Motion Blur in Time Lapse and Hyperlapse

Time lapses and hyperlapses are all about movement and movement involves motion blur, as this is the way our eyes see motion. So the correct amount of motion blur is crucial for time lapses

Examples of Time lapse and Hyperlapse with the correct amount of motion blur

What is the difference between time lapse and hyperlapse?

There is often some confusion about the difference between a time lapse and a hyperlapse, so let me quickly explain

In time lapses the photos are taken with a static point of view, in most cases a camera on a tripod to minimize any shake. A hyperlapse involves a moving point of view: a camera on a motorized slider or on a gimbal with the operator walking, or images taken from a vehicle. A drone is the most efficient tool to capture hyperlapses

More details in my article about All you need to know about Time lapse and Hyperlapse

For readers starting out with drone time lapses I have done a Step by step tutorial on how to shoot a drone time lapse for beginners

What is Motion Blur?

Wrong versus correct shutter speed fo motion blur

When we see an object in motion, our eyes perceive the moving parts as blurry. In this example of a fast-spinning wheel, we cannot see the detail of each individual spoke. The faster the movement the blurrier the details appear to our eyes

Motion blur is a visual effect that occurs in video, time lapses and hyperlapses when there is movement in the frame during the exposure time of each photo or frame. To produce a realistic appearance, each frame needs to contain the appropriate amount of motion blur to avoid overly precise depictions of moving objects

In video, this effect is quite subtle and it might be not noticed by the untrained eye, but in time lapses and hyperlapses it is much more evident

Motion blur is the one factor that makes or brakes a time lapse or hyperlapse. If we were to use a faster shutter speed and freeze every single frame, the resulting footage would look jumpy, stuttering, and unnatural, as we can see in the following examples

The same concept of motion blur also applies to Long-exposure photography with a drone or with a regular camera, you can watch my dedicated article for more details

Wrong amount of motion blur due to lack of ND filters

How to Master Motion Blur in Time Lapses and Hyperlapses

The standard method used in videography for correct motion blur is called the 180° rule and consists in using a constant ratio between the frame rate and the shutter speed

Frame rate (frames per second)Shutter Speed
24 or 251/50″
180° rule for video

In the case of time lapses and hyperlapses, instead of the frame rate, the value to consider is the interval between photos

Interval between photosShutter Speed
180° rule for time lapse and hyperlapse
The 180° rule applied to time lapses with different intervals between shots

In all the time lapses I am showing here, taken on a full-frame camera on a tripod, I have used this rule. As you can see the result is perfectly smooth and mimic what our eyes would see

Motion Blur in Drone Hyperlapse and Time Lapse

A drone in motion or hovering is not as stable as a camera placed on a sturdy tripod, so the very long shutter speed values required would cause unwanted extra blur due to camera shake

In the case of time lapses or hyperlapses with a drone, it is suggested to use the slowest shutter speed that still produces good results, according to the stability of the aircraft and to the wind conditions

1/6 of a second is a safe shutter speed with a drone in windy conditions

With the latest generation of DJI prosumer drones, in good wind conditions, I tend to use a shutter speed of 1 second with all the different intervals between photos. In the case of lightweight drones or in strong wind, a shutter speed of ⅕ of a second is a safe choice. We try to find a compromise between the perfect amount of motion blur and the capability of the camera

I have done specific articles about hyperlapses with different DJI Drones

Why ND Filters are Needed For Motion Blur?

The optimal shutter speed for the correct amount of motion blur in time lapses and hyperlapses is at least 1 second or slower. In most light conditions, such a long shutter speed value would close overexposure, due to too much light entering the sensor, even if the other values for exposure, ISO and aperture, are set to the minimum value

ND filters are like sunglasses for lenses. They reduce the amount of light so that we can use a specific shutter speed regardless of the amount of light hitting the sensor. As we have seen before, we need to use exact speeds to get the correct amount of motion blur, therefore ND filters are crucial for time lapses and hyperlapses

For time lapses and hyperlapses much higher values filters are needed compared to the ones used for regular video, as the shutter speed is much slower. In the case of full-frame cameras with variable aperture, a single filter is often enough, either an ND 128 or ND 256. Most drones have lenses with a fixed aperture, in which cases a kit with several filters is needed, with values ranging from ND 68 to ND1000

More details about the use of ND filters for time lapse and hyperlapse are in my dedicated article

Accelerated Video

There is another technique, often wrongly referred to as time lapse, which consists in simply speeding up a video to look like a time lapse. I call this technique “lazy time lapse”

But there are several technical issues: video footage has generally very strong compression, unless when using extremely expensive cameras,  so the latitude for color grading is very limited compared to RAW photos. The final result is therefore of inferior quality

Also when using RAW photos for true time lapses, the resolution is much higher, which leaves room for cropping, stabilizing, reframing, and zooming in

Accelerated video doesn’t have the correct amount of motion blur

When the footage is sped up, there is practically no motion blur, the result is very stuttering, more or less like a time lapse taken without ND filters and therefore with the wrong shutter speed

There are several ways to fake motion blur in post-production, but the results are never as good as in-camera motion blur. Accelerated footage is a useful technique in certain situations for speed ramping and it can work quite well if there are no moving elements nearby,  but it should not be called time lapse

Related Articles


I am Vittorio Caramazza, aka Vicvideopic, the founder of this website and author of all the posts. I am a videographer and photographer contributing to several stock agencies. I am an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Lightroom. I have 10 years of experience with dron videography and photography. I was struck by drone syndrome in 2013. I have owned and tested in depth the following drones: Phantom 3, Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic Mini, Mini 2, Air 2, Air 2s, Autel Evo Nano Plus, Mavic 3, Mini 3 Pro, Mini 3. My home has turned into a breeding ground for drones. I am the owner of two YouTube channels specializing in Videography and Photography, with a focus on drones My main channel is VicVideopic (in English): My other channel is Drone Mitico, the Italian version.: I am currently based in Sicily (Southern Italy), but I tend to move quite often. After all, this is one of the main benefits of being a digital nomad…

Recent Posts