GoPro Cameras: Tips for Making Time-Lapse Easier

By John Carucci

One thing a GoPro camera is great at is time-lapse footage. Making time-lapse movies beats a lot of other cool ways to tell a story, but it can be nerve-wracking, too. For one thing, it’s a huge time investment.

Also, if a glitch occurs, you lose the sequence but gain a few thousand images — not really an equal trade. For that reason, it’s important not only to set up the camera properly for time-lapse recording, but to also take a sensible approach to it.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Mount it securely. Whether you opt for a GoPro mount or decide to use a tripod (with the GoPro adapter), be sure that you mount the camera securely. You don’t want to introduce motion where it shouldn’t exist.

  • Take your time. Plan the shot, and make sure that the subject is properly framed. Be on the lookout for elements that can detract from the sequence, such as a bright light or an extraneous object.

  • Understand that a time-lapse sequence is a sequence. Time-lapse recording depends on activity in the frame. Sometimes, that activity is going to be fantastic.

    At other times, you’ll have unpredictable motion in the scene or pedestrians getting too close to the camera, and maybe you’ll even catch yourself checking the camera. These moments pose little threat, if any, because they’re fleeting and won’t be noticed or can be deleted in postproduction.

  • Use a large, fast memory card. The card you select should be like a NFL wide receiver: big, strong, and fast.

    Because time-lapse sequences have the potential to capture a lot of frames at a high resolution, you want a card that has enough capacity to hold them all and enough speed to perform smoothly. Few things are worse than missing key action because you filled the card or the card wasn’t fast enough to keep up. A 32MB Class 10 card is ideal.

  • Have a fully charged battery. GoPro batteries are notoriously short-lived — battery life is around 2 hours — so it’s entirely possible for your camera’s battery to drain before the time-lapse sequence ends. Always use a freshly charged battery, and check on the camera often.

  • Hurry up and wait. The name of this process alone — time-lapse — should tip you off that it’s quite lengthy. You won’t have to do much except wait. You can get some other things done and even walk away from the scene for a while if you’ll be nearby.