Well, my question is this: Is that possible to make time-lapse movies with Mathematica?

Here is some more explanation:

Watch this YouTube video that is a wonderful example of time-lapse movies. Time-laps movies are made by taking a photo every few seconds and attaching the photos together to make a movie which is played at say 30 fps. I have taken 180 JPEG photos with my digital camera. I wonder if I can use Mathematica to convert them into a 6 sec movie. Normally, this should be an easy job using the following two lines of code:

frames = Import /@ FileNames["*.JPG", "/path/to/folder/"];
Export["/path/to/folder/export.avi", frames]

But, because the total size of the images is too large (~1.2GB), I get the following error:

No more memory available. Mathematica kernel has shut down. Try quitting other applications and then retry.

I get this error when loading the pictures, so the export process has not yet began.

Is there any easy way to fix this issue? e.g., loading only a few pictures at a time.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I think that Mathematica is really not the right tool for the job. There are many programs out there that can create a video out of a series of stills, why don't you try them? superuser.com/questions/624567/… $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Oct 6, 2014 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ (When I need to create a long animation with Mathematica, I prefer to export stills and assemble them into a video using other tools.) $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Oct 6, 2014 at 11:04
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I agree with Szabolcs that using other software will be the easiest route. If you insist on using Mathematica and are on Windows, you could try my video import/export package from here. It writes frames one by one so you need only have one frame in memory at a time. You can't export to AVI though, only WMV or MP4. $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2014 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ @SimonWoods, probably you should put that as an answer? $\endgroup$
    – rhermans
    Oct 6, 2014 at 15:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Szabolcs: The reason I want to use Mathematica is that I failed to use free tools such as ffmpeg and avconv. I thought there might be a simple way to use Mathematica to get the job done since my project is relativly small. Anyways, I agree with you that Mathematica is not the best tool. Aside from the speed and memory issues, sophisticated time-lapse software does a lot of interframe processing for shake reduction and exposure compensation to improve the output video. $\endgroup$
    – Helium
    Oct 6, 2014 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


If you're using Windows you can use my MathMF package (see here). It is designed for frame-by-frame import and export of video files. The code would then look something like this:

frames = FileNames["*.JPG", "C:\\Users\\Simon\\Desktop\\test images"];

<< MathMF`    

MFInitSinkWriter["C:\\Users\\Simon\\Desktop\\test.wmv", 300, 300]    
Scan[MFSendFrame @ Import[#] &, frames]    

A limitation is that you can only write MP4 and WMV files, not AVI.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Simon for the answer. I have VS 2013 installed, but I get the following error: CreateLibrary::cmperr: "Compile error: "C:\\ Program Files (x86)\\ Windows Kits \\ 8.0\\ include \\ um \\ propvarutil.h(20) : fatal error C1083: Cannot open include file: 'shlwapi.h': No such file or directory" $\endgroup$
    – Helium
    Oct 6, 2014 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any idea how to fix it? $\endgroup$
    – Helium
    Oct 6, 2014 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Helium, googling "missing shlwapi.h" suggests you might need to install/repair the Windows SDK. On my system shlwapi.h is present in both C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\8.0\Include\um and C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.1A\Include. Alternatively you could try using the pre-built MathMF DLL. $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2014 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Simon. I used the precompiled DLL and it solved the issue. $\endgroup$
    – Helium
    Oct 8, 2014 at 6:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Helium, that's good to know. I hope you find it useful. $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2014 at 8:07

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