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A visual journey with Rob Whitworth


November 27, 2012

Rob Whitworth’s time-lapse videos are a living, breathing microcosm of the cities they render. It’s impossible to simply see the destination without feeling and experiencing it.  Rob is originally from the UK, but currently resides in Singapore where he works as an architectural and time-lapse photographer. Recently, his project “Traffic in Frenetic HCMC” went viral.

We asked him a few questions about his work, process, and love of travel.

CORBIS: What is your appeal to Vietnam and how does it best complement your work?

ROB: What an amazing place! Arriving in Danang was my first taste of Asia, everything was so different. I joked that it felt like Narnia at the time. I think as a photographer there is little more you can ask for: beautiful landscapes, chaos and life everywhere, and always more questions than answers.

The rate of change is also mesmerizing. I first visited HCMC just over a year ago and so many new buildings and infrastructure projects have arrived in that time. There is a real palpable sense of excitement and progress to the place that is highly infectious.

CORBIS: How did it feel when Traffic in Frenetic HCMC went viral? Did you expect it?

ROB: I had a sense that I’d made something good and different. Every step of the process was exciting.

The first morning after release, it had received 300 odd plays which at the time was very exciting, I’m not sure I know 300 people so this meant the link was being forwarded. By the end of the day it’d received 8k plays on Vimeo. Then it went crazy, the following days went something like 32k plays then 160k plays for a few days before it slowed.

The numbers are boggling, for 160k people to play it in a day is the same as back-to-back packed cinema screenings every two and a half minutes with audiences from around the globe.

Vietnam is 12 hours ahead of NY so it basically meant I couldn’t sleep as the second I went to bed I’d see a Canadian news show would like to cover it or a show in Japan wanting to do a piece. The whole process was a tremendous experience. Two key lessons for me were that if it’s good, people will recognize it but it still needs promoting like crazy to get a global audience.

CORBIS: Despite the chaos below in your aerial shots, how do you so precisely control the viewer’s eye?

ROB: Making time-lapse videos is a lot of fun. By shooting raw you have up to 38mp of information to work with which is then crunched to 1080p or around 2mp. That gives a lot of flexibility to pan, track, and explore a scene. By picking intervals and shutter speeds you can entirely control what element of the scene comes to life, be it cars, people, clouds, shadows, nightfall etc…

CORBIS: Where would you like to shoot that you haven’t yet?

ROB: Fun, being based in Asia is like a checklist of exotic locations; skylines are changing so fast here you really feel like you’re shooting something new. I was brought up in the countryside in the UK so I love the pace of change here. I’m currently spending a lot of my time in Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia. It would be greedy to ask for more…

CORBIS: What do you hope is the impact of your time-lapse photography?

ROB: I’d like to think it brings a smile. A really nice part of making the short time-lapse videos is hearing the feedback from people who live or were brought up in the places where the video is set. The HCMC video in particular tapped into a tremendous amount of pride Vietnamese people have for their city. It was great to be a part of that.

CORBIS: What do you love most about your work?

ROB: I guess that I get to do it and don’t have to get a proper job. I love the variety. A few weeks back I was making the streets of Saigon empty for a music video.I’ve just returned from the Malaysian jungle and next week I’ll be doing architectural shots of million dollar condos in central Vietnam. More please…

See more of Rob’s work on Corbis Motion



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