How to make a timelapse with iMovie

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How to make a timelapse with iMovie
How to make a timelapse with iMovie cover

Imovie is a free app that comes with any new Apple computer. With a bit of a workaround you can use it to create real timelapse videos. It has limitations though, which I'll show you how to solve!

Just in case you didn't know, a time-lapse is usually created out of a series of photos and then turned into a video file. I've got a free e-book about how to shoot timelapses that you can download below.

How to make a timelapse with iMovie

  • Open iMovie and create a new project. Select Movie (not trailer).
  • Go to preferences and set Photo Duration to 0,1 second. This means that iMovie will see every photo as a video clip that is 0,1 seconds long.
  • Also in preferences set Photo Placement to ‘Crop to fill'.
  • Click the Import Media button and select all your timelapse photos using Command + A then click Import All.
  • Use Command + A again to select all your photos and drag them into the timeline.
  • You can adjust the crop so that all the photos fill the frame properly. Photos and videos often have different sizes which you can fix by cropping the photos to the right size.

If you play the footage in the timeline now it will now play your timelapse at 10 frames per second. However normal video is played back at 25 or 30 frames per second depending on where you live.

So we need to export this sequence, then re-import it and speed it up to the normal speed.

For this you need to let it ‘render’ (transform) the photos into a video file.

Go to File > Share > File and use the following settings.

iMovie timelapse export settings

Once the footage is exported as a video file you need to re-import this video and speed it up by either 250% or 300% depending on if you want 25 or 30 frames per second footage.

You do this by dragging the clip into your timeline and clicking the chrono icon, then selecting a custom speed and setting it to 250% or 300%.

Adjusting playback speed in iMovie for editing timelapses

You can apply a colour grade or filter before exporting to give the footage some more colour.

Then go to File > Share > File and use the following settings.

Et voila, you have a finished timelapse video!

A couple of thoughts about using iMovie for timelapse videos

iMovie only exports at 1080p or Full HD resolution. This is very limiting, especially in an era where we have so many more pixels in our cameras.

If you have iMovie then chances are high you also have Quicktime Player.

You can use Quicktime player to create high resolution video files from a series of photos without having to render the photos twice. This results in a much higher quality result.

How to make a timelapse with Quicktime Player

  • Open Quicktime and go to File > Open Image Sequence.
  • Select your image sequence and adjust your settings as needed. I would use Actual Size resolution, 25 frames per second and the Higher Quality Apple ProRes video codec.
  • Go to File > Save and choose where to save your video file.
Using Quicktime Player to create timelapse video files out of a series of timelapse photos.

This is a MUCH better way to turn your photos into a video file.

Like seriously, don't do the iMovie thing, it's ridiculous.

I highly recommend using Quicktime instead, as this allows you to create high resolution video files with the right framerate from the start.

This means that you don’t have to render twice and you’ll get higher quality footage, as every time you export or render, you lose a little bit of quality.

I hope this was useful, please let me know in the comments which other tutorials you would like to see.

If you want to learn how to time-lapse like a pro, check out my e-books about timelapse!

1 COMMENT

  1. Seems I don’t have the option of “File > Open Image Sequence”. I only have Open File, Location, or Recent. When I Open File, it is apparently looking for a video file. So when I go to the location of my photos, they are all grayed out and unavailable to choose. MP4 files, however, are available to click on to choose. I have the version 10.5 and using OS Mojave.

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