Assembling your timelapse with iMovie 9


Cover photo by Sebastien Chaurin.

Please note: This tutorial only supports up to iMovie version 9.

Now that you have hundreds of images ready to be assembled into a timelapse video, how exactly do you go about it? I use iMovie for assembling timelapse videos. The app is relatively straightforward to use and it allows you to add titles and music to your video without getting in a pickle. If you don't use a Mac and don't have access to iMovie, Quicktime Pro is a good alternative. Linux options are a little more tricky to find. You might want to look at this one, from Ultrawide, or these instructions.

Whichever program you use, you'll need to import your images from your memory card to your computer. However you do this, it's vital that you keep the images in sequence. If not you'll find that your assembled timelapse video won't so much show change as take you on a Doctor Who-like backwards-and-forwards journey through time. It might be what you want in some circumstances, but not this one!

In iMovie

Create a new project (File > New Project): assign it a name, choose its frame rate, and select its aspect ratio.

Create project
Create project

Now import your images into the project library. Again, ensure that you maintain their sequence. With iMovie it's as simple as dragging and dropping the files into the top left box.

Select and drag!
Select and drag!

Mind you, it can take a while to shift all of those files.

Despite my best efforts to white balance accurately in-camera, it looked horrible on screen. Making the correction in iMovie was simple enough: select all the frames, click on the wheel that appears in the bottom left corner of a frame when you hover over it, and then select Video Adjustments. At the bottom of the panel, it allows you to select a mid-grey point from a frame to correct the white balance. Done! (But don't leave that panel. Not just yet.)

Adjust white balance
Adjust white balance

iMovie allows you to choose for how long you want each frame of your timelapse to appear on screen. I think that the default is 4 seconds, which is probably overkill. At the top of the panel where you corrected the white balance, toggle from 'Video' to 'Clip'. You can now adjust the 'Duration' to your liking. In this case, I chose 0.3, and selected the 'Applies to all stills' box.

I opted for 0.3, but you could go for shrorter videos at 0.2 or 0.1
I opted for 0.3, but you could go for shrorter videos at 0.2 or 0.1

You have now assembled your time-lapse video.

It isn't, however, complete without some titles and some music.

From the centre bar running through the iMovie window, select the Title Browser button. Choose the layout you prefer and drag and drop it at the beginning of the sequence. Add one at the end of the sequence, too, if you want some credits. Click on the title frame to edit it. You can select background colour, typeface, and font colour. Done!

Give your video some titles and end credits
Give your video some titles and end credits

Adding music is a bit more of a bother. If you want to share your timelapse project on YouTube or Vimeo, you can't just click on the Music Browser button and add some music from your iTunes library, as easy as that is. You might get into trouble. Thankfully, the guys at Vimeo make it easy to find music that you can use with your video. They host a library of music that is available on Creative Commons licences for download. You can search the archive according to music type and song duration, amongst other things, download it, and then use it to score your timelapse video back in iMovie.

Select the Music Browser, find the tune that you downloaded, and then drag and drop it at the end of your sequence of frames.

Be sure your music is free to use!
Be sure your music is free to use!

(The music I used is Bonaparte's Retreat by Shake That Little Foot)

That should be about that! All that you need to do now is finalise the project (File > Finalise Project), which can take a while, and export it (Share). iMovie gives you the option to export directly YouTube and Vimeo, as well as other places, which is rather nifty.

Or you can use Quicktime Pro...

Import your sequence of images into the programme: File > Open Image Sequence, navigate to the file where your images are, and select the first in the sequence. Click 'Okay' and then select your frame rate.

When it's done, you can save it (File > Save As) and then export it (File > Export). Huzzah!

More Timelapse Tutorials!

This tutorial is part of a 4-part series. Check out the rest:


Show me more

If you're eager to get stuck into the world of timelapse, we have a whole host of project ideas for you to check out below that will help take your timelapses to the next level! We've also got a handy tutorial on how to assemble your clips in other software such as Timelapse Assembler.

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