The Holy Grail Of Timelapse

Now that you know how to get started with timelapse photography, it's time to move on to the next challenge.

A Holy Grail timelapse is a timelapse where you go from day to night or from night to day.

It’s called that because it used to be “the holy grail of timelapse photography”.

After you complete this tutorial you’ll see it's really not that difficult anymore.

For this tutorial, I'll show you how to capture and edit a sunset. 

Here's what you'll learn today:

  • How to shoot a holy grail timelapse
  • How to color grade the timelapse
  • How to deflicker the timelapse
  • How to render the video file

1. How to shoot a holy grail timelapse

Find yourself a nice place to shoot from, ideally away from people.

If you're in a popular spot, beware of people running into your shot.

For some reason, cameras on tripods always attract people, who then come over to have a look at what you're doing.

  • Make sure you’re shooting RAW files.
  • Set your camera to Manual mode.
  • Disable Auto Focus, Image Review, and Image Stabilisation.
  • Dial in your exposure and focus.
  • Set a fixed white balance like daylight.
  • Set a 6-second shooting interval, or more.
  • Start shooting, and keep an eye out on your histogram.
  • While the light changes let your exposure slowly drop down to -1 EV. When the exposure goes lower, add 1/3rd of a stop of light by carefully adjusting your shutter speed.
  • Monitor the histogram and keep adjusting the exposure until the light stops changing.
  • Make sure you do not move the camera while adjusting exposure settings.
  • Keep shooting until the light stops changing.

2. Editing and deflickering a holy grail timelapse in DaVinci Resolve

Firstly you need to turn your RAW image sequence into a DNG sequence, as you learned in the first tutorial here. You will also need DaVinci Resolve, a free video editor which you can download here.

  • Open DaVinci Resolve and drag your DNG folder into the media library.
  • Right-click the imported sequence and create a timeline from it. 
  • Open the timeline and adjust the size of your shot to fit the frame using the Zoom parameter.
  • With the clip in the timeline selected, go to the Color tab.
  • Open the Camera Raw panel and set the Decode option to Clip.
  • Using the sliders, add a primary color grade to the DNG sequence so that it looks good for the day and sunset period of the sequence.
  • Then go back to the timeline and duplicate the clip on top of itself.
  • Drag the start of the top clip to where you want the white balance to start changing.
  • Then go back to the camera raw panel and adjust your white balance as needed.
  • In the timeline, use the opacity handle of the top clip to crossfade from the bottom clip with the first white balance, to the top clip with the final white balance.
  • Select both clips in the timeline and create a compound clip.
  • Go back to the Colour workspace and on the first Node you are going to drag the Color Stabiliser effect.
  • On the first frame of the clip, click the Live Region Analysis button.
  • Set the mode to Balance and Brightness and deselect Stabilize White Balance.
  • Set Stabilize to Levels and Contrast and drag the low-level and high-level slider to a point where your footage looks good.
  • You can use the histogram as an extra visual aid.
  • Depending on your clip, this might be all you need to do. 
  • But sometimes you still have some flickering, if that’s the case you can add an extra serial node and apply the deflicker effect and set it to timelapse.
  • Add an extra serial node for further color grading if you want and then go to the Deliver space and render out your video with a codec like Apple Prores 422 HQ.

That was a lot of text, which might be hard to follow.

To make things easier for you I've created the below video which is much easier to follow.

And now you know how to shoot and edit a holy grail timelapse video!

Up next is the captivating hyperlapse technique, which is like flying through time and space using timelapse photography.

Want to skip the free tutorials and go straight to the good stuff?

Check out The Ultimate Timelapse Course.

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