With our designated topic being (Re)configuring Spacetime: Story-telling through Sound, Image and Interaction the group attempted to recreate ‘He Weeps For You’ by Bill Viola. This work depicts a projection through a closed circuit camera of a small tap slowly dripping water. It reflects the room in each drop created, before said drop falls onto a drum placed below it. This creates a strong, resonant sound that fills the room. Recreating this with the heavy restriction on both time and accessible materials was a challenge, and the brainstorm session for reverse-engineering a workaround to multiple aspects of the piece was strenuous. We opted to suspend a plastic bottle with a small whole pierced in the bottom in the air in lieu of a tap, to allow more versatility in the preparation of the physical space. We then positioned a paint tin under the bottle to produce the repetitive, hollow sound. This worked to some extent, but was not nearly loud enough and so we spent some time playing with the arrangement of all the pieces and finding the best way to bolster the audio output. We strategically placed a microphone close to the apex of the drip and connected that to a speaker to amplify the noise. We attempted to retool Viola’s projection aspect of the original work by using a blank projector screen to capture the light in the drops instead of using a live feed, but it didn’t have quite as an impactful effect as the original. We then settled for live-streaming a webcam that was pointed at the drops through the projector instead. The quality of the equipment didn’t allow us to get the close-up needed to replicate Viola’s effect, but it did create an endless mirror effect that looked interesting.
Recreating this work in this way produces many questions about using space and multiple iterations of a single subject in relation to a visual medium that could be fit into future explorations of the work.
Week 8 was dedicated to group discussion on what our ideas were and how we should progress with the assignment. We all had a similar direction that we wanted to head in and concluded that we wanted to utilize a visual format to manipulate what can be described as “the traditional approach to storytelling”. We wanted to be able to tell a story in a unique way that didn’t require us to follow the traditionally set rules of a narrative. After much deliberation, it was decided that we would pursue the creation of a film that utilized visual elements such as colour grading, ambience, lighting and staging to connect two pieces of film into a single narrative that simultaneously presented two different tones. We experimented with this by shooting on two cameras that were positioned side-by-side and filmed Josh walking between the two. We then attempted to project them side-by-side to try and visualise how we might connect them. The projections didn’t line up perfectly, but Josh did transition well enough from each screen for it to be passable, and at least somewhat convey the goal we were trying to achieve.
I was away this week; however Clare, Josh and Meg attempted to further last week’s experiments by putting more emphasis on the post-production side of the work. They attempted to film with one camera this time, instead of two, and see if we would have better results splitting it in post.
Week 10 started off pretty slow as it was difficult to find a way forward – our idea seemed pretty practical in execution and we felt there was not much there to experiment with. I spent mainly the first half of the morning manipulating footage in different way to try and capture appropriate themes we may want to convey in the footage. This included going more in-depth with the colour correction that the others did in Week 9 and creating ambience and soundscapes to accompany the footage that are able to convey certain moods or genres, such as cliché’d horror or just a mundane day at uni. I also played around a lot with the audio channels, as one of our earlier ideas that we wanted to incorporate was having two speakers connected that would fill the room with individual audio tracks that fluctuate and merge along with the split footage. By having each speaker connected to separate channel, this would be an excellent way to immerse someone in the work from the moment they stepped into the room. Unfortunately, this is a weak aspect of our format – the post-production aspect is a pretty isolated portion of our work, there’s not too much input to be had during the process of it and it’s hard to have everyone collaborate on the same footage at the same time, so everybody is pretty much restricted to doing their own experiments at this point in time. This was how my time was spent in the first half of the lesson.
The second half was much more collaborative as we attempted to brainstorm possible routes for our story to take. What kind of over arcing narrative would both fit well into our unique structure, but also be malleable enough to fit multiple different themes simultaneously? We came up with many parallels that could be presented in our work and a few different ways to present the screens. This included:
- Having a person’s whole day played out on-screen alongside the same day being played out with alternate actions and reactions. Almost as if parallel versions of the same day are being played simultaneously but due to different interactions with their worlds, the characters experience the same things differently.
- Having four different screens displayed side-by-side that depict four people who interact with each other somehow. This would have been a difficult idea to execute that requires a lot of precise planning, choreography and setup, so this was a less ideal option, but still an extremely creative one if it can be pulled off.
- Depicting a single living space that is split down the middle, and each half shows a person living opposite lifestyles to each other in the same space. There is no interaction between the two, but they would be linked through motion or actions so that the viewer’s eye would naturally be drawn to the other side of the screen when necessary. (Eg. Person 1 who is present on the left side of the screen always moves out of frame to the right when the action has to move to Person 2 who ENTERS from the right at the same time.)
By brainstorming narrative ideas in this way it’s easier to pinpoint the flaws in the creation of the project such as choreography, equipment restraints, setup, etc. and find workarounds for them that won’t sacrifice the narrative. It’s at this point that I felt a lot of my ideas for narrative fall flat with the rest of the group as I feel the direction I wanted to take the project in was a little different to what they felt would work a lot better. I feel that perhaps I was too focused on the Narrative aspect of our work and any contributions I made that strayed too far from establishing a unique visual framework vis a vis ‘the multiple screens arrangement’ didn’t make much of an impact. By the end of this brainstorm session we had multiple different angles to attack this project from so it was extremely beneficial to take a week to flesh out our work as opposed to forcing an ‘experiment’ out of a deadlocked process.
Clare and I were the only members of the group present this week. As a group we collectively hadn’t chosen which avenue of presentation we wanted to pursue and Clare and I couldn’t decide on one to experiment with. On top of this, we also didn’t have any of the footage from previous weeks to review and experiment further with so no progress was made this week. I spent the time left in class assisting other groups and further experimenting with a collection of stock footage to create more strong thematic atmospheres through post-production.
This week had a focus on “jamming” which was pretty much a null point with our group so far, as there hadn’t been much discourse in regards to the direction the progress has taken – however, I jumped on this opportunity to break off from the group and experiment with different approaches to the project. I went off on my own to build off of a stray idea that had been kicked around in one of our previous week’s discussions that didn’t get much push. It was to create a montage of scenes that looked similar from popular movies and inverse the tones of them. This gave me an alternate idea that I wanted to test – craft a narrative around simple actions and scenes that are guaranteed to be in multiple movies (actions like walking along a street, answering a phone, exiting a taxi) and have multiple instances of that narrative playing in a space. Each screen would depict the same narrative simultaneously, as each of the scenes in each separate instance of the film would be cut to the exact same length, but due to the myriad of movies to pull from, no two image (and by extension, themes) would be the same. This would also solve one of the major issues our group has which is that work is difficult to divvy up evenly as a majority of the manipulation is in the post-production which is a process makes accessibility for multiple people difficult. By adopting this idea all five of us would be able to do a separate edit that contributes to the final project. All we would need would be a script with simple actions that would tell a loose narrative when strung together and accompanying time codes to ensure all of our edits sync up. This would add variety to the scenes chosen as each of us would pick from movies that we know and would provide a structure to the narrative of our work. Presentation wise, I thought it would be interesting to set up multiple screens that surround and direct the viewer – almost like a claustrophobic hallway of podium-mounted screens. This setup is to ensure that every time the screens abruptly cut to the next scene, the viewer can see it as they move through and the contrasting (a concept we’ve tried to maintain through all iterations of our project) thematic elements of each screen.
I tested the plausibility of this idea by setting up two digital photo frames and editing two quick montages of scenes that showed characters laughing from different films. I set up the screens side by side in the presentation space and attempted to play the videos I exported, but neither would work. One frame would simply play a silent, black screen and the second would play a second of video before force quitting to the main menu. I spent the rest of the lesson troubleshooting the frames and changing the file formats of the videos to get them to cooperate before ultimately running out of time. With nothing to show to my group, I abandoned my idea.
I regretted my vain effort to explore an alternate approach to our project when I later learned that Anh, Clare and Meg were able to use this weeks’ time to properly establish the final setup of our work and find investigate some reference videos that we could use as inspiration for our shots, while I had tinkered around with frames for so long – only to produce nothing.
This week was the week I had learned of the planning the group had done last week. They had apparently discussed shooting some POV shots of their feet walking for use in this class, so I quickly went out to shoot my portion on campus. We sent all the shots to Meg who then compiled the footage to play side by side using the post-production split effect that was played with in Week 9. This produced an interesting result as a lot of the motions naturally synced up, and a lot of the asynchronous motions that we thought would interfere with the flow of the video actually worked quite well for it. We were urged to pursue it further and so we proceed to shoot four separate scenes that utilized a static camera and different subjects exhibiting similar motions. These were then compiled to be played simultaneously like the previous experiment – but this time the footage was split horizontally. This provided a very different result to the former work, and the fluidity of the movements captured in the separate sections in conjunction with the difference in height, clothing, positioning and stature of the subjects gave the work a unique aesthetic that could be built off of. We rounded off this experiment by splitting it both horizontally and vertically, into 12 boxes instead of four. No new developments were really made from this but the original effect was exacerbated with the more active aspect of the work (the subject) being multiplied by 3.
WEEKS 14 – 15
These weeks were used for filming and for the ideas from the experiments to be finalized and realized. The main driving force behind the work at this point is the manipulation of footage thorough post-production edits to have them interlace in a way that seemingly hints at interaction between shots that shouldn’t necessarily be present next to each other. Effectively using our medium to manipulate space to, in turn, make the shots themselves work as the structure of our narrative. We also aim to create an accompanying soundscape, integrating our sound idea from previous weeks – sounds that reflect the location shown and moves with the space.
The development process of our idea, although abstract, proved pretty successful as evidenced by its almost erratic evolution from its first iteration. The key concepts that were agreed upon from the beginning were always present in our experiments and it certainly drove the project in the right direction every time the idea was developed upon. However, as this was a group project it was a more difficult process than previous assignments. As a group composed of entirely film students, I feel that it was difficult to adapt our more structured way of approaching film and narrative to the freeform, abstract and experimental process that this class proposes. This resulted in some communication breakdown, unequal workloads due to the processes required, and difficult organization around both schedules and locations.
I, personally, feel more comfortable working on my own, and after reflecting on my previous entries I can see that I definitely had much more that I could have contributed to my group during the creative process but was unable to due to my unease of doing it as a collective. I have confidence in the final result, but there are many aspects in which it could have been improved.