Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Long Take Experience

I had a really good experience with the long-take project. I have shot with the Bolex before, but I was really surprised at how well our footage came out. Overall, there were two really cool things I experienced while shooting this project. For one, I had never before tinkered with the idea of shooting a long-take film with the intent of having it “double” back on itself. We opted to shoot at 24 frames per second, and had some difficulty brainstorming an idea for this situation. A couple ideas seemed cool in theory, but most didn’t hold water when we really thought about how it would work in a forwards/backwards format. So when I really started thinking about it, I realized the coolest thing would be if we started with something ambiguous, and by the end of the long-take that ambiguity would be sort of “explained.” The last 30 seconds is when the film would begin to double back on itself and the original ambiguous backwards action would be played in its natural order.

When it came time to block the shot, we spent a lot of time making sure the backwards actions we filmed would look natural when played forwards. We took special notice of facial expressions, beginning and ending movements of certain actions, and pacing. After running through the shot about 5 or 6 times, we had it timed perfectly. We shot the damn thing without a hitch, and it ended up looking a lot better than I expected. It was really cool to approach a project like this from a different perspective: backwards.

Less Is Kinda More

My first impression of this article was a bit skeptical.. The author wants to discover and understand the “mystery of the theatre” so that he can attempt to “order it into a science.” Really? That seems pretty ambitious, to be talking about analyzing the entire realm and history of theatre in less than a thousand words. But on I read.

The bit about German studios attempting to recreate and improve upon “natural” sounds with synthetic ones really intrigued me. I have had a small amount of experience with amateur/independent recording (my best friend and I made a record back in 2008) and I always wondered why it never quite sounded “real” enough, no matter how much we tried to balance out the master track. Turns out we didn’t have enough synthetic “dirt” in our music (most of it is MIDI and electronic, and the real instruments were minimally amplified). 

This was a really interesting analogy to use. It really helped me to see the author’s point; that the visceral theatre experience can be tainted by a contrived unity of style. It seems I overestimated the author’s initial claims. The final sentence was what really hit the nail on the head for me. Reading (and acting out in English class) Waiting For Godot was one of the strangest experiences for me, but the fact that a fresh pair of eyes and ears could appreciate that performance is interesting. Perhaps “seeing it like a baby” is what a theatrical experience is all about.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cameraless Filmmaking

Cameraless filmmaking is, like almost all of the projects from these classes, something very new to me. Only this time, for real guys, it’s like SUPER new to me. I can’t say I’ve ever really thought that much about cameraless filmmaking, and the first time I did was probably when I saw Mothlight in 201. My initial reaction to Brakhage? “What the FUCK. A little child could make this film.” Little did I know, I was the child. Because. You know. Naive. 

So when it finally came time for me to make my own cameraless film I ended up learning a lot. Magazine transfer was particularly interesting because it led me to the source of all those extreme close-ups of comic books and magazines and newspapers that looked like a design of colored dots. It was also really cool to create the animation with a printer and template. My only gripe is that the template pdf file online was bigger than the printed template on which the 16mm film stock lay. It wasn’t a big hassle, but I did have to finagle the scale of the online template by a trial and error “eyeballin’ it” system. But in the end it was really cool to create an animation on the computer and print it directly to the film stock. Lastly, transferring the films to video was a neat experience. I had no idea that simply setting up a camera directly next to the projector would result in such a flawless transfer.

(Aquatic) Image and Sound

The article by Chion exposed me to a few really neat concepts that I had never considered before. Synchresis is a concept I have thought about before, but never knew it had such difficult nomenclature. It is when Chion starts talking about the “value added” concept that I really started to get interested. The idea that things about a film feel “naturally” true because of the relationship between image and sound caught my eye, and the example with the three airplanes really helped me understand this concept. It reminded me of the Kuleshov effect because the filmmaker can use this phenomenon to his advantage in several ways, such as using music to accentuate a particular element of the image (e.g., Norman’s cameraless film from the first day).

The first idea in the Acoustic Ecology article that grabbed my attention was the notion that “urban cacophony” has led us to shut out or selectively ignore certain ambient or background noises, and if we just “turn our ears outward” we will notice an entire sound design mixed by Mother Nature. The ending of the article also spoke to me, especially when the author gets into how “moments of sonic, visual, and tactile presence” inspire him “with a more expansive sense of self, one that encompasses the valley as a whole.” It’s like by listening (REALLY listening) to the sounds of the valley, the author experienced something that was far beyond what most humans “get” from nature.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Regarding Animation

The author of this article on animation brings to light many interesting aspects about animation. His initial description of Orthodox animation was one that I had never fully considered; that is, that it “facilitates an industrial process.” But it makes so much sense, that the most effective mode of narrative animation would involve many facets and therefore many different jobs. The other properties of Orthodox animation - configuration, specific continuity, narrative form, etc. - helped me to see more clearly the distinction between Orthodox animation and Experimental animation. The author’s description of abstract animation as “redefining the body” with regards to configuration made clear that narrative content isn’t the primary focus of Experimental animation. I had always had some sort of implicit quasi-understanding of what made Experimental animation different from the typical Disney cartoons, but reading about each categorical distinction really hammers the nail on the head. For example, the difference between the evolution of context vs. materiality - Experimental animation doesn’t put forth ideas and characters that fit into a narrative context. The context for Experimental animation is often just the very materials used for animation. Coupled with sound, the result can be something intended to challenge the conventional expectations of the typical animation viewer. Hooray for challenging expectations! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Synesthesia & Cymatics

I hadn’t known much about either of these topics beforehand; I had heard of synesthesia from a Porcupine Tree song, and I remember learning what the basic neurological condition was. So I was very interested by the reading and the video - the concepts of synesthesia in art and cymatics, though new to me, are intriguing on a number of levels.

The various ways in which “synesthetes” express themselves and their experiences through art is particularly inspiring. Creating art from a synesthetic experience isn’t just drawing what you hear or painting what you smell... There’s more to it, and in a way I can relate to some of the artists that create in this fashion. For example, the “reflectionist” photographer Marcia Smilack says, “if I experience a sensation of texture, motion or taste, I take the picture... I think of my synesthetic responses as vital messengers that arrive faster than thought to deliver one urgent message which I always heed: beauty is lurking.” Now I’m not saying I experience any form of synesthesia, but I can relate to the notion of having a type of “sixth sense” when it comes capturing beauty. Synesthetes are cool because they can harness that sixth sense in a way that allows them to create art that is both mysterious and personal. 

The video on cymatics was also very interesting, though one part left me a little confused. When he talked about using cymatics to visualize things in nature like a snowflake, I wasn’t sure whether he meant manipulating sound to create that image or using the “sound” of a snowflake to create an image that looked like a snowflake. I suppose I would be far more impressed if it were the latter, though I suspect that snowflakes don’t make very much sound. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Stream of Consciousness

Combination of image and sound is synchronous in a way that is not perfect, but is that much more pleasing because of its slight imperfections. The use of lightness and darkness to illustrate the contrast between treble and bass, forte and staccato. The use of movement in the image often seems to mimic hands flying across the piano or the fretboard of a standup bass. I feel incredibly happy while the image and sound are married as such. The style of the music, Jazz, fits so well with the rapid cluster of images. One point in the film features many layers, both audio/image-wise, and what follows is somewhat of a shift in mood - the film becomes less... less.