Evaluation of Final Submission

The final submission (Vimeo version embedded below) weighs in at just under 3 minutes duration. It’s published in the 4:3 aspect ratio since most of the original time-lapse stills were shot in 4:3 and I didn’t want to lose elements of the original image framing. The film makes use of two principal time-based phenomena, both inspired by the slit-scan film/video/photography heritage examined previously in this blog. A ‘time slice’ effect is used where the source is sliced across the screen – each slice being a fragment of moving image taken from a progressively more delayed video frame. A variation is the ‘half screen history slice’ effect where half of the screen shows the source video and the other half shows static slices of progressive pixel history taken from the central strip of video – this effect works best with a high range of movement or chromatic variation. Both effects can be seem in their nascent form in experiments documented in previous posts. Although I have developed other time-based techniques during the course of the module, these two are the ones I feel are particularly suited to the final submission.

To run through the scenes (one can also choose to watch the film, embedded below, before reading the following discussion) –

The clock sequence is intended as an intro – rather than jumping straight into the Liverpool St Station scenes, I wanted to build a sense of expectation and reiterate the theme of the piece – the word ‘zeitspiel’ (German: time play) is repeated as the clock face runs contrary to expectation – being time sliced horizontally into progressively delayed image portions.

The first two Liverpool St scenes are synced to audio but not audio-reactive. I had to manipulate the image quality to obscure the facial detail which would have otherwise have certainly required (unobtainable) permissions. In the process I hit upon using a dark, slightly grainy, monotone quality suggestive of CCTV footage which I believe suits the subject and mood (see the previous post for a resume of mood keywords). In essence, these scenes are observations of human behaviour in a public space – the blurring of distinction between individual and mass behaviour reminiscent of flocking in birds. By chopping up time and space into segments, existing patterns of behaviour are accentuated  and new ones revealed. Mitchell Whitelaw (writer, artist and Associate Professor at the University of Canberra) questions the outcome of one of his own pieces of work, ‘Watching the Street’ (2008), also inspired by slit-scan techniques – “Could a simple visualisation process like this … support an open-ended process of exploration and interpretation?” (Whitelaw 2008).

The escalator scene introduces the half screen history effect. There is now a direct link between the audio and visual – the audio peak is being used to cue the video (ie move it to a given frame). This would normally create a confusing output likely to be tiring to the eye. However, the shuttling about of video frames, as well as being dampened, only accounts for half the screen while in the other half, progressive image history is being written to slices moving away from the centre. The result is a hybrid image that show us time and space in 2 very different but directly linked depictions – commuters frantically move up and down the escalator, turning into ghost-like image slices as they hit the top, subsequently being transported smoothly off screen. For me, there is a fascinating aesthetic here created by the technique Susanne Jaschko terms the ‘sculpturalization of images’ (Jaschko 2002).

The Waterloo bridge scene works in a similar way to the escalator with cars, buses, bikes and taxis hitting a ‘wall’ from which they become static pixel slices animating steadily off-screen.

The final night scene for me is also an aesthetic success  – not least the abstract nature of the reflected lights and spark-like trails. To begin with, the audio drops to ethereal ghost-type sounds which fit the images of trains shunting back and forth. Once the audio picks up volume, the scene reacts dynamically and a greater range of image slices  animate from right to left (the audio volume level cues the video source but we only see the ‘historical slices’ in this case).  Because so many trains pass in such a short space of time on parallel tracks, some slices may be from different trains in slightly different orientations. The effect is that the slices of train seem to take on a life of their own, almost appearing to animate along separate rails themselves due to the high-contrast nature of the images.

Of course – the film is a specific construction created to meet the submission requirements – each scene could potentially work in a self-contained manner for much longer than the 20-30 seconds seen here, especially if shown at a greater scale. In my opinion, the project has been a great success in terms of drawing on the slit-scan heritage to create something new, developing a series of embryonic works to try out ideas, running into problems and either solving them or working around them, developing and applying an evolving set of selection criteria to move the project to a conclusion while all the time learning the strengths and weaknesses of Quartz Composer, which I will certainly continue to use as a creative development/performance tool.

What could I have done better? With so many elements to the project it’s inevitable that things could have been done differently, possibly for a better result. In hindsight, it may have been better to move from experimenting with techniques to planning and producing the final piece earlier in the time frame. This may have afforded a second field trip – only after having worked extensively with the scenes shot in London did I come to concrete conclusions about how best to use them. A subsequent visit would have been much more targeted in terms of knowing what to shoot.

The Zeitspiel experience has certainly spurred me on in terms of thinking about the masters project and I have no doubt I will use that opportunity to further explore some of the themes and techniques developed here.

Bibliography

Jaschko, S. (2002) Space-Time Correlations Focused in Film Objects and Interactive Video. [Internet] available at ‘http://www.sujaschko.de/en/research/pr1/spa.html’ Accessed November 2012.

Whitelaw, M. (2008) The Teeming Void [Internet] available at ‘http://teemingvoid.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/watching-street.html’ Accessed October 2012

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