A small point-and-shoot camera is always with me where ever I go. For this purpose I got the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 (or ZS3 as it’s known in North America), a 10.1 Megapixel compact camera.
Next to taking pictures and recording 720p HD video, the camera can also be used to record timelaps videos, even if doesn’t have interval shooting or the possibility to use a remote control with timer. Since this camera doesn’t have a mirror like DSLR cameras, shooting thousands of photos for a timelaps video is not going to hurt the camera (I am always worried when I use my Nikon for it). I will show in this blog entry how to do it. This will probably work with other point-and-shoot camera’s as well.
The Lumix has an unlimited burst mode which will shoot until the memory card is full or the battery is empty. The speed depends on the picture size and quality and results in approximately 1-2 pictures per second (which might decelerate over time).
The unlimited burst mode is available in ‘Normal’ and ‘Intelligent Auto’ mode. The focus is fixed when the first picture is taken but exposure and white balance are being adjusted with each picture, which might cause flickering.
I usually choose as aspect ratio 16:9 and pick the lowest resolution of 2M EZ, which results in images of 1920 x 1080 pixels, the same as the 1080P video resolution. On a 2 GB card there is enough space for about 1800 pictures in high JPEG quality. So theoretically on a 16 GB card there would be enough storage for a timelaps video of about 2 – 4 hours if the battery lasts that long (I never tried it for such a long time).
As I edit most of my videos in 720P it leaves enough room to zoom or pan within the timelaps video. If you edit in 1080P you might want to choose a higher resolution.
Since the DMC-TZ7 doesn’t offer a way to connect a remote control and we don’t want to press the shutter button all the time, I am using some household tools to keep the button pressed.
On the photo above you can see it on a small Gorillapod. I have also used it on a flat surface but generally it is better to use a tripod if you don’t want to mess it up.
Once the pictures have been transferred to the computer, we can create the timelaps movie. Collect all pictures which belong to one timelaps sequence in one folder. Now on the Mac start QuickTime Player 7 (Snow Leopard users can find this older version in their Utilities folder), select ‘Open Image Sequence…’ in the file menu and select the first image of the sequence. Select how many frames per second to use. As I am in Europe and usually produce videos for the web I choose 25 frames per second (you can always speed it up or slow it down in the editor).
You can now save this move as ‘self-contained movie’ or export it using your preferred video format and use this clip in your video editor software like Final Cut Pro.
The video below shows some example timelaps scenes taken with the DMC-TZ7.
Using a cheap or maybe old point-and-shoot camera instead of your DSLR for this has the advantage that you could leave it behind while it is taking pictures without worrying too much.