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FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos

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Eddie Adams
FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos
on Mar 28, 2012 at 7:04:54 pm

I currently use this workflow for my Time Lapse videos: I capture still images on a Canon 7D at either 1, 2, 3, or 6 sec intervals, Medium Res. I then import the series of photos into a FCP project, which come in as 3456x2304, 23.98 fps, Photo-JPEG, 1 frame duration.

I then import them into a Sequence with similar settings - 3456x2304, 30fps, Photo-JPEG compression. Then I output this file as a Quicktime, at the same settings.

What this does is allow me to import the Quicktime into a standard 1920x1080, 30p, ProRes 422 project, and ride the frame to make nice Ken Burn's effects throughout my time lapse video. My final output is always 1920x1080, 30p, ProRes 422.

As far as I can tell, this is the best way to streamline the process while minimizing render times and maintaining the highest quality output possible.

Would you agree? Or are there better ways to do this sort of work? I question the fact that my high-res quicktime files, which come out at 3456x2304, are massive. A :50 file is 8GB, with a bit-rate of 1.13 Gbit/s. Overkill? Or good "future-proofing"?

Thanks in advance.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos
on Mar 28, 2012 at 7:18:16 pm

Sorry, there's a very big flaw in the workflow: the frame rate.

You're mixing frame rates, and that is an extremely bad idea. FCP does NOT automatically compensate for the difference between 23.976 and 29.97; in fact; it stinks. The resulting frames emerge with a jerky cadence, adversely affecting motion. Thus, you do your ultimate product no favors at all.

You need to pick a consistent frame rate to use throughout your workflow, whether it's 23.976 or 29.97. You can then drop that bizarre idea of nesting a 23.976 timeline in a 29.97 timeline, saving you an unnecessary and harmful step.

As far as future-proofing, you will preserve no more image quality than the images first created by the camera. It's no big deal even now to import an image sequence, conform it to a given frame rate, and place it in a timeline of a given resolution. In future applications, it may be even less of a big deal.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Mark Suszko
Re: FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos
on Mar 28, 2012 at 9:21:12 pm

I think I saw that QT pro has an ability to deal with timelapse directly; might want to check that out for the import/conversion to .mov


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Dave LaRonde
Re: FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos
on Mar 28, 2012 at 9:29:57 pm

Yup, QT Pro has an Open Image Sequence command, and you pick the frame rate. You can export in the QT codec of choice. If the image size is larger than needed, you don't get very good control over the cropping, which is too bad.

But here's the upside: the OP would also be able to export full-size in ProRes, put the footage into a ProRes timeline in the resolution of his choice, scale and position as needed, and he'd be done.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Eddie Adams
Re: FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos
on Mar 28, 2012 at 11:25:20 pm

I'll take a look at it, but it sounds like if I am unable to export at a higher frame size than 1920x1080 (ie. the native 3456x2046), than this will not work for my purposes. Thanks for the input, I'll let you know.


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Eddie Adams
Re: FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos
on Mar 28, 2012 at 11:22:20 pm

Dave, I considered the framerate difference, but here's what I don't understand... I've imported these files as JPEG images into my project, with a default duration of 1 frame. What I don't understand is how to modify that from the default import of 23.98 to 30fps... or how that even matters in the equation if they're only a single frame in duration? Maybe you can shed some light... thanks.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos
on Mar 29, 2012 at 3:05:59 pm

I import image sequences into After Effects exclusively. I never use FCP to do it. Thus, I have no knowledge of how to change the default frame rate for image sequences. I understand that it can be done, but I've never done it personally. Like you, I would have to look it up.

Consider a frame rate as a measure of time. Let's assume you're working at a frame rate of 15 fps. How often does the picture change at that rate? Once every 1/15 second. Easy.

Now let's put that footage in a 30 fps edit timeline. How often does the picture change? It's still once every 1/15 second, even though the pictures in this edit timeline should change one every 1/30 second. This should also make good sense.

You can see what's happening with your current workflow by drawing two lines that are exactly one foot long. Divide one line into 24 equal parts. Divide the other line into 30 equal parts. Now place one line above the other. Observe how the lines differ: how sections overlap, how they're off from one another. You now have a good notion of what's happening by nesting a 23.976 timeline inside a 29.97 timeline.

It ain't pretty in terms of motion.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Eddie Adams
Re: FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos
on Mar 29, 2012 at 8:34:07 pm

I understand your explanation of framerate. What I don't get, is that if I import a still image as 1 frame duration, 1/1, how does that translate to a 23.98 "framerate"? It's a single frame, of a non-moving image. If you Make Still Image from a video clip, it imports it into your project as a single frame - and does not even assign a framerate. I would think FCP should do the same for my imported stills, but it does not. Maybe there is a way to do this, but I havent been able to find it anywhere on the web.

Regardless, Quicktime Pro is able to pull the Image Sequence into a nice quicktime, which I can then export at the images native resolution - making this the perfect workflow for my work. Thanks for your help everybody.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: FCP Workflow for Time Lapse Videos
on Mar 29, 2012 at 8:43:06 pm

[Eddie Adams] " What I don't get, is that if I import a still image as 1 frame duration, 1/1, how does that translate to a 23.98 "framerate""

Remember, I don't do this kind of thing in FCP: I do it in After Effects, where an entire folder containing an image sequence can be imported as a single clip, and you easily can modify the frame rate of that clip.

I simply don't know how FCP does it. Can you also import an image sequence as a single clip in FCP? If you can, you can doubtlessly modify the default frame rate. Again, you'd have to look it up.

But as a test, you could always put one of your image sequences into a 29.97 timeline rather than a 23.976 timeline and see what happens.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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