Time Lapse Tutorial for GoPro Hero 3+

You may have seen a couple of my tutorials on creating time-lapse movies using still images taken with a camera and with Lapse It, an app for smartphones. In this post, I provide a tutorial for those of you who have (or wish to) the popular action camera, GoPro Hero (I recommend watching their marketing trailer–it’s great).

In the tutorial, I show how to set up the camera, shoot, and then edit (with the free GoPro Studio application for Mac or PC) a time lapse film (select HD version in settings and full-screen for best viewing; if you cannot see the player window, here is the direct link to the video):

I found the GoPro Hero 3+ easy to use to capture a series of images for time lapse. Because it comes with a waterproof housing, the camera can be set up underwater, in the rain, or in other wet locations. You can shoot over long time periods without worrying about water damage due to a sudden rainstorm.

You do have to edit the images to create the final time-lapse film, but the GoPro Studio application makes this process pretty painless. As you saw, just import the images from the camera and within a few minutes, they are converted to a movie clip.

Tip: Note that the GoPro Hero 3+ can take up to 12 megapixel-size images, which are beautiful, but huge. If your time-lapse film will be shown on the internet, you don’t need such large images, which will result in a very large file when converted to a movie. Dial back to 7 or 5 megapixels.

I’ll be doing additional tutorials with the GoPro Hero 3+, so stay tuned.

Want to learn more techniques like this? If so, you may be interested in my ebook, The Scientist Videographer, which covers everything you need to know to produce an effective and professional video. Available in iTunes Store (fully interactive version for iPad, iPhone, & Mac), Smashwords (text version), and Amazon Kindle (text version).

54 thoughts on “Time Lapse Tutorial for GoPro Hero 3+

  1. Pingback: Thinkable – Welcome Dr Karen McKee – video scientist pioneer

  2. i am planning on doing a timelapse for at least 5 hours do you know what size memory card would be recommended for this amount of time.
    thank you

    • Lenny, I can’t answer your question without more information…such as what size will your photos will be and what capture rate you are planning. You can figure this out for yourself by deciding on the image size (in megapixels) and the capture rate (e.g., one image per 30 sec). Assuming you wish to capture a 7 MP image every 30 seconds for 5 hours, you would end up with 600 images, each at 2.1 MB = 1260 MB total. You would need at least a 2GB memory card. This website has a handy chart that gives the number of photos (by size) that can be stored on memory cards:

  3. Hey,

    first of all thanks for the video, I shot my first timelapse following your steps and edited it. I did the advanced settings thing on edit section (keeping the size same by not changing anything in there and making the quality High instead of Medium). However after I imported the video to my desktop (exported as a mov file) and double click on it to watch video opens in Quicktime and the quality is pretty bad (I mean compared to GoPro videos). I wouldn’t say pixalated but its not sharp at all. Still photos I shoot looks sharper and packs more quality. I used 7mp by the way same as your pictures. Is this normal?

    • Zeck, thanks for your question. I’m not sure why your exported video file quality is poor, but will try to help. A place to start is to look at your imported file in GoPro Studio (left hand panel). I’m assuming here that you’ve already looked at the individual images to see if they are at the size/resolution you thought you set in the camera. In GoPro Studio you should see a thumbnail with information about the images used to build the initial movie. The size of the images should be listed alongside, e.g., 1024 x 768, which should match whatever you shot. Another thing to check is sharpness in the Image Controls (Edit Step) to make sure you did not accidentally change this. Finally, when you select export, be sure you select HD720p or HD1080p in the Preset box. If you instead select Mobile Device, the movie file will be of low quality. I’m not sure what the default setting is at first export, but it may not be the HD settings. That could be your problem. Here are links to the GoPro Studio Manual that might be of additional help (see Working with Time-Lapse Sequences): Windows & Mac

  4. I would like to see your tutorial on Time lapse with a hero three but I cannot see a link to click on to watch it. Am I missing it somewhere

  5. I sent you a question as I couldn’t find how to watch your video on time lapse for Hero 3. Never mind, I found it on my laptop, guess it doesn’t come up with the video embedded on my iphone. Thanks and like your videos.

    • Daniel, thanks for your comment. I checked that post, and the YouTube link had disappeared/gotten corrupted somehow. I’ve fixed it and also provided a link in the text to the video. Thanks for letting me know.

  6. Hi. Thanks for your work. Is there a way to retain the individual images taken in time-lapse mode after processing them with Go Pro studio to remove fish-eye ? All I seem to do is make an avi file.



    • Thanks for your question. To remove fish-eye in GoPro Studio, import your time-lapse images in step one. Once your images are built into a movie (done automatically) and loaded into the view screen, select “advanced settings” at the lower left of the View and Trim panel. A dialog box will open with an option to remove fish-eye. Check this box, then add the clip to the conversion list and convert. You should then be able to export the clip as a .mov file.

      However, the best approach is to shoot your images in medium or narrow view, rather than wide (which produces the fish-eye effect). Then there is no need to try to remove the fish-eye later.

  7. Thanks for the video – One random question. Can you record the time lapse straight onto your computer from a GoPro? (essentially using your computer as a large memory card for some bigger projects??)

    • Peter, thanks for the question. I’m not sure if what you are asking is easily accomplished. If you connect your GoPro to your computer via the USB cable, the camera cannot be operated; you can only download images and video. There may be some third-party apps that allow you to operate the camera from your computer, but I’ve not used these and cannot vouch for them. Perhaps the best option for what you are trying to do is to get a memory card that will accommodate the images you are planning for your project. Or you may need several cards that you change out at intervals during the time lapse capture. Hope this helps.

  8. I want to made a time-lapse over 2 days and that a photo is made every 30 or 60 minutes…could you tell me how do I enable that on the GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition, because the most what i found is 1 minute…

    • You are stuck with the capture interval options provided in the GoPro–the longest is 60 s. I don’t see any way around this except to take the shots every hour manually–a couple of people might work together to split the time. If you go this route, it’s probably best to use a remote to trigger each shot and avoid any movement of the camera. The other option is to use the 60s time interval on automatic, which will give you a lot of images. Your concerns for a long shoot on automatic are power and memory. You’ll need an external power source to last a day or so and a large-memory SD card to handle the image files. To plug your camera into a power source, you’ll have to remove it from the waterproof housing and attach the power cable, which can then be connected to a power pack via USB. So if shooting outdoors, you’ll need to protect the camera, cables, and power source. If indoors shooting through a window, this won’t be a problem.

  9. Hi, for night time lapses, what settings do you recommend? I have a 64gb card and plan to run all night. I also have an external power source.

    • Julian, getting a good night lapse depends on the scene and light sources. I would suggest doing a few test runs (a minute or so) with different camera settings and then select the best one for your all-night run. Also, the GoPro Hero 4 has a new setting for night time-lapse–supposedly can capture the night sky. I’ve not tried it, but here is a write-up about it: http://gopro.com/support/articles/how-to-use-night-photo-night-lapse

  10. Hi,
    Tx for the vid.
    I’ve got a problem. When i try and convert a picture or a time lapse, in the place that it is meant to show the percentage, it just says “error”.
    I relly need help,

  11. What about time lapse over 4-5 months, is this achievable on a gopro hero 3+ Silver? Thanks 🙂

    • That’s possible, but you would probably need to manually capture your images or keep the camera connected to a power source and change out the memory card periodically.

  12. Dr. Karen.
    I have just purchased a hero 3 for my Twister Quad copter to take pictures of Veteran car meetings etc. for fun, and the club magazine hopefully.
    Your video on time lapse was fantastic, and as a computer luddite it made 5sec setting possible.
    All I have to work out now is how to use it upside down.
    Once again, your website is fantastic
    Peter Fitzgerald

    • Hi Peter. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad my tutorial on time lapse was of help to you. Regarding shooting upside down, you can set this up in the GoPro settings. See this video tutorial for specifics: https://youtu.be/fFvl8EUYRIs (scroll to minute 4:15 for these instructions).

      Good luck with your quadcopter projects!

  13. I just shot a time lapse with my hero3+ and I am trying to make a video out of it..but when I convert the clips to video there is nothing…just black. I am using the gopro video editor software.

    I did 1 frame every 10 sec and 1 frame every 30 sec.

    Can you help?


    • Phil,

      I’m not sure I can answer your question without seeing what you did. But I’ll try.

      The first thing to check is whether the individual images captured by your camera are viewable. Look in the folder in your file directory where you downloaded the time-lapse images from the camera. If all the time lapse images are black, then something went wrong with the camera during the filming. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to work with the camera to figure out what went wrong. Start with checking the basics–can you take a single still image and see it after it is downloaded to your computer? Can you set up the time-lapse and capture a small number of images that you can download and see on your computer? You may be able to narrow down where the problem is by figuring out what does work first.

      If the individual images are fine, then something went wrong when you brought them into the video editor (I’m assuming you are using GoPro Studio?). Look at the folder in your directory where the images were downloaded. Are the thumbnails blank or can you see thumbnail images? If you can see them, try selecting a subset of images and import them to GoPro Studio (click the plus sign next to “import images”; this should open your file directory; locate the folder with the time lapse images and select a few). When you import, the software automatically builds a movie. After the movie is built, look at the file thumbnail under “import files”. Is there a thumbnail image or is it black? If you see an image, then click on it to move it into the “View and Trim” window. You should now see an image in the middle panel and can proceed with naming and converting your time lapse file. Again, try to narrow down where in the process things go wrong.

      I hope this at least puts you on the right track to figuring out what the problem is.

  14. Hello there, I have made several time lapse projects only to find that my computer is not running the needed OS to accommodate the gopro editor. Borrowing computers or paying for a newer OS is not preferable, so I was wondering if you would vouch for any free edotors that could run on vista. I have all of the image files, now want them to play!

    Thank you

    • John, I use a Mac and am less familiar with Windows OSs such as Vista. However, I believe that Windows Live Movie Maker (free app with OS) can be used to create time lapse videos. You may need the latest version of Movie Maker. There are several tutorials that explain what is needed in the way of software and how to use it to create a time lapse (Google “movie maker” and “time lapse”).

  15. Good Morning,
    I have a timelapse question. I have a gopro 3+ silver and need to shoot a 72 hour construction project build out. Am looking for advice on shooting interval and image size (I am guessing at around 8-15 sec per image with a size of about 5-7mgs). My end product will be a video of about 3-4 minutes in length. Heres the rub, due to the location I have to set up the camera and leave it for 3 days running, but I will only need about 9-10 hours per day from those 3 days, about 30 hours of usable footage over a 72 hour shoot. I can edit out the “dark” time but I need to know how to capture images for 72 hours based on the limited memory card size of 64mgs. I know this is essentially a math question: shooting non stop for 72 hours on a 64gb card = what interval? and will that interval when edited look good?
    thanks for any expert advice

    • Your memory card should not be a problem. If you capture 4 images per minute (15 sec interval), you will end up with 17,280 images over a 72 h period. At 5 MP (= 1.5 MB), the memory needed is 25,920 MB, which the 64 GB card should handle. A 64GB card will hold up to 36,620 images (at 5 MP each) or 26,156 images (at 7 MP each). You could go up to a 10 sec interval (6 images per min x 60 min x 72 h = 25,920 images). See the link in my post for a table that helps you calculate how many images a particular size memory card will hold.

      I would think a 10 sec interval would be fine for a construction build out. It really depends on how fast things are changing in the scene. Will much change in 10 seconds? The best approach is to film a short version (perhaps on another building project) for an hour, for example. You could see if the interval you select is going to work well.

      Your other concern is power. You’ll need an external power source to keep the camera going for 72 hrs. Presumably, you’ve got an outlet or external battery pac.

      • Awesome answer. It answered other options I was considering.
        I did not see the link to the calculator though.
        Thanks again for the great information and knowledge

  16. So,

    I wanted to do a Time Lapse over a indoor growing season. About 10 Weeks or so.

    I have the Go Pro Mounted in a fixed position. Could I just turn the GoPro on (time lapse setting set at 60 Sec.) for 5 hours each day, pull the memory card out and pull the files off once full. Compile them in one folder. Take the entire sequence and then splice them together into a Time Lapse Video using the Go Pro Studio??

    If that’s going to be way to many pictures could I set it too take a picture every 60 seconds and then at the end of each day remove X amount of still images and splice together less Frame Rate but greater distance in time…For example say 2-4 Images per day. (10 weeks total)..

    Just some thoughts.

    • If you shoot 4 images per day manually for 10 weeks, you’ll end up with 280 images in 10 weeks. If you play each image for 2 sec, the time lapse will be just under 20 sec long (played at 30 fps). This option involves the least work.

      If, however, you need a longer-running time lapse, you’ll need to capture more images per day. If you set the camera to shoot automatically at 60 sec intervals, you’ll get 300 images in 5 hours. Depending on the memory card capacity, you could run the camera for several days before needing to download. But you will have to manually remove images to reduce the total down to a manageable number. For a 1 minute time lapse, you need 1800 images each playing for 1 sec at 30 fps (playing each image for 2 sec will give you a 2 minute time lapse). This works out to be 180 images per week and about 25 images per day. So you would need to keep every 12th image and delete the rest. This will involve more work than the first option.

      The decision depends on your goals and how much time you want to spend putting the final video together. There might be some remote timers (intervalometers) that will work with GoPro. I’ve not investigated these, so can’t provide much info. However, such an accessory might be worth it if you can find a reliable one.

  17. Hey, you seem to know what your talking about. I am trying to do a sunrise to sunset time lapse on the beach on my GoPro 3+. My problem is that my memory card is only 16gb and the only way to get the whole day in, is to take a photo every 10 seconds which I would like to narrow down because I makes the waves look funny.
    Photo settings: 10mp; 1080
    Do you have any solutions that doesn’t require buying another micro sd?
    Power isn’t an issue, I am using an extension cord.
    Wondering if somehow I can transfer files onto my iPad or computer during the time lapse process, so I can free up space as day progresses.

    Any help or tips is appreciated


    • If you take a photo every 10 sec for 12 hours, you’ll end up with 4,320 images. A 10 MP image has a file size of about 3 MB. So, your shoot will require 12.96 GB of space on your memory card. This will fit on your 16 GB card. According to this chart , a 16 GB card will hold 4,577 images at 10MP each. Unfortunately, not enough for a shorter interval. The next interval option on the GoPro 3 is 5 sec, giving you 8,640 images in 12 hours, which won’t fit on the 16 GB card. You would need a 32 GB card to hold this many images. Getting the larger card is the easiest option.

      Assuming you decide to use your 16 GB card, the only option is to stop the shoot midway, transfer the images to another device, and restart the shoot with a cleared memory card. However, unless you can reposition the camera exactly as before, you’ll likely have a visible jump in the time series. It might be possible to minimize camera movements by having it connected during the shoot to an iPad or computer so that you can transfer the files without handling the camera. Then, you can use the GoPro app for mobile devices to access the controls on your camera (via WiFi). With the app, you can delete all files on the camera and restart the time-lapse. without touching the camera. You should only have a slight gap in time, which may not be too obvious. I’d recommend testing all this out before your actual shoot.

  18. Hey,

    I have a problem with seeing pictures taken on time-lapse. When I plug in the camera to the computer it sees all the videos and pictures I took manually, but all the pictures that I take on the time lapse are gone. Do you have any ideas why my computer doesn’t see it? Maybe few clues what to try to do?

    • You haven’t provided enough information. Are you using a GoPro Hero 3? What computer–PC or Mac? What application are you using to import your camera media? Have you tried a different computer?

  19. A great video – thank you very much! Can I manually set the exposure settings using the GoPro Hero3 Black? I see control for ISO, WB, sharpness & EV, but not an actual shutter speed. Am I missing something, or is this not an available option?

    • You can change the shutter speed on the Hero4 (with the night photo/timelapse option), but I don’t think you can do this with the Hero3. I suggest you check your user manual to be sure.

  20. Hi!
    Thank you for your great video on gopro and timelapses. I just tried to shoot a 24h timelapse with a gopro hero 4 black from the skyline of Frankfurt, Germany. I shot with an interval of 15 seconds between the shots. I’m quite happy with th outcome but during the night the sky got really cloudy and I hope that I can give it another try when the weather is better. I would be happy about some feedback on my video:

    KR Daniel

  21. Hello,

    I got a Go Pro Hero 3 Silver. I wanted to make a time lapse video with photos every 5 seconds with 8 mega pixels….

    I made all those photos, went to connect to my computer and when I opened the folder of the Go pro, I found multiple folders and in each of them I found all those time lapse photos….

    Each folder had 999 pictures. MY Question is: How do I put them in one folder IN ORDER so I could put it in Go pro software and make a good time lapse?

    Thank you for your time!


    • Alex, You’ll get multiple folders if you shoot more than 999 frames; the camera will break them up into separate folders. You want to keep your images in those folders so that GoPro Studio can import and convert them properly. You should have copied the time-lapse folders into a single folder on your computer (you should have a specific folder on computer designated for GoPro projects). Then open GoPro Studio and click import files. Select all folders containing your time-lapse images and click “open”. GoPro will build movies from the image sequences. Save your project. You should then be able to arrange the resultant Cineform files in the proper sequence in the editing step. If this is not clear, please read the GoPro Studio manual.

  22. Hello, again.

    I was just wondering if there is a possible way to photo a nice sunset photo and then put it as my desktop picture as in hd quality?

    I photoed one picture on a trip and put it as my desktop picture but it looked horrible cause the quality is bad… Is there anyway to have it in HD quality?

    • Are you shooting your photos/videos at a high resolution? If not, there’s no way to “improve” them later. If your photo was of high resolution, then there are a couple of things to check. One is to make sure the photo aspect ratio matches that of your screen display (e.g., 16:9). If they don’t match, the result may be a blurry or stretched image. Second, match up the photo resolution and screen display resolution (go to Display Settings and look). Finally, make sure when saving or transferring your image, that you did not inadvertently lower the resolution (open the image in a media viewer and check the image information). Hope this helps you get your desktop photo fixed!

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