Make a Time-lapse Video with a GoPro

Making a time-lapse video with a GoPro is actually pretty fun, and it’s really easy! As long as you’ve got one of the GoPro action cameras in the list below, you can definitely do it! In this post, we’ll go over the details of how you can make a time-lapse video with a GoPro. First, here’s a quick summary:

  • Power up your GoPro
  • Tap the “Camera Mode” icon in the lower left corner
  • Select the time-lapse camera mode icon in the upper right
  • Tap “Time Lapse Video”
  • Press the record button

This post applies to the following GoPro models [Amazon links]:

Why would you want to make a time-lapse video?

They’re simple to create

In the past, creating a time-lapse movie was only possible with complex equipment, intervalometers, and fancy cameras. Photographers would snap a series of still photos, captured at set intervals–say, 1 photo every 5 seconds. The photos were manually stitched together and played back at 24 frames per second. The result was magical…

These days, just about anyone can create beautiful time-lapse movies. A GoPro time-lapse is made up of a series of small video frames which are then automatically stitched together for you! All you have to do is tap a few options, and press “Record”–and after a time, you’ll have a time-lapse!

They have multiple uses

Time-lapse movies have been around for more than 100 years. Examples of “traditional” time-lapses spanned days, weeks, or months–and included things like flowers sprouting up out of the ground, maturing, then blooming. Other common subjects include the sun and stars as they move through the sky. Today, people record all kinds of time-lapse videos! You can get a suction cup mount, stick your GoPro to the top of your car, and make a time-lapse movie of your car driving down the road, creating the illusion of super speed! Also, if you’re into making short films, you could use a time-lapse between scenes to signify the passage of time.

When you make a time-lapse video with a GoPro, you can share it on Instagram and get gobs of "Likes"!

They’re mesmerizing

I’ve seen entire Instagram feeds dedicated to time-lapse videos. Good time-lapse videos are almost hypnotic–I admit I’ve spent many an hour just watching high-quality time-lapse movies on Instagram.

If you want some ideas about the sorts of time-lapse movies people create, check out @best_timelapse on Instagram.

What sorts of subjects make for good time-lapses?

Whatever the scene you choose for your time-lapse, try and capture a scene that will noticeably change over the course of your recording. The drama of a sunset or sunrise is an often captured time-lapse subject. If you live near mountains, capture clouds pouring over a ridge. Near a city? Shoot a time-lapse of a busy city intersection, with cars and people zooming past as the day progresses. While there are no “hard and fast” rules about what to shoot, try and film a scene that will have a distinct “before” and “after” over the course of your time-lapse.

Here’s a time-lapse I created with my trusty GoPro Hero5 Black at the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

How to prepare for your time-lapse

Just like with regular photography, when you set up your shot, use basic framing and composition rules like the rule of thirds, high angle/low angle, horizons straight, etc. Here’s a bare bones checklist of things I always check before I press the record button:

  • Lighting
    • Will the sun arc across the sky and possibly blow out your time-lapse? Consider repositioning your GoPro, or improvising shade
  • Tripod, mount, or other stabilization platform
    • Is it windy? Is the GoPro liable to be bumped or kicked during your recording? Make sure you have a stable platform
  • Battery charged
    • Make sure your GoPro has the juice it needs for the duration of the time-lapse
  • Memory card has room
    • Don’t end up with a full card mid-way through your epic capture
  • Rain in the forecast?
    • Be sure to position your camera so rain doesn’t spatter all over the lens
  • Got a chair? A place to sit?
    • You might be here a while, so find a spot, and get comfortable. Bring a good book, or catch up on Facebook and Instagram on your mobile phone
  • “Quiet on the set!” Just kidding…
    • GoPro doesn’t record audio during a time-lapse. So you can chat away while your camera does its thing

Finally, visualize your final product, and frame your shot so it aligns with how you “see” it in your minds eye. Now go create an epic time-lapse!

Get your GoPro ready to shoot your epic time-lapse

There’s three ways to switch your GoPro into time-lapse mode:

  • Tap the power button to toggle between modes
  • Tap the menu options on the back screen
  • Use your voice

Oh and please excuse the look of my battle damaged little GoPro in the following photos! I’ve used it in the UK, the South Caribbean, Alaska, and lots of places in between. I’ve taken my trusty GoPro just about everywhere, so it’s got some wear and tear. Although it’s old, it’s seen some amazing things, and still works perfectly.

Using the power button to toggle between modes

This one is straight forward. Just click the power button on the side of your GoPro, and you’ll cycle through the various modes:

  • Video
  • Photo
  • Burst
  • Time Lapse Video

Using the Menu:

Time-lapse with a GoPro, step 1
From the back screen, tap the camera icon on the lower left

Time-lapse with a GoPro, step 2
Next, on the camera menu, tap the Timelapse icon in the upper right

Time-lapse with a GoPro, step 3
Finally, tap the “TIME LAPSE VIDEO” option

Time-lapse with a GoPro, step 4
You’re returned to the main screen. In the lower left, notice your camera mode is now set to “Time-Lapse”. The only thing left to do now is press the “Record” on the top of your camera

Using GoPro Voice Commands:

We’re all familiar with certain Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Does this sound familiar? “Hey Siri, what will the weather be like today?” What about your Android phone? “OK Google…” Maybe you’ve become accustomed to simply asking “Alexa” a question once in a while.

Did you know GoPro has voice command capabilities too? I had my GoPro for several months before I accidentally stumbled across a menu item that enables/disables voice commands. Once I saw that, I Googled what commands I had at my disposal, and I never looked back!

When you’re out on an adventure, wearing gloves, or have your hands on handlebars–whatever–and you can’t fiddle with your action camera to start a recording–just tell your GoPro what you want to do–and it magically obeys!

GoPro, start timelapse…

Worried you’ll forget where to tap and swipe by the time you’re ready to create your time-lapse video? Maybe you just don’t like that tiny, fiddly little screen. No matter the situation, once you’ve got your GoPro all set up and ready to capture your amazing time-lapse, simply say these magic words to your GoPro, and it watch the magic happen!

  • GoPro Start Timelapse
  • GoPro Stop Timelapse

There’s actually a whole list of commands you can use!

Voice Command Capable Cameras:

  • MAX
  • HERO8 Black
  • HERO7 (White, Silver, & Black)
  • HERO6 Black
  • Fusion
  • HERO5 Black
  • HERO5 Session
  • HERO (2018)
  • Remo

Voice Commands:

  • “GoPro Start Recording” 
  • “GoPro HiLight” (Adds a highlight tag while recording video). According to Capture Guide, you can also execute these secret commands to add a “HiLight” tag:
    • “That was sick!”
    • “Oh shit!”
  • “GoPro Stop Recording” 
  • “GoPro Take a Photo” 
  • “GoPro Shoot Burst”
  • “GoPro Start Time Lapse”
  • “GoPro Stop Time Lapse”
  • “GoPro Video Mode”
  • “GoPro Photo Mode”
  • “GoPro Time Lapse Mode”
  • “GoPro Burst Mode”
  • “GoPro Turn Off”

Time-lapse Options

Just like in regular shooting mode, you have options.

  • RES (Resolution)
  • INTR (Interval)
  • FOV (Field of View)

RES (Resolution)

Time-lapse option 1, resolution
You can optionally set the resolution of your time-lapse

Resolution options include everything from 480p all the way up to 4K. Just know that if you select 4K or 2.7K (4:3) you’re restricted to a “Wide” field of view. If you want a less “wide” field of view, you’ve got to select 1080p or below. I can’t imagine why you’d want to film at 480p–that’s REALLY low-res by today’s standards–but it’s there as an option if you need it. Depending on the scene, you might want a narrower field of view–so 1080p is probably the best, all around resolution.

INTR (Interval)

Time-lapse option 2, Interval
If you tap here, you’ll find options for the time interval between captures

The interval (or “INTR” on the camera menu) lets you select the following intervals (in seconds) between captures: 60, 30, 10, 5, 2, 1, 0.5. The GoPro default is 1 second. So which interval should you use?

Generally speaking, a shorter interval between captures results in a “smoother” video. Adorama recommends the following intervals for the following types of subjects:

  • 1 Second Interval
    • Fast moving clouds
    • Traffic
  • 1 – 3 Second Intervals
    • Sunsets
    • Sunrises
    • Slower moving clouds
    • Crowds
    • Moon and sun near horizon
  • 15 – 30 Second Intervals
    • Moving shadows
    • Sun across sky (no clouds–wide angle)
    • Construction projects

How long should I record for a 30-second time-lapse movie using 5-second intervals?

Full disclosure: I don’t math very well. If my maths are wrong, please drop a comment down below, and let us all know what the right solution is. 😉

Let’s say you want to shoot a time-lapse movie of the sun going down, that plays for 30 seconds when it’s all done. If you set your GoPro time-lapse for 5 second intervals, you’d have to record your scene for 75 minutes. Here’s how the math breaks down:

  • 30fps (frames per second), multiplied 30 seconds (the length of our video), which gives us 900 frames
  • Then we multiply our 900 frames by 5 seconds (our interval)
  • The result is 4500 seconds–which when divided by 60, is 75 minutes

Therefore, for a 30 second time-lapse video made out of frames that were captured every 5 seconds, we’ll need to let the GoPro do its thing for 75 minutes (1 hour, 15 minutes).

FOV (Field of View)

Time-lapse option 3, Field Of View (FOV)
Tap here to adjust your field of view (FOV). “WIDE” is the only FOV at 4K. If you want a more “normal” view, you’ll have to dial back your resolution a few notches.

The GoPro offers multiple FOV angles like Superview (really wide), Wide, Medium, Linear, and Narrow. If you want to create a 4K or 2.7K (4:3) time-lapse video, you’ll be restricted to a “WIDE” field of view. If you want to use the other FOV options, just bump the resolution down to Full HD (1080p).

Time-lapse with a GoPro--output on front LCD
During your time-lapse recording, the front LCD displays how long your time-lapse movie will be when you stop recording. As this photo shows, after several minutes, my GoPro had recorded enough footage for a 5-second long time-lapse movie.

Sample Time-Lapse

Here’s a quick sample time-lapse using the 5-second capture interval math I outlined above. The subject matter isn’t all that spectacular, but it kind-of gets the point across. 5-second intervals, shot at 30fps, for 1 hour 15 minutes = 30 second time-lapse movie.

I wrapped my Joby Gorillapod around a tree, and used a smartphone bracket clip to mount the GoPro to the tripod. Probably not the best mounting job–but it worked for what I needed to do, and was quick to set up.

Share your epic time-lapse!

Now that you have your time-lapse footage, share your masterpiece with the world! Post it to Facebook or Instagram! Bask in the glory of all the “Likes” and “Comments”!

Have you already created a small collection of time-lapse movies? Shared ’em on social media? Gotten tons of “Likes”? Why not let your epic time-lapse clips earn some money for you? Here’s examples of time-lapse movies that were uploaded to Shutterstock–a stock footage site that sells all manner of video clips, including time-lapses. Mouse over a few (or click if you’d like) to get a feel for the sorts of clips people pay money for.

Powered by Shutterstock

Think your time-lapse clips have what it takes to sell on stock footage sites like Pond5 and Shutterstock? Sign up to become a contributor! If your footage is accepted, you’ll earn money when someone buys it for use in their video production! And if it’s really awesome, it might sell again and again–earning more and more money for you… And who doesn’t need some extra cash? But that’s a different blog post altogether.

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What are you waiting for? Get out and shoot! And remember to have fun!

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