The Aerial Hyperlapse Has Arrived and It's Gorgeous


Keeping up with the latest and greatest in drone news & events means we've got our fingers keenly on the pulse, so you can imagine how blown away we were when we caught hold of this incredible video, last month: by Jonathan Lucan.

The result of thousands of painstaking aerial shots taken in RAW at 24 frames per second, Jonathan's “NightLapse Concerto” is a pioneering example of what happens when ingenuity and technology get taken to new heights!

How long have you been flying for?

For about 2 and a half years.

What drone do you use and why?

Inspire 1. This has been the most stable and reliable drone I’ve owned to date. Being able to adjust camera settings and view my shots on the fly from the air is invaluable.

Now that I finally got my hands on the X5 camera/gimbal system, there's so much potential!

What inspires you?

I receive inspiration from many things. Music is a huge part of my life and contributes to my creative thought process. Listening to and creating music allows me to generate new and interesting ideas and apply them to the film-making world. I’m always challenging myself to leave my comfort zone daily and not be content with mediocrity. I’m a nerd at heart so whenever I discover and learn about new innovative breakthroughs in science or technology, the inner child wonder in me comes out. Learning and trying new things, as well as watching others do the same, really gets my creative juices flowing as well.

Do you think “hyperlapses" would have been possible before your Inspire 1 moment?

For the longest time I always dreamed of doing a hyperlapse from the air. About a year ago, I experimented with the idea of using a Phantom 2 and a GoPro. Surprisingly I got decent results, but there were way too many hurdles to overcome to get anything impressive and the technology just quite wasn’t there yet.

 Furthermore, GoPro’s night-lapse picture quality as well as the lack of adjustable picture settings wasn't enough to convince me the effort was worth it. Everything fell apart when trying to color grade in post-production; ProTune certainly isn't RAW.

Ever since then, the idea had always been lingering in the back of my mind. And then, the Inspire 1 came along and everything changed. Everybody marveled at the advanced autopilot features for video (which excited me too), but I immediately focused my attention on proving whether a legitimate aerial timelapse and hyperlapse was possible.

There are many videos online claiming to be an aerial "hyperlapse" or "timelapse" but these are usually just video clips sped up to simulate the technique. A true timelapse and hyperlapse consist of a series of actual photographs shot at various intervals and played back at a cinematic frame rate with a much higher degree of quality, the idea is simple but the method of execution is a real challenge.

 The Inspire 1 had one huge advantage though; it offered rock-hard stability. This would prove crucial in being able to successfully capture an aerial hyper lapse.

If others were interested in doing what you do, what advice would you give?

The best advice I can give is to really plan out your shots and go over settings thoroughly before attempting to get airborne. Its important to get to grips with this technique and familiarize yourself with the smart shot modes otherwise you’ll find yourself facing difficulties. If you are planning to shoot RAW or utilize a short interval in your continuous capture setting, you will need a fast Micro SD card (the write speed of the card is crucial here).

Have fun with it and explore new ways to use this technique. It's too easy to stress over technical issues when attempting hyperlapses, but if you are not learning and enjoying the process along the way then its pointless. Get out there and try something new! Somebody once told me “There’s no shortcut to Glory” – this process isn’t easy and will take more time and effort than shooting a regular video, but the end result is more than worth it!

Do you feel that hyperlapses are the future?

I guess it’s too soon to tell really. I definitely think aerial hyperlapses and timelapses offer a completely new realm of creative exploration for drones, and for me, that’s already leading to new ideas of whats now possible with aerial cinematography.

The amount of effort that goes into making short sequences is substantial since there’s so many factors at play, but I believe the technology is moving in the right direction and making things easier and easier. Perhaps one day we will soon be able to shoot an aerial timelapse spanning the course of days, weeks, and even months (composed of separate flights of course). One thing is for sure though, this is only the beginning.

Walk us through what you thought the hardest aspect of aerial shooting was

Well for one, I shot it all at night! For an aerial hyperlapse that certainly made things harder for me starting off because the shutter had to be open long enough to collect light without sacrificing focus. Wind was my main issue and basically determined whether or not I was able to shoot a scene. If the wind speed was greater than 10 mph then there was no chance.

 My choice to shoot the entire film in RAW DNG didn’t help make things any easier for me. Capturing RAW would allow me to extract as much picture information as possible for grading in post, while also allowing me to select for faster shutter speeds to maintain focus throughout.

 I didn't want to sacrifice quality for convenience, and since I was spending considerable time on this it was either “go big or go home”. However shooting RAW came with a price, I would often encounter a technical problem with my camera failing to initialize when the write speed couldn't keep up, limiting the amount of continuous photos I could shoot. To overcome this issue, I recommend getting the fastest micro SD card you can buy.

Overall though, the most important part of learning is by trial and error, experimenting with what works and what doesn't. There's no written guide out there on how to shoot a hyperlapse from the sky so I had to learn as I went, and I hope others can be inspired to do the same!

Now it's time for all of you out there to bring your own creativity to the world of aerial photography and shape the skies however you see fit!

Start making your own hyperlapses, right now:

 Check out Jonathan Lucan's YouTube channel here:

 Facebook page where you can find more of his work: