NYSee Immersive Video Navigation

An interactive drive through every single street in Manhattan

Back before the turn of the century, I had the crazy idea to record every street in Manhattan on video, and then build an application that allowed you to freely drive the entirety of the island with the ability to turn at every intersection. I also had the crazy idea that I could reasonably do it on my own.

I spent the entire following year planning the entire shoot, constructing my own custom map of the city and mapping a turn by turn route that would cover every single street up and down and left and right. Annotated on this route were start stop points of when to record the streets, so I knew exactly which streets were recorded on which tapes.

I also built a custom recording rig that I could quickly install the morning of each shoot, and then miraculously completed the entire recording in 10 days without any major issues.


A page from the mapped and annotated route


Custom map built in Illustrator


Camera rig


Roughly 4,000 hours of recorded footage

With roughly 4,000 hours of footage, my task was then to edit separate videos for each street. While the footage was in stop and start New York traffic, I needed to edit each street's videos to play at a consistent pace, so the user would feel fully in control of the rate of speed while maneuvering within the app.

While editing each street, I also recorded in and out frames at each intersection with the corresponding street to which the user could turn left, right, or merge onto.

I built the working prototype in Macromedia Director with an embedded map built in Macromedia Flash, accommodating both keyboard and external joystick controls.

An early interface design with the full working application

The final NYSee program

I completed the full application after five years of off and on production, editing, design, programming, and debugging. The goal of the application was more art than product, intended as an interactive snapshot of Manhattan at a roughly singular point in time in history, something of a historical artifact.

As such, I submitted it to the Ars Electronica Festival held in Linz, Austria at the Ars Electronica Center and was over the moon to be accepted, where it was included as an installation in the show.

More work