How To Make a Webcam Time Lapse

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Once again, I am straying from my normal mode of posting randomness to bring you a tutorial-type post. In this post, I am going to lay out my method of using a webcam, a laptop, free software, and Sony Vegas 9 (or freeware programs) to make a time lapse video.

First of all, I have a fairly good webcam, a Microsoft Studio, that is capable of shooting 1080p video and taking 8mp still shots, so the results of your time lapse will vary with the quality of camera. Various free programs exist that allow you to make time lapse videos, but most of them are either buggy or limited in function; I couldn’t use Tilaphos to shoot in HD, and Booru is pretty buggy.

The solution to my problem lay in a very simple method of image capture. The laptop is not able to be used for other functions while it is capturing the image, but that was no big deal to me. My solution is to use a software auto-clicker to press the photo button at a certain interval.

  1. Download the auto-clicker here. (This is safe software that I’ve had no trouble with; no installation is required.) Unzip the .zip file and save the folder to a location that is easy for you to find.
  2. Open your webcam software and browse to a screen that shows a capture image button. For those of us with Microsoft webcams, this is a little image of a camera.  
  3. Once you have opened the software and have your webcam pointed at your subject, open the auto-clicker. Set the point at which you want the mouse to click by clicking “Locate” and then clicking on the image capture button.
  4. Set the time interval (how often the software will capture an image) in the “Click Interval” section. The units are milliseconds, so if you want to take a picture every 5 seconds, set the first number to 5000. Ignore the second number, and leave the “To” box unchecked.
  5. Make sure that “Left Button” is selected, and set the number of clicks if you wish. (If you set the interval at 5000 ms, and you want to record for an hour, set the value to 720. Click the Start button and let take pictures for as long as you want.
  6. To turn your images into a time lapse in Sony Vegas, open the program, go to Options > Preferences > Editing, and set the “New image still length” to .050. When you insert the images into your timeline, the images will be the right length to play back at 30fps. Tweak your output settings to whatever you want; I set mine at 8mbps 1080 30fps in .wmv format.
  7. Alternate: If you do not have Sony Vegas, here is a tutorial detailing how to make a time lapse with various free programs. I recommend using Virtual Dub.

Here’s the result!

Have fun! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
~Chris

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15 thoughts on “How To Make a Webcam Time Lapse

    timethief said:
    3 April , 2012 at 18:07

    Oh my! I’m so jealous that you chose to publish this here. If you ever want to guest post a tutorial like this one I’d love to publish it on my blog. 🙂

      xanthuskidd responded:
      3 April , 2012 at 18:17

      Thanks, TT. 🙂

      Photography/imaging is the only serious subject that I post about on this blog, so if I come up with a tutorial for something else, I will send it to you.

        timethief said:
        3 April , 2012 at 20:11

        Great! 🙂

    janenemurphy said:
    4 April , 2012 at 12:16

    Very cool, Chris. Love the music choice, too!

      xanthuskidd responded:
      4 April , 2012 at 12:43

      Thanks! I got it from Jamendo; it’s a really cool site with lots of free music. Some of it isn’t licensed for reuse, but you can search for CC licensed commercial and otherwise. Glad you liked it. http://www.jamendo.com/en/albums

    zobop republic said:
    4 April , 2012 at 12:21

    Great time lapse video. Even though the video is 31 seconds, I was wondering how much time actually lapsed? MInutes, hour? 🙂 Thanks!

      xanthuskidd responded:
      4 April , 2012 at 12:45

      Hey! I actually forgot to put that in the description; thanks for catching that! This is just under an hour of photos. This is a compilation of 656 pictures, taken at 5 second intervals. Glad you liked it. 🙂

    akshay said:
    6 November , 2012 at 22:54

    i want to make speed drawing video so shud i record from my laptop webcam or from my tab
    n den how shud i make dat video speed pls help i hav no idea 🙂

      xanthuskidd responded:
      6 November , 2012 at 23:08

      Hey there! Thanks for stopping by! What are you drawing with? Are you using a pen or pencil to draw on paper, or will you be using an application to draw on the computer?

      You’ll probably want a time lapse with a delay of somewhere around 5-10 seconds. This may be difficult with a laptop webcam, but I think you could make it work. What was the other option, a tablet? What kind?

    ANinjaRacer said:
    3 May , 2013 at 13:51

    What kind of memory requirements are there for an hours worth or 8mp pictures every 5 seconds?

      xanthuskidd responded:
      4 May , 2013 at 09:01

      Assuming you’re referring to storage, that’d be 720 pictures, and 8mp pix run about 2mb in size, so somewhere around 1.5 gigs.

    Art said:
    16 August , 2013 at 08:03

    I enjoyed your tutorial. I have never heard of the auto-clicker program. I will have to try it. I have been recording weather time lapse with webcams for a couple of years and agree that it is best to get the highest quality webcam you can. Keep up the good work.

      xanthuskidd responded:
      8 September , 2013 at 17:01

      Now those are cool! I live in a semi-mountainous area of NC, so it’s difficult for me to find an area to get sweeping shots of storms like that. The auto-clicking idea was one that I had after I got frustrated with the webcam timelapse programs that I had found. It works, but it’s certainly not the best idea out there. Haha. Thanks for stopping by!

    Mark Goodson said:
    21 August , 2013 at 07:58

    I have a computer tower and a WebCam I want to be able to record and playback the recording with a time delay.

      xanthuskidd responded:
      8 September , 2013 at 17:03

      Ah, so sorry for my late response. I haven’t been able to keep up with my blog lately. How will you be outputting the the recording (ie: on the same monitor, through an internet stream, on a projector, etc…)? Do you want a video feed, or a succession of photos?

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