Midnight Barcelona


It’s been 5 months of intense work, non-stop learning and perfecting my night timelapse knowledge. About 34 cold nights wandering the streets of Barcelona, looking for high spots, asking for filming licenses, being looked at by thousands of intriguing, gazing people.

I must specially thank the hotels and spots where I’ve been legally allowed to shoot, they deserve their credit. There were also friends and family who kindly offered me their rooftops or balconies to shoot from. Thank you all for your help. On the other hand, there have been a lot of other buildings where I’ ve been either ignored or rejected to shoot. Incredible sights that might have enhanced even more this project, and promoted their hotels through my work.

It’s something usual here in Spain, it’s really hard to get a license for filming, specially for free. You can also be fined by police for filming in public spots with a tripod, and not having the city council’s license. Really weird. There is also a preconception fear about cameras, nowadays that internet is so powerful and it’s being used so badly sometimes. So it’s more common for people to start staring at you instead of ignoring the camera. But let’s move on to the main thing.



For those who are interested on my way of timelapsing, here’s the workflow I normally followed:

After finding out the spot I wanted to shoot from, I usually calculate the hour to do it. I started this project about November 2012, so at 5p.m. was already dark. From that month it got dark later everyday until April 2013, when at 9p.m. was still day.

So I tried to be in the spot half an hour before the ideal light for shooting.

Next step was choosing between AV or M mode. AV adapts the light conditions as this one changes, but sometimes you want the shot to get darker so you don’t look for this mode. Also gives the shot a constant flicker by the shutter speed changing which later has to be corrected. So the AV mode was left for sunset shots with the blue tones, and M mode for the night ones. Normally I used Manual mode with these settings:

Shutter speed: 1’3

Fstop: 7.1

ISO: 200

A picture every 2 seconds. I could use a physical intervalometer but instead I used the one that comes with the free software “Magic Lantern” which is available to download here: http://magiclantern.wikia.com/

This intervalometer is set up incamera and is able to shoot up to 800 pictures.

However, these settings usually changed depending on the situation.

I also tried to focus manually using the digital zoom Canon 550D has.

The shooting time was almost always about 10minutes, but sometimes it went to an hour, and then speeded up in post.

I shot in RAW format for later developing with Lightroom. Fast SDcards were needed to shoot for long time and every 2 seconds.

White balance was set in the beginning of the project in a usual night conditions, so I always choose that one and corrected it in post if necessary.

Regarding the lens, I almost always used the Sigma 10-20 3.5, which gives a really wide/no distort angle. For other closer shots I used my first lens, Canon 18-135, which gave me precise composition.

IMPORTANT FACT: never shoot timelapses with the Stabilizer On; sometimes blurs the image while trying to stabilize. Just use a good tripod and avoid windy days.

More than 20,000 pictures were taken to make this project.


Once in the computer, I imported the images to Lightroom. I usually developed the first one in my way, and then copied the adjustments to the rest of the pictures of the shot. Then exported them at once in a single folder.

Next step was importing every group of pictures (shot) into Adobe Premiere Pro. Choosing a 1080p 25fps DSLR sequence made the deal.

The program automatically imports the image into a sequence which can be treated as a video shot on the timeline. Then I edited the project like a normal video.

Regarding the movements, I just zoomed the image and animated the movement through keyframes. I would love to have a motorized travelling or a crane, but I’m not so into timelapsing to spend that money in one :P

For the shots that were flickering, I used a deflickering filter in an external software called VirtualDub, exported the sequence with Uncompressed RGB codec and then imported them again to Premiere Pro.

I choose the American Dollar for the music because I think their work fitted perfectly with timelapse. In fact their songs have been already used in other big cityscape timelapses, like Mindrelic or Chicago Cityscape.

So I tried to use a song which hasn’t already been used, and edited it a little bit to make it shorter (the original one was about 10minutes long).

Without the song this videos lose their soul, so I am very grateful to them by letting me use their work in my video.

About the exporting settings, I tried to match them with the Vimeo ones, here are easily explained: https://vimeo.com/help/compression


Other fun facts:

- The shot of “la Sagrada Família” was repeatedly done 3 consecutive days, I always got the cathedral burned out or underexposed once it’s lights went on.

- To make the CollserolaTower match the sunset I literally got into Google Earth and flied around looking for a spot where the angle coincided the sun and the building. It was in “Turó de la Peira”.

- When I visited “La Pedrera”, it was half an hour before closing, and I was left alone on the rooftop. I was told that the doors would close automatically, so I better get out before having to spend the night there. It wasn’t even a quarter before the closing time that I decided to leave the place. Well I had to go down through another way that the one I went up by, so I didn’t know what to expect. There was a door in one of the statues as you can see in the video, which took to a spiral stairs. They where completely pitch black. I started to step down until not seeing anything. Then decided to go back and go for another door. That’s when the only entrance door slammed in front of my nose. Not to mention my mobile phone just got run out of battery (iphones :) I was left with only one way. The wolf mouth. Luckily it was a few meters down groping until I saw the light again. Came to a closed exhibition, and then found out the stairs where everybody was leaving the building. Creepy experience!

- The people form Princess Hotel where amazingly kind. One of them let me choose between rooms and he even brought me to the highest spot as you can see in 1:35, where almost no one but the security guard gets to. Probably one of the highest spots in the city. It began to rain but we stood there talking while the timelapse was going on. You can see some drops in the picture be the end of the shot.

- The following shot was made with a gopro stuck to the car hood.

- In 2:08 you can find my shadow twice on the floor. Wasn’t really aware but decided the shot was worthwhile to leave it.

- In the shot on 2:37 I found so many people staring at the city in front of the balustrade that I had to choose a frame without anybody, and mask it over the video.

- On the following shots it got my out of my nerves the people selling some kind of flying-blueglowing toy because they throw it up appearing in my shots as long blue lines..

- I was blown away when I always matched the harbor shots with an arriving or leaving ship.

- The shot at 4:51 was my first ever night timelapse test.

- At 5:20 you can find a couple in the center of the frame timelapsing as I was doing.

- The last shots were made from a viewer in Santa Coloma neighborhood, a place where you don’t really want to be alone at night.

Thanks for reading!!


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