Photo: Courtesy Apapics / Vimeo

Catch the trains you might have missed last time around.

The city at night. A haunting score. Streaks of headlights. Flickering windows. This is coming from a totally amateur film critic, but really, these Chicago timelapse videos are all starting to look the same.

The new one making the rounds, Chicago Timelapse Project: Windy City Nights, is eerily similar to a 2011 video called The City Limits. In fact, two shots are almost indistinguishable—the Loop-area El tracks seen at 3:45 in this new one is an exact replica of the shot at 0:42 of the 2011 version.


Not only do the films look the same, the entire timelapse genre tends to sound the same—atmospheric, ambient music that helpfully cues the viewer that you are watching something beautiful. Whet was onto something in his suggestion, in a post about another Chicago timelapse film from earlier this summer, that the soundtrack on these things ought to be Yakety Sax. 

The crazy thing about these timelapses is that they're quite popular, even if they're as dull and derivative as Windy City Nights. Since going online yesterday, it's racked up over 35,000 views. With HuffPo calling it breathtaking, plus pickup by the local ABC and NBC outlets (and, of course, right here!) that number will soon be much higher. All this for a video that makes Chicago look like a lonely, empty city, with the lights on and nobody home, a boring place with no people and nothing happening even if you watch it unfold at an incredible speed.

There are better, more original ways to spend a few minutes watching Chicago zip by. This one from 2010, Summer Sped Up, at least has the benefit of a great, then-new Department of Eagles song instead of a B-side from a Pure Moods disc. There's another good 2011 timelapse of Chicago from outer space—and even back then Whet prefaced the clip with, "You're probably thinking, oh, another timelapse video…" If you're still hungry after that, Vimeo has hundreds more.

Anyway, enough. I owe you a new timelapse video. About Max Wilson's film: This was the product of two years of work, and there are definitely some fine moments: 1:54, 2:25, and 5:50 are inspired, especially when viewed with the volume off. But overall, it makes me feel like I'm at the office too late, that I should get out of River North and just find some more people somewhere else. Hanoi looks fun!


Chicago Timelapse Project – Windy City Nights from Max Wilson on Vimeo.