Time-lapse video shot over three years atop the Space Needle reveals Seattle’s astounding growth

The 360-degree images were stitched together and presented in a video by Google Virtual Reality employee Ricardo Martin-Brualla. Here’s one piece of feedback he’s heard so far: “We must find a balanced way to grow Seattle.”

There are folks who bemoan the changes Seattle’s undergone since it became a boomtown once again: the traffic, the construction, the noise, the crowds, the loss of beloved institutions and the rise of feared ones.

And yet, change is inevitable — and can be beautiful, too.

At least that’s one takeaway from an extraordinary four-minute video put together by Ricardo Martin-Brualla, who works for Google’s Virtual Reality team in Fremont and earned his Ph.D at the University of Washington.

Martin-Brualla posted the video on Thursday and wrote an in-depth explanation on Medium of how he pieced together the video from footage taken by a webcam that was mounted on top of the Space Needle three years ago.

The camera has been taking a 360-degree panoramic picture of the city every 10 minutes since then, he explained, and will continue to do so for the next 50 years.

Here’s a partial explanation of the process:  “I started with two full panoramas a day for the last two years, more than 2000 panos. Then, the sequence was stabilized, as the camera shakes and moves over time, either by being knocked, or because of the wind and other forces of nature. The final step was to smooth temporally the sequence, to remove the variation due to weather and lighting conditions.”

The video opens with a sweeping view of South Lake Union where squat buildings are torn down, holes are dug and new buildings arise in their place. Amazon emerges and most of the vacant lots are filled. The video then pans toward downtown high-rises, where cranes appear and disappear and leaves on the trees in Denny Park change colors as the seasons pass.

A view of Elliott Bay shows what Martin-Brualla calls “ghost ships,” large cruise ships that dock at Seattle’s waterfront for a few days a week, making them appear transparent.

The truth about the Puget Sound’s weather emerges, as Mount Rainier is hardly visible because of our cloudy days.

The project left Martin-Brualla amazed at the incredible growth of Seattle, he said in an email exchange on Friday.

“It is fascinating to observe it at a larger time-scale, as my video shows. However, I’m still impressed with what’s coming…

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