Last year a group of time-lapse photographers organized by Shiseido Ruiz produced a video of the New Year's Eve ball drop and other events in Times Square, New York City that made Vimeo's Staff Pick. This year, Ruiz and his crew decided to step up their game and headed back to the rooftops around Times Square to produce an even better one. In a feat of artistic and logistical achievement, The Timelapse Group managed to produce a stunning and truly unique film of the NYE festivities in Times Square that will make your jaw drop. In an interview with Fstoppers, Ruiz provides a look into what it takes to produce a time-lapse film of this magnitude.
According to Ruiz, the concept behind this year's production was to create a time-lapse film that told the story of the event. While the overall concept remained fairly similar to the 2014 film, this year Ruiz said they were trying to focus on getting “more soul” in the film, as well as getting a few new angles from the rooftops that hadn’t been covered last year to create more interest. This meant getting some ground shots and staffing three different rooftop locations simultaneously. Last year’s footage was shot largely for the hotel clients from whose rooftops they were shooting, and was sponsored by Switronix. This year the team wanted to shift their goals to make footage primarily for their own purposes, which meant that essentially all of the crew was unpaid.
The group comprised of Ruiz, the producer and editor for the film, Noel Cordero, the main creative director for the group, along with time-lapse photographers Brandon Cotter, Michael Villegas, Frank Villegas, Hector Arrivillaga, Oscar Portillo Jr., and Craig Nisperos. While eight might seem like a large group, it was actually a concern that there would be too few crew members to adequately man all of the locations. With only two weeks to go, a few of the crew members had to bail on the plans, leaving the crew slightly smaller than originally expected. According to Ruiz, that was simply one of the many facets of an enormous logistical challenge that is involved in making this kind of time-lapse film. The biggest complications for the project were the weather and logistics, Ruiz said.
For the weather, the team had to be prepared for moderate to extreme conditions. Shooting on a rooftop in winter you have to deal with high winds and the potential for extreme cold. Ruiz said that plenty of preparations were taken to ensure that all of their gear was properly weighted down so that they didn’t come back with shaky footage. They also had to prepare both the equipment and themselves for the cold temperatures. Standing on a rooftop for upwards of 14 hours in the dead of winter can be a bit nippy.
Ruiz said that the other most prominent challenge for the video was logistics. According to Ruiz, the majority of the work for the project actually happened in the two weeks prior to New Years Eve. Ruiz used his contacts from working in the hotel industry to gain access to the rooftops. The group had to notify and work with NYPD so they could work on the rooftops during such a high-attendance event without being flagged by snipers or asked to leave for security reasons. All of the crew members needed proper passes and identification to get to their shooting locations unhindered, and equipment needed to be transported up to the locations; sometimes up several flights of 10 to 15-foot high ladders. Other challenges were continuously dumping the enormous quantity of media that is produced from time-lapse shooting, as well as powering the equipment for the duration of the shoot.
After all of the logistical challenges were overcome and footage was shot, the work was far from over. The group ended up with over 36,000 photos, which all needed to be colored in Lightroom and edited into video. According to Ruiz, the coloring process alone took over 30 hours. However, this task provided a significant window of time for the group to make a choice on the music track that would accompany the film. The group browsed various stock music sites for “cinematic” tracks to accompany the film, searching for the perfect buildup to a drop in the music that would appropriately accompany the excitement of the fireworks. They ended up settling on Lights & Motion’s “We Are Ghosts (Alternate)" licensed via themusicbed.com.
Finally with a music track purchased and the color grading complete, the film was cut together and published to the web. After 14 hours of production of 36,809 photos, 30 hours of post-processing, and 5 hours of rendering, the final film was cut down to 2 minutes 21 seconds and was on the web in less than two days. "Last year took twice as long to get out, and we shot less. The fact that we shot twice as much and got it out faster is pretty cool,” Ruiz said.
For those who may have missed it, here is the 2014 video shot by the group.