Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Degree Show week

We've been setting up the degree show all week, so very knackering. Mark and I have had a bit of trouble with the equipment, and couldn't pick it up til late last night, but have set everything up today, and there shouldn't be too much more to do other than a little tweaking, having said that we've had a play with the projectors just before we've come home and while mark's looks good (bright, crisp, clear), my projection seems rather dull in comparison. Volker suggested moving the projector closer to the wall, but I was optimistic about the 'cinema effect'. It being the first time I have shown my work with a projector, I of course wanted to make it as big as possible. I see now that this comes at a compromise, and it isn't one I'm willing to take. There is a greater necessity for the work to be clear, colourful and sharp than big. Hopefully the sound will compensate for the lack of scale. We'll see tomorrow.
People have been discussing the portfolio and getting worried about having to do sketchbooks and photographs and so on, I can't fathom why this should be such a problem. Obviously if I'd waited til now to write my DVD's I'd be worried, but I HAVE the work here, it would just be a matter of arranging them on a DVD. Many of the people I've spoken to have said they worry that they haven't made a sketchbook, which I can't understand at all, my sketchbook is central to all of my work, without it I wouldn't be doing the work I'm doing, or considering the work I will be making in the future, planning my time over the summer. I'd like to have explained to me the process of working without forming ideas using a pen and paper, because for me this just isn't possible.

My parents arrive tomorrow as well, but I don't envisage finishing the space til late tomorrow night, so hopefully they can cope on their own for a while. Ideally I'll have friday free to try out several different compression techniques, this is especially important for part IV as the visual effect relies very heavily on the compression used. I'm worried that I haven't tested this enough, but I have enough versions to try them all out and decide on the best one. As for the main title of the work, I think I have decided on 'Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' (1963) frames ... - ...' (i haven't worked these out yet), and by describing the work as 'digital' video I hope to give the viewer the basics to begin to descipher it. I realise the work is insular and very difficult for a viewer to penetrate, but I think this would be much better than actually showing them where I took my clip from, and why I took it. I am very wary of leading the viewer where I want them to go, but giving them a nudge in the right direction is fine by me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Projectors (4:3-16:9)

Mark and I managed to borrow the projectors we’ll be using for our degree show today, so we went into our allotted space and gauged how we wanted them mounted. We both decided it’d be best to put hang them from the ceiling, and, because they have screw holes on their base, for such use, it seems quite simple to do so. I had provisionally burnt two DVD’s to try out on this occasion, a 4:3 version, but also a 16:9 widescreen version. I want to project onto the entire wall, or as much as possible anyway, if I use 4:3 then the projected image would reach the ceiling or floor long before it reached the side walls, so instead I’ve opted to project using 16:9 which will squash the image, but also allow it to be much larger, it still meets the ceiling or floor before the walls, but it fills the space much better than a square version would do. I used part of Pt. IV to test this, which was perhaps a mistake as this does not inform me of any distortion of the image. I should instead have tried some of the earlier films, perhaps parts I or II, where the distortion would have been more immediately apparent. Still, these can be experimented with next week, perhaps on Wednesday or Thursday, so I’m not too concerned.

My plans for next week, are at present, still rather vague, but my plan is to have parts I-III completely finished and ready for the show, both visually (Pt. III needs particular attention) and aurally (all parts need to be levelled, that is, made to a similar volume). For next Wednesday, which is the first day I’ll be able to prepare my space, I want to have several different encondings of these films ready, some in 16:9 and some in 4:3, with titles, and correctly timed/spaced, so that after I have set up my projector, dvd player and speakers, I can discover which encoding works best for the different parts. So by Wednesday night I should know what I am doing for parts I-III, Part IV on the other hand needs more consideration, as this is the part particularly sensitive to encoding, also, the visual effects present in Pt IV are susceptible to alteration/damage by using different encoding techniques. Ideally, I should have a variety of tests done for this by Wednesday as well, then testing can take place after the earlier tests, leaving Wednesday night and Thursday morning for a final encode, which can then be tested on Thursday or Friday, completing the process.

It is worth noting also, that having discovered the problems with the effects on Pt. IV (detailed in the previous post) I was surprised when testing the projector, that the zoom in – zoom out effect has reappeared at such a large scale. Obviously I’m quite pleased at this, and am looking forward to experimenting with different tests next week to see how I can make the most of it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Running out of time

Only a fortnight to the show now and of course I’m beginning to worry. I’ve finished the DVD, and also, over the weekend (I’ve been encoding since last week!) sorted out my portfolio DVD’s, with labelled films and titles and everything looks neat and tidy and pretty. Anyway, the show DVD looks, for the most part fine. I’ve begun to find the first two parts of the film particularly tedious, and have become quite bored/embarrassed of them, constantly thinking of ways to improve them (all of which are entirely unnecessary), I’ve realised that they are fine as they are, my problem stemming from them being slightly older than the other two and more ‘traditional’ in their composition. The points I have made in previous posts about parts III and IV still stand however, so now is the time when I should combat the problems:
In part III I feel I need to reduce the nullifying effect of the crop system I have used throughout the piece, there is also a case for the use of a more coherent timing mechanism, though this will be a much bigger task, requiring a lot of re-rendering (and should not be embarked upon lightly).
In Part IV I am worried about the quality of the compression, perhaps I need to deinterlace during the encode, or perhaps there is a series of alterations to the coding mechanism which need to change, what is clear is that at present, the quality of the image is much lower than I anticipated, and should be remedied. I will have to make a few ‘test’ sections to see what I can do to best minimalise pixellation. Also, the effect of zooming in and out, when there is no zoom, seems to have been lost in the translation from .avi to .mpeg2, in my tests I should also try to find the best way to retain this, though it may be more difficult than I anticipate (I’m not sure what caused it in the first place)!

All in all everything is going ok, I should get a projector sometime this week so I can measure up and make my security box (which will contain both projector and DVD player), I’ve also asked the technician about speakers, and he said that the Fine Art department have some, and I would be able to use them, though I’d have to get stands from elsewhere. This is a bit of a concern, I’m not sure whether I want stands in the first place, and If I do, I’d have to build them (yet again) in metalwork. The speakers might work better on the floor, where they might vibrate more, creating more of an atmosphere, or they might sound a little too bassy and need to be raised, there is no real way of knowing this until we have set up in the room, which we wont be able to until 3 days before the show. Oh well…
I’m sure everything will be ok.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Complete degree film???

Have now finished Pt IV of the film, and am in the process of encoding all four parts for DVD to have a look at it in the lecture theatre, the nearest thing to what my exhibition will look like (only without the seats). The piece has been provisionally titled:
‘Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) frames …-…’
After this would follow ‘Pt. 1’, then the subsequent titles for the different parts of the film. Also, I haven’t yet calculated exactly which frames I have used, but when I do I will insert these in the title. While the film speed for both the 35mm and digital format is 24fps, I wonder whether it’s worth noting in the title that I have used the digital model, and how this will affect interpretation of the piece. Obviously this work was not constructed using analog methods, but if I include the word digital in the title, then perhaps this alludes to the theory I’ve been interested in, suggesting McLuhan, Kittler, Manovich, et al. Perhaps ‘…digital frames …-…’ would be better, though who can be sure. I’ll have to think about it, besides, I should be thinking about my encoding and what sort of effect I want. At the minute I have been encoding as a ‘2-pass VBR, 4:3, 60mins Best quality for DVD’, or something like that. I haven’t put on any deinterlacing, which I think could cause some problems, but at present I just want to get it done, and then see how best I can resolve any inherent problems with it. It is taking a very long time, and says it should be done in about 18 hours (total time taken). Once this is complete I can put the whole thing on DVD as a single track loop. I think I’ll also include chapter markers so I can skip between sections (for ease of viewing/reassessment).
Of course, while my computers busy I’ve had time to do other things, so I’ve been going back over some research and looking up interviews with Nam June Paik among others, work by Paul Sharits, whose flicker films have a lot in common with the ending of Pt. III, which flickers, stutters and stammers to a full stop. I’ve also been looking at some of the theory in greater detail, after all this is all stuff which will pay dividends next year, and when I come to write my MA dissertation. I’ve mainly been looking at Youngbood’s Expanded Cinema, and researching topics around this. The introduction (and comments throughout) by Buckminster Fuller seem like flights of fancy, even now, 30 years or so after it was written. I do however like the examinations of films such as 2001:A Space Odyssey, in particular the ‘Star-gate’ sequence, designed by Douglas Trumbull, but also, more video art orientated films such as Michael Snow’s Wavelength (the archetypal structural film), Stan Barkhage’s Dog Star Man (1959-64), Will Hindle’s Chinese Firedrill (1968), Patrick O’Neill’s 7362 (1965-66) and John Schofill’s XFilm (1967).
One artist who particularly interests me is Jordan Belson, who produced several animated films in the 1960’s, and is still working today, though it is his work from the 60’s which seems best documented. I have yet to see any of these images move, but the stills alone display Belson’s skill at constructing intricate forms and patterns. This all suggests I should do some further research. It is, with Belson’s work, strictly the patterns I’m interested in, his films, according to Youngblood, have a mystical, religious tone to them, which I have no interest in whatsoever, it is strictly the effects and means of production I find fascinating. Anyway, for next week I hope to have encoded my films to a sufficient standard, and have looked at them properly and decided a proper course of action.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lacking Scorsese

Handed in the writing assignment, and I’m not too happy with it. I can’t help but feel I could’ve done so much more with it if I had given it my whole attention for a week or so. Instead I’ve faffed about, trying to do both the article and my studio work, and guess what, it’s suffered for it. Thinking over the weekend I realised I hadn’t written anything about Mean Streets + early Scorsese in it, which seems so silly as he was both a big influence on Meadows, and his films, particularly his early work, had a lot of autobiography in it, or to be more precise, Scorsese drew a lot from his own childhood, growing up in New York, for the work.
Meanwhile, the studio work has been going well. I’m very happy with the finished Pt. III, and the ultimate effect it has on the viewer. I do however have some problems with it which need resolving before I show the piece. It works best when projected very large, which will be fine for the degree show, but the cropping techniques I use, which reduce the image to 1/5 of the screen before filling it once again, are problematic in that it reduces the overall visual impact of the piece. The viewer is constantly prevented from seeing the whole image, and it is at these instances where they can focus their eyes (and mind) once more. I want to avoid this, and instead force the viewer to become almost hypnotised by the moving image. Preventing them from re-adjusting to a new image is a good starting point for this, so I should therefore try this and develop from there.
Before I do this however, I should complete the whole film. Pt. IV has begun, and is once again a very process based work, thought the visual results of the process are more interesting than I fist anticipated. Like my degree postcard, the initial image is made up of the clip tiled to fit the screen, this then zooms out to reveal more clips, and more, and more, and continues to reveal clips until the screen becomes nothing more than a glowing matte of colour. An interesting discovery was that after a while the zoom out can no longer be recognised, and instead the image seems to vibrate on the screen, getting closer and further away in quick succession. I will, this week, continue to develop in a similar vain, experimenting with different attributes. Pt. IV would appear at first to be one of the more sedate pieces in the film, but, once the sound is taken into account, becomes a behemoth, an all encompassing expanse of noise (both visual and aural), but one in which the constituent parts have been displayed to the viewer all along.