San Francisco Hyperlapse Project, Plus Behind The Scenes Of How It Was Made

Marc Donahue from Permagrin Films keeps popping up with new and interesting timelapse or GoPro projects– and his latest work features the gorgeous city of San Francisco. Using unique motion timelapses, Marc and his team put together another amazing piece of work. Marc shared some insight on the production, and we've also got some behind the scenes video too so you can see how it was made.

This project came about through the desire to create, collaborate, and ultimately find inspiration from another art. In this case, music.

"I was truly inspired by the song 'I left my heart in San Francisco' by Tony Bennett. I already had a passion for time-lapse and of course, the beautiful landscape that is SF. This also gave me an opportunity to explore working with other extremely talented individuals from the Bay Area. Through a craigslist posting, I came to find myself side-by-side with Bryce Grimm who was eager to learn about the techniques I use, while bringing creative ideas of his own to the project."

The song is an iconic one, but was re-recorded for this video. Marc used his connections with a band he knew to make a memorable, and very fitting, musical backdrop for this video, without paying huge licensing fees!

"Thinking on how to approach a new project I decided it was best to collaborate with Dredg, a band that I had grown up with and admired. Dredg was equally excited about the prospect of covering one of the best classic songs of our time and morphing it into something artistic and new."


While you may have noticed some of the day-to-night timelpases in the video, they might not have been created how you think. Check out the behind the scenes video below for shots of the Emotimo setup in action around the streets of San Francisco.

"We decided to try day-to-night time-lapses by implementing repeat moves. Day-to-night isn’t a new effect, but we had no excuse to use it until now. This technique required us to do a lot of location scouting to check the light position during the day and the amount of action we would see from the same location at night. Once we had a good understanding of our shot, we setup our time-lapse “rig” and let it run. Then once the shot was finished, all it required was a reset and reshoot of the same shot at night."

"We primarily used the Canon 5D Mark III, which has served as an amazing product for our projects. To capture unique movement within our shots we used Dynamic Perception’s Stage 0 and the Stage 1 accompanied with Emotimo’s TB3 Black Pan & Tilt System. With the backing of these two companies we were able to successfully capture our vision within each composition."

If you've watched any of Marc's other work, you'll know that he often tries to push the limits of what is achievable in a timelapse. Often finding interesting ways to smooth or blend shots together, I asked Marc about some of the more difficult looking sequences from his video.

"When going from a static shot to a moving shot, we would actually decide on the moving shot first. The zooming shots were planned mostly by the use of Google Maps. We were able to look at our locations before visiting them and decide on where we would frame our shot. Once we had completed the first part of the shot, we would move to another location and shoot the same object again to finish the whole composition."


The boats passing at around 1:38 in the video caught my attention. Surely they weren't able to pull some favors to catch footage of these large boats? Marc told me that it was just luck, and by remaining flexible and open to what opportunities presented themselves, they managed to capture it.

"The boat shots actually just presented themselves to us. We were in the middle of a run-and-gun situation with another time-lapse when I saw the ships moving past and thought that would look great as a hyper-lapse. Moving in a consistent interval I was able to create a dolly effect while panning with the boat as it passed. All it needed was a little love in post to stabilize it and we had our shot."


Another notable shot was around 1:55, where a hyperlapse occurs down a rolling street, that is very reminiscent of San Francisco. Did they composite shots to remove cars? Were The roads blocked? Even with all the planning it takes to capture timelapse sequences, they were still able to capture this shot "run and gun" when a traffic free night appeared.

"One of the nights my producer, Roth Rind of Rind-Raja Picture Company, stopped by to see how things were going. We talked about a few creative shots that should be included when we decided to take a look outside for some potential locations close to the hotel. This was around midnight. The first thing we noticed… there were no cars. We both looked at each other and thought the same thing. Perfect hyper-lapse location. Rind took the helm of the camera for the next two-and-a-half hours kneeling 300 times to achieve the final shot."

So what about the shot across the Bay Bridge? How was this even possible to shoot without other cars on the road? The power of the internet and social media scored big time for Marc when an instgram user piped up with a unique opportunity.

"I had posted a behind-the-scenes picture on Instagram, and Tracy Rodriguez, a local resident on Treasure Island, informed us that she had a pass to drive on the Bay Bridge while it was completely shut down for maintenance… which turned out to be an AMAZING experience and an even more amazing shot. We had previously shot at an 'off-the-beaten-path' location on Treasure Island and remembered a great view of the bridge that we knew we had to get again to complete this shot."


To keep up with Marc and the cutting edge work he is putting out, you can follow him here on facebook.

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David Geffin's picture

Great video, insightful BTS, and awesome insightful article - 3 for 3! Nice work Mike!

Thanks Dave and yeah great work Mike!

Shared around the office. Amazing work fellas! Very inspirational.

Thanks Henry!!

nice! thanks for sharing...

Wow, awesome write up. Been looking for a 3 axis controlled slider and now I found eMotimo!