How to make a good timelapse

Posted by (twitter: @IcarusTyler)
September 9th, 2012 4:16 am

What is a timelapse?

A timelapse is a short video that shows your progress over several days, compressed into a 3-5 minute video. Here’s a good one of my last LD-game My Little Planetoid 

How do you make one?

You need a timelapse-tool, which will automatically create screenshots, save them and compile then into a video. Chronolapse has proven excellent. If you have a webcam, you can also set it to capture pictures from it.

How do I make a good timelapse?

Edit your pictures!
There is no need to see you absent from the screen for 2+ hours. There is no shame cutting material or only selectively turning on the capture-program.

Put as much info in as possible

If you have 2 monitors, capture both. If you have a webcam, use it.

Keep it short + compressed

Long timelapses aren’t that interesting. Try to keep the total length under ~3 minutes. The capture-interval is vital for this too. An interval between 30 and 60 seconds works well, <30 seconds will probably result in too many pictures, and a too long video.

Add music!

Preferably something that is either fun, entertaining, and/or cool.


  • Everything looks super efficient!
  • You can give people an idea what it’s like to create a game in 48 hours, especially non-designers.
  • A timelapse makes it possible for fans (and you) to compare their workflows.
  • You can see a game evolve from simple blocks to effect-laden masterpieces of joy.


  • What cons?

Making notes on the screen

Some devs have a text/image-editor open, on which they write what they are doing. While it can be entertaining, I prefer to condense the material and let the pictures speak for themselves.


Streaming and timelapsing goes hand in hand. If you feel you can do a succesful stream, do it!


With this information in mind, let’s study my current timelapse of Boxy The Boxcat. What works, what doesn’t?

  • Note how the video is tad too long. 2 minutes is good, 5 minutes borders on unwatchable.  The song wasn’t even long enough, so I had to add a piece after 2/3 of the video.
  • There is a bit at the end where the game is essentially done, but the recording keeps going, showing the submission-process. I should’ve cut it.
  • Unlike my other timelapses, in this one I actually smile for a few frames. Yay positivity!

Now prepare your own for the next jam, and go play & rate Boxy the Boxcat while you’re at it :)


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9 Responses to “How to make a good timelapse”

  1. someone says:

    I like to add notes on the screen as a few consecutive hours of just code increasing in volume is not obvious. I also try to keep a clock on screen so its possible to actually see the time passing and how long stuff really takes.
    My timelapse:

  2. Jorjon says:

    Excellent tips!
    But I don’t agree on shortening parts. I enjoy watching full-time timelapses, even when they sleep or go to eat, because that gives me a sense of how much time did they work. Of course, frame rate is crucial on this, because a long framerate will put images for too long. I tend to use 7 FPS when making the video.

  3. marudziik says:

    I prefer not editing my timelapse at all, since during the compo I hardly use my computer to do anything other than game-related things (though chronolapse switches off when computer goes to sleep anyway). Also, I use Windows Journal + tablet to make notes as I create stuff, or to indicate when I take break or go to sleep. This is what got someone’s attention on my last timelapse, actually.
    Unedited timelapse is IMHO much better, because it shows the WHOLE process of creating a game, without any interference from the author (the only exception would be really private stuff, like passwords, personal information, personal messaging with friends, etc.). Mine is usually about 6-8mins long, with info screen added in Windows Movie Maker, and some simple effects. I pick different kind of music every time, but try to pick something that has around the same length or is a little bit longer.
    In my case, some of the fun stuff on screen happens when it’s NOT related to the game itself (drawing concepts in Journal, some silly break-related drawings, things I look up on the internet), so this is another reason not to edit anything.
    You can see mine at:

  4. JonathanG says:

    I enjoyed your Boxy The Boxcat timelapse, it looks like you do all your development on the right hand screen, using the left one for watching films etc!

    The timelapses I’ve made have been of jam entries, so they end up quite long! I also like to record video of interesting progress we’ve made and what the game looks like to play at various stages (although towards the end I don’t find the time to do that) and insert that into the timelapse to divide it up. In my latest timelapse I’ve put in scans of our design documents too, it’s interesting to see how different they are from the final game!

    Because there are three of us on the team and I have two monitors, I edit together four different video streams from Chronolapse captures. I use AVISynth and VirtualDub to do that, but I have to be careful to line up the frames so that the same point in time is shown on each screen, even if that means inserting blank sections. We record frames every 30s and the video is run at 20fps, so every 6 seconds in the video is an hour of real-time.

    I also have a Javascript countdown clock running in my browser which uses a big enough font that it can be seen in the timelapse. Next time I might add a realtime clock to this page, since in the UK timezone the competition starts and ends at odd times and it’s interesting to see when we work.

    Our timelapse is at the top of this post:

    • Impressive work cutting all the streams together! And I agree, trying to edit that would be a nightmare :)

      The progress-videos are a good point, I love making similar “evolution”-tables, where you can see how the game looked at different stages during development.

  5. Meh, I have to say, great tips… but I don’t use them at all. 😛

    I think timelapses should be interesting to the viewer at all times, which means: voiceovers (even if they’re robotic :3 ), color correction changes depending on the song, and speeding up/slowing down clips in time to the song.

    Check out mine (it’s something a little… different 😀 )

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