Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Rough Theater

I would like to think that the rough theater is a good metaphor for my earliest works in video production. When I was in high school, our television production class supplied us with equipment we could use to record videos for the school’s television channel. Even as a freshman, I was given the tools and opportunity to craft, in my limited and budding filmmaking knowledge, videos I now acknowledge to be a part of my “rough theater.”

My work in high school was rough. Real rough. There was always at least one glaring mistake in the early stages of my learning. Sometimes there was equipment in the background of a shot I did not notice during the editing process, only to be pointed out after a screening of my video to the class. Perhaps there was a blue tint on the shot near the front lobby’s windows, for we forgot to white balance that take.

Still, there was magnificence to my rough theater work unlike my more polished works. At the core of that video with the equipment in that one shot is an interview with the jazz club, and it really highlights how underappreciated their award winning band is. Yeah, maybe the white balance is off, but the editing is well paced, and the video is engaging.

Essentially, my high school videos were rich in their aim and their intent, and good in their effort and production, but just a little rough around the edges.

Saturday Bolex Shoot

The Bolex Long Take shoot was an interesting experience. I had never actually “filmed” a project until we shot on the 16mm reel we were given on Saturday, and it was very cool to go through the process of shooting a strip of film, processing that film, and then splicing it. Of course, we will digitalize our videos once we record them on a projector, and we will forgo the step of chemically altering our negative film into positive (as we will opt to change that digitally in Adobe Premiere). Still, the process of shooting on film was different than what I was used to doing with digital cameras, and Saturday gave me perspective on what filmmakers of the past had to do to make their films whole.

Part of what made the Bolex shoot a unique experience from other film projects I’ve done was that there was an added sense of pressure and importance on the one take we were allowed to shoot. With only the power of the crank and the limited amount of film, we had to coordinate the skit we would perform step by step, making sure our timing was in sync with how long the Bolex camera could record. This step of rehearsal before the shot resulted in more communication between the members of our group, and an increased focus on quality. If we were shooting on a digital camera where we could record several takes of one scene, there would be less pressure, and maybe our final product would not have looked as good for lack of stressed rehearsal.

Overall, I enjoyed the Saturday Bolex shoot and thought it was an eye opening experience.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Crowdsourcing's Potential

In the dawn of the digital age, humans across the globe are more connected than ever, and the interconnectedness of our species has given rise to a powerful method of filmmaking in crowdsourcing.

It’s impressive how good a crowdsourced film project like Star Wars Uncut or The Johnny Cash Project can be, considering all the frames are donations from random contributors. Crowdsourcing projects have the potential to amass creative content from an army of artists as opposed to a traditional film project where the final product is the result of a hired few. Crowdsourcing is also a more feasible filmmaking method for filmmakers on a budget, as many crowdsourced projects require only a small contribution from several artists, minimalizing or eliminating production costs. Think of how massive and informative a crowdsourced site like Wikipedia is, and then consider how the site has only one employee and its biggest expense is $5,000 for bandwidth.

Wikipedia, in fact, answers the question of how much quality content a project with so many different creators could have. The site has established guidelines for what it expects in its articles, and has volunteers that readily correct false/biased information. If the head of a crowdsourced film project could create rules and regulations like Wikipedia, then the contributions will amass into a cohesive, quality product. It’s an alluring system; one person makes sure to collaborate, coordinate, and convey the goals of his/her project, and random contributors do the rest of the work. This structure of film production is only feasible with the use of the Internet, and it can potentially be a powerful and cost effective method of filmmaking. I find it fascinating that projects can be forged from the collective minds of the human race from all walks of life, and I wonder if there is a limit to the creative potential of a film where its pool of contributors is all the minds the world has to offer.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

On Inattentive Ears

As I write this I am sitting in front of an ugly landscape. Out my glass sliding doors I see a gray sky overcasting a mosh of dulled brown trees, with disorderly patches of water and mud spewing from the earth. But if I close my eyes and listen, it’s beautiful. There are birds whistling to each other in the rain, singing to a harmony of pitter-patters, plops, and puddle splashes.

People who work in acoustic ecology, the study of sound’s part in the relationship between organisms and their environment, say that everyone has stopped listening. A long time ago there would not be as much noise and commotion as there is today. Only the sounds of nature would speak to us, rather than the droning of man’s machines and devices. As I write I am hearing the relentless alarm of a neighbor’s car down the street. These types of droning sounds have perhaps dulled our sense of sound, so much that we tune out a lot of what we hear. Ultimately, we are missing out on a basic right of living because of the noise we have created: the right to listen to nature.

Often we forget how important sound is to us because we lean on the crutch that is our vision. Vision has always been pushing sound out of the spotlight. What do you call a movie? Moving image, or flowing sound? The family radio had to make space for the television.

It’s time to take a sound inventory. It’s easy to dismiss the command you hear again and again, but please, listen. Whatever we find in listening to the sounds around us, for either peace of mind, meditation, inspiration, or artistic expression, the sounds are worth listening to.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Different Perspectives and Film

Experimental film has been described as looking at things in a new way and presenting that perspective to an audience. For the average person, seeing a different perspective on the normal and banal requires a stretch of the imagination, but there is a minority of people working in creative fields that physically have a unique perception of our world. This minority is the synesthetes, or people diagnosed with synesthesia, a condition where sensory experiences are linked together. For example, a synesthete with projective synesthesia could hear a drum play and actually see red squares to the sounds.

Daniel Tammet, a synesthete, presents in his TED talk an easier way of completing a math problem by visualizing it geometrically. He solves the equation 64 x 75 by visualizing chess boards (of 64 squares) in a larger square where 75 is three fourths of a 100 unit whole. His imagery is eye opening and much easier to follow than the traditional way of solving equations.

By observing how a synesthete might perceive problems and surroundings, we can broaden our creative horizons. Similar to how a synesthete would connect vision with sound, Evan Grant seeks out the different ways in which we can visually perceive sound waves through cymatics (the art/science of making sound visible). Through researching how to visualize sound and creating ways of doing so, avenues of possibilities are opened for exploration. With the use of cymatics, researchers are decoding the dolphin language by creating visuals of their noise frequencies.

How can we apply such outside thinking to creativity in film? Perhaps there is a genre of film to be explored where sound and visuals are more closely intertwined, such as in Len Lye’s short films. A synesthete could have easily created the visuals that accompanied the music in Lye’s shorts. It may be that in order to be original and create, we have to change the way we see and hear our world.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

First Impression: Len Lye's "Swinging the Lambeth Walk"

The film seemed as though it were set in a ball, and all the attendants were shapes and colors. I noticed right away how some shapes were associated with different instruments and sounds of the music. The thin lines were associated with string instruments, the circles with upbeat sounds, the rhombuses with the piano, and the triangle with the saxophone.

There is a mesmerizing quality about this film. What most to me was the rhythmic bouncing of the shapes and changes of color in sync with the tone of the music. The screen is always moving, and it made me want to move, too.

I got to thinking, while watching, where this short film might be shown and used for, outside of small avant garde film circles.

Overall, the film was very upbeat and kind of woke me up out of a 9am haze.