By Jeremy Swan
Ever wanted to control time like Marvel Comics’ Dr. Strange? While you can’t go back in time (creating alternate universes in the process), you can control time in extraordinary ways with data images.
Time-lapse and slow motion are extremely useful techniques for understanding the world around us and under the microscope. High-speed photography is often used to create slow motion effects, which is useful for understanding the mechanics of motility. For example, the Horse in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge, ca. 1886, helped usher in an era of animation and walk cycles. Or we better understand the zebrafish startle response from slow motion videos from the Burgess lab. Time-lapse, on the other hand, appears to speed up time—such as in Fertilization and Development of the Sea Urchin Egg by Julius Ries, an early time-lapse microcinematographic film from 1907.
These age-old techniques are easier than ever to create and distribute. The next few articles in “The Arts” column will provide several approaches to enable you to directly control time (in video)!
One straightforward approach involves the use of Photoshop, which is a staple application for photographers and also fairly common in imaging circles. There has been a proliferation of specialized, simple apps for capturing and assembling time lapses for photographers using digital single lens reflex cameras (SLRs), mobile phones, or connected computers. Many of these are free, inexpensive, or easy to use but also have limited capabilities and complexity, such as cropping, image manipulation, export dimensions and format. Here, we will focus for now on using Photoshop to create movies, which gives you a good deal of control and flexibility.
How to create a simple time-lapse movie using Photoshop:
Preparing your images (based on second half of this tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZHXXsZ4K8g):
- Collect sequentially named image files together in a folder (with no gaps in the sequence numbers)
- Launch Photoshop and click Window > Timeline
- Create new file:
Set Timeline Framerate:
Click "Set Timeline Frame Rate" and choose 29.97 FPS
Add Video Layer:
To zoom out, press: Command/Ctrl + 0 (zero) key
Press and hold shift and grab corner to scale the layer to the frame
Decide whether to crop part of the image in order to accommodate the frame size. If part of the frame is left empty, that portion will be rendered as black.
Select folder to export to (generally not in the source images folder)
Click “Render” and then view resulting video