Interview with Creative Time Lapse Photographer Rob Whitworth
Your website bio mentions that you have extensive experience working in and around Asia. Which city is your favorite so far and why?
Hoi An. It’s sort of a city. It was the first place I arrived at in Asia, it’s a lovely little town in central Vietnam with the rapidly growing Danang just down the road. Arriving in Hoi An I was green to Asia. It was sort of like arriving Narnia, everything seemed to be different. Really enjoyed my time there getting to know the place. I hope to return there one day.
What’s on your gear list?
Nikon D7100 x2, Nikon D3200 as a light Backup body, Ninja 2 ProRes video recorder Lens; Nikon 16-35 f/4G AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor, Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED AF-S DX, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED AF-S VR II, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S, Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye.
I had a lot of fun watching “This is Shanghai”. I felt like I was right in the heart of the city! How much time did it take you to complete the project from start to finish?
This is Shanghai took: 16 Days Shooting: 6th – 21st March – 176 Hours, 4.5 Days Processing: 23, 25-28th March – 36 Hours, 8 Days Assembling: 1st – 8th April – 112 Hours, and 5 Days Tweaking: 10th – 18th April – 55 Hours
Total: 380 Hours
I scrolled through some of the comments on your videos and a few people said that you have raised the bar for time-lapse photography. What is it about your work that sets it apart from others?
Raised the bar… fun. I remember playing Mario Cart as a kid on the Super Nintendo. I loved doing the time trailing in which you effectively race against a ghost version of yourself completing the fastest lap. The joy of beating the ghost version and setting the new fastest lap was quickly replaced by the realisation that you now had to race even harder to beat the ghost guy again.
There a number of people doing really interesting things in time lapse. I like to think there are a couple of styles that are presently unique to my work. I would sum it up as an approach. I like the idea of camera taking the viewer on a journey from location to location seamlessly as if in a single take. Impossible zooms and camera movements are a device I use to make this possible.
What do you think are some of the key elements to the development of your time-lapse videos?
Playing around. Sometimes it’s to solve a problem as part of an ongoing project, other times it’s an idea to follow up on later. I think it’s really important to make time to be creative and try new things, and sometimes a whole day passes trying out something and ending with nothing to show.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face when creating a time-lapse video?
It depends on the video really. For example the night before flying out the shoot the Shanghai video my hotel room was broken into. Fortunately the thief opted not to take the small case with all my camera kit and laptop in, choosing instead to steal my shoes and a bag of some of my camera accessories. I’m not sure what use size 12 shoes are to a Vietnamese guy but I’m sure he had a plan. I’ll be on the look out for him next time I’m in town. Every project has it’s own challenges. I guess the most consistent ones are the weather and getting access to locations for shooting.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment as a photographer?
I’ve made four viral videos now. (Viral being defined as achieving 100k+ plays in the first 7 days.) Thats pretty cool.
Do you have any upcoming projects lined up?
I’m working on a couple of interesting things and keeping my fingers crossed about others. One I can talk about is a ongoing project to document the production of coffee in Vietnam for RuNam coffee. As part of this I get to follow the production chain from the remote central highlands to some of their coffee shops in HCMC.
Your videos have been played millions of times and have been featured in numerous articles. What advice can you give to beginners who would like to improve their skills in viral time-lapse photography?
Hmmm… I can only reflect on my own experience. I worked and assisted in the UK for a number of years with some success. In 2011 I moved to Vietnam and committed to shooting time lapse of the country. I think the combination of spending time improving my skills (both in camera and post production) and shooting somewhere that is relatively unknown was key.
So in short I think you have to believe and commit to your work… oh and move to Hoi An… there are few places better to play around shooting time lapse.
“What Cezanne did for apples, Rob Whitworth does for city traffic” – Robert Krulwich – National Public Radio (NPR)
Rob Whitworth specialises in viral time lapse videos and architectural photography. He gained his first-class honours degree in Photography from Norwich School of Art & Design, UK. Robert is currently based in Shanghai, China and has extensive experience working in and around Asia. Examples of Rob Whitworth’s Commercial work can be seen here.
Robert is part of Thrilling Cities, a highly specialised lab focused on the governance of urban identity. Based in Shanghai, London and Singapore.
This is Shanghai (May 2013) Made in partnership with JT Singh of Thrilling Cities the video was sponsored by Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration. Rapidly approaching one million views both in China and internationally receiving global media attention, including, China Daily, CBS News and the Atlantic.
Traffic in Frenetic HCMC (December 2011) went viral shortly after release achieving over two million plays to date. The two minute time lapse movie explores the chaotic traffic in the booming city of Saigon, Vietnam.
Kuala Lumpur – Day Night (October 2012) Officially launched by Yahoo! Malaysia. The video explores KL’s super-modern buildings juxtaposed with various cultural enclaves and with a little of Asia’s chaos thrown in.
Film Festivals and Awards
Winner of Best Experimental Film at Tiburon International Film Festival 2012 USA
Winner of Jury’s Choice Award at the 5th Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Fest 2012 Malaysia
Winner of Wojciech Jerzy Special Award, Snap Film Festival 2012, Poland
Official selection at:
Timelapse Showfest of Madrid 2013
DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon 2012
Mudfest Mudgee Australia 2012
ANIMAYO Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 2012
Norwich Film Festival Norfolk UK 2012
Zero Film Festival London and New York 2012
New Media Film Festival Los Angeles, CA 2012