Technical Solutions | D810 TIPS

Time-Lapse Movies

Time-lapse movies can be created from photos shot using time-lapse photography, the interval timer, or unlimited continuous release. In the first case, the camera generates the movie automatically, while the last two methods require third-party movie-editing software, a powerful computer, and advanced image-processing skills.

Time-Lapse Movie Techniques

The three methods of creating time-lapse movies are compared below.

Interval-Timer Photography

In interval-timer photography, the camera takes photos at preset intervals. Image quality, size, and other settings can be adjusted for exactly the results you want, while shots containing unwanted objects can be edited or deleted. With its 36-million-pixel image sensor, the D810 can be used for shots that will form the basis of 4K movies, which the camera does not otherwise support, or (if you shoot at maximum size) even 8K movies with a frame size of 32-million pixels. You can create high quality movies and even (in NEF/RAW format) choose the color temperature.

Time-Lapse Photography

This is the least complicated method: the camera creates movies from photos taken at preset intervals, sparing you the task of splicing the shots together. You are however limited to the frame sizes, bit rates, and quality options available in the Frame size/frame rate and Movie quality menus and can record movies in MOV format only. In addition, the individual frames that make up the movie are not stored in separate files.

Unlimited Continuous Release

Selecting a shutter speed of 4 s or slower in exposure mode S or M lets you take an unlimited number of photographs in continuous release mode (CL, CH, or QC): shooting can continue as long as the battery lasts and there is space on the memory card, regardless of the option selected for Custom Setting d3 (Max. continuous release). Although the lack of shutter speeds faster than 4 s limits your choice of subjects, the interval between shots is shorter than in time-lapse photography, producing smoother footage of subjects that require exposure times of 4 s or more, such as stars or auroras.

Table: Time-Lapse Movie Techniques Compared

Interval timer

Format: Stills NEF, JPEG, TIFF
Format: Movies
Max. frame size 7360 × 4912
Time between shots 1 s or more
Exposure time* 1/8000 – 30s
Autoexposure Supported
Creates Material for advanced time-lapse movies and film logs

* Options may vary if MC cord or other accessories are used.

Time lapse

Format: Stills
Format: Movies MOV
Max. frame size 1920 × 1080
Time between shots 1 s or more
Exposure time* 1/8000 – 30s
Autoexposure Supported
Creates Hassle-free time-lapse movies

* Options may vary if MC cord or other accessories are used.


Format: Stills NEF, JPEG, TIFF
Format: Movies
Max. frame size 7360 × 4912
Time between shots Time selected in CL or CH mode
Exposure time* 4 – 30s
Autoexposure Fixed at value for 1st shot
Creates Material for time-lapse movies featuring star trails or auroras

* Options may vary if MC cord or other accessories are used.

Interval-Timer Photography: NEF (RAW) Photos

Photos shot in uncompressed, 14-bit NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine format take longer to save to the memory card, with the result that pictures may not be taken at the selected interval.

The Movie Crop

We recommend that you keep the 16:9 movie crop in mind when using the interval timer or unlimited continuous release to record material for time-lapse movies, as important elements may be cropped out when movies are created from shots with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Exposure Smoothing

Exposure smoothing is available with interval-timer and time-lapse photography.

Why Use Exposure Smoothing?

Sunrises, sunsets, and other scenes in which brightness changes over time will gradually become over- or under- exposed if recorded at a fixed exposure. On the other hand, if you choose an exposure mode such as aperture-priority auto (A) that lets the camera adjust exposure automatically, exposure will vary from shot to shot, causing the time-lapse movie to flicker.

Correcting flicker is a thankless task, requiring plug-ins for your movie-editing software or frame-by-frame adjustments to exposure. Uneven exposure can, however, be largely prevented by selecting On for Exposure smoothing. By detecting trends in exposure starting before recording begins and using this information to eliminate small variations, exposure smoothing greatly simplifies post-pro- duction. We recommend you enable exposure smoothing whenever you take photos for time-lapse movies.

Note, however, that by design, exposure smoothing makes the camera slower to respond to changes in brightness, and that abrupt changes may consequently produce noticeable over- or under-exposure. Say you drive through a tunnel while shooting with On selected for Exposure smoothing. The first frames after you enter will be underexposed, while those immediately after you exit will be overexposed, with optimal exposure being gradually restored over two to three seconds. To ensure optimal ex- posure for each scene when taking photos not for use in a time-lapse movie, select Off for Exposure smoothing.

Recommended Interval-Timer Settings

We recommend adjusting settings as described below before using interval-timer photography to take pictures for time-lapse movies.

Simplifying Post-Processing

To help keep the photos organized, create a new folder for each session and reset file numbering to 0001.

To create a new folder, use the Storage folder option in the shooting menu.

To reset file numbering to 0001, select Reset for Custom Setting d6 (File number sequence).

Eliminating Flicker

Adjust settings as described below to prevent unwanted changes in color and exposure between frames:

Active D-Lighting: Select an option other than Auto.

Picture Control: Select an option other than A (auto) for each of sharpening, clarity, contrast, and saturation.

Vignette control: Select Off.

White balance: Although it has little effect on exposure, auto white balance can produce undesirable results if color temperature changes during shooting. Choose an option other than Auto or shoot in NEF (RAW) format and adjust white balance during post-production.

Auto ISO sensitivity control: Selecting exposure mode A may not be enough to ensure that the camera responds to changes in exposure in scenes that vary widely in brightness over time, such as sunrises or sunsets. In cases such as these, select On for ISO sensitivity settings > Auto ISO sensitivity control in the shooting menu and choose a value for Maximum sensitivity that is high without being high enough to cause excessive noise. Minimum shutter speed should be shorter than the interval selected with the interval timer. For example, if you select exposure mode A and set ISO sensitivity to ISO 400, Maximum sensitivity to ISO 3200, Minimum shutter speed to 8 s, and Interval timer shooting > Interval to 10 s to record a sunset, the camera will adjust ISO sensitivity within the selected limits as the lighting changes, taking photos at ISO 400 and fast shut- ter speeds while the sun is high, and at ISO sensitivities as high as ISO 3200 and shutter speeds as slow as 8 s once the sun has set.

Other Recommended Settings

To prevent focus changing with each shot, select manual focus (MF). If you are using a VR lens, turn vibration reduction off.

To prevent light entering via the viewfinder interfering with photographs or exposure, close the viewfinder eyepiece shutter before starting the interval timer.

Reducing the Drain on the Battery

Select Off for Image review in the playback menu. If On is selected, the photograph will be displayed in the monitor after each shot, reducing the number of shots that can be taken on a single charge. Select On only if you are using an AC adapter or battery pack or will be shooting for a short time.