Rob Walker | Essays

The Hyperdocumented Sunset Strip

A while ago I wrote here about Ed Ruscha’s Every Building On The Sunset Strip as a precursor to Google Street View’s car-enabled, mechanized, and essentially infinite documentation project.

More recently, I read about Google Street View Hyperlapse. This “experiment” by Teehan+Lax, plays off  “hyperlapse” videos, which involve “stitching together photos taken from carefully mapped locations,” into something that approximates visually stirring time-lapse movement through space. What Teehan+Lax offer is a tool that means to make it possible to create similar journeys using the images captured by Google Street View. The idea is to pick two points on a (Google) map, and let this tool gather all the relevant Street View imagery and mesh it into a high-octane virtual road trip. More details are here.

Teehan+Lax offered mouthwatering examples of the potential results in this highlights reel, presumably drawn from its own experiments. Like many others, I am sure, I watched this video and thought: I want to do that!

One delay involved settling on a route worth experiencing this way. A second delay was more technical, given Google Street View Hyperlapse’s specs: “Built with Hyperlapse.js, Three.js (r57), a modified version of GSVPano.js, and Google Maps API v3. This site requires WebGL and is best viewed in Google Chrome on a decent machine.” Frankly I don’t know what half of that means. (I’m particularly curious how “a decent machine” might be defined — although I love the idea of evaluating the “decency” of my MacBook Pro, or, really, any “machine”).

But eventually I found the time to work through the demo. After mucking around a while, and concluding that suggested scenarios such as the Florida keys didn’t interest me, and personally resonant routes like the journey from the house I grew up in to the high school I attended were visually dull, I remembered the Sunset Strip.

So if you don't have time for a real road trip as this Memorial Day weekend gets underway, I offer you the results of my goofing off. (The image above is a random screenshot from the, um, trip that I devised.) With the caveats about Chrome and  “decent machines” — on my computer, at least, it takes a minute or two to load — here's a Google Street View Hyperlapse return to the territory Ruscha documented: Every Building On The Sunset Strip (Over andOver in an Endless Loop That You Can Somewhat Manipulate by Moving the Crosshairs Icon).

Unlike Rushcha's documentation, this one is frantic and claustrophobic — instead of stopping time and inviting the viewer to scrutinize what's usually ignored, the "camera" scurries back and forth over the same route like a maniac. You can pause at any moment with the space bar, but it's still hard to get your bearings. The upshot is constant motion with no destination, and only the most disorienting glimpses of one's surroundings.

I don't suppose this is what Google Street View Hyperlapse was designed to do. But somehow, to me, it feels appropriate.

Posted in: Photography, Social Good, Technology

Comments [4]

Light My Fire
Ed Ruscha’s interest in the Sunset Strip points to the banal, the sentimental and the unconsciously comic. Intuitively, I think your Hyperlapse should start down the boulevard at a landmark like the Whisky a Go Go where the doors played in 1966 and end up at a place like the Liquor Locker. I would love to see you create a Goldsmith/Traffic inspired poem based entirely from the unexpected new order of the “Hyperdocumented Sunset Strip” from point A to B. Kinetic streetview architecture + the terrain of a word map = W Sunset Blvd
Thank you Rob.
Carl W. Smith

I love that, Carl, the Goldsmith reference is great. Fun stuff!
Rob Walker

Great idea. Way too damn hyped up in speed. Not everyone inhales Red Bull...
NM design

Probably a coincidence but It's worth checking out Dutch designer Hans Gremmens' 2011 project The Mother Road.


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