Time-lapse photography can yield stunning footage of the passage of time, but it's not built into the Windows Phone camera app. Thankfully there are several apps available in the Windows Store to deliver this photography style to your phone.
While time-lapse photography may not be something you use every day, it is a great way to capture slow moving subjects and view them at higher speeds. From sunsets to blooming flowers to storms rolling in off the horizon, time-lapse photography is perfect for just about anything that takes time to complete. The process generally requires you to take a series of single exposures for a duration of time and then combining them to simulate continuous action at a higher speed. Rush-hour traffic can last for hours, but through time-lapse photography the scene can be shortened to a few seconds.
We looked at several time-lapse offerings in the Windows Store, evaluating them on the ease of use, stability and quality of the footage. While it would be nice if Microsoft would add this feature natively to our Windows Mobile camera (HINT HINT), three such apps stood out from the pack and offers a fantastic stand-alone options for capturing time-lapse footage.
Timelapse Pro from Maxim Soloviev is an easy-to-use way to capture time-lapse footage. The app opens to a thumbnail display of any previously captured footage that can be opened and re-edited. The three-dot menu reveals menu options for viewing your uploads, viewing tips/tricks and contacting the developer. There is a remote control option but I could never get this feature to work.
Tapping the + button at the bottom of the main display launches the capture process. This button transitions the app to the viewfinder screen where you can tap the screen to focus on a point and begin recording your time-lapse images. If you do not wish to use the default settings, a customization button rests in the bottom right corner of the viewfinder to give you access to a host of settings.
These settings include:
- Capture Mode (Interval or Manual)
- Interval Times (hours, minutes, seconds)
- Scene Mode (Auto, Macro, Sport, Night, Night Portrait and Backlit)
- Exposure Compensation
- White Balance
There is also the option to schedule the time-lapse capture and what to do with full-resolution photos. You can save the full-resolution images to your phone or discard them once the video is created (saves memory space).
Once you have the settings to your liking, sit back, relax and let the app capture the images. Shortly after the process starts, Timelapse Pro turns off the display to conserve battery power. This is a nice touch in that time-lapse photography can suck the life out of a battery.
Tapping the screen a second time ends the image capture process and allows you to edit the footage. Here you can record more images to add to the time lapse, set the frames per second on playback (5 to 90 fps), remove unwanted images and apply a series of image effects (sepia, lomo, cartoon, grayscale, etc.). Time-lapse footage remains on your Windows Mobile phone with the free version of Timelapse Pro, but you can upgrade to the premium version ($2.99) and upload the footage to cloud servers where the footage can be shared or downloaded. If you opt for the premium version, you can view your cloud uploads from the three-dot menu off the primary display for the app.
Image quality was good with Timelapse Pro and the filters decent. I liked the space saving options of discarding full-res images (instead of saving them) and turning off the viewfinder does help stretch your battery life. The only issue I experienced with Timelapse Pro was at times, the app struggled to acquire proper focus at the beginning of the time-lapse capture. It took the app a few image captures to sort it all out, but thankfully you can quickly remove those out-of-focus images during the editing process. Still, it would be nice if Timelapse Pro hit on all cylinders out of the gate.
The free version of Timelapse Pro has enough meat on the bone to let you evaluate the app. However, to fully appreciate the Windows 10 app, the premium upgrade is a must.
Hyperlapse Mobile from Microsoft easily qualifies as the simplest time-lapse app in the Windows Store. The viewfinder is your primary menu and has options to toggle between the front and rear-facing cameras, turn on/off the camera light and upload existing videos to transform to time-lapse style playback.
Hyperlapse also approaches time-lapse photography from a slightly different angle. Instead of capturing hundreds of single images and blending them together into a video, Hyperlapse captures video footage and allows you to manipulate the playback speed. Hyperlapse also has the added bonus of being able to capture smooth hand-held time lapses by using accelerometer data to dampen shaking in post-processing
Simply tap the record button on the viewfinder, sit back, relax and let Hyperlapse capture the video. The app displays the amount of video time you have captured and how it would convert when played back at 4x the original recording speed. Two minutes of video played back at 4x would yield you thirty seconds of playback. Obviously if you increase the speed variable, the playback time shortens.
When you are through recording, tap the stop button, Hyperlapse processes the video and gives you the option to increase or decrease the playback speed. Playback speeds range from 1x to 32x and once you settle on the best speed, tap the save button and your time-lapse video is saved to your phone.
Hyperlapse Mobile lacks any effects filters or trimming tools and your raw footage is discarded once you leave the editor. Should the need arise, you can retrieve the saved footage and edit its playback speed.
The only drawback to this free Windows 10 app is that at the end of your time-lapse footage, a splash screen is inserted that bears Hyperlapse's logo. It's not the most obnoxious watermark but I would like to see an in-app purchase to remove this feature.
Overall, the simplicity of Hyperlapse Mobile should appeal to those just getting involved with time-lapse photography or to those simply looking for an easy way to capture time-lapse video when the mood hits.
Where Hyperlapse Mobile is an easy solution for capturing time-lapse footage, Timelapse Studio is a feature-rich option. The primary menu for the Windows 10 app presents you with options to capture a new time-lapse video, import existing images to transform into time lapses and thumbnails for any previously captured time-lapse images. There are also options to view an online tutorial and send feedback to the developer, Eric Grover, on the main menu.
Capturing a new timelapse begins with naming your project that transitions to your camera viewfinder. As with Timelapse Pro, you can capture footage using the default settings or adjust things to your liking. Settings from the viewfinder include:
- Toggling between the front/rear cameras
- Turning on/off your camera light
- Setting a start time to begin your time-lapse capture
- Set a duration for you time lapse (slide number, timer or clock)
- Set the image capture interval
There is also a series of camera settings that includes focus, exposure compensation, shutter speed, ISO levels, white balance and image resolution.
As your time-lapse images are captured, Timelapse Studio displays the number of images captured and a countdown timer until the next image is captured. A stop button rests in the bottom right corner of the viewfinder to stop the image capture. To avoid camera movement, time stopping the timelapse capture between shots. Timelapse Stuido also offers a feature most other options are missing: zoom.
Once you stop the time-lapse capture, Timelapse Studio transitions to an editing screen where you can apply a series of effects filters and trim the start and end times of the footage. When you have everything just right, tap the Create Video button, choose your video resolution, name your file and select the playback speed (ranges from 1 to 30 frames per second). Saved time-lapse videos are stored locally on your Windows Mobile Phone, as are any images captured to create the video. Previous time-lapse footage can be edited or deleted to remove any related images from your phone. Image quality is good, the filter set can add a little flair to your footage.
Timelapse Studio is a free app for Windows 10 Mobile, but is restricted to only 22 frames of footage. To unlock this limitation, there is a $1.99 in-app purchase available. As with Timelapse Pro, the free version of Timelapse Studio offers you a good feel for the app. However, to fully appreciate this feature rich app you need to make the in-app purchase and unlock the frame restrictions.
Tips and Tricks
Time-lapse photography can be a very rewarding style of photography and all three apps in this roundup performed admirably. Image quality was good and while I did experience a few app crashes with each, it never rose to the level to render the app useless. While a fun form of photography, there are a few things you need to keep in mind while tackling time-lapse video.
For starters, invest in a tripod. Time-lapse footage requires an extensive amount of time to capture and a tripod ensures consistency in your framing. There are a ton of tripod options available, though I have personally found a Gorillapod and iTrek camera mount works the best. The Gorillapod has flexible legs that can wrap around poles and banisters and whatever else, bending accommodate various angles. I like the iTrek mount for its simple design and ease of use.
Along with finding a way to keep your Windows Mobile camera stable during time-lapse shoots, you need to have patience. It's not uncommon for a forty-five minute shoot to only yield twenty seconds of time-lapse footage. Patience is key to set up your shot, getting your subject framed just right, and letting the app run its course.
In planning out your time-lapse shoot, choosing the right capture interval is just as important as choosing the best angle of view. The interval is the time between shots, which impacts the speed and amount of detail in the time-lapse footage. As a general rule of thumb, the slower the movement of your subject the slower the duration between shots. In shooting subjects with quicker the movement, the shorter duration.
For example, a sunset is one example of a slow moving subject and is best shot with an interval of 5 seconds. A busy sidewalk full of people walking would be best shot at an interval of as little as 2 seconds per frame.
Lastly, keep in mind that with time-lapse photography being a time consuming event, it gobbles up your battery power. From capturing the footage to processing it all, it is easy to go through a full charge on your Windows Mobile phone in one sitting. Make sure before you start shooting time-lapse that your battery is fully charged and it may be a good idea to have an external battery pack available.
Time-lapse photography may not be something you shoot every day, but it can be a very rewarding style of photography to capture life events with. From spectacular sunsets to a day at the beach, it can be a great tool to have in your camera bag when you want to share lengthy events in a short, compact style.