Over the last couple of months, we have created three in-depth guides on how to create the perfect hyperlapse. You can find the guides to each technique we presented right here:
In this article, we will compare the pros and cons of each approach. After reading this article, you’ll be able to decide which hyperlapse approach is the most suitable for your specific visual idea.
You are probably wondering whether there is a winner or an ultimate technique among the three. Spoiler: there isn’t. Think of each technique as a tool with a different set of strengths and weaknesses. None of the three can do it all.
Shooting a hyperlapse can seem like a daunting task. After all, it entails a considerable amount of time and a new way of interacting with your environment. Hell, you are trying to bend time itself! Creating properly exposed and sharp hyperlapses requires a basic understanding of camera settings (like using the manual mode). To fully understand this comparison, you must also grasp the concept of motion blur and its relation to the capture interval.
Shooting handheld is the best way to start your hyperlapse journey. Handheld capture requires the smallest learning curve to be fully utilised. While you could use a gimbal or a tripod without control for motion blur, you would miss out on quite a bit of creative freedom while also having to carry more gear around. There are few limitations regarding how you can move a gimbal through space. Most gimbals can either follow your own movement automatically or perform programmed moves on the individual motorised axes. This resulting plethora of options makes a gimbal hyperlapse the champion in terms of freedom of movement.
Three backpack sizes
If you like to travel light, you probably don’t want to carry a full-size camera backpack around with a clunky video tripod strapped to it. A tripod hyperlapse is the most gear-intensive technique. As camera technology is developing into smaller form factors and lighter systems, so are motorised gimbals. A modern gimbal can easily fit into a medium-sized backpack. Despite these improvements, the clear winner when it comes to weight and ease of travelling is shooting handheld. In the minimal version, you will only need a camera with a lens attached to it.
Handheld hyperlapses require very little equipment. Tripod hyperlapses require basic photography equipment (tripod + camera). Gimbal hyperlapses require the most sophisticated equipment.
The closer your shooting interval is to real-time video, the less likely you are to need the ramping and deflickering capabilities of LRTimelapse. The more dramatic your camera movement and blur in your images, the more likely you will have to use manual tracking software, such as Adobe After Effects, to stabilise your footage.
Images without motion blur fare better in automatic stabilisation. Therefore, we have to work with fast shutter speeds when shooting handheld hyperlapses. Then we might get away with video editing software that only offers automatic stabilisation, such as Adobe Premiere Pro with its warp stabiliser.
Using a gimbal will usually entice you to create more complex paths (such as orbits or infinity spins) for your hyperlapses. You’ll quickly realise that automatic stabilisation does not cut it. Using Adobe After Effects, with its semi-manual option to stabilise the motion by tracking one or two points and locking their position in the frame, is often required.
With great flexibility come great software requirements. Picture a sunset-to-astrophotography hyperlapse on a tripod: motion blur and lighting will likely change from start to finish. In this extreme case, using all the tools that software such as LRTimelapse and Adobe After Effects offer is usually a must.
Handheld hyperlapses often just need the warp stabiliser. Gimbal hyperlapses often require additional stabilising. Tripod hyperlapses often require the additional use of LRTimelapse because of changes in lighting.
Optimal hyperlapse subjects for each approach
The shooting interval will be our guide, as every process is best captured at a different interval.
Gimbal hyperlapses work best for close-to-real-time intervals such as 0.1 seconds (up to a maximum of ~10 seconds). Therefore, human movement, traffic and other short processes work very well with a gimbal.
Handheld hyperlapses are optimal for showcasing stationary objects. Capturing the weather or even changing lighting conditions, such as a sunset, do work well. Due to the limitation of only using fast shutter speeds, quicker shooting intervals are preferable.
Tripod hyperlapses shine when precise movement in small increments is required. It’s also great for long shooting intervals. Slower processes, such as a sunset, are therefore ideal. You can increase motion blur to your heart’s desire if you use an ND (neutral density) filter. Light trails offer a visual treat that only a tripod hyperlapse can give you.
Gimbal hyperlapses are best for subjects that move fast (cars, people, etc.). Handheld hyperlapses are good for stationary objects. Tripod hyperlapses are best for long shooting periods such as sunsets, sunrises, etc.
A path worth walking
Both shooting handheld and on a gimbal work on uneven surfaces, such as gravel. A tripod hyperlapse requires firm contact to the ground on every shot. A gimbal is the most versatile option in this respect.
The less gear you have to prepare, the faster you’ll be out the door. We can all agree on this. The less obvious factor is the in-camera setup that your visual creative choices require.
Precise tripod hyperlapses need the most preparation, especially if footsteps are not accurate enough, for example when you want a perfect circle around the subject. Carefully measuring and marking every camera position on the ground with tape or chalk will extend the setup time dramatically. Controlling motion blur and adapting to changing light levels also require extensive planning and experience. Overall, tripod hyperlapses require the most advanced camera knowledge and careful setup.
In the case of gimbal hyperlapses, the setup time depends mostly on your planned movement. If you wish to make an orbit around a subject with a steady continuous pan movement during the walk, you will have to adjust a couple of additional settings on your gimbal. Camera setup takes longer than shooting handheld as well, as you might want to use an ND filter to slow down the shutter speed for more motion blur.
Handheld shooting wins by a mile when it comes to setup time. It requires only a few hyperlapse-specific considerations and settings on top of basic still photo skills. The most important consideration is how you will control the exposure over the entire distance and duration by using either the manual or the aperture value mode in a smart way.
Ease of capturing
Impromptu hyperlapses are quickly done when you opt to shoot them handheld. A small footprint in your luggage is another upside of this technique. Gimbal hyperlapses are close behind shooting handheld, but they do require more planning and setup as well as a bigger backpack. Adjusting every frame and letting go of the camera when shooting on a tripod is cumbersome. The entire setup and shooting process is advanced, but the backpack is the biggest of the bunch.
Sometimes quantity is what you are aiming for. In these cases, a short interval will enable you to shoot different clips in a single location. The possibility to get close to real-time framerates on a gimbal makes this the recommended setup for maximising output.
To me, the most important aspect when creating a hyperlapse is the creative control. I call it a tie between the gimbal and tripod approaches. While gimbal hyperlapses offer maximum flexibility, they also work with short intervals and continuous movement. Tripod hyperlapses enable you to create light trails when shooting traffic. You have absolute creative control over the shutter speed paired with precision and freedom in your choice of stride sizes between exposures.
With this assessment in mind, think about what technique works best for your subject and the scope of your next hyperlapse project. I hope you are as inspired as me to go out and create the next visually stunning hyperlapse treat! If you need some additional information, let me point you once again to our in-depth guides on each approach:
If you created something after reading this guide, we would love to see it. Please consider sharing it with us on INSTAGRAM. Happy hyperlapsing!
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