Optical Art - A Beautiful Seamless Journey Through New York City

New technology really doesn't do much for me, I have to be honest. Until I see it applied in a creative way, at which point everything changes. When you place new tech in the hands of inspired, creative minds to see what they can come up with, it can produce fascinating results. What you're about to see is probably the most serene and hypnotic journey through the streets of New York City you're ever likely to experience.

If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Limitless’, you’ll know the film features an ‘infinite zoom’ sequence several times throughout, showing a constant fractal (infinite zoom) stitch that more or less seamlessly took us through the living, breathing streets of New York City. You can see what I mean in the opening credits here:

Paul Trillo, the NYC-based director and film maker behind ‘Salience’ (amongst other projects), recently spent the early hours of one morning walking 41 blocks down the middle of New York’s 5th Avenue, shooting 41 still images with Nokia’s new 1020 smartphone. For those that don't know, the Nokia can shoot up to 41mp resolution (hence all of the ‘41’ references). What Paul has managed to do is do his own version of an infinite zoom sequence, but with an added twist of complexity and challenge.



Paul spoke to Fstoppers and told us a little about the process he went through to bring this concept to realization.

Paul said he initially discussed the concept of something like the sequence of Limitless with Nokia, but he didn't really have an idea initially on how best to shoot it. In fact, he mentioned he'd never really looked at the infinite zoom sequence until Nokia mentioned it and said it would be an interesting concept to showcase the phone. With no real idea of how to replicate the sequence, he was undeterred. Instead of having the luxury of being able to edit non-linear sequences like in Limitless (where they cut from one time and/or location to another to make the sequencing work), Paul said he wanted to make the whole thing a linear journey and put his own twist on it. He explains:

‘I wanted to push it further. It's easier to stitch these photos together if you're compositing with blacks and shadows [which is what the Limitless sequence did]…I thought it'd be interesting to see this zoom transition through time. The idea of an impossible zoom through both time and space became pretty interesting for me because I hadn't seen it done nor did I know how to pull it off.’

Naturally he and the team planned out how they would pull this off, and to get the timing of a linear sequence to work well together.

‘A lot of the work was timing the sunrise to happen as we were shooting. We walked the entire length from 64th street to 23rd street as the city awoke from 3am to 7am. Also timing the street lights and traffic was pretty essential as to not disrupt the frame with too many cars and avoid getting hit by them.’

One of the key means to achieve the final output was the ability to shoot at 41mp – effectively an 8k video output resolution. This was key to develop the motion of zooming through each still, and was the fact that helped glue the concept together.

‘I did a couple tests before shooting this and figured that each photo could roughly be cropped by one city block. I also picked up on how essential it is to align the horizon line and vertical street lines in order for the images to stitch together seamlessly. The 41 mega pixel images come in close to 8k in terms of video resolution so it gives you plenty of flexibility to reposition and zoom in.’



Paul’s idea to try and shoot something, even without really knowing how to do it, and put his own twist on it, is inspiring.


He and his team put together a brief BTS video which shows you more of the detail of this hypnotic little project.

Are you working on your own experimental projects and if so, we'd love a sneak peek. Inspire us! We’d love to hear how you are pushing the new technology out there in innovative and creative new ways. Drop us a line in the comments below and we'll be sure to check out what you're up to.


Image Credits / Thanks [Paul Trillo]

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Intro to Limitless

Anthony Saleh's picture

How do you create this effect in post?

OW...now I have a headache. Thanks so much.

It may just be the way youtube compresses things - but that was terrible to watch. There is no way I'd be using that video as a promo item for anything I was hoping to sell.

This is beautiful

Cool idea and really trippy (in a good way) but the masking could have been a bit better in places. There's a clear line where the colour changes between a lot of the photos in the night time section of the video.
Not saying I could have done better but for an advert I'd have expected better.

Kick butt idea, Paul! Loving this a bunch!! Great to see the time and effort pay off here!

Spy Black's picture

OK Apple, 'ball's in your court...

suddenly, i want one of those phones.. XP

it made my eyes really uncomfortable. it was just tough to watch.. seemed really cool tho.