Remove flicker from time lapse

Fear not, there is a way of saving your time lapse clip from flicker! We will teach you how time lapse flicker removal is easy!
Thomas Poecksteiner

Thomas Poecksteiner

Co-Founder of FilmSpektakel and Time Lapse Magazine

So, you are here because your time lapse clip flickers like hell. This means that our tips on how to prevent flicker in time lapse clips in the first place came too late. But fear not! There are some very good ways of removing flicker from your time lapse video, and this article is dedicated to them. One involves free software, while others rely on paid software or plug-ins. In the end, we are going to teach you which technique we personally prefer for sufficient time lapse flicker removal and use for every time lapse project we create.

flicker comparison

Best deflicker software

We often get the question “What is the best deflicker software out there?”, because there are several on the market. But, like in most cases, there is not one right answer. Every piece of software has its perks and its disadvantages. In this article, we will compare them, so that you can get a good idea of which one is best for you!

Let’s take this clip we shot for a project in Hong Kong in 2020 to see how each piece of software or plug-in handles the task.

Time lapse flicker removal in DaVinci Resolve

If you have not heard of DaVinci Resolve yet, this is a name to remember. It is a very powerful piece of video editing software, which has a basic version that is free for everyone to download here. This software is not only good for turning your time lapse photo sequence into a video clip, but it is also great for deflickering your time lapse clip!

Step 1: Convert your RAW photos into DNGs

To be able to import your photos into DaVinci Resolve, you have to convert them into DNG file format first. For this, you can use the free Adobe tool DNG Converter. You can download this handy tool directly from Adobe here.

Step 2: Import your DNG sequence into DaVinci Resolve

Set your workspace to “Media” by clicking the “Media” tab at the bottom of your DaVinci window. Drag and drop the folder that contains your DNG sequence into the media pool.

Davinci Media Workspace

Step 3: Create a timeline of your DNG sequence

Set your workspace to “Edit” by clicking the “Edit” tab at the bottom of your DaVinci window. After that, drag your DNG sequence onto the timeline. DaVinci automatically creates a new timeline containing your DNG sequence.

Davinci Resolve timeline created

Step 4: Apply “Deflicker” effect

In the effects panel (probably the one in the lower-left corner), you can search for the effect called “Deflicker”. Simply drag and drop this effect onto your DNG sequence to apply it. That’s it!

Davinci Resolve Deflicker effect

Step 5: Exporting

All that’s left to do is export your deflickered time lapse clip. Change your workspace to “Deliver” and choose all your export settings. After clicking the “Add to Render Queue” option, don’t forget to start the process by clicking “Render All”.

To sum up

DaVinci is an extremely powerful tool, and it is free in its basic version. As a result, we would recommend it to beginners who have not settled on a specific piece of editing software yet and don’t want to invest money in any software like the Adobe suite (for now). This time lapse flicker removal workflow is easy and straightforward.

Deflickering in Adobe Premiere (as well as After Effects, FCP, Avid, Resolve and Vegas)

The Adobe suite seems to be the standard for time lapse photographers. Although Adobe Premiere comes with a price tag, it doesn’t come with a deflickering effect. You will need an additional plug-in for deflickering called Flicker Free by Digital Anarchy, which is available for a one-off payment of $149. It can be used in a variety of video editing software such as Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Avid, DaVinci Resolve and Vegas. So, the workflow is the same for every piece of software mentioned.

Step 1: Importing your image sequence

The good thing about Adobe After Effects is that it can import nearly every file format. So, you don’t have to convert your image sequence into DNGs first. Just import your RAW files or JPG files, whatever you are working with. If using Adobe Premiere or anything else, convert your RAW sequence into a JPEG sequence first or create a video file out of your RAW files. You can read all about this in our article “Basic time lapse post-production“.

Step 2: Create a sequence

When working in Adobe Premiere, you are working in sequences, in After Effects in compositions, in FCP in timelines. Whatever you wanna call it, it all comes down to this: put your RAWs or JPEGs into one of the above so you can apply effects to your time lapse clip.

Create a sequence within Adobe Premiere

Step 3: Apply “Flicker Free”

Assuming you have already bought and installed the Flicker Free plug-in (here’s a guide to help you install it), you just search your effects panel for it. Simply drag and drop the “Flicker Free” effect onto your time lapse clip and you are all set.

Adobe Premiere Flicker Free Effect

Step 4: Exporting

All that’s left to do is export your deflickered time lapse clip. No matter whether you do it directly within your editing software or by using the Adobe Media Encoder, Flicker Free should work perfectly fine.

To sum up

The downside of this workflow is definitely the cost. As a result, we would not recommend this workflow to beginners who are just dipping their toes into the time lapse game. However, if you are a professional using the Adobe suite anyway, we totally recommend investing in the Flicker Free plug-in from Digital Anarchy. We use it on every time lapse project and wouldn’t like to live without it.

Time lapse flicker removal in LRTimelapse

If you’re into time lapse photography, it is hard not to come across the name LRTimelapse. It is THE piece of software every time lapse photographer uses. It has a free version, so you can try it out if your sequence does not exceed 400 photos and as long as you are not using it professionally.

Step 1: Importing your image sequence

On the left side of your LRTimelapse window you see your file browser. Navigate to the location where your image sequence is stored. Click on the folder and your image sequence will be imported into LRTimelapse automatically.

Step 2: Set your keyframes

Firstly, make sure to have the “Visual Workflow” tab selected. Then click the “Keyframes Wizard” button. We will not go into the powerful keyframes function of LRTimelapse in this article (subscribe to our newsletter to be informed about new LRTimelapse tutorials). Just in case you don’t know, with keyframes, you can select a number of images whose parameters you will edit in Adobe Lightroom later on. All parameters between these keyframe images will be calculated automatically by LRTimelapse later.

For this tutorial, set the number of keyframes to “2”. This will create a keyframe for your first image and one for your last image. Then click the “Save” button.

Visual Workflow of LRTimelapse

Step 3: Go to Lightroom

Open up Adobe Lightroom and import the image sequence. Alternatively, you can drag the “Drag to Lightroom!” button into you Adobe Lightroom Library. When imported, filter your images to only see rated images. If you created two keyframes earlier in LRTimelapse, you should now only see two images in Adobe Lightroom: your first and last image. Change to the “Develop” tab and start grading your images. After that, select the images you just worked on and save the data into XML files by clicking “Photo” > “Save Metadata to File”. Then go back to LRTimelapse.

Develop-Tab in Adobe Lightroom

Step 4: Reload, Auto Transition and Visual Preview

To be honest, these are three steps. But since this tutorial only covers deflickering your photos, we will only focus on the deflickering part. So, just do these three steps in sequence. Firstly, click the “Reload” button to import the adjustments you have just made in Adobe Lightroom into LRTimelapse. Secondly, click the “Auto Transition” button so that LRTimelapse calculates all the values for each and every photo. As soon as this step is completed, you can start loading visual previews by clicking the “Visual Previews” button. This may take a while to load.

Loading visual previews in LRTimelapse

Step 5: Visual Deflicker

Now it’s time to start deflickering your sequence. And it is fairly easy! Just click on the “Visual Deflicker” button, which will open up a slider. By changing its value, you can set the curve for smoothing your lighting curve. The smoother the curve, the less flickering you will have in your time lapse clip. Usually a value between 10 and 20 will do the trick.

By activating the “Multi-pass deflicker” option, you will get longer processing times, but also better deflickering capabilities.

Deflickering in LRTimelapse

Step 6: Exporting from Lightroom

Return to Adobe Lightroom again. Go back to the “Library” tab (this is important; otherwise, this will not work properly) and make all your images visible by deactivating the filter you set before. Select all images and import their LRTimelapse metadata by clicking “Photo” > “Read Metadata from File”. You then go on to export your image sequence out of Lightroom. To find out how to turn the resulting JPEG sequence into a video file, please read our article “Basic time lapse post-production“.

To sum up

The deflickering process in LRTimelapse is the most complicated one mentioned in this article. But it is also the most powerful. You cannot imagine how many flickering time lapse clips we have been able to save by using LRTimelapse. And don’t be intimidated by this workflow or the looks of LRTimelapse. Once you have done this workflow a few times, it will become your go-to workflow, we promise!

Our deflickering strategy

The time lapse flicker removal workflow which probably saved 95% of our flickering time lapse clips is not just one of the techniques mentioned above. Since we use LRTimelapse for all our time lapse clips anyway, it is no additional effort to deflicker our time lapse clips with LRTimelapse right away. In LRTimelapse, we remove heavy flicker and export the images. After that, we import our clips to After Effects (read more about our post-production workflow here) and apply the “Flicker Free” effect to it. This usually gets rid of any flicker remaining after our LRTimelapse workflow.

If you are a DaVinci Resolve user, we would recommend using the deflickering effect mentioned above in addition to the LRTimelapse deflickering process.

To sum up, there is not one best technique to save your time lapse clip from flicker, but a combination will get you the best results possible.

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