This week saw the launch of NY 41×41, the world’s first super zoom smartphone film. The handiwork of American filmmaker, Paul Trillo, the video was shot solely on the Nokia Lumia 1020 and, at the time of writing, has been viewed nearly seventy thousand times. Unsurprisingly, on YouTube, it’s garnered tons of thumbs and lots of praise. To see what all the fuss is about, check it out below.
Needless to say, after watching such an incredible film, one question on everyone’s mind is how was it done? Happily, you don’t have to wonder any longer because Paul has put together a fascinating behind-the-scenes video, and taken time out to answer some more questions too.
The film is about 52 seconds long? How long did it actually take to shoot and edit and what were the biggest challenges?
The timing of this shoot was pretty critical. I essentially had one shot at doing this because it had to be timed with the sunrise. We shot roughly from 3 am to 7am and referenced a sun chart to see where it would be every 15 minutes. There is a certain moment as the sun is rising that every 2 minutes or so the lighting drastically changes so each block had to be photographed quickly.
The edit came together in about 2 weeks. Although a good amount of research was done upfront as to how to actually pull this effect off.
You’ve mentioned beforehand that the film is “essentially an image within an image, repeated 41 times”. How did you meld them all together to create the effect and why does it look so seamless?
The most essential part is meticulously aligning the vanishing point and horizon line of each image. What makes this tricky is the lens creates distortion at the edges of each image. So when objects are closer to the camera they have a lot more dimension then objects further away. When you zoom in on a photo everything flattens. So finding the exact point in which two photos fit together is where the craft comes in. Each image has to be perfectly masked to look like it connects to the other image. In some cases buildings and sky hand to be painted to get rid of any seams.
Clearly, you have the expertise needed to make a film like this. But could anyone with a Nokia Lumia 1020 make a rough version? If so, how?
I have to admit, there was a bit of a learning curve as to how to pull this off properly. However, anyone with a good knowledge of After Effects and a keen eye could pull this off. For a quick understanding of how to accomplish an image-within-an-image zoom, I recommend Andrew Kramer’s Earth Zoom tutorial.
Also it really depends on how you shoot your source images. If you make sure that each photo is roughly taken from the same distance apart and align to the same focal point, it will make your life a lot easier in post. I encourage people that do have the Lumia 1020 to watch the behind the scenes video and go out and shoot their own super zoom video.
New York is one of the world’s busiest cities, yet your film is remarkably tranquil. How did you get rid of all the cars and people?
It was partly intentional and partly logistical. The first test run of this I shot at probably the worst time possible from 2pm – 5pm. It was Manhattan in full effect which makes it a nightmare to shoot. The images would have never really fit together because there is so much traffic blocking the road. It was only really a test shoot so I could work out kinks but it also confirmed that doing in the early morning was going to be key. While shooting, I only had to make sure the cars cleared from for the block I was shooting at the moment. Any block ahead would be covered up with another photograph. Removing the chaos from the city definitely adds to the surreal quality.
You’ve spent a lot of time with the Nokia Lumia 1020. What have learnt that might help other budding Lumia filmmakers get the most from the smartphone?
The very first thing I noticed was the ability to rack focus. Other things like setting the white balance are great too. The option to manually control all the settings will allow you to bypass a lot of what makes standard cell phone videos look they way the do. Also definitely get the camera grip / battery case. Makes it super easy mount to a tripod plus gives you a ton of extra life.
Some amazing insights into an amazing film. We loved the mesmerising effect of gliding through the wakening city. But what rocked your boat most? As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts down below.