HDR Time Lapse – Photomatix batch processing

In a previous post, I described the basics of HDR photography.  Today’s post is dedicated to using one particular piece of software, Photomatix Pro, to generate multiple HDR images for use in a time lapse video.  I’m currently using version 3.2.

Before I begin, I should mention that Photomatix Pro retails for $99 USD and can be downloaded here, or at a 60%-75% reduced rate for students at this link.  (All prices as of Nov. 2009)  I’ve also tried the free software Qtpfsgui with mixed results.  If you can’t afford Photomatix, I’d definitely suggest it as they may have worked out the bugs by now.

Making your first HDR image

You’ve already taken a series of bracketed images and your hard drive is bulging at the seams from taking pictures in triplicate.  Your first step in compressing these images is to pick a set of images from the middle of the series and generate a single HDR image.  For this tutorial, I’m using three images but you can use up to five images for one HDR image.  My original images look like this:

Next, I click “Generate HDR image” in Photomatix, select my three photos, and accept the default settings.  The image that appears is a composite that probably looks pretty bad.

Tone mapping

Click on “Tone Mapping” and immediately your image should look better.  Play around with the different settings until you get an image that looks good.  Be careful not to overdo it or your final video could look more like a cartoon than a photograph.  My final image looks like this:

Now that you’ve decided the best settings, click on the “Presets” drop down menu and select “Save Settings…” Press “Process” if you’d like to save your new HDR image.

Batch processing

This is a bit complicated, so I’m going to break it down into steps.

1) From back at the start up screen, select “Batch Processing.”

2) On the pop-up menu, check “Generate HDR image.”

3) Check “Tone Map with Details Enhancer” and select “Settings.”  Pick the preset you just made.

4) Make sure the correct number of images to be processed is selected.  Again, I’m using three at a time.

5) Choose your source folder and output folder.  Make sure that only the bracketed photos are in your source folder.  Check “Custom Location” and create a new folder for your generated HDR jpegs so you won’t have to seperate them later when you make your video.

6) Check “Remove 32-bit HDR image after Tone Mapping” if you want to keep the HDR jpegs but delete the large HDR files.

7) Click “Naming Option…”  Select “Name by set number, positioning number:” and check “at end of filename” and “Use shortened version.”  This step is important because it makes your new HDR jpegs ordered by number and therefore easier for VirtualDub and other video making programs to process.

8) Click “Run.”

Next time I’ll use some processed HDR images to make a time lapse video and explain flickering and how to fix it.  As always, I’d love to answer any questions you might have.

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