The Best City Time-Lapse Videos of 2012

Kuala Lampur, Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco, and Hurricane Sandy make this year's list.

Another year, another great batch of time-lapse videos with cities as their subject. Kuala Lampur, Chicago, Toronto, and San Francisco are new to the ranks in 2012. The only repeat from 2011 is New York — though this year's video focuses only on that part of Lower Manhattan where Hurricane Sandy made landfall. Here are this year's five best, once again presented in no particular order.

Kuala Lampur (Malaysia)
Kuala Lampur - by Rob Whitworth

Architectural photographer Rob Whitworth snapped some 20,000 photographs of the Malaysian capital to produce this time-lapse — a VIMEO staff pick as the year's best. Whitworth shifts perspectives from traffic circle to parking lot to individual pedestrian, with the iconic Petronas Towers as a recurring character. There's a fantastic tracking shot from the front window of an elevated Monorail (the upbeat score, by Clams Casino, even goes quiet as we enter the tunnel). A great sequence of glowing street lights captures the city as if it were smoldering.

Toronto
City Rising – by Tom Ryaboi

City Rising (Toronto Timelapse) from Tom Ryaboi on Vimeo.

Tom Ryaboi is best known for his "rooftopping" approach to photography — scaling tall buildings to shoot the city from on high — and he didn't think the transition to time-lapse would prove as challenging as it did. ("This, I realized, was a whole other animal," he writes.) Set against a slow, dramatic score by Hans Zimmer, the top-down shots are all here, including a plunge off the side of a skyscraper. The clouds are never far from Ryaboi's lens; he writes of wanting to show viewers a Toronto where "the boundary between earth and sky is unclear."

Chicago
Cityscape Chicago – by Eric Hines

Cityscape Chicago from Eric Hines on Vimeo.

"For me, there has always been a mysterious sort of feeling to Chicago at night, so I decided to explore and capture it," writes Eric Hines, who took about 30,000 photographs of the Windy City to produce this time-lapse (music by The American Dollar). Hines opens with some nice controlling shots of the lake, the architecture, and the elevated train. He ends with a wonderful wide shot of the city — its dark blocks of buildings diced by the yellow lights and life of the streets.

San Francisco
San Francisco - by Jeremy Williams

Jeremy Williams spent ten months documenting "everything I love about San Francisco" for his time-lapse of the city. The video whips through its 62 scenes at an unusually fast pace for the genre — the better to catch that "everything" in action. We see the houses on hills, the trolleys, the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street. There's a great transition toward the end from a close-up shot of a hand lighting a firework to colors bursting above the city. If Williams saw that shot as an exclamation point to his nearly year-long effort, it's hard to blame him.

New York
Hurricane Sandy – by SMvideoChan

What this time-lapse of New York during Hurricane Sandy lacks in variety, it makes up for in precision and documentary value. Gothamist calls Sandy time-lapses "destructoporn," but we see them more as a historical glimpse of the city at its most vulnerable moment. (Watch the power in Lower Manhattan snap out around the one-minute mark.) There's clearly something compelling about what YouTube user SMvideoChan captured from the Northside Piers towers, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: the video has been viewed 5.7 million times.

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