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Trending: How Filmmakers Capture the Empty Streets of Amsterdam, San Francisco, and NYC

By David Schonauer   Wednesday April 22, 2020


Can you make a dynamic film in a city lacking dynamism?

The answer is yes.

With the coronavirus outbreaks, the streets of the world’s major cities have gone empty. Once filled with the sight and sounds of chaotic, bustling life, they now are uncanny scenes — devoid of people, abandoned stages waiting for the next act to begin. Still photographers, fittingly, have been documenting the deserted, silent streets. But a number of videos of empty cities around the world have also been getting attention.

Film director and cinematographer Jean Counet, for instance, recently shot Meanwhile in Amsterdam, a four-minute film capturing the capital city of the Netherlands almost entirely deserted.

Counet told Colossal that Meanwhile in Amsterdam came together like any other film, except that “this time there was no director, and no plan.”

“We walked through the old city center of Amsterdam between 8:30 (and) 13:30 which is normally teemed by walking people and bicycles. What we witnessed felt like a dream. Sometimes beautiful and mesmerizing, sometimes scary and worrying,” he said. See his video also at Vimeo.

Meanwhile, a video from Space Race Studio, a creative studio focused on commercials and branded content, created a drone tour of San Francisco, where a shelter-in-place order was in effect. Throughout the entire three-and-a-half-minute video, which tracks across the city, only a few people are seen outside.

“Driving through San Francisco during the pandemic is jaw dropping. Thankfully few people are outside (I wasn't even close to a person), but seeing the shops boarded up is tough to see,” notes Dan Denegre, who shot and edited the video. “I made sure the drone wasn't a nuisance to anyone while shooting this short documentary of this...very weird time in San Francisco,” he adds.

YouTuber AK Fasso took to the streets of New York City on March 28, as the city began settling into the new reality of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“With guidance from Governor Cuomo, New Yorkers were told to stay home in order to flatten the curve of the spread of this new virus. With social distancing practices in place, however, I was able to walk through parks and major tourist hubs to get a breath of fresh air and fully take in the views of an empty city,” writes Fasso.

If the world today looks strange from street level, scientists have noticed that global containment measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus have seemingly made the planet less shaky. “Around the world, seismologists are observing a lot less ambient seismic noise -- meaning, the vibrations generated by cars, trains, buses and people going about their daily lives. And in the absence of that noise, Earth's upper crust is moving just a little less,” noted CNN recently. So enjoy the peace and quiet while you can.

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