I decided to use one of No. 2 Pen‘s blog ideas for February and define some important terms that I didn’t know when I started time-lapse. Hopefully these definitions can help you get ahead of the learning curve and start understanding what time-lapse photographers are talking about. Some of the terms are particular to time-lapse. Others are useful in all digital photography but are used more frequently with time-lapse.
No. 2 Pen also suggested a post about Groundhog Day. I think this could be an interesting prompt for a time-lapse video if you base it on the Bill Murray movie. Maybe a month’s worth of sunsets or daily commutes in different weather conditions.
Time-Lapse Jargon Defined
Moco – Short for “motion control,” which involves using a machine to slowly move a camera between shots.
Intervalometer – A fancy word for a timer that attaches to your camera. See “Everything You Need to Know about Intervalometers.”
Dragging the Shutter – A technique of taking long exposures to avoid closing the shutter for too long between shots. This often adds motion blur to avoid choppiness.
Shooting Wide Open – Adjusting your aperture to the widest setting. There are several reasons you might want to do this, such as wanting more light, limiting your depth of field, avoiding a star burst effect on lights, or minimizing flicker in the final video.
ND Filter – Short for “Neutral Density Filter.” In theory, this filter lets you limit the amount of light hitting your sensor without changing any colors. ND filters are often used to “drag the shutter” in bright conditions.
HDR – Short for “High Dynamic Range.” This technique merges multiple exposures in order to show more detail than what’s available in a single shot. When done lightly, the technique is hardly noticeable. When overdone, the final photo can look garish and cartoon-like.
Tilt-Shift – Another photography effect often used in time-lapse. Tilt-shift limits focus to a small section of a photograph and can often make the subject look like it was photographed in macro.
1080p – Stands for 1920 x 1080 progressive scan, the current standard of HDTV.
Telescope mount (aka Azimuth mount) – Originally used to automatically track celestial objects across the sky, telescope mounts also work to slowly rotate a camera during a shoot.
Stepper motor – A type of motor that divides rotation into intervals, or steps. The advantage of this is movement can be precisely programmed and controlled.
Arduino – A cheap microcontroller that can be used with stepper motors.
Hyperlapse – A new name for creating a stop motion video or time-lapse by walking and taking pictures of a fixed subject.
CHDK – Short for “Canon Hack Development Kit.” This software works with many Canon Powershots and expands existing capabilities.