HDR Time Lapse – Photomatix batch processing

HDR Capture slide

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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12 thoughts on “HDR Time Lapse – Photomatix batch processing

  1. Please help. When i load a saved preset the outputted jpeg does not come out looking like the single photo i prosessed and save the reset from?? It is killing me!



    1. Hi Max,

      I don’t know if I fully understand the question. Could you give us a brief rundown of your workflow? Some presets will look different when applied to different photos.

      1. Hi Owen, thanks for coming back to me, here is run down of my work flow.

        I am trying to redo some old panoramic shots from the RAW files before they were stitched. These are not photos taken are 3 different exposures but RAW files saved at different exposures through Adobe RAW.

        1. Select all photos in adobe RAW
        2. Save files at three different exposers (-2, 0 , +2). So in a folder I now have all 3 copies of each file.
        3. Open Photmatix and click on “Load Bracketed Photos”
        4. Select 3 photos from the HDR file one from each exposure.
        5. Let Photomatix process the file and then I work at the photo with the various Photomatix settings till I am happy with it.
        6. On the left handside beside the “Preset” go to the drop down menu and go to “Save Preset”
        7. I save the preset as a xmp.file
        8. Save the photo as a Jpg and check it.
        9. Close out of the photo and click on “Batch Bracket Photos”
        10. I select “Merge into 32 HDR File”
        11. I Select “Tone Map with Detail Enhancer” and click “Settings” beside this
        12. Beside “Presets” I go to “Load Preset..” and select the xmp.file that I saved from the single photo that I completed HDR on earlier.
        13. In the source box I select the folder that contains all me files that I want to process with the same settings.
        14. I choose where to save and hit “Run”

        When I get the Batch Processed files they are heavy HDR’ed (if that is a word) and do not have the same settings as the single file that I previously processed.

        Thanks very much in advance as this is driving me mad


        1. I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring your question but I keep having the same problem you mentioned and I can’t figure out the answer. I’ll try again in a day or two.

          My best guess is there’s some problem with how Photomatix interprets faux HDR (different exposures made from single RAW files). I’m not sure why this is.

          Have you considered working directly from RAW files in Photomatix? I did that for a commissioned clip last spring but used the default setting instead of adjusting it on my own. The results came out pretty good. You can also process the original RAW files using your preset. The result is different than what you want but a lot closer than what you’re probably getting.

          I’ll try to update this if I figure out the answer this week.

          1. Owen, when I do the batch HDR, it saved them all as .HDR files which QT can not read, did I do something wrong or is there one more step I need to take. When I tried to open them in Photoshop, they didn’t look at all like the images I wanted, so Im guessing Photomatix is the only one that can read them until they are saved to .JPG form or something? I guess my question is how to batch save them to a .jpg form or something QT can read. Thanks!

          2. I think the problem is in the “Destination” frame of the batch processing pop up window. After you select “Jpeg” from the drop down menu, check “Remove 32-bit HDR file after Tone Mapping.” If you don’t check this box, your output folder should have a jpeg and HDR file for every photo. Photoshop won’t be able to read the HDR files if you import everything. Let me know if this doesn’t work.

  2. It is about the ghost removal funtion.When loading a singel set of bracketed pics you normally start without de-ghosting.when doing in batch, I osmetimes tick this mark, in case e.g. the leaves of the tree have moved with a little wind etc.Last time I hat this ticked for photos in a room, it was not necessary .. anyhow . it took me long find, that without de-ghosting in Batch the rendering results are similiar between single set and batching.Uuuuhps

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