Behind The Scenes Philly Video


I kept my equipment load light during the project. I made sure to limit myself to just two cameras, two tripods and a single backpack filled with essential gear for each timelapse shoot.

List of Equipment

Canon 5D MK II
Canon 7D
Canon 24 70mm F2.8L USM Lens
Canon 70 200m F2.8L IS USM Lens
Canon 17 40mm F4L Lens
Canon 50mm F1.4 Lens
Two Manfrotto Carbon Fibre Tripods

Preparation, Motivation, & Getting Started

Creativity is a fascinating force that flows unpredictably and doesn’t linger once it arrives. It’s crucial to act on ideas promptly when they surface. The sooner you take action, the better your chances of success.

The Story Behind the Name I came up with the concept for the “Philly is unattractive” time lapse film project in the middle to end of May 2013 and immediately started considering how I could bring this project to life and create the most exceptional time lapse film that this city has ever witnessed.

The title “Philly is ugly” originated as I was casually brainstorming some amusing or intriguing titles for the project. I wanted to steer clear of a cliché or overly positive name like “Philly Lights,” “Philadelphia is Beautiful,” or even something like “Philly, Philly, Philly, Vanilly”. Well, maybe not that last one. I aimed for something unique, something that would make an impact. The more I pondered on the name “Philly is ugly,” the more it resonated with me. This title will capture the attention of both Philadelphia enthusiasts and critics alike (though surely there aren’t any haters out there!). If executed well, this film will showcase just how stunning Philadelphia truly is. It was somewhat nerve wracking to commit to this title, but once I secured the domain name, there was no turning back!You can’t make a difference in the world by just blending in. Dare to step out and do something unique.

Finding inspiration

The inspiration behind this project was constantly evolving. Exploring new places sparked fresh and intriguing ideas for capturing moments.

Budget considerations

The initial planning phase involved researching the necessary equipment for my first timelapse project and budgeting accordingly. Calculating expenses such as gas, parking, food and time away from my regular job was crucial.

Setting a rough budget of $3,000, I started scouting locations in Philadelphia. My exploration began with identifying areas of the city that I felt would add an interesting touch to the film.

Scouting locations

Using Google Maps for scouting proved invaluable. Street view helped me visualize potential spots. I meticulously noted down every appealing location and created a map overlay in Photoshop to mark them with “pins.”After exploring nearly 150 different spots, I relied on a helpful iPhone app called “Sunseeker” that displays Google maps on your phone along with the sun’s position throughout the day. This app helped me pinpoint ideal locations for capturing sunrise and sunset moments. I also factored in that bustling city areas would appear serene if photographed at 5am instead of 7pm. The sun’s position and the desired level of activity at each spot mainly influenced my decision on whether to shoot in the morning or evening.

I categorized my map of Philadelphia in Photoshop with different colored pins. Cyan pins marked spots best suited for morning shoots, yellow for afternoon shoots, pink for evening shots and purple for nighttime captures. Equipped with this visual guide, I scheduled two or three locations per day, six days a week, for eight consecutive weeks after five weeks of preparation.

Embracing Beautiful Light

Holding my camera ready, the first thing I focused on upon reaching each location was the quality of light and the best angles to shoot from.
What kind of lighting would work best and what perspective did I have in mind for taking the pictures?

Capturing Unique Moments

Apart from identifying favorable lighting conditions, it is essential to capture captivating and distinctive shots that leave a lasting impression on viewers. This can be accomplished not only by exploring unusual shooting locations and perspectives (such as perching on bridges, rooftops, aerial views, boating or soaring in a hot air balloon, trekking into unconventional terrains). To further enhance the uniqueness of your shots, consider utilizing either a wide angle lens or a zoomed telephoto lens. Utilize all available tools to offer audiences a fresh perspective of familiar settings.

Camera Settings

The camera settings should be tailored to the lighting conditions at the location and the desired visual outcome. Basic photography guidelines apply (e.g., using a wide aperture for shallow depth of field effect, adjusting shutter speed for motion blur effects, selecting f16 for starburst effects from headlights or streetlights). Treat each shot as if it were standalone image when setting up your camera.
The only difference is that I would adjust the exposure in the mornings to accommodate the increasing brightness while capturing the sequence and in the evenings, I would adjust it for decreasing light. Here are some general settings and tips for shooting videos.

Use RAW format.
Set White Balance to 6000K.
Focus manually.
Shutter speed; 1/20th
Aperture; f6.3
ISO; 100
Set Intervalometer to capture 300+ photos with a 6 second interval.

For a smooth and cinematic look in your videos or timelapse footage, shoot at 24 frames per second (24fps). I aimed to capture at least 300 frames at each location, which translates to about 12.5 seconds of high quality footage when played back at this frame rate. Make sure to adjust your footage to match this frame rate during post production.

Manual Bulb Ramping can be useful when shooting longer sequences during periods of changing light, such as mornings or evenings. This technique allows you to smoothly adjust for significant changes in lighting conditions while capturing your sequence.There’s this cool trick called bulb ramping where you can get a gadget that helps adjust your camera settings while capturing your sequences, resulting in a smooth transition of light. I made small exposure adjustments step by step as I noticed the camera needed it. Later on, I used Lightroom or Camera RAW to blend the images across 20 frames or more. It might seem a bit makeshift, but it creates an interesting fading effect as the camera settings change.

Post Production & Editing

After shooting the initial sequences and transferring them to your computer while backing them up on another storage device, you’re all set to dive into the exciting world of post production.

Color Grading

To keep things simple, I’ll be using Camera RAW to tweak these RAW files. Alternatively, tools like Capture One, Adobe Lightroom or Apple’s Aperture can be equally effective.

Still Images Into Video

Once you’re done editing your RAW images, it’s time to piece together the timelapse sequences. I utilized After Effects to merge numerous images into a single video clip that will later be incorporated into the film project.
Creating Movement in Videos without a Motorized Slider

If you don’t have access to a motorized slider but still want to add motion to your shots, there are ways to enhance it during post production. However, nothing beats the authenticity of shooting with a dolly or slider for that perfect cinematic movement.

Exporting Footage from After Effects

Once you have your sequence lined up and possibly animated, the next step is exporting high quality video clips from After Effects to compile into your time lapse film.

Storyboarding for Seamless Editing

Instead of tediously editing multiple videos to determine the best scenes placements in your film, I took a different approach. I opted to export a single JPEG image for each scene and arrange them in a file browser to visually assess which combinations worked best in terms of colors, architecture and visuals when placed next to each other.

Crafting the Soundtrack;

A crucial element of any film is its soundtrack. To create a great soundtrack, it’s essential to have a clear concept of what you want and collaborate with an exceptional musician. Having previously worked with Henry, it was only natural for me to engage his talent for this project collaboration.
The music compilation was created after spending 14 hours experimenting, playing around and watching numerous time lapse photography videos.