Instructions

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This is a short introduction how to work with LRTimelapse 4.
It covers the basic aspects of the workflows.

Please make sure to check out my video tutorials too!

The LRTimelapse user interface is centered around the workflow tabs. After loading a sequence, please choose the tab that suits your needs best, then you’ll get guided though the workflow.

Import: The import tab just presents the LRTimelapse importer. This importer is a very convenient way to bring your images from your memory card right into LRTimelapse.

Basic Workflow: The Basic Workflow is for simple sequences or sequences shot in JPG.

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The workflow Tabs in LRTimelapse 4

Visual Workflow: This is the new “Swiss Army Knife” in LRTimelapse 4. It works for any RAW sequence, holy Grail or not. This is mostly what you will be using if you shoot RAW (you should). Holy Grail sequences will automatically be detected by evaluating the exif-data.
The Visual Workflow offers Holy Grail leveling, visual previews and visual deflicker.

Long Term Workflow: This new workflow is for you, if you shoot long term / construction time lapses with lots of changes in brightness, contrast and white balance. It provides sophisticated filters for Luminance, Contrast and Hue. This allows you to filter by all of these criteria to get rid of unwanted images in those long term time lapse sequences. Otherwise it’s like the Visual Workflow.

Video Workflow: The video workflow allows you to split video sequences into single frames in order to be able to edit them like time lapses in LRTimelapse. This enables you to use all the nice LRTimelapse and Lightroom tools for editing your video clips.

On the next tabs I’ll give you a short walk though for every workflow, just choose the one that you feel suits your sequence most, as a beginner just start with the Importer and the Basic Workflow.

 

LRTimelapse Importer

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The LRTimelapse importer: left the source directory chooser, right the destination directory chooser. In the middle the options.

You can use the LRTimelapse Importer to import your time lapse sequences from your memory card to your harddisk, but you are not forced to do so. You can as well use the Lightroom importer or just copy the files.

The LRTimelapse importer however is streamlined to work with time lapse sequences and thus has some advantages over the other methods:

  • It will give you a nice preview while importing and generate all the previews (you will need them anyway) on the fly while importing, saving time afterwards
  • It can convert to DNG, even lossy and resize RAW files when converting (this is not even possible with Lightroom)
  • It will automatically rename your files and add Date-Time prefixes to your folders, if you want

If you choose to use the LRTimelapse Importer, just select your memory card on the left side and the import destination on the right side. Then select Create subfolder and enter the name for the sequence. If you would like a Date/Time prefix (nice to have the folders in chronological order later) just check Prefix Date/Time. If you’ve shot RAW+JPG, select Don’t import JPG’s. Then click on import.

Basic Workflow

Load your time lapse sequence by choosing a folder on the left. Wait until the sequence has been loaded.

2015-04-09 18_21_05-LRTimelapse 4.0_basic_workflow

Basic Workflow

  1. Keyframes Wizard: drag the “Number of Keyframes”-Slider until you get the number of desired keyframes. Keyframes will mark the images, that you are going to edit manually – the develop-settings for all other images will be calculated automatically by LRTimelapse.
  2. Save your sequence, then make sure Lightroom is open and the Library Module selected.
  3. Bring your sequence to Lightroom and make sure the XMP-Metadata that LRTimeapse wrote gets applied.
    There are to scenarios to make sure this happens:

    1. If you imported with the LRTimelapse-Importer (the sequence is not yet in the Lightroom catalog):
      1. Drag the button named Drag to Lightroom into the Lightroom Library. This will invoke the Lightroom importer.
      2. Make sure that Add is selected at the top (not copy!!) to add the images to the Library.
    2. If you imported with Lightroom (the sequence has already been added to the Lightroom Catalog):
      1. Go to Grid-View (G),
      2. make sure the Filter is set to LRT4 Full Sequence.
      3. Select all images (Ctrl-A) and then
      4. select Metadata->Read Metadata from Files from the menu.

        2015-04-15 12_05_58-Lightroom Filter

        Select the right filter in Lightroom’s filter chooser above the filmstrip. If you don’t see the filter panel, just click on “Filter”.

  4. Now your sequence is in Lightroom and you should see the keyframes that you created in LRTimelapse as ****-Ratings.
  5. Select the filter “LRT4 Keyframes” to see only the keyframes.
  6. Edit those keyframes from left to right. If you are finished with one, select it, then Shift-Select the last keyframe like this:

    2015-04-15 12_12_12-Lightroom Keyframes

    The left keyframe is the “most selected” – you’ll sync it’s settings to the other keyframes with the “LRTimelapse Sync Keyframes”-script.

    Windows

    The current keyframe will then be “most selected”, the others selected a bit darker. Now launch “LRT Sync Keyframes” from the Lightroom Scripts-menu – this will apply the settings from the first keyframe to all others.

    Mac

    Advanced tip: please do not use copy/paste or the native synchronize in Lightroom anymore, instead please use the new script in general. Should you need to synchronize single tools only, like crop, you can use copy/paste or synchronize, but make sure to exclude the gradients then!

  7. Switch to the next keyframe and make your changes in editing, if needed. You can change any tools you want (with few exceptions).
    If you work with Gradients, please don’t create new ones – always use the predefined gradients that LRTimelapse created. And please don’t delete Gradients!
  8. If you edited the crop, you will notice that the Sync-Keyframes Script does not Sync the crop (due to Lightroom restrictions). In that case just synchronize only the crop to all keyframes with the Synchronize button in Lightroom.
  9. Edit all keyframes like this. After each one, select the current one, then shift select the last one and launch the LRTimelapse Sync Keyframes script.
  10. Now save the changes: make sure, that again (like always when working with metadata) you are in Grid View (G), all keyframes are selected (Ctrl-A) and then use Metadata->Save Metadata to Files from the menu or Ctrl-S.
  11. Go Back to LRTimelapse and proceed with the second row of workflow buttons.
  12. Reload will bring your changes into LRTimelapse
  13. Auto-Transition will calculate the transitions for all images in between the keyframes. It will give you a short glimpse on all curves calculated in the preview, you might permanently turn on the display of all curves by clicking on “ALL” on the top right of the preview.
  14. If you feel that your sequence has flicker you can now use the deflicker option.
    But how do you know, if your sequence has flicker? Check this screenshot of my preview panel:

    2015-04-15 12_28_12-LRTimelapse 4.0_flicker

    The blue curve shows the luminance of the previews. The more spikes you have, the more changes in brightness. The yellow curve with the keyframes is always the curve showing the “Exposure” set in Lightroom.

    The blue curve shows the luminance of the original files. In this case it’s rather bumpy, this is a sign of flicker. You can play the sequence via the “Play-Button” below the preview to see, if flicker is visible as well. If so, click on the Deflicker button, if you have a rather smooth curve instead, don’t use Deflicker.

    2015-04-15 12_46_51-LRTimelapse 4.0_simple_deflicker

    Simple deflicker with Smoothing Slider. Only deflicker, if you really have flicker!

  15. If your curve is not so smooth, scrub though the sequence and try to identify why you have those bumps in the curve. In the example above, it’s clearly flicker – there is not much happening in that scene and the flicker is very regular and frequent. You might have frames in your sequence where people get in or other natural movements. Those might be darker then others, leading to a peak in the luminance curve. If so, and you can identify an area in the sequence, that would serve as a better reference for calculating the luminance curve, try selecting it by clicking and dragging in the preview. This will recalculate the luminance curve and not use the whole frame anymore but the area, that you’ve selected. The goal should be to find an area, where the flicker effect is isolated, and you don’t have other short term changes in brightness. This is explained in depth in my EBook.
  16. If you click on Deflicker, you’ll get a Smoothing slider and a new, green curve. Drag the slider, until the green curve looks like you would like the blue curve to ideally be. Don’t overdo it.

    2015-04-16 14_08_52-LRTimelapse 4.0_simple_defl

    The green curve shows a smoothed version of the blue luminance curve and should look like you would like the blue curve to be.

  17. Now click on save, to save all changes
  18. Back in Lightroom:
    make sure the Filter is set to LRT4 – Full Sequence
  19. Grid-View (G), Select all (Ctrl-A), Metadata/Read Metadata from files. You’ve got it.
  20. Now all images in between the keyframes should get their edits. But you don’t have to wait, until Lightroom finishes updating the previews, just proceed with exporting your sequence.
    You’ll find the explanation for exporting on the “Export and Render-Tab”.

Visual Workflow

Please make sure you read and follow the Basic Workflow at least once, before trying the Visual Workflow. In this explanation, I will expect, that you understood the Basic Workflow. If you already used LRT3, please read though that explanation once as well, to learn about some changes.

Okay – here we go: the new shiny Visual Workflow. For most of you that shoot RAW files, this will be the Workflow mostly used. Currently the visual workflow unfortunately does not work with JPG-Sequences. If you want to have this changed, please vote here!

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The Visual Workflow

  1. Load your Sequence
  2. Launch the Keyframes Wizard, it will automatically create some keyframes based on an automatic analysis of the luminance progression. By dragging the slider you can easily create more or less keyframes.
    For Sequences shot with the “Holy Grail” approach, the wizard will create two orange triangular keyframes for each change in ISO, Shutter-Speed or Aperture. Those are for internal use only.
  3. Sequences shot with the “Holy Grail” approach:
    • The Holy Grail Wizard button will be enabled, just click it and an orange curve will get calculated to compensate the Holy Grail camera adjustments.

      The orange curve shows the compensations that the Holy Grail Wizard calculated for the camera adjustments.

    • Use the 3 the Offset and Rotate sliders to shift and rotate the orange curve, so that you get it close to the middle. If you want, for a sunset you can let it fall a bit and for a sunrise you can let it raise a bit. The thick cyan curve gives you an idea about the natural luminance transition.
  4. For all sequences: Save

    Now we’ll continue like explained in the basic workflow (please read that section, if you haven’t!)
  5. Bring your sequence to Lightroom and read the metadata
  6. Edit from left to right, use the Sync Keyframes Script to take over edits to the next keyframes
  7. When you are finished, set the Full Sequence-Filter,
  8. select all Images in Grid-Mode and
  9. Save Metadata
  10. Back in LRTimelapse finish the second row:
    Reload, Auto Transition, Save.This is new now: the Visual Previews now allow you to actually see the sequence with all edits applied! This is not only great to get a quick preview, it as well allows you do apply a deflicker based on the appearance of the developed images!After Saving this time you don’t go to Lightroom but just continue in the third row.
  11. Click on Visual Previews and LRTimelapse will start to develop your images. You’ll get a pink curve that reflects the luminance after all develop settings have been applied (including the Holy Grail corrections etc…).
  12. After all previews have been developed, have a look on the pink curve. Is it as smooth as you would have expected?
    There might be a couple of reasons for a curve that is not so smooth at all:

    • Strong edits in Lightroom,
    • Inaccurate real Exposure/Aperture/ISO in comparison to the Exif-Data that the camera writes,
    • Natural changes in brightness
    • Flicker, etc. etc.

    2015-04-15 15_01_59-LRTimelapse 4.0_visual_lum

    You can see that the Holy Grail Wizard alone in this case is not sufficient to create a really smooth visual luminance curve after all developments have been applied.

  13. Now you can just activate the Visual Deflicker:

    2015-04-15 14_20_59-LRTimelapse 4.0_visual-deflicker

    Visual Deflicker offers a Smoothing slider like the Basic Deflicker.

    Again, like with the Simple-Deflicker, drag the Smoothing slider until the green Smoothed curve looks like you would like the pink curve to be.

  14. Click on Apply
  15. Click on Save
  16. Now you can:
    • Either wait until the visual previews have been renewed to see, if the pink curve looks as smooth as you would like to have it after the deflicker has been rendered. If not, you can click on Visual Deflicker again, adjust the smoothing-curve and then click on Refine to apply deflicker again. You can do this as often as you want, but mostly once is enough, sometimes you might have to do it twice. Please note that depending on your sequence, a silky smooth curve is not always the best (because you would level out natural brightness changes). In those cases you might have to set a reference area like explained in the basic workflow by clicking and dragging into the preview to isolate only a certain area of the image as reference for the calculation of the luminance curve.
    • Or – if you don’t want to wait until the Visual Previews have been generated again – just turn off the Visual Previews (this will stop them from being created and save processor load) but the metadata with the changes is already saved and thus you can already take them over to Lightoom. So: switch to Lightroom, read the metadata for the whole sequence (Grid-View, Filter: Full-Sequence, Read Metadata from Files) and export via the LRTExport plugin.
      The visual deflicker will be applied, even if you didn’t wait for the visual previews to render this time.
  17. This is how the pink curve looks after visual deflicker:

    2015-04-15 15_01_59-LRTimelapse 4.0_deflicker_refined

    After applying the visual deflicker, the luminance curve of the developed images is really smooth, there are no residual flicker effects left in this sequence. It’s ready to get rendered!

  18. Rendering will be explained on the “Export and Render Tab.

This is a special workflow to process long term / construction time lapses with lots of changes in brightness, contrast and white balance. It provides sophisticated filters for Luminance, Contrast and Hue in order to allows you to filter by all of these criteria to get a sequence that looks as smooth as possible.

2015-05-04 11_26_52-Long-Term0

The biggest challenge when shooting time lapses over weeks and months is, that you will have to deal with very inconsistent lighting situations. Due to rather long intervals and the days passing by very quickly in the final time lapse, you’ll get rather unpleasant results if you don’t find a smart way to filter that sequence.

The approach, that LRTimelapse uses, is, in the first instance, to apply intelligent filters to those sequences with several thousands of images and leave only those that have a rather consistent look. After this additional deflicker and Motion Blur Plus can be applied to refine the sequence. The result is a rather smooth sequence that makes the viewer focus on the subject without being too much distracted from the changes in illumination and lighting.

And this is how it works.

  1. Load your sequence

    2015-05-04 11_26_52-Long-Term1

    Lots of changes in brightness due to long intervals and the sequence spanning several months

    You’ll get a more or less bumpy blue luminance curve due to the long intervals and changes in lighting.

  2. Switch to the Long Term Workflow
  3. Click on Filter
    You’ll get two more curves: one for the contrast of the images and one for the toning (hue).

    2015-05-04 11_26_52-Long-Term2

    The additional curves for contrast (orange) and hue (pink) are as well very volatile before filtering.

  4. Choose your filter settings.
    1. Decide, if you would like the reference curves to follow the trend or be constant. For very long time lapses I’d recommend clicking on “constant” on each of the filters, but you might just set the trend with the smoothing sliders too.
    2. Now start filtering by dragging the “low” sliders to the right, using the +/- buttons might help, if you have large sequences and filtering takes longer. You can add Shift or Ctrl to the buttons, to make larger steps. Best use the sliders from top to bottom.
    3. You can play the filtered preview at any time, only the residual images will be played. You can change your filter settings, until you are satisfied.
    4. Observe the curves while filtering, try to get rid of the extreme values. Check the number of residual images at the bottom right as well.

    2015-05-04 11_26_52-Long-Term3

    After filtering, the residual curves have a much lower bandwidth. The sequence is ready now for final editing and deflickering.

  5. Click on Filter Images, this will move the filtered images to another folder with suffix “_REMOVED” after a confirmation dialog. This allows you to start over at any time, just by moving the removed images back to the original folder later.
  6. Click on “Filter” to close the filter panel. Now you have a folder with residual images that you can now edit exactly as explained in the Visual Workflow description. You can add keyframes, make transitions, create visual previews and apply the visual deflicker. At the end I recommend rendering with Motion Blur Plus.

Please note: I’m currently working on improving the performance when working with very large sequences. LRTimelapse 4.1 will work more responsive and faster on those sequences.

To be done…

This is not a “Tab” in LRTimelapse, because you are normally going to launch the export from Lightroom. However, you will use it after finishing each of the other workflows, so I will explain it here.

  1. In Lightroom, make sure that the Filter LRT Full Sequence is selected
  2. Right click on the first image and choose Go to folder in Library.
  3. Select all images
  4. Select Export and choose LRTimelapse / LRT (JPG 4k)
    (don’t worry, this won’t necessarily render in 4K but just create the intermediary files in 4K.)

    The LRTExport Lightroom Plugin – compatible with Lightroom 4, 5 and 6.

  5. Make sure, that the path to the LRTimelapse executable is set correctly (especially if you had LRT3 installed before)
  6. Set an output path, where your time lapse intermediary sequences and rendered videos generally should go to – there is no need to define the name for each sequence on export, since LRTExport will create the folder name from the original sequence name automatically.
  7. You can leave the other settings at their defaults.
  8. Click on Export and wait until the exporter has finished.
  9. Now LRTimelapse should come up and present its render dialog:

    2015-04-15 14_54_02-Render Video

    The Render Dialog in LRTimelapse 4. It allows you to chose the video formats and apply some post processing like sharpening and LRT Motion Blur Plus.

    Just leave the settings at their defaults.
    Advanced tip: if you mostly render with the same settings, you can turn on “Last render settings” in the LRTExport dialog to have the video rendered directly with the previous settings you set in LRTimelapse for rendering, without having you to confirm the render dialog.

  10. Click on Render Video

That’s it! After short time you should find your rendered video inside the output folder you defined in LRTExport.

I’m sure, with some practice you will quickly master the workflows and appreciate the great results that LRTimelapse will help you to achieve!

Basic workflow with Adobe Camera RAW / Bridge

Since Lightroom is basically just a front end with an integrated Adobe Camera RAW Library, you can use LRTimelapse with Adobe Camera RAW as well. Accessing the image will take place in Adobe Bridge, the results will go directly into Adobe After Effects or you can export them as JPG-sequence. If you take care of the naming (Folder named LRT_* and exported files named LRT_00001.jpg/tif etc.) you can even use the LRTimelapse renderer.

However due to the tight integration of Lightroom into the workflow with the LRTExport plugin, the Lightroom-based workflows are much easier and faster in my opinion. Therefore my recommendation would be to use Lightroom for your time lapse editing.

Apart from this, there is no big difference in the workflows between Lightroom and ACR. The biggest difference is that Lightroom requires you to read/write the metadata manually while Bridge/ACR does this automatically.

Below is a basic workflow for editing with LRTimelapse and Adobe Camera RAW / Bridge. With this workflow, you can either export a JPG sequence to create a video or continue post processing in After Effects and export your video from there.

Step 1: Start in LRTimelapse to prepare your images (same as in the Lightroom Workflow)

  1. Select the folder with your time lapse sequence
  2. Follow the workflow until saving

Step 2: Go to Adobe Bridge

  1. Open the folder with your time lapse image sequence in Adobe Bridge
  2. Set the Filter to only show images with four or more Stars (Ctrl-Alt-1)
  3. Edit the first starred image (right-click on it and choose Open in Camera Raw…, adjust the White Balance or other settings like exposure
  4. Hit Done (not “Open”)
  5. Copy/Paste the development settings to the next Keyframe (=starred image)
  6. Change the development settings of this image (again in Camera RAW) according to your needs – change the WB or whatever you would like (later the images in between will be calculated) -> repeat steps 5-6 for all keyframes from left to right by copying/pasting the settings of the previous key-framed image as reference for the next and so on.

Step 3: Return to LRTimelapse (same as in Lightroom-workflows)

  • Finish the workflow

Step 4a) Rendering and post processing in After Effects

Now you can either open you RAW-Sequence in Adobe After Effects:

  • import the images as image sequence into in After Effects
  • check “Camera RAW Sequence” (or “JPEG Sequence” if you are working with those)
  • process further
  • render as .mp4 or .avi

or:

Step 4b) Post process as a JPG-Sequence

You can use Adobe Bridge to export a JPG sequence and use an arbitrary program to generate a movie from that JPGs.

  1. Select the Export-tab on the left side in Bridge.
  2. Select all images and drag and drop them to “save to hard drive” on the export-tab.
  3. Double-click on “save to hard-drive”, you will get the export dialog.
  4. Choose a new folder to put your generated JPGs in
  5. Export
  6. Depending on the software that you are going for creating the video, you may have to rename your images (this way you can render for LRTimelapse renderer as well, see above) – you could use the batch rename feature (Ctrl-Shift-R) in Bridge to do so.

Other options are: Quicktime pro, Avidemux, VirtualDub, Photoshop Extended.

Adobe After Effects can be used with either of the both workflows to finish and render a sequence since it fully understands the XMP Metadata LRTimelapse is writing and is capable of render that information on its own.

When working with Lightroom, after completing workflow in LRTimelapse just load your sequence as “image sequence” in After Effects, further post process and render there.

  • import the images as image sequence into in After Effects
  • check “Camera RAW Sequence” (unfortunately After Effects will not apply XMP edits to JPGs)
  • create a composition
  • process further
  • render as .mp4 or .avi

Check out the instructions for the other workflows by clicking on the tabs above!

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