Joe Nafis sat down in the 17 Mile Cafe and pulled out the biggest laptop I have ever seen, flipped it around so we could all have a look and then showed us a time-lapse video of the Bund that revolved around some point high in the heavens above the Jin Mao Tower. The perspective turned slowly while heads flashed by in the bottom of the frame and it was hard to tell what was really turning, Shanghai's skyline or the cameraman.
Nafis and the company he works for, Lost Pensivos Films, hope to take this show on the road and make films like those shown on his website, ChinaTimelapse for cities all over China. In fact, the grand vision is something far larger:
"I would love to make an artistic movie using time-lapse techniques that shows how beautiful China really is," said Nafis. "It would be really cool to show a four-hour scene in several seconds and extend a few second scene over a longer period of time, you know, really messing with time and video."
The camera doesn't exist yet that can do time-lapse and slowmo at the same time, but they're working on it. Nafis and I thought that time-remapping might be the best way to describe it without resorting to quotes from the Matrix, Inception or the Butterfly Effect. The concept doesn't seem to daunt Nafis. He got his start in film by hacking into a point-and-click digital camera and re-writing the code to allow him to make tilt-shift images of Ho Chi Minh City--a technique that makes men and buildings look like little Lego structures. The film he made with those images, "Miniature City HCMC," (requires a VPN or proxy in China) went slightly viral on YouTube and started him on the path toward time-lapse video for a living.
Nafis moved to Shanghai after shedding his "Teacher of English as a Second Language" mantle and spent two months looking for a job and trying to make some cash. While he waited for something to pan out, he continued with his film hobby and made a tilt-shift film of Shanghai (requires a VPN or proxy in China). That film caught the attention of Arthur and Luther Jones who run LPFilms. They scooped up the budding talent, paid him some cash and turned him loose on the city.
Since then, Nafis has made several time-lapse films in Shanghai--Xintiandi, Nanjing Lu and for the Shanghai Expo--as well as supplying several documentary teams with stock footage from Shanghai, including Piers Morgan of iTV fame.
One of their biggest coups came just last week when the team won a contest put on by the Italian Pavilion. The contest was to create two short films: one depicting the pavilion, the other to show the Expo in its entirety. Nafis and team put together a time-lapse film of the Italian Pavilion which won first prize, netting them some cash and a little more notoriety.
We love what these guys are doing and will be keeping a close eye on what they come up with next--remember, time-remapping, you heard it here first! Stay tuned for more, coming soon. For now, check out LP's showreel below: