Empty Videos: Where Have All the People Gone?

Imagine the busiest, most crowded place you know . . . in the middle of the day . . . but without a single person.

It’s hard to form that mental image, because some places are what they are because of all the people.

429575638_4d0c1b16da_zWhile we were living among the 6 million people of Taipei, all we had to do was stand at the corner of a major intersection to get a feel for how dense the city is with people—on foot, in cars, in buses, on bicycles, and on scooters . . . so, so many scooters. That’s what made it so shocking when once a year, a seemingly random (at least to a foreigner) military drill chased everyone off the streets. In fact, during the half-hour Wan-an drill (萬安演習), all vehicles need to pull over, and it’s illegal for pedestrians to be outside, except for the officers stationed at nearly every corner telling everyone to vacate the streets.

In 2004, Hong Kong pop star Jacky Cheung saw this in person when he was in Taipei to film an MTV show. When the streets cleared, Cheung and his record-company crew thought they’d found the perfect backdrop for a photo shoot, so they snapped a photo of Cheung standing out in the street all alone. When the photo hit the Internet, the National Police Agency was not amused, and they promised a fine (though I’m not sure if they followed through).

There’s something about seeing places that are normally teeming with people when they somehow become un-teeming. It’s oddly alluring. Or maybe its just odd. Or eerie. Think ghost town, the Apocalypse, The Day After, or The Day after Tomorrow.

But thanks to some video wizardry, we don’t have to survive Armageddon to see what the world would look like without people. Take, for instance, Ross Ching’s vision of Los Angeles in Running on Empty (Revisited). At Vimeo, he even offers this step-by-step process for how to remove all the cars from the highways of LA:

1. Record for 20-30 mins.
2. Go frame by frame and grab pieces of the road that aren’t obstructed by a car. Eventually, you will have every piece of the road.
3. Put the static image of the road in with the moving background.

And then there’s the Empty America series from Thrash Labs, including New York, usually a pretty busy place in its own right, and Washington, D.C., Seattle, and San Francisco.

The music in these videos takes away some of the eerie feeling that can come with the visuals. That’s not the case with para l l el, a short film from the globetrotting French couple Claire & Max. Their music choice is “Dark Places.”

“What if parallel worlds existed?” they ask at Vimeo. “What if in one of these worlds mankind disappeared? What if the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty had never existed?” (Their vision of London is pretty creepy, too.)

In case Ching’s step-by-step instructions for creating an empty world seem a bit simplistic, Claire & Max provide their own how-to video tutorial. It’s step-by-step-by-step-by step. In their list of needed items, the last one is patience. Indeed.

Or you can pretend that You Are Legend, and you’ll have all the time in the world.

(Jimmy Chuang, “Pop Star’s Photo Op During Air-Raid Drill Could Net Big Fine,” Taipei Times, September 26, 2004)

[photo: “On Your Mark,” by h4rrydog, used under a Creative Commons license]

Let It Flow . . . and Tilt Shift: Take a Look at These Beautiful Timelapse Videos

UK-based filmmaker Rob Whitworth has established himself as a master of hyperlapse video. Regular timelapse photography captures the movement in a scene using a camera that is set in one place or that moves only slightly. Hyperlapse goes beyond this by moving the camera over large distances.

Whitworth’s brand of hyperlapse takes the method one step further by using the camera motion to stitch clips together into a continuous piece. He calls the result “flow motion.” Below are his unique looks at Barcelona, Pyongyang, and Shangai. (For the video of Pyongyang, he and JT Singh were given unprecedented access to the North Korean city, though it is still the view that the government wants to be shown.)

Whitworth tells The Creators Project that Keith Loutit’s Bathtub IV was his inspiration to specialize in timelapse. Loutit uses tilt-shift photography, a technique that results in the illusion of filming a miniature world. Bathtub IV was made with the cooperation of Australia’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

Another of Loutit’s videos shows miniaturized view of Singapore.

Whit worth also tells The Creators Project of his love for the work of Pau Garcia Laita, specifically praising his video showcasing Girona, Spain, part of the same project as Whitworth’s Barcelona piece above.

(Beckett Mufson, “Meet the Filmmaker behind Unreal Hyperlapse Tours of Barcelona and Other Cities,” The Creators Project, July 14, 2014)