Using VirtualDub for Time-Lapse



VDub blank

Bam! Open VirtualDub and you’re immediately hit with one of the most desolate user interfaces around.  There’s no flashy logo or timeline, just a wall of gray.  You’d be forgiven for thinking you made a mistake.  But if you can get past the stark user interface, VirtualDub offers a highly functional and free way to create time-lapse videos.

What is VirtualDub?

VirtualDub is a GNU General Public License video editor.  Basically, it’s an open source piece of software with plenty of free third-party filters available on the web.  For our purposes, it’s also an excellent way to create time-lapse videos.  While my recent post Using Windows Movie Maker for Time-Lapse showed how to make a time-lapse video using software already installed on most PCs, it was a bit of a jury-rigged solution.  VirtualDub is actually intended for time-lapse, among many other things.  The program can be overwhelming in its simplicity so today’s tutorial will stick to the very basics of creating a time lapse-video.

Download VirtualDub

The VirtualDub software can be found at  After downloading, install the software onto your computer.

Arranging Your Pictures

Unlike Windows Movie Maker, VirtualDub requires the photos used for a time-lapse be in their own folder and numbered sequentially without gaps between number (i.e. 2,3,4 works but 1,3,5 doesn’t).  The easiest way to do this is to select all files, right click, and choose “Rename.”  It doesn’t matter what the beginning number is as long as the rest follow in order.  If you’re like me and take snapshots as well as time-lapse sequences on the same memory card, make sure you seperate them before proceeding.

Once your photos are separated, go to “File>Open video file…” and select the first photo in the series.  Make sure “Automatically load linked segments” is checked at the bottom of the import window.

VDub open video

You should now see a large, distorted image of your first photo.  Right click and choose 25% viewing size and then resize the window next to it.  The photos might still look distorted because the resizing filter hasn’t yet been applied.  The left window is the input file and the right is the output file.

Frame Rate

The first adjustment we’ll make is to the frame rate.  For Windows Movie Maker, we used a 16fps frame rate because we had to use a trick in order to get a working time-lapse.  While 16fps is usually fast enough to create persistence of motion, 24fps is the movie standard as well as the television standard in North America.  Europe uses just under 30fps 24fps works better, which is why it’s the movie standard.  The American NTSC frame rate is 30fps while European PAL is 25fps (Thanks to Dominic for the correction).

In VirtualDub, go to “Video>Frame rate…” and select “Change frame rate to (fps):”  Change the frame rate to 24 and click “Ok.”  This might be too fast or too slow for you, so play around until you find a rate that works.


The photos you imported are probably bigger than the final video you want, so we’ll have to resize the output.

Go to “Video>Filters…” and click “Add.”  Find the “resize” filter and click “Ok.”  Because you’ve already imported your photos, the filter knows the image dimension and aspect ratio.

VDub resize filter

At the top of the window, select “Absolute (pixels).”  The pixel size of a modern HDTV is 1920×1080.  This size is called 1080i or 1080p depending on whether the image is interlaced or progressive scan, but that doesn’t matter at this stage.  What matters is the maximum resolution of a TV screen is 1920×1080 so your video won’t gain anything by being larger than this.

Change the second number of absolute pixels to 1080.  If you shoot in 16:9 ratio, the first number should now read 1920.  If you shoot in the photographic standard 4:3 ratio, the first number should read 1440.  Click “Ok” to close the filter details and then click “Ok” again to close the filter list.


We’re going to save the final video as an avi. file, so we’ll need to use compression to prevent the video from becoming unwieldy.

Go to “Video>Compression…”  Here you’ll see a list of codecs.  You might have different codecs installed on your system than mine but many people will have the Divx or Xvid codec.  I use the Xvid codec; not for any particular reason.


Now all the basic settings have been adjusted, you can either render your video or watch a preview.

At the bottom of the screen is a series of small buttons.  The first is a stop button, followed by a play button with a little “I,” and a play button with a little “O.”  These are the input and output play buttons.  Click on the output play button and your video should start rendering in the output window.

VDub preview

Saving Your File

To save, simply select “File>Save as AVI…” and VirtualDub will do the rest.  You can upload this file type directly to websites such as youtube or edit it further in another program.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is just a basic tutorial meant to get you started without any unnecessary complications.  I’ll go into more detail in future posts.

If you liked this tutorial, check out another VDub tutorial about video flicker or click one of the boxes on the slider to the left to share this post.

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67 thoughts on “Using VirtualDub for Time-Lapse

  1. WOW!! Thankyou so much! Just what i was looking for. I was already considering buying a program.

    Thanks again for the great tutorial =D

    1. I’m glad I could help. I’ll be on writing hiatus for a few more months, but let me know if you have any questions. Good luck!

  2. Thanks! That was great – I just used your walkthrough to make my first-ever timelapse. Once I realized that “sequential” really means sequential and not just “next one is a higher number” (I’m using a Droid X, and the app numbers the files with the milliseconds, I think) then everything went VERY smoothly! This is just what I was looking for, thanks so much!

    1. Thanks Jen. I’m glad it helped. VDub lacks some of the polished UI of other software, but it’s a great tool once you take the time to learn its quirks.

      Feel free to link to your first video, if you’ve posted it.

  3. Very nice and clear tutorial. Thanks a lot. :) Downloaded VirtualDub a few minutes back and couldn’t get it to create a time-lapse video since my image filenames were based on time stamps. Thanks for the renaming trick as well. Very convenient that way. :)

  4. Great tutorial. It worked like a charm. I used it for my first time lapse and it worked as you described. I need to do some more tweaking with the exposure, white balance and such, but overall it was a cool experience. The only thing I would add is that when you go to select thye codec to use, I used the Microsoft Video 1 codec and it works perfectly. Not sure what the other choices are but I didn’t try any of those. Anyway, I can’t wait to do my next time lapse. You should do some VirtualDub tutorials maybe on advanced features. Thanks.

    1. I have to admit I don’t know too much about codecs. I use the xvid codec in VDub because I’ve heard it’s a “lossless codec” and should maintain a higher quality than some of the “lossy” codecs. It also depends where you want to post your video. Some sites work better with certain codecs.

      I’m planning on doing another VDub tutorial soon. I’m putting the finishing touches on some test videos I’ve been working on over the last month. Thanks for reading.

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    1. I’ve used an older version of Windows Movie Maker to make some really simple pans. I’d assume most of the high-end editing suites have a pan function. One reader sent me a link to two videos he made. The first is without panning and the second has panning made with Javascript and a Photoshop action. I’m not sure exactly how he did it but you might try asking him.

  9. WRONG!:
    “24fps is the movie standard as well as the television standard in North America. Europe uses just under 30fps.”

    PAL vs. NTSC
    In most cases, NTSC is used with a fps of 60i or 30p, so theoretically offers very slightly smoother motion than PAL, which is generally used with 50i or 25p. The difference is negligible, however, and artefacts caused by frame rate conversion required when video has been recorded at the wrong rate for the display are more severe.
    NTSC receivers have a tint control to perform colour correction manually. If this is not adjusted correctly, the colours may be faulty. The PAL standard automatically cancels hue errors by phase reversal, so a tint control is unnecessary. Chrominance phase errors in the PAL system are cancelled out using a 1H delay line resulting in lower saturation, which is much less noticeable to the eye than NTSC hue errors.
    However, the alternation of colour information — Hanover bars — can lead to picture grain on pictures with extreme phase errors even in PAL systems, if decoder circuits are misaligned or use the simplified decoders of early designs (typically to overcome royalty restrictions). In most cases such extreme phase shifts do not occur. This effect will usually be observed when the transmission path is poor, typically in built up areas or where the terrain is unfavourable. The effect is more noticeable on UHF than VHF signals as VHF signals tend to be more robust.
    In the early 1970s some Japanese set manufacturers developed decoding systems to avoid paying royalties to Telefunken. The Telefunken license covered any decoding method that relied on the alternating subcarrier phase to reduce phase errors. This included very basic PAL decoders that relied on the human eye to average out the odd/even line phase errors. One solution was to use a 1H delay line to allow decoding of only the odd or even lines. For example, the chrominance on odd lines would be switched directly through to the decoder and also be stored in the delay line. Then, on even lines, the stored odd line would be decoded again. This method effectively converted PAL to NTSC. Such systems suffered hue errors and other problems inherent in NTSC and required the addition of a manual hue control.
    PAL and NTSC have slightly divergent colour spaces, but the colour decoder differences here are ignored.

    1. Thanks for the correction. I can’t believe I missed that. Film = 24fps, NTSC = 30fps, and PAL = 25fps (as noted in your reply). There’s such a thing as NTSC 1080p24, but it’s not broadcast standard. I’ll correct the post.

      Here’s the article Dominic quoted for those who might be interested:

  10. Hiya, this was soo helpful thanks :) ive started getting a “virtualdub error” saying “jpeg ecoder: huffman decoding eror” :/ can anyone help me with this? x

    1. I’ve gotten the same error before but can’t say why. I’ll bet this only happens with one set of photos you’re trying to compile. My best suggestion is to re-edit and crop the photos into the right size before importing them to VirtualDub. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

    2. First, thank you for this wonderful article. It helped me get up and running quickly on my time-lapse project.

      Next, I did get that Huffman decoding error, too, no matter what I did. Finally, under “video” I selected “Scan video screen for errors” and it found 39 bad files (out of over a thousand) that it masked. No Huffman errors after that.

      Your mileage may vary, but try it – it might work for you.

        1. Hey bud

          I just tried following your easy tutorial, but got two errors!

          First one – “xvidcore.dll not found!”

          Then right after that – “Cannot start video compression: an unknown error occurred (may be corrupt data) error code -100)

          Any ideas? I’m not an error code wiz at all!

          1. Hmm… I’d suggest reinstalling the xvid codec for the first error. Maybe a .dll file is missing or corrupt. Not sure. You could always go with a different codec when you compress as a temporary solution.

            The second error sounds like it’s tied to the xvid codec or at least the compression process. Hopefully the xvid reinstall will fix this too. I’m not a codec expert by any definition, so maybe another reader can help if this doesn’t work.

    1. It’s been a while but I think you look for the application file named “VirtualDub” and double click to run. That should be it.

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  12. Thanks for the tutorial. It has helped. However I am having trouble getting smooth video.I am using about 1000 large images from my Canon T3. The images are 4272×2848 from the camera. My install is straight from the down load with out any add ons. I did run an exe which I believe installed some DLLs.

  13. I should have said. I tried videos with full resolution and 1080 resolution. I tried 30 FPS and 24 FPS. The results were the same. The video plays smoothly but in bursts and jumps. I am playing them with VLC. The files are huge at 19 GB. They play with the same bursts and jumps in Windows Media player too.

    1. The video isn’t playing well because it’s uncompressed and too big. When you export the video from VDub, select a compression codec from the top menu or download one of the popular codec packs such as Xvid.

  14. though done but it shows when when it is supposed to play.VLC does not support the audio or video format \”IV41\”. Unfortunately there is no way for you to fix this.any help

    1. Do you have to use that extension or can you try something else? It sounds like VLC doesn’t support that codec. Are you trying to save as an AVI file?

    1. Thanks for sharing your video, Forrest. I’m glad you find this site helpful. I’ll consider doing a tutorial on some of the other VDub filters.

  15. Thanks!I didn\\\’t even started using VDub to produce a time lapse, but from I read, I\\\’m sure it works.I already know VDub for other purposes and it is one of the best free video tools I know.I\\\’m a Linux user and fan, but when it comes to multimedia, they still didn\\\’t produced simple and superb things like VDub, so, here I am in this Windows session, just because of it.Thanks once again for the tuto.

    1. That’s odd. How high was the frame rate? There’s not much use going above 30 fps. If that’s not fast enough, you’re probably better decimating the frames instead of trying to use all of them.

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