VICE/Intel Creators Project Vid and a Vimeo Staff Pick

I’ve been watching the Creators Project videos for years now and I find them very inspirational so I’m at a loss of words to really express how happy I am to have my project featured in one.

And a vimeo staff pick to boot!

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

A quick shout out to the filmmaker at Vice that directed the piece Jordan Kinley. He’s got some really innovative projects but you’ve got to see his series Stand Your Ground, it’ll make your palms sweat in the best way.

San Diego Study #3: San Diego Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Car Color

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

Finally! It’s done. In this new video I took a four minute shot of state highway 163, which is San Diego’s first freeway then removed the time between cars passing and reorganized them according to color. I was curious to see what the city’s car color palette looked like when broken down. We are a car culture after all. I was surprised that the vast majority of cars are colorless: white, gray and black. The bigger surprise though was just how many cars passed in four minutes of what looked like light traffic: 462 cars. I invite my fellow arm chair anthropologist to parse out what those car colors say about us. Do tell…me…on twitter if you can. I think what it says about Caltrans is pretty clear. I had never really considered how many cars the freeways have to support but if you do some conservative math – at the rate captured in the raw video (below) you’ll hit 125,000 cars in 18 hours. If I had a nickle…that’s how much I’d need to fix the road.

A quick note on the colors. They’re ordered by prevalence or popularity within the sample: white, silver/gray, black, blue, red/orange/yellow, green. The group that is actually the largest is silver/gray but I put that group second to white because the silver/gray group is really a set of tones and colors that we don’t have language to easily parse but are visually obvious. In other words, it’s the biggest group linguistically but it’s not one discreet color.

There are no CG elements in the video and none of the cars have been moved from their original lanes or had their speeds altered. The gaps in traffic are due to the different volumes in the lanes. For the tech curious the way I did this is conceptually simple but labor intensive. With After Effects I cut out each car frame by frame and saved it as it’s own new video. Then I grabbed a still shot of each lane when it was empty, laid those over the source video, which produces an empty freeway and then put all the cars back in on top of that. Each car took an average of fifteen minutes to cut out and save x 492 cars, which is around 120 hours. I’m not entirely sure how long it took to put it all back together. Here’s the entire raw shot I sourced, which was taken from the Washington St. Bridge in the Hillcrest area of San Diego looking north.

Raw Footage San Diego Study #3 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

I’ve started to call this idea of removing the time between events without altering the speed of the subject(s) a Time Collapse video. Many people were calling the earlier videos in the series time lapse, which is similar but not totally accurate. Hopefully time collapse will make sense to others.

There is a discrepancy between the time collapse and the source footage. For technical reasons some car shapes and movements were unworkable and those cars were dropped. I only counted this once but here’s the breakdown:

Lane 1 (far left): 111 cars passed 107 appear
Lane 2: 82 cars passed 71 appear
Lane 3: 143 cars passed 137 appear
Lane 4 (far right): 134 cars passed 127 appear
Overpass: 22 cars passed 22 cars appear
Total cars lost: 28

That means that the real traffic in that four minutes is actually about six percent heavier than the time collapse depicts.


Dupont does a Global Car Color Survey every year that correlates to my results in the video except for one difference. In Dupont’s 2012 North American survey red is more popular than blue nationally but in my sample blue is more popular than red in San Diego. If my video is accurate, that would make sense to me. Red is thought of as an aggressive color and blue is considered a calm color. If you know San Diego, you know this is a (notoriously) laid back town. So I think if the video reveals anything really novel about San Diego’s preferences, that may be it. We’re way more blue than red…bro.

A few frame grabs:






Here’s some trivia – can you find the empty Gatorade bottle in the video? I didn’t notice it for weeks but it’s featured prominently in every frame of the video. Tweet me if you find it and I’ll ask Gatorade to send you a case of coolant.

A few making-of notes: While I cut this I got hooked on audio books. During the edit I listened to Revolution 1989 by Victor Sebestyen, How Music Works by David Byrne, Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Super Sad True Love Story by (hero) Gary Shteyngart, 1493 by Charles Mann, 1491 by Charles Mann, With the Old Breed by E. Sledge, The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera all of which reminded me, happily,  that I’m doing something preposterous with my life. I liked all of these book but 1493 reorganized my understanding of the world. It is remarkable.

I tried to use an app called IOgraphica during the long edits. It’s a mouse movement tracker. Computer work is so odd because it can feel almost motionless at times, it’s hard to understand why it’s tiring. The app is free and it’s an interesting way to visualize the physical activity behind a project. The images below represent about a third of the total for this video. The app helps further prove that I’m, happily, spending my life making digital yarn balls.

2013_11_26_IOGraphica---8.3-hours-(from-9-50-to-23-25) 2013_11_27_9.5-hours 2013_11_29_6.5-hours 2013_11_30_8.7-hours 2013_12_01_7.6-hours 2013_12_02_9.6-hours 2013_12_04_10.4-hours 2013_12_08_14.1-hours 2013_12_09_10.5-hours2013_12_15_10.5-hours2013_12_16

This project is supported by MOPA San Diego and The San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Fund: Individual Artist Fellowship Program. If you don’t know MOPA be sure to check them out on Facebook + Twitter and more importantly stop by the space in Balboa Park. Something I didn’t know until I started my residence with MOPA is that they have an incredible library of photo related books and journals that you can easily access by appointment, here’s the link.

Big thanks for the valuable feedback from Bear Guerra and Freerk Boedeltje who looked at early versions and thanks to Luis Guerra for his deft audio touch.

The video was shot on a Canon C100 in CLog with a canon EFS 17-55 f/2.8 lens at 24p

I drive a green car known as The Pickle. That’s true.

Fraction Holiday Print Sale

I’m happy to be part of Fraction Magazine’s Holiday Print Sale.  I’m offering a 10″x10″ print of the image below for 100 dollars. Click the picture below to jump over to Fraction’s page.


Over the Wall at Night

Night was my favorite landscape in Baghdad. The dust mixed with the glaring lights around the base and was cut by the concrete walls as if consciously imitating film noir. This photo was taken beneath the T-wall in the Sully Compound near the Baghdad International Airport where I lived and worked for 21 months.

aPhotoEditor Blog Mention

I’m honored to be mentioned along side some incredible photographers in a post on the aPhotoEditor blog. Take a look. They ran a couple pictures from a new series I’m working on called So Your Friends Will Really Know It’s You. That’s the prompt facebook gives you to upload a photo when you create your account. Again, credit goes to the Medium Festival of Photography for bringing all these great photographers, editors and curators into town.


Title: Kristina and 32 others like this.

Room #4 Baghdad Photo Series Published In Fraction Magazine


I’m honored to present selections from my photo series Room #4 Iraq in the Dec 2013 edition of Fraction Magazine.

Fraction Magazine features the best of contemporary photography, bringing together diverse bodies of work by established and emerging artists from around the globe. Each monthly on-line issue focuses on a central theme, creating an implicit dialogue between differing photographic perspectives.

I met Fraction’s editor David Bram during the Medium Festival of Photography portfolio reviews here in San Diego last month – an event I would strongly recommend to other photographers.

San Diego Studies: Final Shoot At Green Elementary School

Many thanks to Craig Wilsie and the after-school-care team at Green Elementary School for working with us on this. We lucked out and got just the right weather to eliminate the shadow issues we had on the test shoot. A sincere thanks to Alex Graham and Oscar Velasquez who helped me grip this thing. The video below shows the set-up.

This project is being supported by the San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Fund and MOPA San Diego.

When the series is complete I want it to work like a mural. This piece will show the number of kindergarteners who ride the swings in a day. Broadly speaking, I’m interested in creating images of this city in our time. I can only imagine what this will look like to these kids once they’re grown up.

San Diego Studies: Test Shoot At Green Elementary School

Sequence 01.Still001

There’s a saying in film to never make anything with kids or animals but I disagree. I had a blast yesterday with a few kindergarteners who showed us how it’s done on a swing set. We were at Green Elementary School in Del Cerro (a San Diego neighborhood) to run through the set up for a new San Diego Studies video. The idea is to show the number of kids that use the swings over a period of days in a few seconds. I’ve started calling this idea/effect a Time Collapse Video. The picture above is a frame grab from a hasty post prod run to look at the various challenges. The shadows are really stretched out this time of year – that’s the dark blob you see on the right side of the frame. I have to solve that still.

I had no idea kindergarteners could get swings going so well. A big thanks to Mr. Wilsie for having us out to the school.

A quick look at the set up:

This project is being supported by the San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Fund and MOPA San Diego.

Mouse Paths.



Today felt like June in San Diego, just with a much lower sun. I’m making progress on the 3rd SD Study video, which reorganizes auto traffic on 163 according to car color. The abstract art above is my mouse path from three hours of After Effects work I did this afternoon. These are fun to look at – I’m always surprised  by the shear quantity of movement at a task the FEELS like it has no movement at all. A blow-up below:



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Green Elementary School Collaboration

I’m working hard this week to move my new San Diego Study vid forward. The new one will reorganized traffic on the 163 freeway according to car color to reveal the city’s preference. I’m still very surprised that so many people drive silver/gray cars in San Diego. It’s such a sunny town you’d expect a little more color. I’m in my fifth week of editing with a few to go. When I’m done will someone please throw a bucket of Gatorade on me?

I’m also excited to move forward with a new community collaborator: Green Elementary School. We’re just starting to work the details out but what I hope to do with the school is show the total number of kids that use a swing set over the period of five days. I visited a class recently and was blown away by the kids. They’re a savvy crew with big ambitions. There are a couple of girls who want to be pro football players, which is incredible. The princess narrative that’s laid on young girls is so unbelievably lame and limiting, it was really neat to hear these girls talk about their ambitions without limits.