Monday, May 16, 2011

How To Create A Timelapse with Quicktime Without A Black Screen

We've been shooting some timelapse with a Nikon D7000 and the stills are .NEF files which Photoshop CS4 doesn't like and apparently there's no update to open these particular files so yeah, there's that. Photoshop requires that it be CS5 to open the D7000's .NEF files. Thanks Adobe!

So the basic workflow for these sorts of Timelapse is this:

1. Shoot with the intervelometer setting on the still camera.
2. Bring the stills into the Mac (either while shooting or load them in afterwards).
2a. Monkey with them in your image editor of choice. (Optional)
3. Launch Quicktime Player 7.
4. Hit Shift + Command + O (letter o) and select the first image in the sequence and hit Open (Return). This is "Open Image Sequence…"
5. Let Quicktime Player do it's thing then Export it to the format of your choice.


However…I noticed an interesting quirk in all this while assembling timelapses from the Nikon D7000.

A native .NEF file from the D7000 is 4928 x 3264, and while you can open them willy-nilly with Preview and Aperture, Quicktime Player 7 really doesn't like them because they are rather large. You'll see a black screen. Converting them to something else, like a .TIFF doesn't seem to help.

So I tried an experiment to see what the maximum size is that Quicktime Player 7 can handle by opening the .NEF file in Preview and making it a bit smaller then saving it as a .TIFF and found that (for me at least on this one Mac) 41% reduction works.

42% didn't.

2020 x 1338 will open in Quicktime Player 7 while 2070 x 1371 will not.

So in order to load them into Quicktime Player 7 as an image sequence you'll need to reduce them by 41% en masse.


A workaround to this is to use a little-known keyboard command in Quicktime Player 7: Option + Resize.

Open your image sequence as you would normally, as outlined above. If you see a black screen don't panic. Hold down Option and Resize the window to a size you like. Resizing the window with Option held down steps the resizing to multiples of the original frame size.

Once you get the Quicktime Player 7's window to screen size go ahead and make the quicktime movie despite it appearing as a black frame; the output video will have an image.

Keep in mind when you hit Export in QT7 you can then hit Options and then hit Size... and choose from a pre-selected list of commonly used sizes. Since these are smaller than the gigantic images you've imported as an image-sequence your video won't be a black screen once it's finished exporting.


I've been messing around with timelapses again and discovered you can use the very handy MPEG Streamclip to make timelapses as well (even though the image size bug will still exist with MPEG Streamclip.

1. Launch MPEG Streamclip.
2. Highlight all your timelapse images and drag them into MPEG Streamclip's main window. NOTE: You may just see a neon-green image preview in MPEG Streamclip. Don't Panic. (also if you have a large number of images this can take a long long time)
3. In MPEG Streamclip's menu head to Export to Quicktime...
4. Select the size you'd like for the video. I tend to choose 1920x1080 (HDTV 1080i) because as I found out above the max image size for a image sequence in Quicktime is about 2020x1338.
5. Hit Make Movie and tell it where to save it.

Note: For some reason the "Options..." button in MPEG Streamclip will not do anything some of the time.

Another option is to hit Export to Other Formats and then hit the Options... button and select your frame rate.


El Coachella said...

Quicktime doesn't open the files, do u use any plugin for this?

Walker Ferox said...

You need to make sure there of a size that Quicktime Player 7 can open.

Failing that, make sure you have the latest Camera Raw plug-in installed. You'll find it at Apple's software page.

g0c0oL said...

The new quicktime doesn't support "Open image sequence". The option doesn't exists.

Walker Ferox said...

Quicktime X doesn't to much that's of any real use to anyone in my opinion.