How To Shoot Lightpainting Timelapse - TF FotoVideo Blog

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06.12.2014

How To Shoot Lightpainting Timelapse

What is a Lightpainting Timelapse?

Lightpainting Timelapses combine drawing colorful lines into an image with the fast and interesting movement of Timelapse videos. In a Lightpainting video you can watch the "light lines" drawed by moving lights in a dark scene growing with the time. All lights that are moving through your video pull a bright line behind them.
Lightpainting photos are awesome - but Lightpainting videos let you watch the light-lines growing! While Lightpainting photos "compress" the happenings of a timerange into one single image, Lightpainting videos capture each moment separately. This allows a wide range of creative editing possibilities!

What do I need to shoot Lightpainting videos?

The Basic Workflow: Lightpainting Video at normal speed

Taking the footage
Mount your camera on the tripod. Possible settings:

Now start recording your scene. The camera mustn't move while shooting!

Post Processing
possible settings for post processing in OEV

possible settings for post processing in OEV

When you now play this image sequence video you can watch the result! The Lightpainting effect should be visible.

The Advanced Workflow: Lightpainting with Timelapse speed

Here are some tips and additions to the basic workflow to improve your Lightpainting Timelapse:

Taking the footage

To make a Timelapse instead of normal speed video you just have to set a lower framerate (e.g. 0.5fps). When afterwards playing back this at 25fps, your scene moves 50 times faster as usual.
I use a Canon DSLR running with Magic Lantern Firmware. Why? Remember the basic workflow. I said you should set the exposure time as close to 1/25s as possible. Mathematically (and framerate independent) we could say: the product framerate * exposure time should be as close to 1 as possible. If it is 1, I call it "gap-less recording". Because when this product is smaller than 1 (my Canon can shoot at maximum with 1/33s at 25fps => 1/33 *25 = 0.76), your camera does not record every moment of your scene. It takes an 1/33s long image 25 times per seconds -> between each frame the camera waits 0.0096 seconds. Sounds not much, but results in gaps in the light lines in the final video.
Magic Lantern has two main advantages when shooting Lightpainting timelapse:

screenshot of my Canon DSLR running Magic Lantern firmware: my favorite settings

screenshot of my Canon DSLR running Magic Lantern firmware: my favorite settings

coming to a conclusion about Magic Lantern (I could write about lots of other awesome features as well...):
Post Processing

Do some brightness corrections before processing in OEV. I am still experimenting with how to get the most out of my OEV software. But I think the most important is to have a clear separation between lights and other objects/background. So what I usually do in Adobe Premiere before processing the footage in OEV, is some color corrections. Lights should not be to bright, but clearly brighter than everything else in the image.

If you launched the OEV software, maybe you recognized that there 4 modes can be selected. I recommend you to try the mode Special Video as well. What it does: The light lines get a maximum length. When selecting Special Video you have to set the value addition amount as well. This defines how long the lines should be (in frames). E.g. setting an addition amount of 50, in each image lines will be created out of the last 50 frames. This is nice for longer scenes with multiple fast moving objects, because in the Video mode the image gets brighter and brighter with the time, until it is completely bright and you can't see anything. However in Special Video mode each light line ends after a certain time and there is space for new ones.
You can see some samples for each mode on the OEV description website. (When using Special Video mode don't wonder if there doesn't happen anything in OEV after starting, this mode needs a lot of time (higher addition amount -> more time). Maybe in the future I will do some performance improvements to this mode.)

That's it!

There are a lot more things you can do with Lightpainting video than I described here. I am always about to develop new workflows for new result effects. I think in addition with some advanced Adobe After Effects knowledge might be possible a lot.
If you tried this and created some Lightpainting video or Timelapse, it was great if you could let me know an send me your YouTube link! I'm always interested in what you can do with this tool or workflow! So if you have any questions, ideas, bugs, or great results feel free to contact me! info@tf-fotovideo.de