April 4, 2013

'Mini Maine' video creating a stir

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Filmmaker Joerg Daiber calls himself a "traveling tilt-shifter and time-lapser," and his latest creation – a short two-minute film that uses special photography effects to present Portland as a miniaturized toy-like town – has gone viral.

"I kind of like to put things in the right perspective. Sometimes I think people take things too seriously," Daiber said Wednesday from the office of his documentary filmmaking company, Spoonfilm, in Berlin, Germany.

"You see a familiar place, but it looks a little surreal," said Daiber, who shot the footage in early March and posted the film on Tuesday. By Wednesday evening, it had almost 14,000 hits and was buzzing around local social media circles.

The film, called "Mini Maine," opens with a classic shot of Portland Head Light. Images of a normal day in Portland then cascade past – ferries and lobster boats cut through Casco Bay, workers scurry along a snow-covered rooftop, cars navigate the streets, and people walk along streetscapes and neighborhoods. As the film ends, night falls and stormy weather adds an ominous effect, while cars traveling I-295 create a bright ribbon of light.

"I try to catch daily moments and try to be a mirror of life. To catch – in three minutes – the spirit of the place," he said.

Daiber uses tilt-shift photography to get the toy-like perspective. With a special lens or editing software, portions of each frame are in sharp, color-saturated detail, while the edges are blurred. Speeding up the film and setting it to lively classical music creates a jewel box of a film that evokes a child's model village suddenly come to life.

Daiber, 43, said he started making the short films about two years ago.

"That was really a test project, and it went viral," he said of his first film, shot in Thailand. It wound up getting about 100,000 views on YouTube.

"It turned into an obsession," he said. He has made about 25 of what he calls his "Little Big World" films.

Daiber does not pick specific destinations for each film, but tacks the project onto commercial jobs or travels that he is already doing. In a stroke of good fortune for his New England fans, Daiber's girlfriend, Esther Kur, is studying at Harvard for two years, and Daiber shot several films during a trip to visit her.

The latest batch of "Little Big World" films were shot in New England in recent months, including "Baby Blizzard," shot in Boston after the recent blizzard, "Very Vermont," "Beautiful Boston" and "Calm Cemetery."

Daiber said he usually spends two days shooting, then another two or three days editing. After they are posted online, he usually sells licensing rights to local television stations who want to use the footage to fill short gaps in programming.

The Portland film was picked up by tech site Kotaku.com, with a headline of "This Real City Looks Like A Tiny Town For Toys."

The local Whole Foods store in Portland linked to the film on its Facebook and Twitter sites, with a "How adorable is our Portland?" message – alongside the "Is chard the next kale?" discussion.

Daiber said he had a similar reaction when he started playing with the medium.

"I was really intrigued," he said of the effect. "It's a childish kind of thing. It brings back childhood memories of toys."

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