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Lightroom 3: Bring on the time-lapse videos

By fiddling with preset settings files in the new Lightroom 3 beta, Sean McCormack adapted the software to make time-lapse videos.

Adobe Systems released the first Lightroom 3.0 beta only last week, but already people are adapting the software for their own ends. In Sean McCormack's case, time-lapse video.

Time-lapse photography, for those unfamiliar with it, compresses a sequence of still images into a movie that appears to speed up the passage of time. It's how nature documentaries get those clouds scudding over the mountains and the sun racing across the sky.

Most of us use just a small fraction of what our software can do, but McCormack is one of those people at the other end of the spectrum who figures out how to push software well beyond the built-in feature set. In Lightroom's case he took advantage of its ability to export a sequence of shots as a video, a feature designed to let photographers create easily shared slideshows.

Adobe's new Lightroom 3 beta lets people present a slideshow with frame intervals as short as a tenth of a second. But on the advice of Lightroom programmer Andy Rahm McCormack dug into the text of the software's existing template files, called presets, and adapted them to produce a custom file with a 24-frame per second rate used in some video. Another sets it for high-definition 720p output.

Click the image below to see one time-lapse video McCormack created.

Click Here to View The Video Titled: Rannoch Moor Timelapse from Lightroom

I just love this kind of noodling around to produce unexpected results, and McCormack is just the person for it. He's a sound engineer by trade, but he's also a semi-professional photographer, author of "Photoshop Lightroom 2 Made Easy," moderator of Adobe Systems' Lightroom help forum, author of Lightroom Blog, and contributor to Lightroom News. I listen carefully to his Lightroom utterances.

Compact cameras and more recently SLRs have blurred the boundaries between the once-separate domains of still photography and video, but software is amplifying the changes. For example, the Timelapser app for the iPhone lets you create time-lapse movies. In my opinion, with digital cameras and increasingly powerful computers, photography and videography are entering a golden age of experimentation.

There are downsides: a breakneck pace of change can make it hard to keep up with all the latest things and means your camera is rapidly out of date. And digital manipulation can lead to photos that are anything from unpleasantly overprocessed to an outright lie. But on balance, I see more benefits than drawbacks.

Here's where I'm not so happy when it comes to the time-lapse situation in particular, though. In the digital era, it's pretty easy to build intervalometer abilities into a camera so it will periodically and automatically take a photo at some specified interval. That's what you need to make time-lapse video.

Of course, my Canon SLR needs an expensive accessory to do it. Harrumph. Canon, are you listening?

The Lightroom 3 beta will look familiar to current users, but there are changes under the hood. In addition, Lightroom catalogs can be synchronized with Flickr.
The Lightroom 3 beta will look familiar to current users, but there are changes under the hood. In addition, Lightroom catalogs can be synchronized with Flickr. Adobe Systems