If you’ve watched a vlog on YouTube in the past couple of years, you’ve probably seen a time lapse. A time lapse is made by speeding up a slow-moving scene in video (see the GIF above). Common examples include clouds moving, sunset, traffic, and plants growing. You can create your own visually stunning time lapse with your Android phone.
A time lapse is basically just a long video sped up into a shorter video, but that’s not the way you should do it. Time lapse apps will record short clips in intervals and stitch them together. The advantage of this method is you don’t have to deal with super long videos with giant file sizes. You will still have to put your phone in one spot for an extended time.
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What You’ll Need
Since you’ll need to keep your phone in an undisturbed spot for a long time, this is a great reason to break out an unused old phone. That way you won’t be without a phone while you’re recording the time lapse. Obviously, you’ll want a phone with a decent camera, but don’t worry about filming in 4K unless you’re super serious.
The most important thing you’ll need is a time lapse app. Some phones have a time lapse feature built right into the main camera app. If you have a new-ish Samsung, LG, or HTC phone, there’s a good chance you already have the feature.
- Open the camera app
- Switch camera modes
- Look for “time lapse” or “hyper lapse”
If you don’t see anything like that in your camera app, you’ll need to download a 3rd-party app from the Play Store. Thankfully, there are plenty of great time lapse apps available. Try one of these apps:
How to take a Time Lapse
Now that you have the appropriate tools, it’s time to actually record the time lapse. The first thing you need is a good subject to record. Anything that moves slowly will look great in a time lapse. This could be the movement of clouds, a building being constructed, the sun setting, a busy intersection, etc.
The next thing you need is a stable place to set your phone. A tripod with a phone mount is the obvious choice, but you can literally use anything to prop up your phone. If you want to get really fancy, you can get a panning tripod mount to pan across the time lapse. A stable, static spot is a good place to start.
Some apps will allow you to adjust the frame intervals and speed. Frame interval is the amount of time between recorded frames. For a short recording, you’ll want shorter intervals. A longer recording can have longer intervals. This is something you’ll have to tinker with to find the best results.
Taking a time lapse is not rocket science. Once you have the phone set up, it’s basically just a matter of hitting record and waiting. For the best results, you’ll want to record for a long time. The clouds moving across the sky for 12 hours is going to be much more dramatic than just an hour. Check out this example of a time lapse I made a few winters ago.