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Long-exposure night shot of City Tower at Reading

News A Look at Driving Time-Lapse

22 July 2020 Kate

Driving time-lapse can capture surroundings and a different place in just a few minutes of video. From a hectic city to the wide-open landscapes, you instantly get a sense of the place through time-lapse.

There are many types of driving time-lapse. Those that focus on surroundings, those that focus on motion or others that are created based on the experience of driving. With clever editing, time-lapse smoothly pieces together the motion of driving as well as the overall journey. This makes something simple and every day become interesting and dynamic.

Night-time driving time-lapse

Compelling night-time videos tend to be most effective in bustling cities with plenty of general motion, energy, bright lights, and imposing buildings. Trailing light patterns and vehicles darting on busy streets in built-up, busy environments add to the vibrancy.


It is interesting to juxtapose one London driving time-lapse with another. One shows the usual hustle and bustle of the capital whilst the other shows eery quiet. The second video has a distinct difference as a pandemic driving time-lapse highlighting ultra-quiet London. The normally busy pavements and streets are deserted with buses noticeably passing more than any other vehicle.

To get the best results from an urban driving video, the location is paramount, along with getting the frequency of intervals and other key settings of your time-lapse camera correct.  Footage shot in darkened suburbia, smaller towns, or bland urban settings generally fall flat without the energy or light movement of a major city.

Scenic road-trip time-lapse

Driving time-lapse of scenic surroundings in daylight hours can create interesting and sometimes mesmerising videos. Certain landscapes work particularly well. The wide-open countryside of America with its vast, expansive spaces translates beautifully into short time-lapse sequences. There is an immediate sense of the endless open space surrounding the drive in this US Route 50, loneliest road time-lapse from Nevada.


Another road trip that gives you a strong sense of a place is shot in the Canadian Rockies. With snow-capped mountains rising around the drive, you can feel the enormity of the natural landscape even though the camera is positioned on the lane view.

The best road trip videos are those where the highway curves and the surrounding landscape either rises or spreads out into the distance. If scenery dips below road level, the footage from a lane-focussed camera may not be so inspiring. You may watch a time-lapse video of California Pacific Coast Highway 1 hoping to see amazing coastal scenery, but if the camera is set just on the route, the main view will be of tarmac, signs, and other vehicles. In the video from Big Sur, there are merely tantalising fleeting glimpses of the ocean which lies below.

Some of the most effective capture comes from freely moving the camera, which surveys the wider terrain. This Mallorca driving time-lapse is gives a greater sense of the winding road and the amazing views that surround it.

A successful road trip time-lapse video is one that takes you to places you may never have been to but now feels like you have.

Driving time-lapse from another angle

Time-lapse of super busy roads often works best from another angle, such as above. Then the frenetic stop-starts or flow of traffic and blur of lights can be effectively captured. In a hyper-busy urban environment, if you shoot from the car all you see is the vehicle in front, which doesn’t make for the most exciting footage.  

In this LA rush hour video, you get the feel of the continual movement of vehicles and a real sense of motion time-lapse.


Some overhead traffic time-lapse sequences show the quirks of chaotic travel and badly thought out road planning. The Arc de Triomphe in France is one of the ‘worst’ roundabouts in the world, and from a birds-eye view, you see vehicles nudging forward in a traffic muddle.

Traffic time-lapse can also show in a snapshot how different cultures vary. In a video from India, it appears to be complete urban chaos, but the cars, humans, and bicycles navigate one another without incident as this is their everyday environment.

Aerial time-lapse of night-time cityscapes use the motion of traffic to show the city is alive. The flow and blur of car lights add to the city’s energy. This compelling movement can be seen as Chicago is shot at night-time.

Motorcycle driving time-lapse

To get a different perspective on a journey, capturing from a motorbike is rather effective. Some motorbike time-lapse videos are shot as if a passenger riding pillion. From this angle, the viewer feels very connected to the experience and the surroundings. Other videos are shot from the driver’s viewpoint so the viewer feels as if they are literally controlling a high-speed motorbike.

Why use Time-Lapse

Wherever driving time-lapse videos are created and from whatever angle, they instantly transport the viewer to that experience. They open up surroundings, so viewers can click and feel instantly immersed in another part of the world or an adventure. For those that want to try their hand at making their own drive time-lapse video, there is plenty of advice, how-to videos, and go pro cameras to help. When all aspects of driving time-lapse come together well, it can make something ordinary interesting, mesmerising, and exhilarating.

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Time-Lapse Systems are a part of Hideaway Media Ltd (est. 2007). World leader in the provision of bespoke time-lapse capture and site monitoring solutions. UK and Worldwide.