Friday, June 17, 2011

6 Films Showdown!

Alright, so I definitely feel like every film I made in this class was vital to becoming a more confident filmmaker. With that being said, I liked all the projects, I felt some measure of pride in their completions, etc. Without further ado:

3D, Long Take, Cameraless, Animation, Pinhole, Video Race

6. [Long Take] There's a couple reasons why I'm picking this last. First of all, I was out of town for a wedding and I was unable to participate in a group for this, and I really didn't get to mess with the sound because Jake had a very clear vision and was on top of it. Then, when I filmed my footage I ran into a couple problems with my film doing its best impression of an accordion and mucking up the exposures a bit on the second half of filming, AND no bumble bees flying around in flowers which I was thinking was going to look the best on 16mm. That being said, I did enjoy my independence with the project, particularly in developing it (even if I had to ignore flights of panic about my video race project being due later that day). There's a great sense of astonishment and pride for me when the film develops and images burst through white and black.

5. [Pinhole] One of the reasons why Long Take is up higher on the list is the same reason that Pinhole is. With film, you sometimes have to forfeit a feeling of control, and I was unable to control the destiny of my film. If I had intended to take pictures of direct sunlight then I would have succeeded admirably. Sadly, that was not my intent. However, the editing/installation part of this more than made up for my feeling of being a pinhole camera failure. That was fun, unique, very relaxed atmosphere.

4. [3D] The acting part was awesome. It reminded me of being in high school drama again, and the props and  set pieces made out of cardboard really made the whole project for me. I also really liked how the content of the film really came together on the spot. However, scheduling issues and the annoyance of trying to figure out After Effects hampers the experience a little. All forgiven when I throw on my 3D glasses and watch all the projects in an impromptu fort.

3. [Animation] All right, the next three aren't marred as much by me stressing about logistical things needlessly. I really loved how the animation came out, and I feel pretty happy about the work I put into the sound design. Also, any excuse to use old Nintendo music from Donkey Kong in a stop motion animation project is awesome. If I have one complaint its that because of the grain of the film, the image doesn't come out quite as crisp as I would like. The pixallation looks awesome, but there's something about our animation that just looks a little muted.

2. [Cameraless Filmmaking] I loved this assignment. I think I was in the classroom working on it all week, when everyone else was waiting until the last couple of days, simply because it was really satisfying to work on it. The animation part was annoying though. I'm no drawing animator, and I'm a pretty poor scratching animator too though I can get away with it more. I'll definitely be coming back to painted film, I'm a little obsessed with the transformation from film strip to projected image there, such a beautiful process.

1. [Video Race] I was assuming up until recently that cameraless would easily be my favorite assignment in the class, and maybe it still is, or maybe this is a tie. However, at the moment, I'm pretty satisfied with this project. I still want to tweak it, and I'm thinking about extending it and employing some cameraless in that new version. However, with cameraless I just barely got at a concept which was of interest to me (in my 15 seconds of water) and here I got to focus on a concept that I found engaging a bit more thoroughly. I also got to see how the thinnest shred of an idea became a legitimate project within the course of 24 hours (I worked on my other two projects right up until class time so I was unable to take full advantage of the 48. AND I shot and developed 16mm during that 24, so that's kind of cool). Oh, and scanned images are beautiful, holy god. The transition to video doesn't quite do it service, though color correction helps.

Okay, that's it. Thanks for the class. It kills. Looking forward to 495.

Note: I'll try to get the 16mm footage I shot up on this post when I get a chance.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

3D Shoot

In short, that's what the film shoot felt like. Our schedules did not sink up well at all, which complicated everything to a point of lunacy, which in turn helped the skittering nature of our 3D quasi-narrative. I showed up early to help get the set together, then group members wanted to move the shoot to a day that was previously a time conflict but now was not, however we then had to worry about what days each group would either have the SLR cameras or be using the black box, then we vacillated from saying we're going to shoot on Sunday to Monday to Friday (the day we were originally supposed to shoot) and so on all while trying to coordinate with Michelle on the phone during odd moments she could talk at work and sending Andre panicked emails (actually just one panicked email), then we decide to just shoot it on Friday even though we had only a brief moment where Michelle gets off from work and I have to go to work and that gets stretched out because Michelle's shift relief is late, etc, etc. Weirdly awesome chaos fox from Antichrist speaks the truth.  All things said, the actual filming of the 3D was incredibly fun. Something about donning a cardboard robot suit makes you realize how ridiculous it is to stress out about a film where you are wearing a cardboard robot suit. The birthing scene with Michelle is my favorite, I kind of wish we could have shown the dialogue for that. The robot talk worked better for the Sci-Fi concept but lines like "I am very mad at you, you make my blood pressure go crazy, yah yah yah, I am yelling at you!" are pretty damn funny in their own right.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rough Cinema

This short article seems to mirror an opinion I have always had about art, mainly that it is useless and shallow without an element of imperfection. I think that, while it can be healthy to strive for perfection, it would be better to strive for a piece of work that is at harmony with who you fundamentally are. In this way, if a mistake resonates with you, it brings your project closer to a full realization of what you want to express. We need the highs and lows, the comedic moments in a drama, the subtle observational depth of a comedy, the sound of scratching "dirt" in a wavering saxophone note, or a discovery of the musical dissonance of trash can lids (ie stomp).

One element compliments the other, a juxtaposition of opposites, a paradox that surrounds everything we do. The human experience is one that thrives on beautiful mistakes, it's how we learn, it's how we interact with the world around us. Without acknowledging this, we try to capture perfection and in so doing deny who we are. This is the place of art: a place of sweat, experience, raw emotion, and feeling. It has no affinity with the sterile perfection of machinery, the reduction of the human, the attenuation of honest expression. As an artist, we must make our decisions on instinct instead of calculations, though at times the instinctual process is just as meticulous and carefully constructed (if not more so). It's just another way to approach the world, a way that denies empirical reasoning in favor of ineffable intuition.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cameraless Filmmaking Response

For whatever reason I initially thought this was supposed to be a response for the pinhole camera assignment, and was prepared to talk about the chaotic balance of proper exposure, something I have had to deal with on the Bolex as well. I seem to have inconsistent luck with that sort of thing, and the whole "will it expose correctly or not" scenario is a little stressful for me. Then again, when I used the Holga camera that was purely a luck based endeavor and my pictures from it always turned out very well. Maybe it's because I gave my Holga camera a badass name. I guess when I get to the 16mm shoot I should give my Bolex a temporary name too (note that my 16mm for Shannon's 302 turned out fine, this is more just stigma from my Boston days).

As far as cameraless filmmaking goes, it's much less stressful. There's no worries about correct exposure (except the one black box exercise), no worries about correct framing, no need for everyone to work in sync/a lot more individually based (which is helpful if you have someone in your group not pulling their weight). In fact, I absolutely love [almost] everything about this project. The only part that I have trouble with is the animation, just because I've never been very good at precise writing/drawing/etc and so the animation doesn't play to my strong suits and I find myself wanting it to be better. However, what I love about projecting 16mm film is that the whole process becomes so abstract and my imprecise nature is almost enhanced by it (at least to me). This was especially true with the painting, which I utilized in both of my segments. I think the emotion that you try to convey ultimately becomes more important than specific patterns. If you can develop a specific rhythmic tapestry that means something personally to you, it tends to come out on film very well. I will also say that from this project I have had two different cameraless project ideas that I would really like to pursue in the future. One is building off my water segment in the project, where I had the idea of how to convey rain falling through trees at night. The other is doing a magazine transfer project where you distort images of suggested feminine beauty as commentary, combining some paint and bleach/scratching aspects (you would hold still on a single still of the picture before starting the abstraction process). That second one might have been done before, it seems like something someone would think of. However, all potential unoriginality aside, it's still an interesting idea to me.

Here's a couple cool cameraless projects on youtube:

Note: I like the second one, even though there's a huge gap of black nothing in the middle, because it gives an idea of the impact of music on cameraless filmmaking. On the one hand, with the inclusion of music it becomes a rhythmic piece. On the other hand, if the film is good, I think the visuals will create their own unique rhythm and visual "sound" imprint without the help of a music track, sustaining a medium specific beauty (eg Brakhage).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Acoustic Ecology and Sound on Image

Reading the ecology article, I'm reminded of a scene from the film The Cove where they mentioned the sound recording of the Blue Whale sparking a mass upswing in environmental activism. I think there's a strange power to sound, even more so than with image. Perhaps it's because we have some instinctive link to the calming sound of the womb, the heartbeat, the blood flow, processing sound at a primal and urgent level. We might even connect the sound of the whale to some sense of forgotten memory. The article is incredibly poetic in terms of making the reader aware of the vast sound scape encompassing the world, and the importance of preserving the integrity of a balance between man/machine and nature. In terms of film, I think there is a great deal of practical application just based on the awareness of the potency of natural sound, and its juxtaposition and struggle against something more industrial. I think the two embody an inherent conflict that can fuel filmic productions in interesting ways. I also love how the second article, Sound on Image, drew upon sounds ability to create associations (much like how similar articles have established an associative link between two edited shots, ie Kuleshov Effect). This "added value" contributes a new tier of complexity to an already deeply layered string of image correlation. When we tap into some primal sensation through that sound we elevate films to greatness. I also love the distinction between the use of music in the second article, how a scene can take on the character of the image based progressing action, mimicking pace and tone (like fast paced action music for a car chase) or by creating a causal indifference. For the latter, I imagine the cool jazz of Elevator to the Gallows, where every criminal action takes a muted tone, as if offering commentary to the triviality of the pursuit of crime, the inevitable downfall, the emptiness of the character, like that.

In any case, those were the points I keyed in on. And that quote at the beginning of the ecology article, it's just beautiful. It makes me want to read that book. I fished up another couple quotes from the book out of curiosity:

My life and the world’s life are deeply intertwined; when I wake up one morning to find that a week-long illness has subsided and that my strength has returned, the world, when I step outside, fairly crackles with energy and activity: swallows are swooping by in vivid flight; waves of heat rise from the newly paved road smelling strongly of tar; the old red barn across the field juts into the sky at an intense angle. Likewise, when a haze descends upon the valley in which I dwell, it descends upon my awareness as well, muddling my thoughts, making my muscles yearn for sleep. The world and I reciprocate one another. The landscape as I directly experience it is hardly a determinate object; it is an ambiguous realm that responds to my emotions and calls forth feelings from me in turn.
p. 33

The animate earth – this moody terrain that we experience differently in anger and in joy, in grief and in love – is both the soil in which all our sciences are rooted and the rich humus into which their results ultimately return, whether as nutrients or as poisons. Our spontaneous experience of the world, charged with subjective, emotional, and intuitive content, remains the vital and dark ground of all our objectivity.

[For the sound in Elevator to the Gallows clip, notice how the music is impassive but the act of murder is accentuated by the hard, grating sound of the pencil sharpener and the knowledge of death is accompanied only by silence. Very interesting sound to image correlations]

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pinhole Camera Pictures (sort of)

All right, so the pinhole camera was a heroic failure. I think they are kind of cool in a really abstract way but yeah, barely recognizable in terms of an actual image, really blown out. I will say, it makes me want to try it again. More to come in the actual assigned blog response. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wells and Animation

The Wells article was a great read, specifically because it's focusing the divide between mainstream and avant-garde within a specific film genre branch (ie animation). The individual artist versus the mass collective, the seamless continuity versus purposive shifts in logic and action for emotional response, it all becomes really distilled in an animation. I think this is because animation has a tendency to get at the nascent root of artistic communication. The way the article spoke of recognizable characters becoming their own intrinsic identities beyond situation, Mickey Mouse still being a marketable recreation in the Sorcerer's Apprentice for instance, really speaks to how primal I think animations are. If we are watching a film with an actor, some aspect of their star persona seeps into the film, but for the most part we feel like we are watching new characters. With animation that doesn't happen, the character is trapped in amber, forever chasing rabbits or roadrunners, brought to a single narrative compulsion that carries the timespan of an entire cartoon series. On the other hand, experimental animation often pares down to simple shapes and colors, becoming the most basic and natural means of eliciting emotional response.

I did have two basic reactions to the article. One was that I would have loved for the author's opinion on the new trending Japanese Anime that has begun to challenge narrative norms. For instance, with the film Paprika the overall "unity of style" is constantly being challenged by experimental shifts in the environment, but it still operates under a narrative justification (the subconscious dream infringing on reality. It's a cool film). I suppose this is a bit like a distortion in a chase sequence but in my mind far more extreme. I also think that claiming the majority of orthodox animation is dialogue based is a little bit of a stretch, especially with the animation he has been referencing (eg Looney Tunes, Disney). I feel like many of those old cartoons harnessed both the fast talking of Groucho (love a good Marx Brothers reference, I'll give the paper props for that) but also harness old silent film tendencies  (like Harpo!).

A few instances would be Roadrunner cartoons, Fantasia, Tom and Jerry, and I've seen a couple different Marvin the Martians that were almost completely without dialogue.

I'll include a few examples of what I'm talking about below.