Kaleidoscopic Architecture: A Hyper-Lapse Music Video

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Fragments of buildings seem to float and spin in the sky in this mesmerizing video for the U.K. band Wave Machines' "Ill Fit." Created by Scott Spencer and John Brown, aka the Popular Society, the video combines mirror effects with time-lapse photography that moves through space. The technique, sometimes called hyper-lapse, brings a dizzying velocity to time-lapse shots. Brown, a London-based director, spent four years refining the technique before producing this clip. He describes how he created it in a short interview below.

The Atlantic: What was the inspiration for the video?

John Brown: I've been working for some time on an art project capturing objects by circling them in this photographic hyper-lapse style. I’ve got an obsession with parallax panning shots from enjoying scenery when cycling and the longer they go on, the better. As well as training my eye, taking photographs of buildings really started to change the way I looked at them, and seeing the animated results made me see the movement as a kind of empowering dance with these normally very dominating figures in our cities. My co-conspirator Scott Spencer suggested we collaborate on a music video for his friends’ band Wave Machines when he saw some of the work I'd been doing and thought it would fit nicely with the song. 

How and where did you shoot the hyper-lapse footage?

It was shot all over London and Liverpool, where Scott and the band are based. I cycle everywhere and always keep an eye out for a good subject. I shoot by moving around the buildings in small increments, taking a shot every crab-like step. I get lots of people staring at where I’m pointing the camera wondering what I’m looking at. Sometimes flocks of people start getting in on the action and in the way of the camera. I do it handheld so I have to keep quite steady and I developed a skill for looking at the buildings as a whole rather than at the details. Otherwise, I find myself focusing on a detail and the shot veers off. A kind of gestalt vision gets the best results. 

How did it all come together in post?

Initially, we started laying down repetitive loops but the pop promo demanded a different attention span (unlike an art installation, the original intended use of the footage). The only place it worked was in the middle, where I've left the new Strata building at Elephant and Castle London (also known affectionately as “the Owl”). It's reimagined here as a huge piano. Other shots seemed to drift into the right places and form new meanings with the lyrics, which reference walking and flying. Scott and I started trying different ways to stitch together the landscapes in folded symmetries and used the shots that brought the most out of the architecture’s geometry and transported the viewer the most.

What's next for you?

I'm going to continue capturing these hyper-lapses as loops and should be creating some interesting installations using virtual sound. Scott and I have a lot of new ideas that will use camera-tracking techniques and a portable motion control rig I've just invested in, so expect more from us in the new year. Overall, we've both been very inspired by the positive response to the video and are looking forward to future collaborations.

For more work from The Popular Society, visit http://thepopularsociety.co.uk/.

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2012/12/kaleidoscopic-architecture-a-hyper-lapse-music-video/266033/