Creating a Timelapse Animation Part 2 of 2


Hopefully you’ve already read Part 1 of this column where we showed how to get started with a timelapse animation: choosing exposures, frame rates, etc. Now we’ll get to the good stuff and show several techniques for animating the resulting star shots.

Simple Timelapse – Picasa Movie Maker Option

To do a simple animation using Picasa (free tool from Google) here is how you go about it. Organize all of your identically sized and processed frames into either a single folder or a Picasa Album.

Illustration 1: Picasa with a set of images captured in an Album. Would work the same if a directory were used.

Select the Album (or directory) and click the Movie option.  You’ll get a default title screen.

Illustration 2: The Movie Creation Option of Picasa

Click the “Movie” tab, and change the transition style to “Time Lapse”. Set the slider to 1/10th Sec (or shorter if you wish) and click “Create Movie”.  After a short while you might have something like this:

Now that was simple!

Getting More Advanced – Titling, Credits, and Sound

The Titling and “Slide” options of Picasa are rather limited, so I prefer to add my own titling.  Here’s how:

  1. If still in “Movie” mode select “Clips” then “Get More” which returns you to the “Library” mode.
  2. Select the slide to use for your Title – e.g. the first, last, a composite, or something altogether different. Make sure it’s the same size as your time lapse.  I usually use the first or last slide and use “File -> Save a Copy”.
  3. Load the desired slide.
  4. Use the Text Tool in Picasa to add the text you like sized, angled and colored as you please.
  5. You can animate the title by changing colors, and other effects, but don’t go overboard just yet – as this is not a very efficient way to create titles!
  6. Duplicate the title slide “File -> Save a Copy”.  For each second you want the text to appear you’ll need to have enough frames. So, for example for a 1 second appearance at 1/10th of  a second duration, you need 10 frames.
  7. NOTE: If you want to make the text appear for 5 seconds, you don’t need to make 50 frames, you can make 10 or fewer and reuse them (see step 9 below).
  8. In this example I used the first frame, added my text and saved it 6 times (File -> Save a Copy).
  9. I selected the 6 identical title frames, and clicked “Back to Movie Maker” at the bottom.
  10. I made sure the movie was at the beginning by dragging the slider beneath the window all the way to the left.
  11. Next I drag my “clips” onto the beginning of the movie.
  12. If I need more title frames, I select “Get More”, reselect the same slides and repeat step 11 until happy.
  13. Credits/closing titling can be done the same way as the titles.

After adding credits, and a “The End” (animated in color!) final slide set my movie now looks like this:

Oh, and I added music too. Any MP3 file should work. Just use the “Audio Track” option to load it.  If you want to start the music at a particular point and do fade in, fade out, or cross fade different audio tracks Picasa is not the tool for you.

NOTE: When you add an audio track, be careful that you also have the “Truncate Audio” selected or Picasa will want to extend your movie for the length of the song. You might also need to change the slide duration to your desired speed. Picasa Movie Maker has a bug where it sometimes resets the speed to 24 frames a second (as it did above – did you notice how much faster the newer version was?!)

Getting Even Fancier

What if you want to do something really cool like have the star trails “grow” (or shrink)? Well we’ve got you covered there, too!  Hopefully you’re already familiar with the StarCircleAcademy Stacking Action – if not, give this a read.  We don’t tell you in that blog article, but there is an option available in the Stacking Action (Version 5) to “Stack in LIGHTEN mode creating intermediates“. What that does is super cool. Each time it adds a new frame to the stack, it saves the current results with a unique file name. The final frame is the same as the “Load and Stack in LIGHTEN mode” but every frame along the way is squirreled away where you specify. You can then animate those just as described above. Here is a simple example:

A more interesting example shows what happens when I start the animation near the middle. I then stack ten frames at a time (using Image Stacker) and animate them. I then stack the stacks of 10 into stacks of 50 (which makes it look like it’s moving faster) and finally I then repeat all the frames from beginning to end. It LOOKS like the movie is getting brighter but what is really happening is you are seeing the moon rise!

For another similar example, take a look at this. Be patient though as the good part is toward the end.

If you have only a few frames, you can use other modes to create your timelapse, for example this one uses “cut” mode with photos every 1 second.

If you want to go even farther, there are still more free tools that you can use, like Windows Live Movie.  With Windows Live Movie you can do more advanced titling, have music that fades in and out (only one track at a time, however), and more.

Here is an example using Window Live Movie together with YouTube’s annotation options:

5 thoughts on “Creating a Timelapse Animation Part 2 of 2

  1. John Sessoms

    Since Windows Live Movie Maker limits you to a single audio track, you might consider using a free program like Audacity to create your audio track before importing it into Windows Live Movie Maker.

  2. Richard S


    First of all, fantastic work!

    For a while I’ve been trying to create a light writing effect video, where the writing stays on screen. I got really excited when I saw the “Getting Even Fancier” section above as that looked like it could be the ideal solution.

    Unfortunately I can’t find the “Stack in LIGHTEN mode creating intermediates” option in the Action list of Batch. It’s just 5 options, Do this first/Instructions/Load stack lighten/Load stack screen and the Lighten droplet. I’m using CS5 on a Mac with Stacker v7.

    Apologies if I’m missing something really simple and obvious, any help would be very gratefully received.

    Many thanks.

    1. Steven Christenson

      Don’t I feel sheepish. I accidentally removed that feature in the last fix. It’s been restored in v.8. Meanwhile those who are wondering what the “Stack in LIGHTEN with Intermediates” is, please read this article (well, actually it’s in the second half of the article, but you should start in the beginning!)

  3. Pingback: Action! Creating a Timelapse Animation (Part 1 of 2) | Star Circle Academy

What do you think about this?