Think twice before posting photos of your imaginary suntan online: Google could be sifting through your latest vacation snaps for an unforeseen ulterior motive. The search engine giant teamed up with researchers at the University of Washington to cull public photographs of iconic landmarks from the Internet and stitch them together in chronological order.
The resulting time-lapse videos show glaciers shrinking, waterfalls ebbing and flowing, and skyscrapers rising as if made from matchsticks. While time-lapse photography normally requires a photographer to plant his equipment in one location for months or even years on end, the researchers developed an algorithm for creating their own time-lapses without leaving the lab.
Given the deluge of near-identical photos of world-renowned landmarks being snapped and uploaded to the Internet every day, the team sorted through 86 million photographs of 120,000 landmarks taken from common photo angles.
They ordered each photo by date, warping the subject to make it appear as if taken from the same viewpoint. The team’s custom-built algorithms helped automate the search process and altogether disguise the differing camera angles so as to be unnoticeable when viewed in sequence.
This stabilization process also compensated for changes in light conditions to minimize flickering between frames. Of the 10,000 time-lapse sequences of 2,942 landmarks generated, the most powerful ones include the disconcerting decline of Norway’s Briksdalsbreen Glacier, the construction of New York’s Goldman Sachs tower, and the shifting sandbars off the coast of Thailand as the water changes color. Each time-lapse video is made from over 300 images.
“Whereas before it took months or years to create one such time-lapse, [with our algorithms] we can now almost instantly create thousands of time-lapses covering the most popular places on earth,” Ricardo Martin Brualla, David Gallup, and Steven M. Seitz wrote in a paper documenting their work, which they dub "time-lapse mining".
Posited as an alternative to seeing life through a “fixed temporal scale,” the researchers say time-lapse technology creates “a new paradigm for visualizing global change” and is just the tip of the melting, shifting, reconfiguring iceberg.
Herzog & de Meuron's New York City skyscraper, 56 Leonard—aka the "Jenga Tower" because of its stacked-cube appearance, is steadily rising in Tribeca. While the building currently has a pretty standard glass box form with some protruding balconies, its upper floors will taper dramatically, hence the nickname.
Ahead of the tower topping out this summer, the 56 Leonard team has a released a one-minute timelapse video that shows the building's progress over the last 14 months. It's a fun (and quick) watch, and nicely builds anticipation for the tower's final form.
This black-and-white time-lapse video by Toby Harriman shows San Francisco at its most dramatic. The skyline emerges quietly from its famous fog as the city and its bridges twinkle in the distance—including Leo Villareal's Bay Lights installation. As the music builds, Gotham City SF picks up pace, showing dramatic angles at high speeds completely appropriate for an action thriller. You'd have to watch to really understand.
According to filmmaker Toby Harriman:
This idea came from the aether; it emerged over time. Several years ago (2012) while exploring my passion for black and white photography I found myself wandering into a look I call ‘Gotham’...I have collected and edited this footage while juggling my freelance career and time working at Lytro (a new camera technology).
The film's score was created by UK-based James Everingham and serves to heighten the drama of the city. The Gotham City SF logo was designed by David Hultin.
Yesterday, something remarkable happened. More than a decade after the destruction of the World Trade Center, the walls and fences surrounding a small corner of the site came down and the public was able to glimpse a new stretch of Greenwich Street—which will eventually bisect the site—as well as Fumihiko Maki's completed 72-story tower, Four World Trade. The minimalist tower is the first completed building on the site, though tenants will now begin building out their floors.
“Today’s opening of 4 WTC is a truly momentous occasion in New York’s history,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “Twelve years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, this building stands tall as a symbol of our nation’s resilience and strength. It will also contribute to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan, connecting mass transit, business, government and tourism all on one site. As we move forward in building a new World Trade Center, the opening of this first tower is a significant milestone and illustrates that, even in the face of great adversity, New York rises.”
Progress on the site is becoming more evident on the site, with the ribs of Calatrava's transit hub rising above the fence line, the base of Three World Trade now boasting Richard Rogers–designed trusses, and One World Trade just officially declared the tallest building in the US. The Memorial has attracted millions of visitors and the Memorial Museum will open to the public next spring.
For the past eleven years, photographer Jesse David Harris has had unfettered access to two of the most architecturally significant buildings in New York: the Seagram Building and Lever House, both owned by RFR Holdings. As staff photographer for the Lever House Art Collection he began to shoot the Seagram Building with deference to Ezra Stoller. The photographer’s familiarity with the building evolved alongside technology. Last year, Harris began a time-lapse project that reflects his time with Mies van der Rohe's masterpiece.
The project took ten days to shoot over the course of 8 months on a Canon 5D MarkII. Harris bounced between a 17mm and a 24mm tilt-shift lens. Three streams of bracketed exposures were edited during four months of postproduction. To achieve the stunning effects in the film, the photographer designed a time-lapse dolly with a slow servomotor that gently pushed the camera along a forty foot track. The time lapses ranged from four to 24 hours.
It’s not the first time that the Seagram has received this time lapse treatment. The late urbanist William Holly Whyte used time-lapse recordings of the building's plaza to hash out theories on the use of public space for his landmark book and film, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Harris and Whyte shared the same elevated vantage point from which to observe the flurry of activity in the plaza below. Harris’s work seems to buttress Whyte’s appreciation of a “friendly kind of congestion” that forms on Seagram’s plaza. Until recently, people were often swept away from architectural photography as blemishes obscuring the masterpiece, but Harris’s film takes a kind of Satyagraha joy of people in motion.
The result is a wholly public yet intimate observation that only an eleven-year photo veteran could make. “In the beginning, I was intimidated by it,” Harris said of the building. “On first look it can be standoffish, but it’s actually very soft. It sounds silly, but it’s become my friend in a way.”
Each year, we're continually amazed at the pop-up architecture that rises in Nevada's Black Rock Desert for Burning Man only to be destroyed in one grand flash of fire. What's equally awe-inspiring is the pop-up city that forms around the festival. We just came across this time-lapse video of the rise and fall of the city of Burning Man, which shows how the urban form, like the installations, slowly builds before igniting in the night and fading away. Set against the black of the desert night, the video shows how active and dynamic the site really is when the sun goes down. The festival comes alive with the darting about of lights around fixed centers of music and art. At the end, the calm of an abandoned desert returns for another year. [h/t Lost at E Minor.]
If you thought the pace of life in Manhattan couldn't get any more hectic, think again. Photographer Josh Owens has compiled a stunning collection of time lapse scenes from around New York. Despite its fast pace, there's something distinctly calming about the hustle. (Via swissmiss.)
My In Detail piece in the current issue is about Eleven Times Square, a speculative office tower at the corner of 8th Ave. and 42nd St., which was designed by FXFowle and is now in the final stages of construction. Lucky for you and me, Plaza Construction had the site photographed everyday for the past two years or so from the same vantage on a nearby tower, and has compiled these daily progress photos in the above stop-action video. There is much to admire in the presentation, but pay close attention to the erection of the structural elements. (Hint: The Tootsie Roll center of the Tootsie Pop goes up first.)
Like at least half of all tall buildings constructed in New York City in the post-9/11 era, this is a composite structure of a concrete core with steel-framed bays. But this is the first of those buildings in which the erection of the concrete preceded that of the steel. As is the case with vampires and werewolves, the steel and concrete trades in this city do not mix, due in part to long-held grudges. My information tells me that, in the erection of previous composite structures, ironworkers refused to work beneath the less-schooled concrete laborers because they feared being hit by fumbled debris. So does the erection of Eleven mark an historic accord between the warring unions? Or is Plaza simply the Talleyrand of construction management, capable of smoothing the ruffled feathers of even the most angry birds?