Since Instagram introduced video importing from the camera roll, I’ve been enjoying sharing condensed timelapses of my lettering process. It’s also given me a great excuse to include some of my piano compositions as mini-soundtracks. Though many on Instagram cry “What app? What app??!” in the comments out of desperation to discover a 1-tap solution to producing such creations, I’m afraid the real process is much more involved. I decided it was time I created an Instagram timelapse video tutorial.

timelapse-equipment

The Equipment

While you can use any variety of cameras and setup, I want to show you what I’ve used to create a setup that is a more permanent and ready-to-go for a streamlined creation process.

  • Heil Sound PL-2T Overhead Broadcast Boom
    • This boom is one of the best you can get. I actually have two of them—one with the mic for my podcast, and the one shown for the webcam. It has a built-in, covered track for the cord to run through, which keeps things nice and clean and out of the way. However, this is a broadcast boom, meaning it’s fitted for standard 5/8″ mic threads. This won’t fit your standard camera, which is why we need the adapter below.
  • On Stage SM01 Video Camera/Digital Recorder Adapter
    • The adapter worked like a charm for converting the threads to fit any of my cameras (like a regular tripod’s thread). It has a nifty twisting lock screw that lets you secure your camera tightly without having to spin around the camera itself. In addition, it has the ability to lock in at a range of angles, giving you lots of flexibility.
  • Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920
    • Finally, the camera itself: The C920 is a brilliant camera with remarkable clarity. You’re going to get full 1080p Widescreen video at 30fps with this thing (you might want to grab a USB Extension if your drawing setup is located far from your computer). The picture is stunning, however the flaw that I found was that its autofocus is specifically catered to finding faces—which it does very well. The problem is, when you’re trying to use it for timelapse recording like I do, it tends to frequently attempt to “find” what it should focus on (not good). The good news is, I found a solution for Mac users: In the App Store, there is an application called Webcam Settings which gives you absolute control over everything from whitebalance, to exposure, to, most importantly, manual focus. It’s a shame that a third-party app is needed for such a thing, but honestly this camera is so good, it was well worth the extra effort to get this kind of a quality setup.

quicktime-record

Recording Your Video

To keep things simple, I like to record with QuickTime. Once your webcam is setup and plugged in, make a New Movie Recording (Cmd + Opt + N), and select your webcam as the video source.

quicktime-new-video-recording

Now the fun part—time to sketch! Remember, what will likely take you often half an hour (or more) is going to be condensed down to fit within a mere 15-second Instagram video. You might at first be nervous, but it’s going to be sped up so fast, you have nothing to worry about. Just hit record and go for it!

Once you’ve stopped the recording, go to File > Export… (Cmd + Shift + S) and save your movie (this will create a .mov file).

quicktime-export

Creating an Instagram Timelapse Video in Adobe Premiere

Open up a new project in Adobe Premiere and let’s take a look at the New Sequence settings. (Note: If you don’t have Adobe Premiere, you can download a trial)

new-sequence

If you’re using the Logitech C920 Webcam, this is the preset you’ll want:

  • Digital SLR > 1080p > DSLR 1080p30 @ 29.97

While still in the New Sequence dialog, click the second tab, which will be named either “Settings” or “General” depending on your version of Premiere.

sequence-settings

You’ll only need to change two things on this screen. First, set your Frame Size to 640 x 640 pixels (it should already be Square Pixels with a 1:1 ratio). Also, bring the Audio Sample Rate down to 44100 Hz, it’s more than enough. Click OK.

import-video

Now, we’ll bring in that video we made with QuickTime. Simply drag it in to your Project window, or use File > Import… (Cmd + I).

drag-video-to-timeline

With the video in your project, you can now drag the video down, onto your timeline. This is of course going to be very long at first, but we’ll take care of that in a second.

right-click-clip-speed-duration

We want to get condense our long video down to fit within the allotted Instagram 15-second time limit. Right click on the video > Speed/Duration…

clip-duration

Typically you would type in 15 seconds in this dialog to take up the full time, but I’m actually going to transition to a still image of my final artwork at the end, so I like to set the timelapse portion to take up 12.5 seconds. (Note: the Duration amount is broken down into Hours:Minutes:Seconds:Milliseconds)

Alright! We’ve got our video condensed down nice and short, but wait! Our video actually appears to be too big…

video-is-large

That’s nothing a little scaling can’t fix. With your video selected, go to your Effect Controls window and open up Motion and decrease the video Scale. If you’re working with a 1080p video, the sweet spot for fitting our Instagram video size is 60.

effects-controls-decrease-scale

Sweet. Let’s go ahead and bring in a still shot of our artwork to fade to at the end of our video. (You’re doing awesome so far, btw! This is all going to be so much easier the next time you do it, I promise.)

import-photo

Here’s an image that I edited on my iPhone and brought in and added to my Project media. Simply drag the image to your timeline, after the existing timelapse video. (Note: just like with the video, your image will likely be much larger than your frame size. You’ll want to repeat the above step of scaling it down using the Scale setting in your Effect Controls window.)

fit-image-to-15-sec

Make sure you adjust the duration of that image to fit to 15 seconds and no more. Instagram will let you crop later, but it’s much better to have full control now and get things just perfect (especially with audio) so no hard cropping in the Instagram app is necessary.

cross-dissolve

To keep things nice and smooth, we’re going to add a cross fade transition from our timelapse video to our still shot at the end. In your Effects window, open Video Transitions > Dissolve > Cross Dissolve (you can also search for it). Drag this effect to the end of the video timelapse clip.

cross-dissolve-on-clip

Perfect. You’ve done this before, haven’t you? No? Well you certainly had me fooled! You’re a natural.

import-audio

Go ahead and bring in some audio if you’d like. Do keep in mind that though you may see others do it, it is not legal to use copyrighted music. If it’s not yours or you didn’t pay for a license, STOP! You cannot use it.

“But, Sean! What about ‘FAIR USE?'” Now, now, you must keep in mind, “Fair Use” is a term used as a defense in a legal situation. It is not a right. You don’t own the music, and you’re not paying for it, so it is an infringement to use any amount of it—even 15 seconds. Be smart. Play it safe.

compose-your-own-piano-music

This isn’t the place for a legal debate, so take my advice: don’t use music that you don’t own or have a paid license to. Me, personally? I like to compose my own! Have fun experimenting with some guitar, or piano, or singing. It’s going to make it all the more unique and all the more “you.” You’ll enjoy the sense of accomplishment you get, and you’ll improve your musical skill. Of course, if you don’t want to put forth the effort to practice or learn a music instrument, there’s always royalty free music, or licensed music.

Enough of the messy legal stuff, we came here for fun! Let’s get back to our project.

trim-audio-to-15-sec

Where were we again? Ah yes, audio! Drag whatever music clip you’re using down to your timeline. If it’s not pre-produced for 15 seconds, you’ll need to trim it down, otherwise it will make the video too long.
exponential-fade

Back in your Effects window, open Audio Transition > Crossfade > Exponential Fade (again, you could also search for this effect).

exponential-fade-on-audio

Drag this to the end and/or beginning of your audio clip. Also, make sure you toggle off the audio on your timelapse video! That won’t sound too pretty if you leave it on.

toggle-audio-output

We’re almost there! This is all going to be so worth it.

export-settings-video

It’s finally time to export:

  • Go to File > Export > Media (Cmd + M).
  • Select QuickTime as your Format (this will handle the majority of the settings we need).
  • Click your Output Name and decide what to call your file and where to save it (ensure “Export Video” and “Export Audio” are checked).
  • Select H.264 for your Video Codec.
  • With the constrain proportions box unchecked (the little chain link icon), set both your Width and Height to 640 pixels.
  • Ensure that your Aspect is set to Square Pixels (1.0)

It’s a good idea at this time to click the Output tab to check what your video will look like when it’s exported.

export-checking-output-fixing-black-bars

If you see black bars at the top and bottom of your video on the Output tab, it means you did not select Square Pixels in your Aspect ratio.

export-settings-audio

Back on Source, click the Audio tab on the right. Select an Audio Codec of AAC and a Sample Rate of 44100 Hz. If your audio is not Stereo, you can save some file size by setting your Channel to Mono.

Believe it or not, you’re ready to hit Export!

sync-videos-itunes

With your iPhone plugged in, open iTunes and select your device. On the Photos tab, check the box next to “Sync Photos from…” and select the folder that contains your video file. Make sure you have “Include Video” checked, or it will only sync photos from that folder.

(An alternative method of getting the video onto your phone automatically, and without syncing, would be to use DropBox.)

iphone-photo-album

Hooray—there’s our video!

instagram-select-media

When you go to select your media within the Instagram app, you may not see your video in your Camera Roll if you synced it with iTunes. It will likely be in a different album, which you can get to by dragging the grid view downward. This will show the “Albums” button that let’s you go back to view all of your albums.

instagram-select-video

Once you’ve found the album you synced, select your video.

instagram-trim-crop

Instagram will give you an opportunity to trim and crop the video, but we already set ours up perfectly, so we can simply tap Next.

instagram-filter

If you want to use a filter, you can experiment here. I’ve tried it with and without, and I tend to prefer doing my editing within Premiere and leaving it set at Normal in Instagram.

instagram-cover-choose-last-frame

For the Cover Frame, I suggest dragging your selection all the way to the right to select the very last frame of your video. In our case that is the completed design, which is a visually interesting picture to display as the default image. Also, it has the polished effect of there not being any odd change at the end of the video: The viewer watches the clip, and it fades to the still shot at the end and then switches seamlessly to an identical cover image.

instagram-share

Take a deep breath, you’re ready to Share. (Tip: create a second Instagram account and make it private. That way you can test it out first, if you’re nervous!)

instagram-video

Congratulations, and a job well done! I hope this was useful for you. Feel free to follow me on Instagram or Twitter, and if you found this tutorial useful, be sure to share it below.

Finished Video

Here’s my completed timelapse video project using much of the same process, with a few extra touches thrown in for finesse:


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