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Tourism Toronto hits it big with new timelapse video

Posted by Derek Flack / November 8, 2012

Planet Toronto timelapseNow this just makes sense. Remember when Ryan Emond released that stunning timelapse sequence of Toronto that we referred to as a love letter to the city? Turns out the folks at Tourism Toronto were paying attention. Following the attention that video got, the photographer was approached to shoot something more official to promote Toronto to the rest of the world. And given what's passed for promotional materials in the past, it's not hard to see why this latest effort is a vast improvement.

"They wanted to do something entirely different, they wanted to come away from the standard tourism video, so I figured I would step as far away from those videos as possible," Emond explains in the description that accompanies his latest effort, Planet Toronto. "I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to push my shooting style by employing a purely observational perspective. I intended to capture the city in distinctive form-- I wanted to make this piece different."

Given an increased budget and easier access to prime shooting locations, the results are nothing short of gorgeous. I loved Toronto Tempo, but the production quality of this sequence is in a league of its own. "Much like other cities, Toronto is a place you have to experience to feel the energy and emotion that pulses through the streets and neighbourhoods. I hope that I can give you a brief glimpse of the beauty, and motivate you to come explore for yourself."

Mission accomplished.

Planet Toronto from Ryan Emond on Vimeo.



Ryan / November 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Incredible. Love it!
mc / November 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm
Oh my god! ...some of those shots... How did they do it?!!

There's a shot near the end that goes up and zooms back down nearly street level. Was it being hoisted up during the shot and dropped??

I'm boggled....
BM / November 8, 2012 at 01:11 pm
Andrew / November 8, 2012 at 01:15 pm
:) Great video.

What building is that with the faces on top?
Devon / November 8, 2012 at 01:32 pm
This video makes me proud to be from Toronto :) Definitely will be an effective way to show the world how amazing our city is!
Jamie replying to a comment from mc / November 8, 2012 at 01:32 pm
Somewhat depends on what camera they are using, but it was most likely done in post-production.

Fancy new cameras can take images in such a way that they can zoom in ridiculous amounts without completely destroying image quality.

Great effect, though. And well used here.
George / November 8, 2012 at 01:39 pm
Great imagery and great technical execution! But like most of these time-lapse videos still missing the key element to great video production... storytelling. Especially from a "Tourism" perspective, this really does not sell me at all on visiting Toronto as it really didnt show me anything much about Toronto other than there is skyscrapers. Ryan you have great technical skills when it comes to time-lapse production, but c'mon give me something more!
the lemur replying to a comment from Andrew / November 8, 2012 at 01:41 pm
Commerce Court.

See about 3/4 down:
Jen C / November 8, 2012 at 01:47 pm
Lovely. Now I know what that black helicopter doing sweeping passes over the skyline for hours this summer was up to.
Rob replying to a comment from George / November 8, 2012 at 01:54 pm
Yep. Montreal doesn't need flashy videos that show nothing but endless steel and concrete to get the tourists. Great video, but it tells me nothing of the city, just that it's tall, and sometimes a lot of people are on the sidewalk.

Build an interesting city and the people will come. Sadly, this isn't an interesting city from a tourist's perspective, plus this video showed how truly ugly and mishmashed it is. I can't see this convincing a single tourist to visit Toronto unless they have to come here or have family.
Neda / November 8, 2012 at 01:57 pm
Well done!
matts / November 8, 2012 at 01:57 pm
Really cool but a lot of the shots have blue-grey overcast feel to them, a bit dull, dark and moody and not in a good way, I think. For an example of different hues and saturation, see The Mountain ( It feel much more alive and vibrant.
mike in parkdale replying to a comment from George / November 8, 2012 at 02:15 pm
keep in mind this is an art piece. To get all 'film nerd' on it - it's an associational non-narrative. (juxtaposition of loosely connected images to suggest new insights).

To say that the piece needs "a story" would only be accurate if he was trying to tell one. Watch Baraka or Samasara (currently at the lightbox) and you'll see one of the best example of the associational non narrative form.

Personally I think the film works on many different levels. Adding the street level slowmotion really does job of contrasting to the timelapse buildings. My hat goes off to the filmmaker - he's really made something special.
The Real The Other Neil / November 8, 2012 at 02:33 pm
Fantastic view of our kick ass city. Loved it. Props to Tourism Toronto for being cool and letting an artist do his thing.
Brendan replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / November 8, 2012 at 02:37 pm
I'm all for art pieces and associational non narrative film making. Baraka, Samsara, The Qatsi trilogy. The thing is they all do tell some sort of "story", set some sort of tone or narrative, be it poetic, through their juxtaposition of imagery. That is why they are so highly revered. The current trend of time-lapse filmmaking does not accomplish this. Technically Ryan did a great job with this and his previous films... but I agree with others, there is still something missing which I would love to see him attempt to fill.

Secondly, it is not just an art piece it is a video commissioned by Tourism Toronto to promote the city, "in a new way". Again, Ryan did a technically great job, but as he himself said he wanted to push himself to go further than his previous pieces. From a technical perspective, he did, some new interesting shots... but from a conceptual standpoint, he's got a lot further to go. It is to promote a city, what is a city but the people, the culture, the life that makes it one... where is this in the video? Are we a city of skyscrapers and buildings? Here is a great example of film that delivers on this using the same filmmaking techniques.

I think the points George and others bring up are great constructive criticism that can help to push the filmmaker even further in his future work. Kudos to Tourism Toronto to recognizing the great work and "viral" opportunities from it.
Jason / November 8, 2012 at 02:49 pm
It's a very neat video, but does little to capture what this city is. We've got tall buildings and cars and people (like little ants) that walk around even at night! I will be sharing this video based on the technical merits and composition alone!
K / November 8, 2012 at 02:56 pm
This was such a joy to watch. Love the representation of the city. Thanks for sharing!
mike in parkdale replying to a comment from Brendan / November 8, 2012 at 03:09 pm
agreed that it's not going to invoke the emotion of Baraka - but it's under 4 minutes.

as for the merits of this as a Tourist Piece - it's shot in a style that is current and popular. Normally tourism pieces feel as dated as a Canada's Wonderland / Marineland commercial, but a video like this will appeal to a whole different demograpic (vimeo watching, DSLR owning, social media connected young people)

I think that along makes this campaign a success.
Jason replying to a comment from George / November 8, 2012 at 03:56 pm
I agree. I loved the video for its artistry, but as it kept going I thought "Ok, I've seen the Financial District, what else is there?" The Kensington shot was cool, but it was one shot of one person in the rain. When I think of what this could have been...

For example, what about showing inside the Eatons Centre at Christmas, a symphony at Roy Thomson, the inside of any Ossington bar of a night, Question Period at the Legislature, biking down the Don Valley, a Toronto FC game, a Leafs game, a Raptors game, the fairway of the CNE, a regatta off the Toronto Islands, Taste of the Danforth, Caribana parade, Santa Clause parade, Pride, the Scotiabank Marathon, patrons outside a coffee house in Leslieville, biking through High Park, the Distillery, St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday, Kensington Market on pedestrian Sunday, TIFF red carpet, Union Stn train platforms, a concert at Harbourfront in the summer, an outdoor movie in Dundas Square, Yonge Street at night, across town on the 501 Queen streetcar, skating at Nathan Philips Square, Word on the Street at Queen's Park, etc.
Rob replying to a comment from Jason / November 8, 2012 at 04:03 pm
Exactly. It doesn't look fun at all.

It just looks like a bunch of ants hurrying to and from all those tall buildings (which is Toronto in a nutshell, but it shouldn't be what one grasps from a tourism video). It should look FUN.
Torontonian replying to a comment from Andrew / November 8, 2012 at 04:29 pm
Actually, a little more correctly
the building is called Commerce Court North
and is at 25 King Street West.

If it's at all possible, have a look at the old
banking hall on the ground floor with is coffered
ceiling several storeys high.
kat replying to a comment from Brendan / November 8, 2012 at 09:01 pm
that short film of mexico city is amazing!
agree with the above comments that this toronto film doesn't capture what toronto is really like.
T / November 8, 2012 at 09:43 pm
Amazing, amazing video. But honestly, that Planet Toronto could use some work...
T / November 8, 2012 at 09:44 pm

*Planet Toronto LOGO, I mean
Ken / November 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm
I didn't catch the dome closing at 3:06... very cool. Amazing work and I can't wait to share it!
Guate / November 8, 2012 at 11:44 pm
Video: very cool - good work, makes me think how Toronto is "growing up".

Does this make me want to visit Toronto? Hmmm, maybe if I like skyscrappers?

It was quoted: "the energy and emotion that pulses through the streets and neighbourhoods". I didn't really notice if there were any neidghbourhood shots? I'm pretty sure it was just Downtown shots. Why not show some street level, or only slightly elevated shots of China town, Kensington, the Beach, TO Island, Harbour, an overhead inside St Lawrence, Bloor Street maybe? This video doesn't show to the reader that any of these exist! I think only a couple clips of Dundas Sq were there (showing non-unique parts of Toronto - break dancing etc)

All I got was people rushing point A to B - was that was the point of the video? (again, it looked awesome) It seems like it was birds-eye view after birds-eye view each showing slightly different angles with camera twists and turns, like a special effects video on urban landscape. There was some slow-mo parts, so I don't see why some more interesting parts of Toronto that identifies us greater couldn't have been portrayed (like the fruit stand - but forget the reversing raindrops).

Again, cool effects, but as a paid tourism piece - not so good in my book...
analog / November 9, 2012 at 01:49 am
There is something about a work that could only be created in the digital realm that kind of flattens it. I can't help being unmoved by these images.
mjb / November 9, 2012 at 07:49 am
While this is very well done, I agree with the comments by others that we need more than a bird's eye view of the downtown core. Hopefully, Tourism Toronto will hire Mr. Emond to do a video that is shot from the street level to show off Toronto's neighbourhoods, restaurants, cafés, nightlife, parks, universities/colleges, and other attractions of the city.
Jason / November 9, 2012 at 08:03 am
While I think the video was cool, I think it could have told more a Toronto story, this makes us look like we are heartless robots moving about the city.

Also, Is it just me or did some of the shots look like they were borrowed from Tom ryabois timelapse?

Jeff / November 9, 2012 at 10:07 am
Very cool video but mostly for locals as they can connect with the locations and relate to some of the events.
I don't think this would appeal to many tourists as it doesn't really make Toronto look much different or unique than any other major North American city.
Superdifficult / November 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm
Both videos are stunning achievements. But I think I prefer the first one (Love Letter to Toronto). To me it has nicer shots from within the city. The shot inside the Eaton Centre and the shot of Kensington are stunning. And the tilt-shift style is well used. The newer video does have some nicer beauty shots of the city buildings but it's missing heart. I think edit the best of both together and you have a winner.
torono / November 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm
Like someone pointed out, not that much to offer tourists, nothing the hasn't be seen somewhere else. And that's exactly it in my opinion, a lack of their own identity. They knock down all of their English history to build the modern house (condos) And in the end there isn't very much to see. Tourists want history, uniqueness, culture. Personally i wouldn't travel halfway across the world to see a bunch of condos. Montreal on the other hand....
Aaron / November 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm
Fantastic work by Ryan Emond but what is being promoted here? Helicopter tours? Not so sure that many tourists are turned on by office buildings or condos.
Bonnie replying to a comment from Andrew / November 9, 2012 at 01:25 pm
That is the Commerce Court North Building (formerly the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Building).
Parisite / November 9, 2012 at 01:52 pm
Pretty pictures. No content. A film in love with technique and process. Needs a director.
Asher replying to a comment from mc / November 9, 2012 at 01:55 pm
The shot is done in time-lapse, which means it's a ton of still photographs taken seconds apart, and then condensed to show the rapid passage of time. So if it looks like the camera is being dropped, it's probably just being lowered at a regular speed (but still a controlled movement, possibly using a crane).

Although, something about that shot looked like it was artificial 3D rendering, so I'm not sure. It was such a fast movement in the shot that it's hard to see any detail.
Chadene / November 10, 2012 at 02:56 pm
This... is nothing short of absolutely breath-taking
Kam / November 10, 2012 at 04:13 pm
Hate it. Even worst when played with no sound lol. What does it show ? That people in Toronto drive, go to work and back, that there are plenty of high rise building that look the same?!?
Like most people here, I'm not criticizing the video from a artistic point of view. It's simply not a good fit for tourism purposes...
Here's a good one:
E / November 11, 2012 at 04:58 pm
Wish they showed more of Toronto other than just the downtown core.
Teena / November 12, 2012 at 10:24 am
Very cool video!

But it missed the mark if the point is to attract tourists. The message of this video to me was "Come to Toronto ... we have lots of big buildings downtown and the pace is extremely hectic."
IR / December 3, 2012 at 12:31 pm
I wish there could be more close-ups of people in these Toronto time-lapse videos--so many focus on the structures that shape the city skyline. People are integral in making Toronto what it is. My favourite parts of this one were the breakdancer and the girl playing in the fountain at Yonge-Dundas Square.
Budget Hotels In Pattaya / November 1, 2013 at 06:02 am
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Smashing / December 19, 2014 at 04:01 am
If I see another time lapse video of Toronto Skyscrapers, someone please shoot me...

Honestly these videos are going to look so incredibly dated... in about 3 days time. It's like an entire generation just discovered time lapse.

The motorized jib shots are technically adept, but at the end of the day it's a trick, and it can't replace... you know... creativity, editorial decisions, and direction. So setting aside the obvious technical woo hoo ra-di-da, this is a self-defeating video in terms of its goal... namely... attracting tourists.

Let's face some facts... our skyline looks impressive from the island (and almost exclusively because of the CN tower and Skydome), but for the most part Toronto is an unattractive, and unoriginal looking city, no different from any other hi-rise city in the world, although perhaps cleaner than most. This becomes no more evident.... than in this particular video.

It pains me to say this... I love Toronto, but compared to Montreal, or San Francisco, or practically any city in Europe, our city has about as much soul architecturally, as a crash barrier. What little soul there was, has been erased by the developers who seemingly run the place.

I can understand the tourism board wanting to try something different and use contemporary techniques - experimentation is to be commended - but for the next video, they really should employ those same techniques, but without the skyscrapers. Our hi-rise buildings need to be de-emphasized, and in their place... street level, our people, locations, and our experiences (as so brilliantly listed by Jason above).

There's a solution for this video though... shoot more footage, do a new edit!

Charlene replying to a comment from Rob / December 19, 2014 at 09:25 am
The facts seem to disagree with you.

a. Montreal DOES make those videos. A lot of them. Here are two:
Go to Tourisme Montreal's YouTube channel. There are a lot more.

b. The tourism industry in Toronto is way more successful than in Montreal. In 2012, tourists spent $2.43 billion in Montreal and $3.59 billion in Toronto.

So it seems that building an interesting city is not enough to attract tourists ... or that Montreal isn't as interesting as you think ... or perhaps that Toronto is more interesting than you give it credit for.
Anthony / December 19, 2014 at 11:03 am
This video is awesome but it's another time-lapse of Toronto skyscrapers.

Lacks heart and soul. Where are all the things that people love about Toronto??? Toronto is a city filled with awesome neighbourhoods...where are they?
Chris / December 20, 2014 at 02:59 pm
Technically adept but does little to show off the texture of this city, its people, crazy fun places, natural beauty, interesting and unusual suburban places, shopping, arts, progressive society, culture etc. There is first-rate architecture (mostly we are way too hard on ourselves), historical places, etc. but this little flick loves the generic window-wall towers that are often kinda crap. It wouldn't make me particularly want to come here, and I really like the place.
ThornhillGord replying to a comment from Rob / December 20, 2014 at 03:36 pm
Typical comment from a jealous Montrealer.
Anne replying to a comment from George / December 21, 2014 at 12:59 am
I was thinking the same thing! All I get from this video is "come see our traffic and skyscrapers"... there's so much vibrancy beyond headlights in Toronto, I wish this video showcased it because it's so well executed otherwise.
derper replying to a comment from mc / December 21, 2014 at 12:39 pm
Armand Gilks / December 21, 2014 at 12:52 pm
Cool, but is Toronto really the 'cloudy' city that is portrayed here? Where are the cool locations besides skyscrapers? Why shown Rogers Centre with the dome opening/closing and NO people?
Missed a real opportunity here to sell Toronto with these great visual effects!
you know who / December 22, 2014 at 11:31 pm
Who comes to a city to see traffic, or buildings?
This video would not make me want to visit TO.
There were only 2 close up shots of humans. The video should have been mostly made of those kind of shots! I agree that it lacked soul because there were no storytelling element to it.
It seems like the videographer got caught up in all the fun toys he could play with, with the bigger budget.
you know who replying to a comment from Jason / December 22, 2014 at 11:36 pm
Your ideas about what should be in the TO ad are great.
Tourism Toronto should hire you to produce it!
Other Cities: Montreal