I’ve recently become interested in creating timelapses with my Canon 20D DSLR and have discovered a workflow that uses all free and/or open source software to take your digital photo sequence and turn it into a timelapse video.
Let’s start with the camera. I’m using my 20D and I purchased an intervalometer from Amazon that allows me to shoot at virtually any interval and not have to haul my laptop with. You can also tether via USB to Canon software on Windows or use gPhoto on Linux. You can find many tutorials about shutter speeds, intervals, and more by searching.
Once you have a series of photos, you need to assemble them into a movie. I am using VirtualDub 1.9.9 on Windows for this task, because it also gives me a few extra features I appreciate: resizing and deflickering, which smooths out any exposure differences from frame to frame. I shoot JPEGs that need to be resized a bit and so I resize them to 1080×720 or 1920×1080 in VirtualDub. Another free program for this is ffmpeg on Linux which I’ve used successfully; I prefer VirtualDub for the two filters above.
Next comes editing which is where I splice together different clips and add background music. You can do this with a variety of elaborate and expensive tools, but this post is about free so I’ll emphasize Windows Movie Maker (on Windows XP and Vista) which has been superseded by Windows Live Movie Maker which I have not used. On Linux I recommend Pitivi, which ships with Ubuntu 10.4 by default. I’ve used it once and it seems perfectly sufficient for basic splicing, fading, audio, etc and is very easy to use.
If you are interested in some free music to back your timelapse, a few resources are jamendo and a general directory of resources. This is something I’m just learning more about, so you’re on your own here.