Our new animated Phototrails visualizations for Google Zeitgeist 2014 conference

Phototrails video 1 for Google Zeitgeist 2014 from Lev Manovich on Vimeo.

Phototrails video 2 for Google Zeitgeist 2014 from Lev Manovich on Vimeo.

This summer we received a commission to create new artworks to be shown during Google Zeitgeist 2014 conference. The conference is an invitation only two day event; this year it took place during September 14-16 in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Google produced high quality video of many of the presentations. (You can also find videos of the talks from the earlier conferences at www.zeitgeistminds.com). For me personally, the highlights were the talks of Presidents Carter and Clinton, Google's own Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, and Lawrence Lessig - and also chatting with the people from Google X who were showing their amazing research.

We were asked to create animated versions of our Phototrails project. In the original project, we analyzed and visualized 2.3 million Instagram photos from 13 global cities. For the new Google Zeitgeist project, we created a number of new still visualizations using our our ImagePlot tool. We also used the animation option in ImagePlot to render a long sequence of visualization frames. The frames were rendered in 4K and then scaled to HD resolution. We used Premiere and After Effects to assemble the videos.

The two final videos which were exhibited at the conference are above. The fist video dissolves between both original and new Phototrails visualizations. The second is a slow zoom into the animated visualization of 120,000 Instagram photos from 6 cities. (Note: because of the Vimeo compression, the videos do not look as sharp as the originals).

The project was created by the original Phototrails team: Nadav Hochman, Jay Chow and Lev Manovich.

During the weeks leading to the event, we collaborated using Dropbox because each of us was in a different place: Nadav in NYC, Jay in California, and I was first in Brazil and then in Ireland. After we saw our videos playing at the site the morning of September 14th, we went back to the hotel, made some adjustments and rendered new versions. Good thing that ImagePlot (originally written by Manovich in 2010, and later expanded by Chow) kept rendering and never quit - even in Arizona's heat!