John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The city’s notorious slopes are great for doing “gravity illusions.”
It’s hard to have fun while summiting one of San Francisco’s kneecap-shredding hills. But Karen X. Cheng keeps a good game face while prancing up and down them in this strange, perspective-twisting compilation of “gravity illusions.”
Cheng, a former Microsoft Excel employee turned dancer, “viral video consult,” and Queen Latifah guest, collaborated with filmmaker Ross Ching for the trick-heavy homage to slopes. If one were to boil down S.F. Hill Style to a couple signature moves, it’d probably be rotating one’s hands to change the camera angle and mimicking the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a skill Cheng perhaps honed learning the “balanced robot”:
Ross got the idea for this video after seeing some photos with the “tilted camera” effect on steep streets. Since San Francisco is so hilly, it was the perfect city for this idea. The week before we filmed this, we ran all around San Francisco looking for steepest streets we could find (and gained some killer calve muscles).
The hardest part was coming up with ideas that made the gravity illusion look good—we tried lots of stuff that we thought would look good but didn’t work for various reasons (balloons got blown away, pouring water wasn’t visible enough on camera, moonwalking looked weird at an angle). Our favorite effect is the pendulum!