to maximize your shooting time rather than calculating time!
    I’m headed out to shoot some time lapse tonight so I’ll have this tool at the ready. Keep up the great work!
    Tony

    • Dax  

      Thanks, Tony!

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Packafoma Post

The Packafoma Post is the periodically persnickety post-production blog of Packafoma LLC, featuring articles on Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro X, Mac OS, photography, and website design.

Packafoma is the Philadelphia digital cinema and video production company of cousins Dax & Shea Roggio.

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