Compressor for Time Lapse and Photo-Lapse Images

See the Compressor for Time Lapse YouTube Video.

Hi everyone, this is Kent from Man About Tools. I have a short tutorial today. I’m going to show my workflow for creating a Time Laps clip from still images with Apple Compressor and (FCPX) Final Cut Pro. The images were captured at 4K resolution from an SJ7 Star action camera made by SJCAM.

(Also have a look at our post on the How’s and Why’s for shooting Time-Lapse.)

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I set the camera on a small tripod in my back field and shot at 5 second intervals for about half an hour. In that time the camera took 452 photos totalling about 1 gigabyte.

action camera SJCAM SJSTAR

I use an external battery for longer recording sequences.

action camera external battery

I edit with Final Cut Pro Ten on an iMac. And I use Apple Compressor to convert these stills into a video clip I can then edit.

editing with iMac fcpx

You can also import all the stills directly into Final Cut and create the clip that way but, all those images can slow things down and clutter up the Event Folder so, I prefer the Compressor route for this.

time lapse apple compressor action camera fcpx
FCPX slows down with so many images in the timeline

And, Compressor gives my more options as well.


One snag I ran into when I first tried to do this arose from the image naming convention SJCAM uses in their cameras. The images are not sequentially numbered so Compressor does not see them as a sequence and will only import the first image.

(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for helping to support my content this way. )

naming sequence

The way around this is to rename all the clips first.

I connect the camera to my iMac with a USB cable and copy and paste (or drag and drop) all the images into a folder.

action camera import

I make sure the folder view is sorted by Date Modified then I Right Click the mouse and select “Rename 452 items”. Pick “Format” from the drop down list, and under “Name Format” select “Name and Index”.

name index

Type in the Custom Format prefix. I used the word “cedars” followed by a dash. The “Where” drop down leave as “after name” and the “Start numbers at” box as 1.

hit rename

Click Rename and now you have all the images neatly sequentially numbered.

now sequential

Into Compressor for Time Lapse

Open Compressor, on the left side click “show Settings and Locations” and also open the Inspector on the upper right side. At the bottom click on the “plus down arrow” and select “Add Image Sequence” then navigate to the folder with your freshly renamed images. Don’t add the images, simply select the folder and click “ADD.”

time lapse apple compressor action camera add image sequence
Add Image Sequence

From the BUILT-IN Settings options I drag Apple ProRes 422 onto the job. For this example I leave the location as Source so the video clip will be put in the same folder or root of the drive as the images.

add prores codec

In the Inspector window click Video, then under Video Properties I set the Frame rate to 23.976 or whatever you are editing at.

set framerate

Now hit Start Batch and the movie file begins to Process. I now can Import this clip into Final Cut Pro as I would any other video footage.

time lapse action camera preview results

View the Clip

I’ll go back to the folder and open the clip with Quicktime to see how it looks. The sky and cloud motion is nice but the big cedars are a bit dark.

time lapse

I publish most of my video at 1080 so shooting the time lapse at 4K allows me to simulate camera movement with the Crop and Ken Burns effect without losing image quality.

ken burns effect

Final Clip

Here’s a still from the clip again with some colour adjustments.

camera final

I hope this short tutorial on Compressor for Time Lapse helped you out.

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