Beno Saradzic interviewed

Time Out chats to Beno about his Abu Dhabi time-lapse film Discuss this article

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A short film that’s becoming something of a local internet sensation captures the bright lights, dizzying heights and fizzing energy of a city that has changed beyond recognition over the past 50 years. Beno Saradzic used a time-lapse filming technique to produce Abu Dhabi 2011, taking thousands of pictures at fixed locations to show the city’s movement. In just a few minutes of footage, it shows planes landing at the airport, the sun setting over the Corniche, the changing colours of Emirates Palace’s dome and many more dramatic scenes that show Abu Dhabi at its most dynamic.

What inspired you to make this tribute to the capital?

I have lived in Abu Dhabi since 1991, and for the most part I worked as an architectural illustrator, a pre-visualisation artist and a 3D CGI animator. I’ve been a filmmaker, art director and photographer at TimeSand Studios since 2007. I’ve spent half my life in this city, and I consider it my home, just as much as my home country, Slovenia. I’ve seen Abu Dhabi grow from its humble beginnings into a metropolis in just two decades. It’s a miraculous story that was waiting to be told.

You’ve captured some amazing angles and terrific heights… were these tricky to film?
It was tough, to say the least. Securing permissions and access to Abu Dhabi’s super-towers currently under construction took days, sometimes weeks. I had to contact the developers’ marketing departments, project management offices, construction sites and safety departments before I was allowed on top of the structures. It is a very laborious and time consuming process to make time-lapse films – which is probably why we don’t see so many around. They are delightful to watch but very challenging to make, for example, a six-hour time lapse session usually yields approximately 10 seconds of real time footage.

What’s your favourite sequence and why?
There are few that give me shivers each time I see them: the landing passenger planes, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the last three sequences featuring a holistic view of downtown Abu Dhabi, the new skyline and the spectacular Corniche road. I love those shots because they have such an incredible, almost dizzying motion to them; a sense of epic scale and vivid colours.

The soundtrack is an interesting blend of traditional Arabian sounds and modern beats – what do you think it adds to the film?
I wanted the music not only to empower the visuals but also to communicate the elation I felt while I gazed at Abu Dhabi at night from those spectacular vantage points. I needed the right balance between Western and Arabic contemporary arrangements; Abu Dhabi is, after all, a modern city in the Arabian Gulf and albeit firmly rooted in Islamic values, it is a part of the progressive global community. The soundtrack Vladimir Persan composed for Abu Dhabi 2011 hit all the right notes.

Do you think people are surprised to see Abu Dhabi being presented in such a futuristic way?
Most people have never seen Abu Dhabi this way before, and some of the oldest residents almost didn’t believe it was the same city they’d lived in for such a long time. This film twists common perceptions of the city, and that, in my opinion, is its biggest appeal.

What message did you want people to take away from the film about the capital?
In the end, Abu Dhabi is a success story, a dream, but it is so much more than that. It’s hard to tell all this in four minutes 16 seconds, but if I made viewers wonder and sparked their curiosity by encouraging them to change their views, then I have achieved my goal. Abu Dhabi 2011 succeeds essentially because Abu Dhabi is a beautiful city and I hope I was able to bottle its magic for the world to experience it.
Head to to watch Abu Dhabi 2011.

By Karl Baz
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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