How To Shoot And Post-Process A Day-To-Night Hyperlapse (The Holy Grail Technique)

Tutorial how to do a day-to-night hyperlapse video on drone photography bible

Want to shoot a hyperlapse with day-to-night transition such as the one shown below? In this tutorial, I will share the workflow for shooting and post-processing a holy grail hyperlapse using a series of software – LRTimelapse, Adobe Lightroom, and Adobe Premiere Pro. If you prefer a video walk through of this tutorial, please click on this link

Let’s get some definitions of basic terminologies out of the way first. 

What is the a Hyperlapse

A hyperlapse is essentially a moving timelapse – a photography technique that captures a series of photos at very low frame rate. When the continuous sequence of shots are played back at standard video frame rates (say 24 or 30 frames per seconds), it gives an optical illusion of time moving faster while subtle changes in the surrounding become more obvious. Making a hyperlapse by moving the camera a regular intervals is tedious work, but with the built-in hyperlapse features in the DJI Mavic series drones, shooting a hyperlapse video can be a breeze. 

Holy Grail Hyperlapse Technique

Holy Grail Hyperlapse are shot when the light condition changes significantly during the cause of taking the hyperlapse, usually during sunrise or sunset. Because the light condition changes so quickly, there is a need to adjust the camera settings (ISO / Shutter Speed, Aperture). Otherwise, the hyperlapse will become under-exposed or over-exposed very quickly. On the other hand, changing the camera settings while taking the hyperlapse will introduce flickering effect. LRTimelapse is an excellent software that works hand in hand with Adobe Lightroom to post-process the hyperlapse images and to remove these flickering effects.  

Holy Grail Hyperlapse Shooting and Editing Workflow: An Overview

This tutorial covers the basic shooting and editing workflow for a hyperlapse taken during sunset. Timing is important: To shoot a day-to-night hyperlapse, you would want to know the exact sunset timing, and to time the flight so that the hyperlapse shots cover both the day and night scenes within the same flight. 

For my hyperlapse video, I started flying the drone 15 minutes before sunset, and spent about 5 minutes setting the hyperlapse way points, and then time the flight to cover 7-8 minutes of daylight and 7-8 mins of night scenes. Just enough for the battery of the Mavic 2’s battery span of approximately 22 minutes.  

The principles and techniques described in this tutorial would apply whether it’s timelapse or hyperlapse, taken during a sunrise or sunset. In summary, the key workflow for shooting and post-processing a holy grail hyperlapse will include four key steps:

  1. Drone (Mavic 2 Zoom) hyperlapse settings
  2. Camera settings during hyperlapse shoot
  3. Post-processing Using LRTimelapse and Adobe Lightroom
  4. Stabilizing the hyperlapse video using Adobe Premiere Pro

1. Drone (Mavic 2 Zoom) Hyperlapse Shooting

The hyperlapse flight mode comes out of the box for the Mavic 2 (Zoom/ Pro) drones, and it’s really easy to use.  If you’re flying other drone models that do not come with the Hyperlapse flight mode, there are ways to get around it. Essentially, you’ll have to set continuous shots in the camera settings and choose one of the auto flight modes of way points. This will still generate the photo sequence we need for the hyperlapse video. For this hyperlapse, I used the following settings:

Hyperlapse Mode: Choose “Waypoint”

Tip: You may want to fly the drone to the end location first, add that as a way point, then fly to the start location and add that as another way point. Remember the toggle to “Reversed” option, so that the drone now flies from Location B to Location A. 

Interval: 3 seconds (This gives enough time for the camera to take a long exposure shot)

Flight Time: 15 seconds (or stretch it as long as the drone’s battery can support)

2. Camera Settings During the Hyperlapse Shoot

During the flight, you’ll find that the Exposure Value (EV) will decrease as the amount of light decreases during sunset. To maintain the exposure, you can either:

  1. Increase the ISO
  2. Reduce the shutter Speed 
  3. Reduce the Aperture F-Stop (This option is only available for Mavic Pro)

Since there is no option to adjust the aperture of the Mavic Zoom Camera, I opted to reduce the shutter speed instead, which essentially opens up the lens for a longer time to let more light in. A lower shutter speed also increases the motion blur, and this enhances the effect of the hyperlapse. While it is also possible to increase the ISO, a higher ISO setting can introduce more noise, so it is not recommended to set the ISO too high.

As mentioned earlier, adjusting the camera settings during the hyperlapse will result in flickering effect. We’ll have to fix that in post. 

3. Post-processing Using LRTimelapse and Adobe Lightroom

LRTimelapse is an excellent tool to post-process timelapse videos, and is especially useful to remove any flickering effect and bring about gradual transition of colour-grading effects. There evaluation version would suit the needs for most of us, but if you need more advanced features, the Pro version is a worthy investment. 

The software is super intuitive to use, and the workflow on the top right section essentially brings you through the whole editing workflow as summarised below:

Video showing how to edit hyperlapse videos on  drone photography bible
  • Select the location of the raw hyperlapse images files (from the SD card) and load into LRTimelapse
  • Press the Keyframe Wizard, and select the number of key frame for further colour-grading in Lightroom. Tip: Usually, 3 keyframes would suffice but for a hyperlapse video with significant changes in light conditions, you can select more keyframes (I selected 6 keyframes for this hyperlapse video)
  • Select the Holy Grail Wizard. This will bring up two slider bars to rotate or stretch the orange “Zig-Zag” luminance line overlayed on the video. The goal is to move both sliders so that the orange luminance line is close to the yellow straight line. 
  • After saving these settings, it’s time to move the images to Lightroom for some colour-grading. Press and hold the “Drag to Lightroom” icon, and grad it to Adobe Lightroom. 
  • In Adobe Lightroom, filter out the 6 key frames, which will be marked with 4 stars. Colour grade these 6 keyframes to show gradual transition from day to night. Once you’re happy with the colour-grading for these 4 keyframes, switch back to LRTimelapse to process the remaining of the image files. 
  • In LRTimelapse, click on “Reload”. LRTimelapse will apply the colour-grading settings applied on the 6 key frames. 
  • Next, click on “Auto-Transition”. This will apply a smooth transition of colour-grading effects for the remaining image files in between each key frame. 
  • The Visual Preview button then generates a quick preview of the hyperlapse with the colour-grading effects applied.
  • Finally, the Visual Deflicker button then brings out the smoothing slider bar to reduce the flickering effect in the hyperlapse. You can run this multiple times to achieve better results. 
  • It’s time to switch back to Lightroom. Load the metadata settings that has been processed in LRTimelapse by selecting Photo-> Read Metadata from file. Lightroom will apply the colour grading settings applied in LRTimelapse. We will then export out the processed images by selecting the Export function. 
  • Finally, to see the hyperlapse video generated, let’s swing over to LRTimelapse and render the video files by selecting File-> Render Video. In this page, be sure to select the directory where you’re saved the processed images. After doing through the rest of the settings, select Render video, and this will generate the video output file of the processed timelapse.

The timelapse look almost perfect now, but there’s still one more flaw that we need to overcome to slightly shaking footage which may be inevitable due to the wind while the drone was flying. To address this, we will use Adobe Premiere Pro to stabilize the shaky footage.

4. Stabilizing the Hyperlapse Using Adobe Premiere Pro 

In Adobe Premiere Pro, we will import in the processed video file, and drag the file into the timeline. To stabilize the footage, we will apply warp stabilizer by going to the Editing tab, and choosing Effects –“ Warp Stabilizer VFX”. After taking some time to render the file, we are now ready to export out the final processed hyperlapse video.

Volia, this is how the final processed hyperlapse footage looks like:

Once again, if you wish to follow the step-by-step video tutorial, you can access the full video using this link. If you find this tutorial useful, please leave a comment below. You may also want to subscribe to my YouTube channel to stay tuned for more drone-related videos and tutorials. 

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Louis Lee

2 Comments

  1. So there are no restrictions on flying over Marina Bay? Especially near sunset?

    People get caned in Singapore for spitting on the sidewalk so it would be surprising if they let you fly over a very popular area like that.

    Otherwise, looks cool as hell.

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