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The new timelapse feature is something I've been patiently waiting for, and am incredibly excited to start using with the official release of 1.9!

After experimenting a bit with the beta, I've noticed some potential serious pitfalls for the way that the feature is currently intended to be implemented, and I have a few suggestions on how to improve on this.


Firstly, the reasons why this feature may be limiting is as follows:
You would need to make sure that you don't forget to toggle "Save History with Document" otherwise your entire process timelapse (hours worth of work) would be gone - I've done this a few times already.

You're limited to your history states, and some projects (particularly illustration type projects) involve thousands of brush strokes and adjustments which would make it near impossible to ensure that your computer can save that many history states without getting really bogged down. That means you will need to cap your undo limit and subsequently override old history states meaning a chunk of your timelapse would likely be lost.

Savings those history states will also create incredibly large file sizes, which is very impractical for anyone looking to use this feature.


My ideas.
In the old days (before Procreate along with its timelapse feature was born) there was a little app/widget called Schnapps for Mac - http://schnappsformac.com
While the website is still up, I'm sure this app is no longer functioning or being updated in 2021, but it basically saved a snapshot of your canvas every time you saved your document.

It had no direct impact on your document or file size, and had no relation to your history states or undo limit (which can be quite volatile if you aren't careful/mindful at all times).

Upon export you could choose your desired video format (or looping gif) and also the playback rate.

My proposal.
Would it not be better for Affinity to use a similar approach?
Instead of using the "Save History with Document" option, you can include a "Record Timelapse" option under the "File" menu, which can be on by default to avoid any accidental loss - or include it in the "New Document" dialog when creating a new document.

Every time you save a document, the app can save a 1080px (1080px in height, and the width can be dictated by the canvas aspect ratio) snapshot in a folder within the app's program files which can then be recalled and assembled by the app when you select "Export Timelapse".
That way the user won't ever see the snapshots or have to deal with big file sizes with limited history states as the timelapse files would be stored elsewhere on their computer.

If, in the future, Affinity ever changed the way that the files are created, the timelapse files would remain completely unaffected since they would be existing snapshots, not past history states.

Timelapses move pretty fast, so there's no reason to include every single step of the process in the playback, so in the long run every save-state would probably be a better option that ever history-state - either that or saving a snapshot, say, every 10 history states or so.

Schnapps was a very simple and lightweight app, but it was incredibly effective at doing what it was designed to do.
The only examples could find that I did with Schnapps (back while I was still a student) were these short videos - I did a little bit of post editing with them to add transitions and video elements, but the timelapses show the process:

https://vimeo.com/111345964 and https://vimeo.com/107825113

I completely understand that the Affinity team has done a lot of work with the timelapse feature already, but I can assure you that nipping these potential future issues in the bud before it's actually released would make it a lot easier than accepting the limitations now and getting stuck them in the future after the feature is officially released. A lot of creative apps (Procreate, Sketchbook Pro, ArtStudio Pro, Clip Studio Paint, etc) now have timelapse features and have perfected them already, and it's become a highly sought after feature for the 'modern creative' so there's quite a bit of pressure to get it running smoothly and properly.

Just my two cents, and thanks for making it through the super long post! 

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For proof of concept, I worked on a very simple illustration and didn't even reach the colouring stage before the history started overriding - and that's with the undo limit set at 1024.

I've attached the preview of where I was at when exporting, which isn't very far along in the process. 
It's a pity, because I know the more I work on this the more of the initial process will be lost in the timelapse and there's no way to retrieve it again.
The more history states there are, the more taxing the export is on your computer too - my computer heated up and the fan went on pretty soon after the export started.
I'm sure stringing snapshots (mentioned in my original post, above) together would be less taxing than running through all of the history states one at a time.

For Timelapse Test.jpg

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30 minutes ago, Chris B said:

Excellent feedback, thank you. 

@Chris B Happy to be of assistance! I'm really really excited about this feature, but with the way it's currently implemented it's not ideal, especially for bigger projects.
If you were to save a snapshot every 10 history states or so the final timelapse would likely be a lot smoother than if it took a snapshot when you save, but I think either approach could work.
I have no idea how other apps are currently implementing this feature, but I'm pretty sure it's not reliant on the undo limit as the timelapse exports are always full without any overridden information.
Feel free to give me a shout if there's any other way that I can help! :)

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Andy S has read the feedback and agrees on a number of points. 

It sounds like this feature will be expanded upon in the future. 

I just wanted to say that your concerns about performance with History steps should not really materlaise into an issue but it is something I'll be testing and keeping my eye on. Of course if you have a document where this does seem to be true, let me know. 

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2 minutes ago, Chris B said:

Andy S has read the feedback and agrees on a number of points. 

It sounds like this feature will be expanded upon in the future. 

I just wanted to say that your concerns about performance with History steps should not really materlaise into an issue but it is something I'll be testing and keeping my eye on. Of course if you have a document where this does seem to be true, let me know. 

Awesome, that's great news!

I haven't experienced any notable performance issues as of yet.
I just assumed that if I were to, say, max out my undo limit at 8192 in an attempt to capture the entire process timelapse without any override information, that it would cause a bit of lag or slow performance later down the line - maybe due to the ever-increasing file size.

I will keep on experimenting on my side and let you know if I hit any major bumps along the way.

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Agreed on all points. I would also like to add that the History panel should also allow you to choose where you want your recording to start and end. I think it just makes sense that you should be able to cut out unwanted pieces of your video rather than having to resort to using a video editor. Also makes rendering videos faster since you don't have to render out the entire timeline every time, especially when you are still trying out different rendering settings.

Another thing I wish was improved was the zoom in feature for every history state. I have noticed that when drawing that the zoom feature zooms in super close to the canvas when you make smaller brush strokes, which often makes it impossible to get a good grasp of your overall progress of your timelapse. This is especially noticeable when you are using Artboards, which can make you jump to multiple canvases without having any idea what is going on based on the recording. If you were able to control how far the zoom actually zoomed in, I could see this feature being a lot more useable, but as of now I am getting really unreadable videos with this feature because of the current zoom levels for smaller strokes. Without this fixed the recording feature is not of much use on very large canvases and projects with multiple Artboards, since having the camera follow your history workflow with some zoom makes those types of timelapse videos a lot more appealing to look at and easier to follow.

P.S. I have been trying to upload a video file showing the problem of the zoom being too close to the canvas, but I keep getting error -200.

Finally, I would like it if we could improve the bit rate rendering of the videos. I have noticed a lot of low bit rate rendering artefacts which are especially visible when you zoom around the canvas with the previously mentioned feature. I'm on Windows right now so I don't know if this applies to Mac, but my VLC player simply refuses to play any video I have rendered with HEVC. Seems like the format creates corrupt files, so I don't know if that would help improve the video quality to remove the bit rate artefacts.

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In addition to everything that's already been said, I really think making this process as simple and painless as possible would be key to its success. 
A simple option under "File" for "Record Timelapse" (check Clip Studio Paint for reference) would be perfect, then the app can do the rest and the user can focus on their work.
This will eliminate having to journey through the app from Preferences to set the undo limit, and then to the history tab, etc - it can get very confusing for new (and existing) users for a feature that should be quite straight forward.

To comment on @Frozen Death Knight's post, I think the best solution might be to include a timeline scrubber in the timelapse export window which can show you a little low-res preview prior to exporting, and allow you to set the beginning and end time of the exported video - much like changing the length of a video when editing on iPhone - simple, yet effective (example attached).
I would also add that maybe adding the 'video length' to the timelapse export panel would be helpful. Setting the milliseconds is great and all, but there are instances when you need to ensure that the timelapse would fit a certain length for posting online - as an example, Instagram reels can only take 30 second videos and it would be great to see how long the video would be prior to export and then the user can adjust the milliseconds accordingly.


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@ChristiduToit I think a simpler solution is to just simply allow you to put markers directly in the History panel. For one, there is no need to create a small preview, since seeing the full sized version of the project is already available and moving back and forth in your History is already very fast. Not to mention there is pretty much no danger of ever losing progress by doing accidental edits when going back on the timeline because of branched history states, so doing it this way allows you all the benefits of Affinity's pretty solid history undo/redo system with pretty much no downsides to decide where to begin and end your render. 

As long as you add two graphical markers for "start" and "end" in the History panel and a toggable option in Export Timelapse which allows you to use those markers when rendering, it will be feature complete as far as I'm concerned.

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@ChristiduToit Awesome suggestions. I also remember the app 'Brushes' which was the first iPad app I used back in 2012. That one also recorded time-lapse videos without hiccups within the not-so-powerful 3rd generation iPad.

I was just thinking about populating our new Tik Tok account and Instagram reels with vertical time-lapse videos. But as you point out, going beyond a really simple illustration would be impossible. All in all, I'm so hyped that Affinity has started to work on this feature already, which apparently is a must for content creators nowadays and not many desktop apps have included it already.

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