Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rating the Projects

1) In-class stop-motion animation - army men
I used to do a lot of stop-motion animation as a kid, so it was fun to revisit that with the addition of using multiple planes.  I'd say the hardest thing to do was light the scene, since we had very large lights for such a small animation area.  I think that by the end of the animation we got more accustomed to having multiple layers, so if I made another multi-plane stop-motion animation I would do more interaction between the layers.  I also really liked working with Wills and Scott, and think that our combined ideas made for a more interesting (albeit confusing) story.

2) Crowdsourcing
I really liked the idea of having each individual frame drawn on its own-- I thought that the final result could be choppy and might not flow together, but the blending between frames helped them act as a whole.  I enjoyed watching the completed video and had fun trying to spot my frames amongst all the other crazy drawings.

3) Cameraless Filmmaking
This was another case of having no idea how the final product would look.  Connor and I weren't entirely sure about the process going into it, but we ended up thinking that the result was awesome.  It's weird to edit/make a video without watching the video at the same time- I'm so used to editing digitally and scrubbing through footage that it was hard to visualize how the film would look once projected.  I ended up liking the final video so much that I went through and took stills from the footage so I could use them in the future.

4) Media Fast Long Take
I enjoyed making the long take based on the media fast for the crowdsourcing project.  This was another case of Wills and Scott and I improvising (aka every video we made) so we went with a Star Trek theme due to Star Trek playing on the television in Fischer.  It took a couple of takes, but we ended up with a pretty good take of Scott's descent into madness.  Later on I thought about how the video would look if each individual frame was drawn in the style of our crowdsourcing video-- I think it would be watchable, but it would be more difficult to distinguish Scott from the background/really be able to tell what is happening.  The visual references to Star Trek might not have worked either.

5) Bolex Long Take
Going into this project, I was looking forward to using the bolex cameras-- but loading the film ended up taking much more time than actually coming up with/filming the story.  Also I'm not a huge fan of long takes, unless one is taking place within a longer story-- like the long takes in Goodfellas or Children of Men or Tintin.  Sometimes I see videos that are nothing but a long take and I really enjoy them, but they have to have a really good core concept.  For example:

Using the bolex (and only having one chance to film the take) led us to block out the action so it took exactly a minute, and rehearse it several times until we got the timing memorized.  I like the silly story that we came up with for the video, but I think that if we contained the action a bit more we could have made it easier to follow.

6) Rhythmic Edit
I like how my rhythmic edit turned out-- I wasn't sure how easy it would be to try and tell a story through such quick clips, but I think slowly inserting a new clip into each new cycle made for scene transitions that blended together pretty well.  The idea was to have a story about the creative process:  Being inspired by something in your life, trying to flesh out the idea artistically, and then ending up being a horse the entire time.  Just like every project I've ever worked on.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Rough Theatre

Most of what I work on I would consider rough theatre-- whenever I make a video, I may not have all of the  equipment that I would like, but I don't let that stop me from making something.  I feel that improvisation during a creative process can enhance what was already planned, and will add character to the final product.

When I was in high school, I was heavily involved in theatre classes/drama club.  I had a role in nearly every play, with my teacher coming to me and asking me to fill multiple small roles if I didn't audition for a role.  This wasn't because I was amazing at acting, (far from it, the best role I can play is "man in suit") but because there weren't many people at my school who were willing to be in the plays.  Our theatre was built in 1960, and had since been subjected to all forms of torture at the hands of students.  (and administrators who refused to give the theatre department any sort of budget.)  The year before I started going to the school a girl tried to burn down the theatre from inside one of the dressing rooms.  She failed to do so, but did cause a lot of smoke damage to the curtains-- which I had to help dispose of.  The point is, the theatre was kind of old and gross and all that.  But those of us who wanted to put on shows did what we could to make the most out of what we had.  Creative yet cheap set design allowed us to explore stories meant for huge stages, and with most shows it was obvious that the leads genuinely cared about putting on the best shows possible.

I try to apply this same process to videos I make, since I rarely have any money for a budget.  In lieu of a steadicam shot, I'll just run with the camera at a high frame rate and shutter speed and use after effects to smooth it out and slow it down in post.  Stories will change to fit the locations I have access to, sometimes at the last second.  I think that's a valuable experience-- something will always go wrong at the last second, and how you respond to it will affect how the rest of the project turns out.  A lot of the time I'll be with friends and we'll decide to make something, so we'll go out and improvise the whole process.

Here's a silly example of one of these videos:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reflections on Crowd-sourcing

I think that the hardest part of a crowdsourcing project is that no individual contributor knows how the full project will look in the end.  I had an idea of what all the frames for "America 6.1" would look like together, but the end result was better than I had imagined.  There was a blurring between frames that allowed each frame to bleed into the next, making the video more coherent.  I thought cutting between frames would look choppy, as one person's artistic style probably wouldn't merge with the next person's.  The audio also helped the video act as one piece-- as did seeing the Johnny Cash crowdsourced project and seeing how a similar project looked.

I thought it would be choppy because of some of the crowdsourced projects I've seen in the past.  Star Wars Uncut can be jarring when it cuts from clip to clip, and the audio can be hard to follow sometimes.  If someone watching it isn't familiar enough with Star Wars, they might not be able to keep track of the plot.  (But who hasn't memorized Star Wars by this point?)  Long-form crowdsourced projects like SWUncut are best done around movies with a huge fanbase-- that way the editor can ensure they'll have enough clips to use, and the majority of viewers can follow along without trying to get caught up in the logistics of the plot.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Saturday Shoot - Long Take

When going into Kenan to shoot on the 23rd, Wills and Scott and I unfortunately didn't have a perfectly planned out take to shoot.  What we did have were various props, and decided to make use of a frisbee  (in the style of Captain America's shield) that Wills brought.  We thought that the use of a frisbee would allow two characters to interact without much dialogue, and could be the focus of attention for the film.  Plus Wills and I were both wearing Captain America shirts, so it was obviously meant to be that we would use the frisbee.

We attempted to follow the time-allotting sheet the best we could, but some of each group's shooting time was cut into due to how long it took to load the cameras in the blackbox.  We ended up shooting our film later than we anticipated, but finished before the next group needed our camera.  After our film had been loaded we fully planned out the story and blocking, and began rehearsing.

Our story was as follows:  Wills and I walk up to a mysterious round object laying on the ground: a frisbee.  We pick it up and discover that we can toss the object to one another, and it will seemingly hover in the air as it drifts between us!  This is the most important discovery in the history of the world, we say as we toss it back and forth.  Then, from out of nowhere, a man runs between us and continues down the sidewalk-- obviously he had just committed a heinous crime, such as robbing a bank or eating a toaster strudel without the icing.  Wills and I look at each other and our mental link forms the perfect plan with which to catch the criminal.  Wills pulls the frisbee back and throws it with all his might toward the criminal.  The frisbee soars through the air with the majesty of an eagle, and lands at the criminal's feet.  The criminal picks it up, waves at Wills and I as if to say "Thanks, easiest theft ever!" and he runs away.  Wills and I, having lost our frisbee, are forlorn.  END.

After rehearsing six or seven times, with Matt acting as the criminal, we were ready to shoot.  Not everything went perfectly-- the frisbee didn't land very close to Matt, and it was kind of hard to follow the frisbee through the air, but that's to be expected.  I can't recall filming any video that went exactly to plan, and given the amount of time that we had, I think it turned out well!  I'm looking forward to screening it and seeing if the visuals allow one to follow the plot.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Responses to Experimental films


Makes me think of the desert.  Lots of circular objects with a similar pattern- like the inside of an orange.  Also a spinning wagon wheel, and the sun with its rays going in all directions.  Opening and closing boxes kind of like windows or sinkholes.  Kinda makes me thirsty but I was thirsty before class so that may not be a direct effect of the film.  Birds flew out of what looked like the sun so it was totally a desert; they were vultures.

Scratch Film Junkies

I like the intro- readable but glitchy/skipping.  Contemporary music- grungy video- scratched over real life film.  Ended up paying more attention to the music than I did the video, trying to think of what band it was.  Cool distorted footage of a kid with a camera?  Made it seem like a growing-up story or something.  I like the scratching out around the guy's head so it looks sort of disembodied.  Odd that I only really remember the parts with human faces.  I think I was still thinking of the "Roots" video throughout most of this one.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Notes Toward a Theory on Animation

The first thing that comes to mind when reading Wells' notes on animation is wondering how he would react to today's computer animation methods.  It's easy now to set up frame-by-frame animation with programs like flash, and in-betweens are often exported overseas.  Some of the older Simpsons episodes had some odd/funny in-betweens due to this...

Narrative form - Wells writes of how in the early days of animation, character actions would sync up with the rhythm of music.  These animations would have stories based on sudden conflict or chase scenes without much exposition.  I could see this being an effective way to learn animation, as I've found that the hardest thing to learn when doing frame-by-frame is timing character movements.  In my experience, building a sound track and then animating on top of it is much easier than animating to a ryhthm only in my mind-- unless I've thought about the scene a lot and know exactly where the beats are.  It would be interesting to read Wells' thoughts on how a lot of modern cartoons are written through the storyboards-- the artists double as writers and the initial storytelling is through the visuals.  I'm assuming that this helps voice actors out as well, as they can visualize a scene before it's animated.

Orthodox & experimental - Wells' notes on the dynamics of musicality remind me of "Begone Dull Care."  Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart had a definite grasp on the relationship between sound and visual-- they didn't rely on a narrative of any kind to tell a story, but instead let the film present itself for interpretation.  I'd agree with Wells that if orthodox animation is about prose then experimental animation is more poetic.  Experimental animation has an element that I don't think can be taught, just like written poetry.  It's an expression of feelings that others may have difficulty relating to, but when poetry is done well it can still be appreciated by anyone.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Crowdsourcing seems like a great way to get a large amount of people involved with the same project- as long as the project rules are clearly explained.

From an artist's perspective, crowdsourcing could allow a variety of styles to merge like pieces into a whole- although I feel that the completed whole would still be a bit disconnected as opposed to a project worked on by one person or a team of people working together.  The overall project would have to be restrictive of the amount of stylization each individual could do, or maintain an experimental style.

When I think about having crowdsourced clips fit into a whole, I think of the microtasked "Star Wars Uncut." The film is a version of "A New Hope" which was cut into 15-second increments and crowdsourced to Star Wars fans.  The results range from kids in their living room with cardboard sets to Disney-style 2D animation.  It's a great way for fans to express how much they love the Star Wars films, and it's just a fun video to watch.  As a whole, it's hard to make sense of the story given the constant switching between clips-- but the point is just to have a bunch of fans reenact one of their favorite films.  "Star Wars Uncut" couldn't have existed (as least not split into this many parts) without the internet acting as a medium (a 'series of tubes', if you will) for information and communication.

I also think of the film "Life in a Day," which selected from 80,000 clips uploaded to youtube one day and cut a 95-minute film from all the footage.  They had to cut through 4,500 hours of footage and convert from 60 different frame rates to make the clips fit visually.  It does a good job of representing a day in the life of people from all over the globe-- the ones fortunate enough to have access to video cameras, anyway.  This film is particularly interesting to me because the end result was completely dependent on the editors-- I mean editors certainly have a huge impact on any film, but with a different editor it could have ended up being an entirely different film.  The final result is an optimistic film about the perseverance of humanity, but what if someone had cut the film to focus on negative themes?  I have no idea what the footage they didn't use looks like, but I'm sure one could cut a film with a completely different feeling out of it.

Crowdfunding is something that seems to have just popped up a few years ago, and suddenly it became huge.  I went to Heroes Con (A comic convention in Charlotte) over the summer, and it seemed as if every other indie artist there was asking visitors to donate to their kickstarter or indiegogo project.  I've donated to a few and have been pleased with the results- the backer rewards have provided me with some cool items and behind-the-scenes info that I wouldn't have access to otherwise.  I love it when artists allow an audience into their working process- last year there was a project on kickstarter called "Double Fine Adventure", which was started by the video game studio Double Fine to finance a new point-and-click adventure game.  Being a fan of both Double Fine and point-and-click games, I donated.  Since then I've had access to a series of behind-the-scenes documentary episodes dealing with how the game is being conceptualized/produced.  A reward like that ensures that I'll be backing whatever crowdfunded projects Double Fine does in the future.  (Also I get a copy of the game when it's done and it's gonna be the bomb)

In "The Cloudfilmmaking Manifesto" they say that when people look back on this time, it will be called "The Age of Collaboration."  I completely agree with that-- the surge of interest in crowdfunded/crowdsourced projects will surely fade after a while, but I see it as a viable form of production/funding in the future.  I'll have to try crowdfunding a short film before too long!