View a 508-compliant PDF of this issue here: NICHD_Connection_2016_12.pdf

The Arts logoEver 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.

To follow along with this tutorial, you can download 8,500 microscope images (3.8GB), which were provided by Daniel Castranova from the Weinstein Lab, NICHD. These images represent the first 24 hours of a fertilized zebrafish egg developing.

The full 48 hours can be viewed here: zebrafish-timelapse.mp4 (2.2GB).

How to create a simple time-lapse movie using Photoshop:

Preparing your images (based on second half of this tutorial:

  1. Collect sequentially named image files together in a folder (with no gaps in the sequence numbers)
  2. Launch Photoshop and click Window > Timeline
    Choosing 'Timeline' from the Window menu
  3. Create new file:
    1. Click File > New File
      Creating a new file
    2. Change Document Preset to “Film and Video”
      Setting the document preset to Film and Video
    3. Change Size to “HDTV 1080P 29.97”
      Change preset size to HDTV 1080P 29.97

  4. Click “Create Video Timeline” (bottom-center of window)
    Create Video Timeline button 

  5. Set Timeline Frame Rate:

    1. Click dropdown menu in lower right hand side of window
      Dropdown menu in Timeline panel

    2. Click "Set Timeline Frame Rate" and choose 29.97 FPS

  6. Add Video Layer:

    1. Click Layer > Video Layers > New Video from File
      Adding a new video layer from a file

    2. Navigate to folder containing images (named sequentially)
      Navigate to folder containing images

    3. Choose first image in sequence (note: problems will arise if there is a gap or deviation in sequence)

  7. Prepare Layers:

    1. Click on “Layer 0” to select it and press the delete key to remove it (or right-click and select "Delete Layer")

      Delete layer 0

    2. Right click (Command on Mac or Ctrl on PC + click) on Layer 1 (the layer containing the photo sequence) and select “Convert to Smart Object” 

      Convert to smart object

  8. Transform (non-destructively)

    1. To enter transform mode, press: Command/Ctrl + T key
      Transform mode

    2. To zoom out, press: Command/Ctrl + 0 (zero) key

    3. Press and hold shift and grab corner to scale the layer to the frame 

    4. 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.

  9. Export video:

    1. Click File > Export > Render Video
      Choosing Render Video from the File menu

    2. Select folder to export to (generally not in the source images folder)

    3. Choose Adobe Media Encoder with these settings: H.264, High Quality, 1920x1080, 29.97 fps, progressive, 1.0
      Adobe Media Encoder settings, described previously

    4. Click “Render” and then view resulting video