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Time Lapse Calculator – How and Why to Use One!

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Related course: Total Time-Lapse

For time-lapse images and videos, many photographers benefit from a time lapse calculator. This allows them not to have to do any maths in their head.
To know more about what a time lapse calculator is, read our article below.
A stunning time lapse shot of the night sky over a landscape, shot using a time lapse calculator

What Is a Time-Lapse Calculator?

When we photograph a scene with a time-lapse in mind, we capture a certain number of images, with intervals in between.
A time-lapse calculator lets you know how many images you need, over a certain period of time, for a video of a certain length.
For example, if the final video is to be 10 seconds long, we know the maximum amount of images that can fit in that length.
A video, unless slow-motion, requires at least 24 frames per second (fps). This means, if you were to take 240 images with no intervals, you would get a 10-second long video.
There are scenes where you’ll want to have an interval between frames. This break allows the scene you are capturing to change more drastically.
Trying to do this maths in your head could have you confused, or even way off the mark. This is especially true for short shutter speeds, such as 1/1000th of a second.
An impressive time lapse shot of traffic moving past an architectural structure, shot using a time lapse calculator

Why Do You Need a Time-Lapse Calculator?

Let’s say you want a video that shows 30 fps, lasting for 30 seconds. Setting an interval of 8 seconds between each shot will give you an event duration of 2 hours.
The process goes like this. We want 30 seconds, and each of those seconds has 30 frames.
30 x 30 = 900 images. 900 images x 8 seconds = 7200 seconds or 2 hours.
You are thinking, why isn’t it the time it takes one image PLUS the 8 seconds? The maths behind photographing 900 images at 1/250th of a second means 900 images would take 3.6 seconds in total.
But, it isn’t 7203.6 seconds. This is because the interval starts at the START of the capture, not at the end. The interval is actually 8 seconds – 1/250th of a second.
The maths is complicated and confusing.
Another example would be to look at how long an interval takes to create. You know you are capturing an event that lasts for four hours, and want to find out how long of an interval to leave for a 45-second video.
If you know the frame rate, you can work out the answer to be 13.3 seconds. The maths behind it would be 4 hours = 14,400 seconds, 14,000 seconds / 24 fps = 600 seconds. 600 seconds / 45 seconds = 13.3 seconds.
A screenshot of Lapse It time lapse calculator apps

Recommendations

There are many ways you can find and use a time-lapse calculator. There are apps for your phone, such as Framelapse for Android and Lapse It for iPhone.
Photopils has a very cool and useful time-lapse calculator which you should check out.
Come back here every time you need to use it.

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