How to make a TimeSlice video with After Effects

Repurpose your holy grail timelapse sequences to create a trippy time slice effect.


In this tutorial I teach you how to make a TimeSlice video with After Effects. A TimeSlice is a timelapse video that you slice into multiple columns, after which you shift each column forward or backward in time.

The resulting effect shows you multiple points of time within the same frame. In a sense it adds an extra layer of depth to a vision that is already manipulating how we witness time.

Now that I've got this wanky intro out of the way let's move ahead with the actual tutorial.

What do you need to create a TimeSlice video:

  1. A holy grail timelapse shot (read/watch the holy grail timelapse tutorial here)
  2. Adobe After Effects (the software we'll use to generate the clip)
  3. Plugin A: Divide and Corner ($20, worth every penny trust me)
  4. Plugin B: ShiftLayers (free, but donate what you can miss)

The source footage for the time slice video.

You really do need a completely clean, flicker free holy grail timelapse shot. It doesn't matter if it goes from day to night or from night to day, as long as it shows a smooth passing of time. The Holy Grail timelapse shot used to be challenging, however if you use LRTimelapse along with my tutorial you will find no difficulty in creating your very own ‘holy grail'.

The reason we use After Effects is because it is so incredibly powerful when it comes to customising specific parameters. My friend Emeric from LA has made his own TimeSlice tutorial using Premiere Pro that you can watch here. It is slightly more time consuming and less customisable but very handy when you don't want to have to learn new software if all you know is Premiere Pro.

Now that I'm on the subject of other people and TimeSlices, I have to mention Dan Marker-Moore aka @danorst, also from LA.

Years ago (I believe this was 2013 or early 2014, or as it now turns out when writing this post: 2015) I saw some of his work pass by on Petapixel. He showcased some of his ‘timeslice' photos and how he made them using timelapse sequences and advanced editing in After Effects. The title said ‘how to create' but we never really got much info on how to specifically create this type of content. I don't blame Dan, I know how it feels to not want to share something with the internet.

When hyperlapse photography started getting more and more popular I refused to share my knowledge on the subject, thinking I would be shooting myself in the foot and creating competition for myself in this niche of timelapse and hyperlapse photography that I was very comfortable with. In hindsight, this was a very silly point of view. I didn't make that highly sought after hyperlapse tutorial, but someone else did. And that someone else ended up getting hundreds and hundreds of thousands of views on their channel and thousands of subs. Life and business isn't all about ‘the numbers', but it did hurt a little bit, I have to admit.

So, from that experience, I learned. It is only a matter of time before someone else discovers your special little technique and shares it for the world to see. Might as well be me, right? (by the way, here is my hyperlapse tutorial)

I've been sitting on this After Effects editing technique for years now, and even though I was always going to share it, there was no urgency. Until I saw Emeric's mention of an upcoming tutorial! So, naturally, I sprung into action and decided to finally move ahead. I feel like this article is one of those cooking blogs where you have to read someone's life story before getting to the actual recipe, sorry about that. Let's move ahead with the next chapter.

How to create a time slice video in after effects:

  1. Download and install the following plugins: Divide and Corner and ShiftLayers.
  2. Import your Holy Grail timelapse video, create a composition.
  3. Double the speed of your clip (not always needed) by right clicking > Time > Time Stretch, set it to 50% to half your clip length, which doubles your playback speed.
  4. Move the playhead to the start of the timeline, select the clip then go Window > Divide and Corner.
  5. Change these parameters to whatever you want, in the tutorial I went with 32 columns, 1 row, 0 margin and straight corners. Click Divide and watch the magic unfold.
  6. Click Window again then select pt_ShiftLayers and set it to Stagger. Depending on the length of the clip you can set the framecount to whatever really. I usually go with a handful of frames. If it's too much, just hit Edit > Undo and put in a different value.
  7. You'll notice the layers stagger forward and only part of the sequence will contain all the columns. Preview the sequence and readjust your settings where needed.
  8. Hit B and N to set in and out points for the upcoming render.
  9. Export the composition/sequence using a ProRes or DnxHD codec (cineform is also good) and wait for the render to finish. This can take a very long time depending on the number of columns that you've generated in step 5.
Shiftlayers timeslice plugin
Shiftlayers timeslice plugin
Divide and Corner timeslice plugin
Divide and Corner timeslice plugin

Side tip: Sometimes you can end up with a one pixel wide gap between columns (caused by an uneven number of pixels and rows), which will show up as thin, black vertical lines. You can fix this by applying a mask expansion effect on one of the columns or layers and then copy/pasting that mask effect to the rest of the columns. Add a little feathering (2 pixels will do the trick) to make the transition between columns even less noticeable. This is why After Effects is so great to work with, it allows you to work very efficiently from beginning to end. The only limit is your creativity. Wow, another sappy quote, that marks two!

Now that this tutorial is out there, I'd love to see your results. Tag me (@matjoez) in your posts and make sure to use the hashtag #matjoeztimeslice so I can find everyone's posts. I've got a lot of timeslice footage from the last couple of years of shooting so will be making a compilation soon.

I hope you enjoyed this new time slice tutorial, please drop a comment below if you have any video requests!

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