If you have iMovie HD 6 installed (part of iLife ’06), you have the ability to create time-lapse movies on your Mac. The next time you have a camera attached (or if your Mac includes a built-in iSight) take a few minutes to play around with this somewhat hidden feature. Watch out, it can become addictive.

The movie above is from the Creativetechs office window last week. We pointed a video camera at the Seattle Space Needle, and captured a time-lapse video using iMove HD on one of our loaner iMac G5’s. The result is 24-hours of Seattle weather condensed into only a few minutes. We did trim some of the tedious night parts.

Read on for the details on how to create your own time-lapse masterpieces.

Capturing Time-Lapse Movies in iMovie HD.

You can create a time-lapse effect when you import video from your camcorder or ISight camera. This can work with either prerecorded video, or a live feed. Obviously for capturing events that take longer than a typical video tape you’ll need to capture from a live feed.

1. In iMovie HD, press the camera icon and choose Time Lapse from the pop-up menu.


2. Check the Capture Frame checkbox and specify how long to wait between each frame captured.


Fill in the number of frames that should be allowed to “pass” before you capture one image. Since the digital video frame rate is 30 frames per second, if you choose 30, you’ll be capturing one frame for every second of real time. If you let the camera run for 30 minutes, it will record roughly thirty seconds of video.

In the next section we’ve provided a chart with a few example frame settings. In our Space Needle movie for example, we used a frame capture rate of 600.

3. Import your video in iMovie as you normally do.

You can now start importing video at the time compressing rate you’ve selected. Don’t jiggle the camera. If you are recording for long periods of time, walk away and let the import run.

Possible Frame Capture Settings

Here are some rough figures when playing with what frame capture settings to use:

  • 30: 30 minutes play back in 1 minute.
  • 60: 1 hour plays back in 1 minute.
  • 240: 4 hours play back in 1 minute.
  • 480: 8 hours play back in 1 minute.
  • 720: 12 hours play back in 1 minute.
  • 1440: 24 hours play back in 1 minute.


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