Films: Projections – 1: Field

by Beauchamp Art

 

Field Cataracts Projection

Projecting the Field animation through rotating lenses, creating a cataract-like effect on the visual interface.

For this experiment, I projected the video onto the wall opposite the computer whilst moving the two loosely held glass lenses in front of the projector, warping the image, and at time giving the impression of a false depth or layering to the image. This was a means of exploring the modification of the image through manual, analogue technique, rather than digital manipulation, as a way of reflecting on the act of mediation optically.

 

The sound was created through altering the recording from the Talk projection repeatedly, as I did in all of the Field projections (and the later waves of projections), creating a woozy undulating ambience to accompany the piece, to convey a similar sense of mediation. But what is being re-presented is in itself a form of audio/video gobbledygook; nonsensical electronic manifestations, with no distinct form, functioning only as allusions to reality; using digital recordings as the basis for abstraction rather then generating from an immaterial, virtual environment; of synthetic sounds and images. Though they are perfectly valid source of creating materials, it is the distortion of reality through mediated perception that is of concern to me, and the sense of simulation through representation. Rather than the algorithmic creation of purely simulated imagery – such methods lack the digital uncanny [Hunt, 2011] that is a particularly tumultuous area of contemporary representational media in the twenty-first century; the age of networks, the nervous systems of society, [Van Dijk, 1992: 2]; “screen based image overabundance and ephemerality.” [Ritchin, 2013: 49]

One problem with this film, and with the others in the projection series was the stuck pixel in the bottom right of the screen, due to a camera error that has since been amended. However, on the actual footage the red mark was difficult to subdue, and somewhat impossible to totally hide with my current knowledge of the software. Nevertheless, I desaturated the small area of pixels and darkened it considerable, as it was bright red, thus contrasted massively to the green subject with shifting lighting. This made it considerably less noticeable, but not totally invisible. Though, as this was mostly an experiment and a means of generating further imagery (by remediating the footage), then the resolve of this particular version was not overly concerning.

Field Cataracts Projections [Stills]

Field Cataracts Projections [Stills]

 


Field Skin Projection

Projecting the Field animation onto the skin of my face.

This starts with the projection being omitted onto a seemingly flat surface, with one area particularly in focus; however, t then becomes apparent that the surface itself is organic. For the first half of the film, the video was projected onto my cheek as I manipulated that half of my face gradually changing the texture onto which the metamorphosing animation also shifted. At around half way, the video transits so that is was being projected onto another flat area of my face, that of my forehead, as I tensed and relaxed muscles so that my brow moved around, again varying the surface, as well as drawing attention to the projected surface being a media, from which the video is then being refilmed.

There are a number of editing differences to be found in this film compared to the other Field projections, for example, the video is not designed to loop, but rather fades in and out. Although this was mostly due to the recorded footage not featuring the full-length version of the animation, and it seemed to work best when there was more areas of the circuit board being animated than with the more dominantly green sections. Furthermore, the sound was cut to fit the video transition; but there are mixes of continuous tones/versions of the audio, the transition between the soundscapes was designed match the video. And, whereas most of the other projections (and to be fair, most of my abstract video work) there is an explicit cut in the process of the film; as it faded between the two shots relatively fluidly, it was designed not to be a focal point in the film. A notorious example of the edit can be found in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, where the new form of cut-jump editing was very much a character of the film) though it nevertheless goes further to draw attention to the multiplicity of digital mediation and the possibility for multiple simultaneous viewpoints. Nevertheless, the main intention of this experiment was to explicitly reconnect the immaterial and digital with the bodily and the physical, whilst communicating passive suggestions surrounding cybernetics, anthropomorphic computing, and pivotally, the computer interface as a supplement for face-to-face communication. As well as potentially problematic nature of such supplementation, in that even though “soon personal computers will have memories that will handle far more than any possible amount of information that could be generated by a homeowner,” [Defleur, 1989; 330] that “in terms of stimuli richness, no other medium is able to beat […] the ‘total’ experience of humans and their face-to-face communications.” [Dijk, 1991: 177, 201-202]

Overall, this experiment of projecting and refilming from the body proved potentially fruitful, though the specific composition of footage, projection and so forth leave much to be desired, and would be impractical for longer periods of display, but could serve as documentation for an interaction/performance.


 

 

Field Screen Projection

Projecting the Field animation onto a computer screen.

By projecting onto a surface that usually is the source of digital representation, it could be seen that I was inverting the function of the screen. Rather than emitting light and images, it became a receptacle. However, this means of display and creating new footage had much of the same problems of the original. Despite the changed dynamics of the video in its foreshortened recontextualisation, the film still failed to be a source of intrigue for a potential audience, in that not enough happened, and the banality of the scene was not validated by the remediation.

Although the deliberate misuse of the television as a surface was potentially interesting, with this video it was not a successful execution of the idea. I did try projecting another one of my films onto the screen, but it added very little to the piece. Nevertheless, this could function quite effectively as a means of displaying images, as it is a improper use of technology that satirises/questions the materiality and function of the visual media.

The audio for this variation was intended to sound especially ominous and organic, as if one were listening to alien creatures talking amongst themselves whilst on board a space ship, or some other equally unearthly scenario. This was done so as to correspond to the bizarre shifting computer components from the film. For this, I again modified the noise-reduced speech from the Field Talk video.

Field Screen Projection Stills

Field Screen Projection Stills


 

Field Skeleton Silhouette Projection

Projecting the Field animation around a skeleton onto various walls.

One of the more obvious means of distorting the footage was to project it around the various surfaces of the room I was working in. However, to make the process more interesting, and to suggest a memento mori, I used the silhouette of the plastic skeleton to modify the projection.

A problem with this film was that it was highly underexposed; even after increasing the exposure, on some screens large sections appear as total darkness, with only the rippling sound sustaining the continuity of the video. Moreover, as in the Skin projection, there are numerous cuts, though this was explicitly intended as a series of tests for display, abstracting the video through imposing it over fractured, angular surfaces. Thus, its functions more as a show reel than a single film.

Another unfortunate factor in this film is the aforementioned stuck pixel in the bottom right of the screen. As in this video, I was filming from a non-static position, and due to my lack of a steady hand (even with the aid of a tripod) it was necessary to apply image stabilization in the post-production, to reduce the more sudden movements. However, as the footage is effectively; in a state of constant flux in order to compensate for the shifting frame, it is the stuck pixel that thus appears to a dynamic object, moving around the frame considerably. I attempted to compensate for this, but as this was a lesser work, I was not too concerned about removing it completely; which would require key-framed, pixel-specific colour correction, of for me to manually desaturation the red tones, both of which were too time consuming.

Field Skeleton Silhouette [Projection] [Stills]

Field Skeleton Silhouette [Projection] [Stills]


 

 

Field Bricks Projection

Projecting the Field animation onto Lego bricks.

 

This seemed to be one of the more visually successful and aesthetically pleasing projection experiments made using the Field animation. The small scale amplified the movement of the circuit board components (this may have been furthered by the increased speed of the footage, as much as the concentrated surface area) making the video more dynamic. Therefore, an audience may be more inclined to watch it for an extended period, expecting a change towards something else, when in fact it goes only back to its start, fading into a silent darkness; like a daylight cycle. There also seemed to be a greater tonal range in the layers of the video, with the most opaque areas reflecting more light on the plastic surface. The audio in this film was heavily edited to modulate and flux more prominently, to add the squelching near-organic drone, though fades out with the video.

I positioned the bricks at a low angle in front of the projector, attached to black sugar paper, to give the Lego a contrasting background that would respond the colours with more subdued tones than on the blue plastic surface. Also, the toy bricks were stacked in a staircase like formation to vary the composition an to produce a more varied surface for the projection, with areas of solid shadow, and sections of the underside of the bricks facing the camera, but only a very small are in focus. The most focused sections fell diagonally across the three, from bottom left up to the top right, following the stacked formation.

However, the footage does have the problem of flickering, due to the lack of synchronisation between the camera shutter speed and the projector’s refresh rate, which resulted in rapidly flashing bands of light appearing to move upwards, producing a rolling shutter effect. Though this was unintended, it does further the hypermediacy of the video, and reduces ‘realistic’ representation of moving images (as healthy eyes tend not to see such flickering images, due to the calibration of projectors and other technologies to work with the eye rather than with each other). Nevertheless, it provides another curious layer to the optical happenings of the video (like the bioluminescent flashes of the photoproteins generated by certain deep-sea jellyfish; organic but seemingly fantastical and alien).

 

Field Bricks Projection [Stills]
Field Bricks Projection [Stills]

 


 

Field Lego Micro Projection

Projecting the Field animation onto Lego bricks.

Here, I was again trying to experiment with splitting the frame by the use of contrasting surfaces and varied lighting dynamics (passingly influenced b the observational constructions of Saul Leiter’s photography). As nearly half of the frame is total darkness, and only a small amount of the frame as projected on the bricks is in focus for both the camera and projector.

Although it did not detract too much from the content, this video had the same problem as the other micro/macro projections, in that image from the projector was not synchronised to the camera, producing the flickering rolling shutter effect. Furthermore, I also knocked the camera near the start of the video, disrupting the stability of the gaze, though decided to leave this in the film because then it could play through the full animated cycle.

In this experiment the texture of the scratches and marks on the Lego are shown in more clarity, and the angle of the light catches the minute ridges of the deformed plastic, thereby highlighting them. Moreover, the acute angle of projection and low depth of field meant that the colour varies from yellow-green to cyan-blue, as the blurred footage dissolves into ambient light. There was also a small amount of light on the top four ridges of the stack of Lego bricks that suggests the nature of their plastic form, rather than just being a non-specific segment surface, thereby alluding to the pedagogically loaded form of the construction toy.

Field Lego Projection Stills

Field Lego Projection Stills


 

Field Lego Kaleidoscopic

Projecting the Field animation onto Lego bricks, with a kaleidoscopic effect.

For this video, I modified the Lego Micro Projection heavily to produce a more experimental composition using the same basic elements. This involved enlarging the central section of the frame to fill more of the screen, before using the kaleidoscope effect in Final Cut. I also used another version of the footage, with the out of focus area of the Lego brick enlarged so that it could fill the background, which I then combined with the other layers to produce a single film that filled the screen, offsetting the digitally generated and optical effects against one another.

This variation is quite distant from the original animation, and seems more like a hypnotic tunnel of light, similar to the ascending heavenly angels in Gustave Doré’s White Rose, though replacing spirituality with digitality. To further this otherworldly atmosphere, I also added more reverb to the sound to give a warm timbre. However, despite some of its curious visual properties, this video is still unnecessarily monotonous and an aesthetic novelty.

e some of its curious visual properties, this video is still unnecessarily monotonous and an aesthetic novelty.

Field Lego Kaledescope Stills

Field Lego Kaledescope Stills

 


Field Talk

Projecting the Field animation onto myself whilst discussing the process. The sound from this film was subsequently used for the other Field films.

 

Projecting the Field animation onto myself whilst discussing the process. The sound from this film was subsequently used for the other Field films.

For this, I described the practical process of creating the basic animation for the Field film whilst the film was projected onto me, so that I became part of the work, as a means of generating new imagery and as an experiment in display and performance. I then took the audio and applied a range of delay and modulation effects, playing it at various speeds, so that the main voice can be heard, with ghostly whispers and hallucinatory howls

Unfortunately, I was interrupted whilst making this video, so I had cut it short; though it still seems to get the point across. Thus, I cut the film immediately after saying “became blank”, adding a structuralist element to the composition, as if the figure was controlling the camera through their speech.

However, this is not as overtly as in John Smith’s The Girl Chewing Gum, where the narrator describes what is happening and what is about to happen in the film, as the camera slowly pans following figures on the street, as if the voice is directing the happenings. Though as there are chance elements in the film, such as the presence of animals, and other components that reveal that the film is not as it appears to be, the voice is not in control, it is in response, applied retrospectively, and this is gradually related to the audience, making them chronically aware of the remediation of the footage.

Whereas in Film Talk, the mediation is not only present through the description, but also the interaction between the figure featured and the image, in a similar way to Andrea Fraser’s Art Must Hang, repeatedly showing something, and explicitly making reference to how it was previously shown, disturbing the verisimilitude and abstract narrative further by making it self-aware. In other words, making it overly self-critical, the film structure is thereby what is critical, more than the subject of the video itself is. Nevertheless, the footage is also a querying of media, and the physicality of the representation and the materiality of the electronic image.

Field Talk [Stills]
Field Talk [Stills]


 

Reference:

  • Defleur, M. and Ball-Rokeach, S. (1989) Theories of Mass Communication. New York: Longman.
  • Dijk, Jan Van (1991). Network Society, Social Aspects of the New Media. 1999 Edition. SAGE Publications Ltd.
  • Hunt, Jamer. Nervous Systems and Anxious Infrastructures. Citing Freud, Sigmund (1919) The Uncanny. In Antonelli, Paola, 2011. Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • Ritchen, Fred. (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen. 1st Edition. Aperture.
  • Van Dijk, Jan A G M (1991). Network Society, Social Aspects of the New Media. 1999 Edition. SAGE Publications Ltd.

 

 

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