Tool from Sentinel Hub Lets You Create Time-lapse GIFs from Satellite Imagery

Caitlin Dempsey


The European Space Agency recently released an upgraded EO Browser which offers users the ability to create time-lapse GIFs using Sentinel and Landsat imagery.

What is the EO Browser?

The EO Browser is Sentinel Hub’s cloud-based platform, providing a consolidated place to view and download a range of satellite imagery: Sentinel-1Sentinel-2Sentinel-3, ESA’s archive of Landsat 5, Landsat 7 and Landsat 8, global coverage of Landsat 8, Envisat Meris,  Proba-V and MODIS products.

Developed and operated by Sinergise in partnership with the European Space Agency, the latest upgrade of the EO Browser includes the ability to create an animated GIF from a time series of satellite images.

How to Create a Time-lapse GIF with EO Browser

Here is a short tutorial on how to create your own time-lapse GIF.

First, you will need to register for a free login by visiting the EO Browser and then clicking the link that says “Free sign up for all features“.

You will need to enter your name, email address, and set up a password.  Once you’ve submitted this information, you will need to click on the link in the confirmation email to complete your registration.

Screenshot with a red arrow pointing to the location on the EO browser page to sign up for an account.

Now, login to EO browser with your account in order to access the time-lapse function.

Zoom to an Area of Interest

To get started, first zoom to the geographic area you want to create a time-lapse GIF for.  

For this tutorial, I am going to look at satellite imagery for Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, California.  This area burned in October of 2017 so I am interested in seeing satellite imagery for the area before and after the fire.  

The neighborhood of Coffey Park was devastated by the Tubbs Fire on October 9, 2017.  To navigate around the map, you can use your cursor to drag the map and the zoom buttons.

Search for a geographic area to find satellite images

 For my search, I am going to type in the name of the geographic area I am interested in the search box in the upper right. The search box will show suggested matches as I type.  Once I select the name, the geographic extent is zoomed to.  

I can then use the pan and zoom tools to fine tune my geographic extent.

Screenshot from the EO Browser showing a grayscale map and the location of the search box for finding a geographic area.

Now I can search for available satellite imagery products for this geographic area.  I want to search for Sentinel-2 imagery so I check that box and I also set the parameter for finding only tiles with less than 20% cloud cover.  

I am leaving the time range with the default for now.  Once I have my search parameters set up, I click on the Search button.

The list of results shows a thumbnail of the tile, a date and timestamp of when it was acquired, and percentage of cloud cover.

Screenshot from EO Browser showing the search results for satellite images for a geographic area.

From the list, I select one with coverage of the area I need and click on the visualize button. The select tile is overlaid onto the map.  

Different products are now listed for this tile.  

For this tutorial, I am going to stick with True color as my selection. To create a time-lapse GIF, I am going to click on the “Create Gif” button.

Screenshot from EO Browser showing where to find the "animate GIF" option.

Create a time-lapse using satellite images with EO Browser

In the time-lapse window, there are three areas to set parameters for:

  • start date
  • end date
  • percentage of cloud coverage.

 The circles on the dates in the calendars for the start and end dates indicate days when the selected satellite has acquired imagery, the European Petroleum Survey Group (EPSG) code, and the percentage of cloud cover.

Keep in mind that for the cloud cover percentages, the calculation is for the entire tile.  This can work both ways in that a tile with a cloud coverage that has high percentage may still be clear for the geographic intent you are working with and vice versa.  

Once the parameters are set, I can then search for all available imagery for that timeframe in my selected geographic area by clicking the search icon.

In the search results list, all available imagery is show as thumbnails clipped to my selected geographic extent.  This makes it easy to scan through them and deselected the ones that have too much cloud coverage, incomplete coverage, or are otherwise not tiles that I want.  

Once I have the tiles selected for the time-lapse, I can now select the number of frames per second for the GIF.  Finally, the play button lets me preview my GIF and make any final adjustments before downloading it.

An annotated screenshot showing the different areas of information for satellite imagery.

Time-lapse animation of the Santa Rosa wildfire area from 2017

The final product:

A time-lapse GIF of the Santa Rosa area:

A time-lapse animated GIF showing the progression of a wildfire in Santa Rosa, California in 2017.

Video Tutorial: How to Create a Timelapse GIF Using Satellite Imagery

See Also

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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