I spent a weekend in upstate New York last fall, shooting almost exclusively time lapses.
Upon editing the footage, I found myself struggling with contrast corrections. Many of the shots had to have shadows brightened, which blew out the sky. I could have shot HDR, but that opens a whole new realm of workflow problems, not to mention triples my images.
As usual, After Effects provides the solution.
I precomposed the layer, then duplicated the precomp. Each precomp got its own individual color grading, one focusing on shadows, the other on highlights. Then, in the main composition, I simply masked out the appropriate places, such as the sky. The result is a fairly convincing portrayal of HDR in an easy to digest workflow.
While this process isn’t a replacement for true HDR, it is a useful workaround for those times when you can’t handle the image load or the workflow. It’s fast, easy, and work great.