Secret-Spire-MW.jpg

Enormous Night Timelapse Workflow Tutorial by Dustin Farrell

In 5D, 5D2, 5D3, 6D, Magic Lantern, Other, Photography, Software, Training, Video by Dustin Farrell19 Comments

planetMitch note: Dustin’s previous tutorial on timelapse (“How to create an HDR Timelapse“) was a huge draw and still gets plenty of views every day on planet5D – we’re incredibly thrilled to have Dustin premiering his newest tutorial here!

Hello again fellow timelapse nerds.

Probably the most common question, email, Vimeo message, Facebook message, tweet, or Instagram comment I get is one asking me about my star and Milky Way timelapse clips. So, I finally caved and put together an enormous tutorial video that should solve most of the mystery.

Now leave me alone! :)

High ISO night photography can be an unwieldy beast. The noise is unsightly but at least motionless.

High ISO timelapse noise isn’t so kind, creating a grainy mess when put into motion.

And noise is only ONE of the difficulties in creating a solid night timelapse video.

In my tutorial video below I go into most of the obstacles that get in your way when shooting in the dark and tell you some of the solutions that have been learned through hundreds of hours of shooting while you were asleep. Here and here is the proof.

Please use the comment area below to ask me any questions. I will answer them.

Secret Spire - photo by Dustin Farrell

Secret Spire – photo by Dustin Farrell

Timelapse tips

Here are a few things not mentioned in the video that you should pay special attention to when trying to shoot the starry skies.

  • Exposure times over 30 seconds will begin to result in significant star trails. You can mask these trails by shooting with wider lenses. Keep your exposures at 30 seconds or below if you plan on shooting with 24mm or more.
  • You will likely be shooting with a wide aperture so focus is critical. Triple-check your focus.
  • Composition can be difficult in the dark. You must take some test photos first. To frame your shot crank your ISO up as high as it will go and use all of your available aperture. This will allow you shorter exposure times while you search for your frame. Yes, I just saved you several minutes of your life.
  • A hot camera sensor produces more noise. Try to take it easy on your camera while setting up. Sometimes I turn my camera off for a few minutes before I begin the timelapse. A battery powered fan is not a bad idea.
  • Check your histogram. If your levels are buried to the left then you need more exposure. If you have no more exposure, go get a better camera and/or faster lens.
  • Drive AWAY from the city. Duh.
     
  RELATED: “Getting rid of flicker in timelapse – The Lens Twist Method by Dustin Farrell  
     

I hope you enjoy the video.

My on-camera part was all shot in Magic Lantern raw on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

I primarily use Adobe After Effects as well as Neat Video plugin.

Tweetable Quote:

     
  Tweet:   Tweet: “Drive AWAY from the city. Duh.” Just one of the tips from @DustinFarrell in his enormous time-lapse tutorial ctt.ec/N7D64+

 
     

A timelapse workshop!

If you are interested in further opportunities for instruction, I am holding my first timelapse workshop this April 26th. Click here for all of the details. Only a few spots remain.

Night Sky Timelapse Tutorial by Dustin Farrell 

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)



15 comments
holtden
holtden

hi from France ,here too ,we love your job man,and massive thanks for your tutorial.I've plan to buy a new camera ,not only for pictures ,but also for movies ,slow motion and of course ,time lapse ,all about mountains,and my choise is stoped at the moment on the gh4 panasonic whith a Metabones speed booster , because it could fit most of the things i wish i could do ,especially working the video in 4k in post before downgrading to 1080...but i'm actually very scared about the small sensor 4/3 and it ability to shout stars corectly enouth ,even with a speed booster .

have you ever  looked at it ,or have an idea of how this camera could shout at night skies ?

thanks . Denis

GustavoRuviaro
GustavoRuviaro

HI! Beautiful work! How time between a photo and another? 

David A.
David A.

Thanks for the tutorial. I have wanted to do a timelapse in my area of the northern lights here in the UP of Michigan. It looks great, but I wanted to see a timelapse of it, and see the different times flow together. This was cool though and I hope it helps me get my timelapse going.

Tom Maher
Tom Maher

Hey Dustin - thank you so much for this tutorial. I've been a fan of your work for about 2 years now and I view it often for inspiration. I applied this workflow to an old astro TL I shot about 2 years ago. Still had the RAW files - shot on a 5DII with a 16mm-35mm canon 2.8L series. I knew the files were good but I was always a little disappointed with my results - until now. Your workflow really made the difference and except for the location I can honestly say that my work is at the level I always hoped it would be!

Dustin Farrell
Dustin Farrell

Wow! Mind if I quote you for my sales brochure? :) So glad to hear of your success.

Gautam
Gautam

Hi Dustin, Great walkthrough of your workflow.. enjoyed and very helpful! :) Question.. what are you using to light your timelapses? Thanks a bunch!

Dustin Farrell
Dustin Farrell

Either a Lite Panel 1x1 LED or a battery powered LED camping lantern. Or both.

Brian Miller
Brian Miller

Great tutorial Dustin! Do more. Quick question . . . when shooting those long exposures with high ISO's in the 5D3, do you "enable" or "disable" Long Exposure Noise Reduction in camera? My guess would be "NO" because that adds so much more time to write to the card and when doing nighttime time-lapse, you may not have enough capture time between frames, right? Also, since your using the Neat Video plugin during post, that would be a better option than trying to do this in-camera, yes? Finally, it would be really great if you could do some in-depth tutorials on all those RAW + After Effects settings and color grading in post. You had to really speed through all those settings in this video due to time restraints. That's where I need help more than anything else. Maybe put an advanced course together on DVD and offer it for sale? Just a thought . . . Thanks - and keep these great tutorials coming!

Dustin Farrell
Dustin Farrell

Thanks Brian! I need an assistant :) LENR only affects JPEGs. It has no affect on raw photos. See above comment about grading. Good luck!

Greg Nuspel
Greg Nuspel

Wow I would love to see more on the post and grading. Consider putting out a DVD, I know I'd be interested in it.

Dustin Farrell
Dustin Farrell

Grading is so subjective though. And to tell you the truth my grading is very elementary. I mostly just move some curves around and tweak some Magic Bullet Looks presets. Why would you want to buy a DVD when I give away everything for free? :)

Leandro
Leandro

Thank you for the tutorial, Dustin! I've been using a similar workflow, keeping all my raw files and changing them when needed through Lightroom (I like it better to develop and I also like to keep a backup of my changes on the catalog). I've been also using Neat Video for a while but I keep struggling with noise with my old sequences that were shot using a crop sensor camera. You mentioned the white paper thing, but I guess you meant using the calibration target? I used that in the past but I ended up creating my own profile for each shot. Anyway, here's a quick question for you. I noticed you applied the noise reduction plugin as a last step to your workflow, just the opposite of what Neat Video says on their tutorials. I remember I read on their website that you should do that first, then do all the color grading. My question is, why do you do that? Is that a better approach? Now I'm going to test that! Thanks!

simva4040
simva4040

@holtden I'd like to see an answer on the GH4 as well. It can do so much but can it do night time photography? A really good question.

Dustin Farrell
Dustin Farrell

A calibration target. Yeah. That's it :) I can't remember actually. It is something I remember seeing in a tutorial of theirs. I always forget to do it though. I do it last because it is so processor intensive. It doesn't really make sense to do it first because of the change to the noise profile that will happen as you grade. Funny that they say that. Anyway, not sure if my method is the best/good/correct but I'm digging my results. However, now I'm gonna test applying the effect first :)

holtden
holtden

@Dustin Farrell 

hi from France ,here too ,we love your job man,and massive thanks for your tutorial.I've plan to buy a new camera ,not only for pictures ,but also for movies ,slow motion and of course ,time lapse ,all about mountains,and my choise is stoped at the moment on the gh4 panasonic whith a Metabones speed booster , because it could fit most of the things i wish i could do ,especially working the video in 4k in post before downgrading to 1080...but i'm actually very scared about the small sensor 4/3 and it abillity to shout stars correctly enouth ,even with a speed booster .

have you ever  looked at it ,or have an idea of how this camera could shout at night skies ?

thanks . Denis