Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Milky Way Timelapse and How I Created It

The Video can be viewed at various resolutions. Once the video is running, choose them by clicking on the symbol that looks like the Sun at the lower right of the video. If you have a fast internet connection, it is best seen at 1080p and on a big monitor (Full Screen).

Here is a time lapse video from 3 nights in early July, 2013, of over 2000 images of the Milky Way. Shooting these was fairly straight forward. I set my Canon t4i with my 10-22mm f/3.5 lens on a tripod (the lens was set to 10mm at f/3.5). I used an intervalometer to shoot 30 second RAW exposures, all night long (about 7 hours each night), with a 2 second delay to allow the camera to file the image to the 32 Gig card. I also used an AC adapter so I wouldn't have to worry about a battery dying in the middle of the night and I used a dew heater around the lens to keep the dew off. The dew heater is a home made heater made from resistors and powered from a 12 volt power supply.

On the last night of shooting, I used a  new toy that had just arrived in the mail. Between the tripod and the camera, I placed an iOptron SkyTracker. Normally, the SkyTracker is polar aligned and will follow the sky as tracks from East to West allowing me to take longer exposures with no star trails. Instead of polar aligning, however, I pointed the polar axis straight up. This allowed the camera to follow the Milky Way in azimuth, that is, horizontally from left to right. I didn't know if this would work, but I was pleasantly surprised. It worked better than I thought it would.

Once I had the images, I improved their look by working on them in Canon's Digital Professional software. It allows me to make adjustments to one image, then the software makes the same adjustment to the rest automatically. I converted the RAW images from high resolution images to much smaller, and workable, JPG images. To make the time lapse video I used ProShow Producer. It is normally used to make slide show type videos, but I figured out how to make it produce a time lapse sequence. This was done by telling the software to run each frame for zero time with an interval of .1 seconds between each frame. ProShow allowed me to add music and text to the video. Finally, Proshow has a menu choice for YouTube videos. It makes the video then uploads it.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.


  1. Very Cool Tom ! :-) .. Did you piggyback your camera/lens on your scope EQ mount ?? Or Static tripod ??
    30 sec. exp. no trails or rotation :) ??
    Thanks, Walt

  2. For the first two night the camera was on a tripod (no tracking). On the third night, it was also on a tripod, but this time I used an iOptron SkyTracker, but not as it was intended. Instead of polar aligning the device, I pointed the axis to the zenith which created the panning motion during the sequence of shots. There is some star trailing, but with a 10mm focal length lens it is minimal and doesn't show much in the video. A longer focal length lens would have showed much more trailing.

  3. Tom, Just got my iOptron from Amazon! Noticed unlike the Polarie it doesn't tilt back to 90 degrees. Did you have yours mounted on a ball head? My primary photo tripod has an Acratech leveling base so I can get a little more from that. Very excited to try this out and may have a great chance next week.

    1. Yep, I used a ball head to get it to 90 degrees. Good luck trying it out.

  4. Nice work Tom! I have received my SkyTracker and want to try this out. Have one question for you, what tracking speed would you prefer to track Milkyway in such widefield photogrphy? 1x or 1/2x?