Jun 9, 2012

Gone Viral

The Ted Talk by Kevin Allocca was quite insightful, showing us how tastemakers (quite often celebrities) begin trends for videos to go viral. This is much easier today through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. But wait. Isn't YouTube also a social media website within its own right? It has similar interactions of sharing, commenting, and networking with other users as other social media sites. It allows tribes of people, as Seth Godin calls groups of people with similar interests, to connect in yet another way. And yet to me it appears that most videos that went viral in 2011 were not connected to a specific tribe. Nor were they a call to action. Instead, most seemed to be pointless and funny or adorably cute, with an auto-tuned pop song and an auto commercial thrown in. It appears to me that the majority of viewers are in for quick, rapid fire, easy-to-get entertainment. Some of which became lucky enough to become a pop culture phenomenon either in its universal berating (Rebecca Black's Friday) or by ease of reference and the humor related to it (Honey Badger).

The top ten viral videos of 2011 according to TIME magazine were:

Now I will go and clean out my browser history after even typing the words "Rebecca Black" and "Justin Bieber" into this blog.

Jun 7, 2012

The Pursuit of Perfection

Life isn't perfect. I'm not perfect, I'm human. Truth is, we live in an imperfect world. And yet, here we are surrounded by advertisements and images that promote the attainment of the impossible, largely thanks to computers. The moment you Photoshop an image it becomes produced. It becomes fake. Sometimes Photoshop is pushed too far, and the retouched images begin to feel constructed. This is what happened in the pursuit of perfectionism by the German music production companies. In their efforts to produce something that looked and sounded better, they crossed the line of reality. Because no matter how hard we try, computers simply cannot replace reality. At least not yet. Because computers rely on mathematical algorithms which are designed to create something exact. But the thing is, something like music, or rough theater is not perfect. A musician may strum too hard on a guitar or an actor may speak too softly. But people have come to accept these imperfections. Otherwise the line of reality is crossed and the product becomes an uncomfortable experience for the consumer.

This relates to the discussion we had today in class about some of the new HDTVs. They are simply too clear. When looking at others around us, the human eye cannot possibly see that clear. It is almost as if our television set has turned into a microscope. Every detail is in sharp focus and this disconcerts us because the effect is not natural. As if the image we are viewing on screen contains inorganic creations as opposed to actual human beings. Our brains perceive that this level of perfection is unattainable by those who are simply human, and that is one of the reasons such technology makes us uncomfortable.

Jun 6, 2012

The Truth Is Out There...

I was extremely excited to work with film as it was something I had never before had the chance to experience. Yet it was also a very daunting task to undertake as we had one minute, and one take to get our shot absolutely perfect. Since the camera was in my hands, it was probably one of the most stressful projects I have been a part of since coming to UNCW last year.

My group chose to make a one minute monster movie. Think about Monster Quest, but without a budget or sound recording and you'd have our concept. As we were shooting on high contrast B&W film we felt that playing off an old-time news interview would be the best route to go. Matt M. was the person who sighted the "monster", Levi played the reporter, while Stanford was left to be the monster with me behind the camera. After checking, triple checking, and running through our script multiple times we were finally ready to roll the camera. Everything during shooting went absolutely perfect. Everyone seemed in focus, timing was perfect, and the "monster" got right up to the camera with "blood" pouring out of his mouth. Then the camera falls to the ground and dies. Perfect. Great. Wonderful.

But that is where the good ended. We returned to the darkroom only to open the camera and discover that our film had jumped off the sprockets, or some equally devastating tragedy. About a third of our film had wrapped around the daylight spool. The rest was folded tightly throughout the body of the camera, bent to the point that it developed with thick, black lines across it. We also lost the climax of our film where the monster murders the reporter and camera operator. Disappointment struck full on. To the point we even considered a reshoot.

In the end we chose not to reshoot and instead work to use sound to recover what footage we did end up with. Although the film is not yet entirely finished, I cannot wait to see what happens to it in postproduction. It is going to still be awesome, I'm sure!

Jun 1, 2012

Films Without Cameras

At first I was skeptical of this project, being that it was experimental. While the theme of earth, fire,water, and air intrigued me, I was unsure how to even begin representing them with the materials supplied. But slowly, as I looked at the paints, inks, and sharp little metal objects ideas began to take shape. Blue ink blown downclear leader would represent water as it merged with green ink to show the merger of water and land. Along with a cracked desert through the use of crackle nail polish. Knowing what to expect with rayograms, I chose a selection of natural materials along with metals to mark my film. The real challenge for me came when attempting to design an animation. I am not an artistic
person when it comes to drawing by hand or drawing digitally. Yet in the end, the seemingly most difficult part of my project became the quickest and most simple. While attempting to portray the elements through poorly-drawn figures, I remembered back to my Japanese lessons from many years ago. Each kanji symbol isone of the elements. The kanji rearrange themselves into the next element, all followed by the kanji for the number one. Roughly alluding to the elements being one.

Overall, this first project, and my first time truly creating a cameraless film was very interesting as well as
rewarding. While initially I felt this project would be dull and boring, I see now how fascinating it is when viewing everyone's interpretations of the elements, and different manipulations of the same supplies. After this project, I will no longer be able to look at experimental film the same way again.

May 31, 2012

Surrounded By Sound

Music changes everything. For that matter, sound can create its very own world within the cinematic universe. Mundane images become alive, dynamic, and overall more interesting. An image on the screen may be beautiful and colorful within its own right, but may very easily loose attention. But add sound to those images, be it music or a designed soundtrack, the image instantly engages with the audience. As any film student learns in the most basic of classes, music tells people how to feel about the image. But sound does not just involve the use of music. The subtle nuances of sound design, the quality of one sound over another, the level of different sounds, can create an entire world all unto themselves. Remove image from the soundscape and you could still determine your general location and perhaps even some activity happening in the scene. But lay the created soundscape over an image and it comes alive. Images can also be made to stand out when the sound and image do not match one another.

It was extremely interesting to read Acoustic Ecology. I do not think it is often in the everyday that we stop to pay attention to the sounds around us outside. The birds, wind rustling the leaves, water running, frogs croaking. Then there are the man-made sounds that punctuate the natural soundtrack. Cars, sirens, air conditioning units, the Clock Tower. It was not until recently when working on sound for a class project last semester. It seemed there was something not right about the video, even though it was in the final stages of editing. Some of our interviews had been shot with people in the surroundings as well as outdoors. It was the ambient sound that made the image lacking. When the problem was corrected, we found our project much better. Or at least as good as an intro class video can be!

May 25, 2012

Let Us Dance In An Imaginary World of Color and Light

Animation. It's something we are all are familiar with, and most likely it is one of the first types of video you experienced as a child of the 1990s. We all remember Warner Bros. Loony Tunes and the Disney classics such as The Lion King. Perhaps some even recall the Japanese anime feature Spirited Away. But all of these animations tell a clear story. They are linear and the characters are humanized. This type of animation is commonplace, and the artists (at least in the past) were acclaimed for their skill with a pen and pencil.

But animation does not have to be in this style to communicate some form of idea. Instead, feelings and ideas can be conveyed through series of shapes, colors, and their formation and subsequent destruction if that is what the artist so chooses. A linear narrative is not necessary in experimental animation, nor is continuity of surroundings a concern. Some experimental animation may be blatant in its conduction of ideas to the audience. Perhaps a tree grows from a sapling, into a tree, only to be covered by snow and collapse. I would take this to mean death. But what would a swath of the color green mixed with a myriad of swirling blue mean? How would you as an audience member interpret this? Is it rushing water, is it the ocean, the sky, or something else entirely? That's the thing about experimental animation. Show the film to ten different people (who may or may not necessarily be film students) and you will most likely receive ten different answers as to what the animation is attempting to convey. In my opinion this is one of the beauties of experimental animation.

May 23, 2012

Seeing Sound In A World of Color

Although the term of Synesthesia is new to me, the concept is not. I have encountered the idea in books, magazines, and the lyrics of music such as the introduction to Everything Comes From You by Peter Gabriel's project, Big Blue Ball. The accounts of better memory recall by those who have Synesthesia is unsurprising. Indeed, I remember reading about studies conducted on people without Synesthesia related to memory recall. For instance, if students studied while chewing their favorite flavor gum, wearing perfume,or listening to music, all those things could help with memory recall during a test. In my experiences, these studies are correct. While preparing for an exam last semester, I listened to my favorite Sanskrit chants. There was information on the exam I could not remember, even with attempting to draw diagrams and think of notes. But when I began to think of the music in myhead, the answers came almost instantly.

When reading about sounds appearing as color to some with Synesthesia, it made me think about a concept album by The Dear Hunter. On this album are eleven songs, each which are supposed to represent and invoke the feeling of a color. The song Things That Hide Away is green. While Filth and Squalor is black, and What Time Taught Us is indigo. If you are interested in hearing further about the concept behind the album The Color Spectrum, I highly recommend reading the interview by Guitar World with Casey Crescenzo. The interviewer even asks him specifically about the phenomenon of Synesthesia.

In other forms of art, I have seen a representation of Synesthesia at the Smithsonian's rotating exhibit in Washington D.C. On a series of screens, different colors and abstract shapes would appear each time a note was struck or a chord played on the piano. Although I do not recall the artist, this is the most blatant form of Synesthesia I have encountered in art.

The other encounter I remember as a child was with Cymatics. We made art with Crayola paints and paper placed on a platform (I do not remember the material it was made out of as I was quite young), and simple songs were played as a series of tones. We used different color paints and created very beautiful shapes. I remember being amazed that I could see music! Little did I ever think our arts and crafts experiment was actually a field of scientific study!

Overall I found the concepts of Synesthesia and Cymatics quite fascinating. Now that I am more aware of them, I wonder just how much more in the world I will notice that has been influenced by Synesthesia and Cymatics.