In this installment of our new series “Rise of the Planet of the Apps” we go under the covers of Apple’s iOS 8 time-lapse feature to learn why it’s so darned good.
As the balance between hardware and software in photography and filmmaking continues to shift toward software (think: in-body lens correction or post-production workflow unimagined by most a generation ago), the lowly, built-in-but-underestimated iPhone Camera app shipping with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is the perfect example of why this is happening.
The guys over at Studio Neat (thank you!) analyzed Apple's iOS 8 time-lapse and discovered it uses the same interval between shots irrespective of duration, but then selectively deletes intermediate frames as a function of how long the time-lapse lasts.
Fascinating. The iPhone captures two frames per second without – in my experience – buffer, auto-focus, auto-exposure, or image review problems (something I cannot write about the Canon Rebel SL1 [B&H | Amazon], another favorite of mine, when doing time-lapse).
I’m still not sure about how Apple handles exposure control or their own mini-post to avoid flicker, but I’m quite sure I prefer my iPhone to more sophisticated tools for time-lapse in ordinary applications (like this vid I did for “I wanna new sit-stand desk part 2“).
The guys at Studio Neat are pretty neat. But man, so is that iPhone 6…
How Does the iOS 8 Time-lapse Feature Work?
Via Studio Neat:
In iOS 8, Apple added a new feature to the built-in Camera app: Time-lapse. The announcement at WWDC earlier this year brought an initial wave of panic to Tom and I. As the makers of a stop motion and time-lapse app (Frameographer), we thought we had just been sherlocked. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case, as the time-lapse mode Apple introduced lacks any features or options. Which raises the question: how does the time-lapse mode actually work?
In the Camera app, Time-lapse is a new mode you can toggle to (it's located furthest to the left on the mode selector). Aside from the focus and exposure options available in all modes in the Camera app, Time-lapse mode just has a single button, to start and stop a time-lapse. As such, everything about the time-lapse you are creating is completely obfuscated. How many frames per second are being captured? How fast is the video being sped up relative to real time? What is the framerate of the resulting video? These questions demand answers!
On Apple's website, they claim that in time-lapse mode, “iOS 8 does all the work, snapping photos at dynamically selected intervals.” When I first read this, I thought they were doing something super fancy, like monitoring the frame for movement and only snapping a picture when something changes. On deeper reflection, this would be a bad idea. Time-lapse videos look best when they are buttery smooth, and dynamically selecting intervals in this fashion would create a jittery and jerky video. So what does Apple mean by “dynamically selected intervals”?
I found a nice lookout in Austin with my Glif, new iPhone 6, and tripod, to shoot some examples.
This video was recorded for 5 minutes in time-lapse mode. The resulting video is 20 seconds long at 30 fps.
Read full article at Studio Neat “How Does the iOS 8 Time-lapse Feature Work?”
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(cover photo credit: snap from Studio Neat)