Well every now and then a plan just doesn’t come together as you would expect. I went canoe camping this weekend and planned to take multiple timelapses of the river, campsite and possibly a canoe hyperlapse. Unfortunately I was unable to bring my camera and equipment on the trip. The good news is, I’ve been saving this lightning storm timelapse for a week when I was unable to shoot a timelapse. It is actually a blessing in disguise, over the past month I’ve been experimenting with the sky painting technique. This technique is for stills and I gave a quick tutorial last week but now that I’m more familiar with the way the technique works in the background I was able to transport this to a video. I processed this entire timelapse in After Effects after the basic color correcting to create a sky painting technique. It is incredibly useful in this type of lightning timelapse because I’m able to drag out the length of time a lightning bolt is on the screen. Before I processed, lightning is on the screen for 1 frame which is 1/24th of a second. After processing in After Effects I’m able to extend the life of the lightning strike on screen for 14 frames, or just over half a second.
To complete this technique you need to load your timelapse into After Effects. Now rather than work with the 1 sequence, drag that same sequence in your project so you have 10-15 layers of the exact same timelapse. Starting with the bottom one and leave everything about it as is. Move to the next layer above and move the entire timelapse on frame forward. Continue to do this for all additional layers above, so each layer starts one frame later than the previous layer. Once this is done select all layers except for your bottom one. Navigate to “Layers” then “Blending Mode” and choose “Lighten”. This essentially brings the lighter tones of each layer forward. Since we advanced each individual layer further in the sequence the lightning bolt, being the lightest part of the image, is brought forward while the rest of the timelapse continues.
If you put one together please tag me in it on Twitter or Instagram (@kylelawso) I’d love to see your result! This effect works great with sunsets and sunrises as well.
Thoughts and What’s Next?
Surprisingly when I put this together I was ready to chop it up and add effects like normal. However I happened to have the looping setting on, so when I played the sequence it just continued to repeat and I found myself very intrigued with the outcome despite not having any effects. For next week I really want to get to the capitol for some hyperlapses but it all depends on how much time I have during the week. My backup might include getting up early or staying awake late for either sunrises or sunsets.