Culture Monster

All the Arts, All the Time

« Previous Post | Culture Monster Home | Next Post »

Driven by the desire to create the next viral video

June 7, 2010 | 11:17 am

What would L.A. look like without any cars?

That question fascinated Ross Ching because (a) he hates getting stuck in traffic and (b) he likes creating Internet videos whose images are intriguing enough to go viral.

The 24-year-old Santa Monica filmmaker began to contemplate a carless city in December after he discovered Matt Logue's photography book "Empty L.A.", in which Logue used digital sleight of hand to produce deserted street scenes.

"I thought, How can I take this concept and make it my own thing?" Ching tells Culture Monster. "It made sense to combine Matt's cool idea with my specialty, which is time-lapse, and do a video. Photographs are two-dimensional, but video adds the dimension of time, and that third dimension helps tell the story" --  in this case, what he calls "the weird obsession people in L.A. have with driving."

For a week, Ching, was up at sunrise, taking pictures when the light was right and traffic was light. He spent 15 to 20 hours filming with his Canon 7D and about the same amount of time rendering and editing his footage, including erasing any signs of automotive life. (To find out more about how he did all this visit his website,

Since Ching posted his creation, "Running on Empty," on his site in late May, the video has been building buzz. Good magazine tweeted its followers, which, says Ching, "sparked some big blogs to pick it up and then it trickled down to everyone's personal blogs, and then a bunch of people began tweeting it."

He tweeted his own thousand followers and sent strategic alerts to people he thought might spread the word. "This whole business is a combination of skill and luck. You have to do the right stuff and interest the right person at the right time."

Ching says he got interested in time-lapse photography and "standing out online" while studying film at San Diego State University. In 2009, the year after he graduated, he made and posted a video inspired by the indie-rock band Death Cab for Cutie song "Little Bribes," using what he calls "stop-motion typography."

The piece took off. "One thing led to another,"says Ching, "and Atlantic Records contacted me about making it the official Death Cab video." Offers from other companies followed.

Ching has since signed on as a director with A Common Thread, an L.A.-based boutique production company. He makes Web and TV commercials and music videos as well as "passion projects" like "Running on Empty."

"My one rule is that I never do the same thing twice," says Ching. "With 'Empty,' I tried to show more of my own personality. I think that's what strikes a chord with people. That and showing them something different. There's a whole new generation of Internet users interested in viral video because they want to see things they haven't seen before."

-- Karen Wada


Matt Logue's 'Empty L.A.' pictures are a visual breath of fresh air