Monday, June 6, 2011

The Long Take

    This was my first time using the Bolex, and I have to say it was awesome.  Learning how to load the film, shoot, and expose it was intimidating, but everything seemed to have worked out just fine.

    We started off by gathering with our groups of four and headed off to shoot in the Wildflower Preserve.  After helping another group with their shoot, we prepped a segment of the trail for our long take.  The most time-consuming part of our shoot was the blocking, considering the 54 sec. time requirement and the focal length of the lens on the Bolex.
    Including a masked shaman, a diver, and an oversized frog, our plot was based a man's date gone wrong  after eating a mysterious fruit.  We were even able to include our favorite reoccurring character, Fatty Patty.  

     After the shoot, we headed back over to the darkroom to expose our footage.  Taping the doors and setting up the chemicals, we were ready to unload the camera.  We followed the list of instructions closely, making sure we didn't ruin our film.  When we checked out our film after we fixed it, we were worried, thinking it had been either overexposed or pushed too far in the dektol. 
    We looped our film and loaded into the projector to do our HD video transfer.  Accounting for the inversion and rotation that will happen in post, we were pleasantly surprised by the outcome of our footage.  There was nice contrast, and the framing on our all hand-held shoot looked good.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Orthodox & Experimental Animation

      In the article, Notes Towards a Theory of Animation, Wells separates animation style and intent into two types: Experimental and Orthodox. 

      Coining the term, orthodox animation, Wells explores animators' intentions, and how they achieve their stylistic goals.  Characteristics of orthodox animation include a strong focus on unified narrative content, personification of non-human characters like Donald Duck, and parallel stylistic devices borrowed from live-action.  The author explains that animation shooting style is often limited to horizontal and/or vertical pans considering its two-dimensional nature. 

      Experimental animation reserves abstraction and dissonance for its content.  Exploring obscure narrative structures and interpretive forms, experimental animation is very diverse.  Wells' essay shows how experimental animation often uses multiple styles and techniques, explaining that it helps to stimulate new approaches.

      Both approaches are equally enjoyable and significant.  Orthodox animation seems to dominate the commercial market, to which it likely is indebted to Disney.  Experimental animation effectively tackles abstract concepts, more directly achieving expressionistic goals.  The concept of synesthesia is just asking to be explored by experimental film.  Of course, this has been done in the past by filmmakers such as Len Lye and Norman Mclaren.  above: still of Norman Mclaren work.
      The most distinguishing factor of experimental film is its subjectivity.  When people view a series of colors, shapes, and sounds, they are subject to any number of responses.  These responses can be calculated.  For example, harsh and/or vibrant colors flashing quickly, set to loud, chaotic music.  This could simply evoke anger or frustration.  However, it's not that simple.  What may be confusing and obnoxious for one person, could actually be pleasing and enjoyable to another; this is not likely, but entirely possible.  In the attempt to capture emotional or ethereal subjectivity, experimental film has been crucial to the development of new techniques, and visual approaches.
       Imagine the sixties without the style of filmmaker Ben Van Meter.  His films documented and reflected acid tests that were happening in cities like San Francisco.

The contributions of both styles are important.  They have both helped to shape animation as we know it today, and have popularized film animation to its current success. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cymatics & Synesthesia

    So, cymatics..  I had seen this video a while back, and didn't really consider it in a context of experimental film.  Apparently, hundreds of naturally occurring shapes and designs can be recreated through sound vibrations, ranging from snowflakes to starfish.  These formations appear according to specific frequencies, and the possibilities seem endless.  Scientists have been researching cymatics for a while now:

    Evan Grant from the assigned TED video defines cymatics as: the process of visualizing sound.
This fits perfectly into synesthesia, which according to Wikipedia is,  a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.  
    Cymatics uncovers a synesthetic quality of nature.  If sounds can create intricate images and patterns, what else have we been missing out on?  Again according to Wikipedia, not everybody has been missing out - Pharell, Kandinsky, and Liszt are all "synesthetes".  Artists have sought synesthesia in their works for years.  If a painter, filmmaker, or composer can invoke a sensory response that is outside their medium, they're definitely on to something.  An interesting image from Grant's talk, this is a picture of a Beethoven piece 'cymaticized':
    This picture shows the potential for a cross-over of an artist's material. 

   It's really interesting to see a song that was never intended to be 'seen,' take such an almost equally attractive piece in an entirely different medium.  It seems to support a case for an inherent beauty in a classic composition.  But who knows, the rest of the song could have looked like garbage...

Cymatics is just one form of synesthesia; the sight of sound.  Other types of synesthesia include seeing color, identifying numbers with letters, or hearing visuals. 

Norman McLaren response:
- Chaotic at first.  Repetition of colors and shapes set to old swing/jazz.
- Lines are personified as if they are dancing.  Characters shaped out of abstracted images.
- Large variety of technique explored throughout.
- Pace also varies a lot.