City Upon A Hill: The Story Behind Boston’s Favorite Timelapse

Sean Collins shuffles from side-to-side across the roof of the 750-foot Prudential Tower, looking for the right shot.

He methodically adjusts the tripods of his four film cameras holstering red 5K lenses to different angles—all aiming in a 360-degree radius as the sun fades away on a clear summer evening in Boston. At the end of a typical day, such as this, on top of Boston’s iconic skyscraper, Collins has captured thousands of images, looking off the building at all angles to the city.

“You really can’t get a bad view from up there,” Collins said. “Wherever you put your camera down, you are bound to get something good.”

After spending this past summer filming from the rooftops of various buildings across the Boston, Collins and his partner Julian Tryba released “A City Upon a Hill,” a video that—as one of Boston’s first timelapse videos—has recently taken the Internet by storm.

“Every major city has a very good timelapse video, but Boston never did,” Collins said. “When it came to my mind where I wanted to go make a timelapse video, Boston was at the top of my list.”

Collins was one of the first filmmakers to create a notable timelapse of Boston. His first video titled “This is Boston” went viral as it captured iconic locations across the city in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. The video received over a quarter of a million views in one day, and was an immediate hit. “A City Upon a Hill” was released last week, and has already been more strongly received than Collins’ previous film.

“In the first video, it seemed like I barely knew what I was doing,” Collins said. “I put in so much more work for ‘A City Upon a Hill’ and really seemed to outdo myself. I wanted to give Boston a timelapse video that was just as good as any other major city.”

Creating a timelapse video requires multiple weeks of filming and editing. On a typical day, Collins will spend three or four hours at a given location, with four cameras constantly rolling. When Collins and Tryba were not capturing the city on top of the Prudential Building or the John Hancock Tower, the duo could be found moving along the Charles River.

“Filming a hyperlapse requires a lot of manual work,” Collins said. “You have to use a ruler to measure out each foot with the tripods and take a photograph. You do that process over a hundred times within a 12-second window, and you cannot miss a single shot.”

In total, Collins and Tryba spent over a combined 40 days filming the city, while editing, filtering, and layering images at night through a program called AfterEffects. After the video was completed, Collins returned to California to continue producing feature films.

“I like to think of time-lapse videos as visual poetry.” – Collins

Collins, 31, is a writer and director at his company Bodhi Films—a film production company based in Beverly Hills—that hopes to eventually produce feature films. He has licensed his work to ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS, and other major media outlets. His other recent clients include the Boston Celtics, Hyundai, Marriott, The Boston Convention Center, Putnam Investments, and Northeastern University.

Although Collins is currently living in Los Angeles and pursuing his dream of producing major films, his passion for the film industry came when he was just a child. At 11 years old, Collins was accompanying his cousin to a movie audition in Ohio when the director pulled Collins aside and felt he would be the perfect fit as a character in a small film. After spending the summer working on the movie, he immediately fell in love with the film industry. Collins went on to graduate from film school in California and worked primarily as a story consultant—submitting over 50 scripts to executives at various studios and agencies each day.

“I would sit in the library reading movie scripts all day,” Collins said. “It wasn’t glamorous, but my work as a story consultant was good preparation for my work today.”

After participating in a few films, productions, and a reality TV show, Collins came across a timelapse video two years ago that would completely alter his career path.

“I saw a timelapse video of LA and immediately became fascinated with them,” he said. “I realized that these videos were done on inexpensive consumer cameras, and you could achieve a really high resolution with them and do some pretty amazing things.”

Collins began to create timelapse videos featuring nature, but soon realized that people were more interested in watching the places where they lived. After seeing the success of the Los Angeles timelapse video, he set out to give people what they wanted to see. He travelled to Boston two years ago to visit his best friend and the two worked together to produce his first video, “This is Boston.”

“The best feedback I get is when people tell me that I reminded them how beautiful their city is, and that it gave them pride to live in Boston.” – Collins

“The LA timelapse video completely changed the way I saw my own city,” Collins said. “After I fell in love with Boston, I knew I wanted to give that same feeling to Bostonians.”

Following the immediate success of “This is Boston” and “A City Upon a Hill,” Collins plans to return to Boston next month in order pursue his long-term goal of creating a travel show within the city, focusing on the history of the various neighborhoods of Boston. Instead of monitoring the city from the tops of the city’s skyscrapers, Collins hopes to become more grounded in his approach.

“I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time on the streets walking around with my camera.”

Featured Images Courtesy Of Sean Collins

About Bennet Johnson 96 Articles
Bennet Johnson was the Metro Editor for The Heights in 2015 and Business Manager in 2016. You can probably still find him wandering around Boston, wearing his 'Minnesota Nice' T-shirt. Follow him on Twitter @bennet_15.