Alternate Ending

•May 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Wha?  A new blog post…but….but…you said…I know, but I was reminded after our last class that there were a few things left unsaid in terms of what the heck you could do now with all your newfound wisdom and finished video pieces. 
Sure, you could hunk your videos up on youtube – the digital equivalent of hurling a bottle into the sea, but there are other options, should you choose to explore them:

www.withoutabox.com

This is the site to become familiar with if you’re interested in applying to festivals in the future.  It is a clearinghouse of thousands of festivals (there really are simply too many festivals) where you can search, browse and generally be overwhelmed by all the places you can send a submission fee.  Best of all, you only need to put in your film’s information once – rather than the old method of downloading forms for each festival and filing them out by hand.  There is also an option for uploading your film so you don’t even need to head to the post office.  Warning – it can be addictive and horrendously expensive. 

Here’s a strategy I think works: 

First go to websites of independent filmmakers you like. 

(if you don’t know who you like yet check out:  www.expcinema.com,

www.marthacolburn.com

http://apecosmonauts.com/

www.poisonberries.net/

www.tscherkassky.at/

www.sometimesonsundays.com – hey, I gotta plug myself at some point, right?  BTW a new, much better looking site is coming)

On the filmmakers’ sites, go to their film page or awards section or something like that and see which festivals they enter.  It will give you a good idea of which fests will get you the kind of exposure you want.

Then go to withoutabox and look up those festivals to see when the submission deadlines are, if they require premier status, etc…Then you can make a more educated decision about where to spend your hard earned money. 

A potentially cheaper route is to go to clearinghouse sites that specialize in non-US festivals.  For some reason (cough, respect for art, cough), festivals outside the USA are often subsidized by the government and require no entry fee.  The only costs you’ll incur are the steep international shipping fees (they’re not that bad) – just remember to always write “For Cultural Purposes Only – No Commercial Value” on the envelope when you send in your submission DVD.  In addition to saving foreign festivals any import duties, writing “No Commercial Value” over and over and over again will give you a great sense of your value.  The two sites I use are:

www.reelport.com  (which allows you to submit your movie electronically for a small fee for a truly easy submission experience)

www.shortfilmdepot.com

You can also research foreign and domestic film festivals to your heart’s content at:

www.britfilms.com/festivals/browse/

In addition to film festivals, there are also plenty of opportunities to screen your work at “open screening” events and “microcinemas”.  Like open mic poetry slams, you can bring your film/video and show them, watch what other people are doing and talk to the filmmakers afterwards.  As you might imagine, the quality can vary wildly.  Here’s one right in Boston that meets the 2nd Tuesday every month:

http://www.coolidge.org/openscreen

And here’s a handy map of the country that shows you various open screenings/microcinemas:

http://www.wayfaring.com/maps/show/1151

Lastly, there are distribution centers where you can have your work archived and sometimes rented by the curious.  While these places mainly benefit you if you are already “established”, they’re something to think about if you want to archive your work away from where you live – kind of like protection in case your house burns down.  Please, quit smoking – you will burn your house down.

www.cfmdc.org/

www.anthologyfilmarchives.org/membership/

www.vdb.org/

For those of you interested in getting more experience on shoots, meeting other filmmakers, and generally being in on the “scene”, there are many, many websites that can hook you up with other likeminded folks.  Two of them here in the Boston area are:

www.beanywood.com

www.newenglandfilm.com/

But pretty much wherever you live, a quick google search will find you a local organization that lists events, a job board, etc…

And if you’re really stuck – ask me.  What?  Sure!  This weblog will never die (until the sun goes red giant and fries the earth to a hard carbon cinder) and so you can post any comment and it will email me automatically.  I don’t know if I’ll always be able to answer a question, but perhaps I’ll know some way to find out.  Also, it would be nice to hear about your progress out in the weird world. 

Okay, be good out there!

David Baeumler

Final Countdown

•April 22, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Bye-bye web lectures! Sayonara esoteric palaver! Step off arty video links! There is nothing more I can teach you, my intro to video classonauts. And so, I hand this video weblog over to you. That’s right, it’s yours – pink slip and all – no, no, I don’t want it anymore, really, you can have it.

And what does that mean exactly? It means over the next couple weeks, this is your place to get up with each other about editing questions, camera needs, chicken wing recipes – you name it. I encourage you all to check here often to see if anyone needs advice or last minute help.

Also here is the checklist of how to save your quicktimes of all your projects and video journals:

1. Open your sequence
2. In the sequence menu choose “render all” > “render both” (or apple R)
3. From the File menu chose “export” > “quicktime conversion”
4. Name the file your exporting with your lastname and the project number (i.e: Baeumler_project2.mov) and place it into a folder on the desktop with your name
5. Export the file with the default settings
6. Open your .mov files in your folder with quicktime to make sure there is video and audio

Remember you need 4 projects (and project 3 needs a 3A and 3B) and at least 2 video journals for a complete portfolio. You also need to hand in a written journal that contains your overheard dialog and plot sparks (in a written/typed hard copy or electronic word doc) and a personal evaluation of how you think you did in the class (about a page either written/typed or word doc). Eli will be available to make sure all this is done correctly before May 2nd.

It truly has been a pleasure teaching you all this semester – I look forward to seeing your completed work. Please feel free to get up with me now or in the future with your questions. I’m out!

David Baeumler

Two Beep

•April 14, 2008 • 5 Comments

Holy cow! Just two classes left. Kinda blows your mind, right?

First I wanted to thank you guys for making Tony Flackett feel so welcome in class – I appreciate how responsive you all are in asking questions and being engaged with his work. If you want to check out his website – and the dioramas he’s currently doing (which our connection in class wouldn’t allow us to see) here it is:

www.djflack.com

Again, I want to remind everyone that on our last class (May 2nd) you will need to present these things in your portfolio:

1. Full Size Quicktime Versions of all 4 of your projects & your two video journals (yes, it’s down to only two now!) Since our computers do not have DVD recorders in them, you can make a folder on the desktop with your name and the Quicktimes – I will bring in a hard drive to collect them. Some of your projects might have multiple versions (i.e.: Project 3) make a separate quicktime for each version and label them accordingly. If you reworked your projects (say, after we talked about it) you can include the different versions, or submit the one you want me to consider for your final portfolio. Project 3 should have 2 separate versions though. Remember, you can also do additional Video journals if you feel your grade is in jeopardy. I know we usually view the video journals on tape – but please digitize them so you can give me quicktime versions. If you have been editing on your own system, bring in your quicktimes on a non-authored DVD. I will go over the quicktime export procedures in class on Friday.

2. Written journal in a word document or an easy to read handwritten journal. The written journal should include overheard dialog from throughout the semester and your plot sparks/interests. The more the better.

3. A word doc / typed personal evaluation. This should be about 1 page and should explain what you got out of the class and how you feel you did (i.e. what you need to work on, what progress you made, etc…) If this is confusing, please get up with me about it.

Please remember, there is no final exam – just these three things that must be turned in on May 2nd or you will get an incomplete. I will not be available to get any work from you after May 2nd – so do not leave these things until the last minute.

For our web assignment this week – I’m a putting up a grab bag of different videos for you to check out. Please watch a few of them (or all of them, if you’re keen) and post a comment on at least one of them. Here they are:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxz4BGKr8U8 – A Year of Time lapse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxxUJhL3zcU – Cottonmouth, TX

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zR_PmItubgE&feature=related – Photocopy cha cha

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VugLUa47sLI – Good Boy / Bad Boy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDuvLc_FAXE&feature=related – The Art of Bruce Nauman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5PD5fznJsU – The Boy Who Was Dubbed

http://www.vasulka.org/Videomasters/pages_stills/index_36.html – In the Land of the Elevator Girls (or anything from the vasulka.org site)

http://www.paikstudios.com/gallery/gallery_index.html – Nam June Paik’s website – no videos, just look at the galleries of his installations and despair!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r01a4MJ7N9s&feature=related – Evil of Dracula

Okay,
Daveb

Trim Edit

•April 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I want to take a moment to talk about the documentary project because I think there was some flummoxing going on – some napkin twisting and dark nights of the soul. There were, naturally, several things I didn’t have time to talk about when we had our class on documentaries – and there were certain things I wanted you to discover for yourself. I think you learned certain lessons:

1. To cover an event you need to shoot some things in real time (i.e.: lectures, performances, etc…) and pick up others as “b-roll” to add visual interest to the piece.
2. You need to find ways to break up that real time element with your b-roll so that you still get the flow of what’s happening. (i.e.: the cutaways Connor used during the musical performance while keeping the audio of the singer going; Brandon’s interview footage mixed in with the comedians)

I think we saw some good examples of how juxtaposing elements give a more complete document of an event – and allow you (and the audience) to make connections to guide us through the “story” of the event.

However, I’m not sure I was clear enough about the purpose of the “chronological” version I asked everyone to edit.

Documentaries – as some of you have discovered – are hard. What makes them hard? You shoot a ton of stuff and then need to put it together in an interesting way. This is essentially like life itself. To tell someone the complete story of your life, you would need at least as long as the number of years you’ve lived to do it. But this would be a tragically boring story to hear (no offense meant – my life story is also full of waiting for buses, shopping for toothpaste and sleeping). What we all do, is tell the big events of our lives – or our days – to other people. We boil down things down into the essence of what we think others would be interested to hear.

With a documentary, you need to boil down all the footage you’ve taken into what is interesting to you – and your audience. This means you must find the essence of the event you’ve documented. Before you sit down to cut, you should say out loud to someone – here’s what happened at the event I just shot. What did you tell them? What did you leave out? Ah-ha! Did you talk about your walk to the bus stop? The foot tapping you did while you waited around? The meandering you did while you looked for something interesting? No. You filtered down the story to what you thought was cool or gross or important or ridiculous.

When you do this, you give your story a shape. It is your take on what happened. As Bill Pullman says in “Lost Highway”, “I want to remember things my own way – not necessarily the way they happened”.

So why the “chronological” edit, Professor B? Yo? What up with that?! Why not just do the documentary my own way? Well, okay, I’ll tell you. The chrono edit was supposed to be the “telling your friend” edit. The one where you figured out – “here are the main things that happened that I thought were interesting.” I wanted it to be chronological so that you had a starting point – a framework to say: first this happened, then this, than that. Highlights in order.

Then the second edit was supposed to be a contrast to the straight story. Sometimes we want our life story to be different – luckily for us, lies were created for that purpose. In documentary, editing was invented for the same goal. In the second edit, I wanted you to be able to play with the highlights you found and re-order them into how you think the event should have happened.

Remember the video by Marc Adrian of the Stadtwerkstatt art installation? He went around and shot an event – setting up an art installation. Now were he to do a chronological edit, he would’ve shown the smoke coming out of the big air cannon, the women standing in the room being blasted by air, the artists setting up the hospital beds, etc…And he would’ve taken the audio of the man introducing the art exhibit and put together the highlights.

What we saw was his mash up. The made motion out of stasis by flipping the shots and alternating between them. He went backwards and forwards in time to stress certain elements and audio phrases. He shaped the piece to say: you should not document art – you should make art from art.

So for those of you who haven’t shown your chrono edits – find the essence first and show the highlights in order. For those of you who haven’t shown your “personal” versions – take the next step and figure out how this event made you feel. Did you like it, did you hate it, what would have made it more interesting. Would it have stopped dead at one moment while someone starts screaming off screen? What lie could you tell about this event that would make it more interesting to you and to your audience?

If you were one of the rare, blessed few who showed both cuts – think about your project. Were both versions as interesting to watch as they could be? Is there something else you could cut out to get to the highlights. Were there things you realized while you showed the audience that you would do differently? If so – please, please, please go back and edit them some more. Your final portfolio grade depends on turning in exceptional work – not just something you got done for class.

The best story tellers know when to jump ahead in time, and when to jump back. How do they know how and when to do it? They have a guiding theme. In “The Iliad”, Homer doesn’t start with Helen getting stolen from her husband and the Greeks going to sack the city of Troy to get her back. Yes, this makes chronological sense – and it would even be a good story. What makes the Iliad a great story, is that we start 10 years into the war with Achilles being pissed off about his role in the fight. First it jumps us into the story – which engages the reader. Second, it tells us that this story is not about a war to retrieve a woman – it is a story about how anger destroys everything. The rest of the story becomes revisions on that theme.

So the guiding principles are these: Find what interests you. Condense it to its essence. Discover why what you’ve chosen interests you – this will make you find the theme. Use the theme to guide your film/video/whatever.

Lastly, think of the audience when you work on a documentary (or anything, really). I’m not asking you to pander to an audience, but film/video is an audience medium. You are not making these videos solely “for yourself” – you will foist them on other people. Just as you wouldn’t tell your friends a long drawn out story about everything you did that day, your audience doesn’t want to see long drawn out shots that don’t lead somewhere. You are asking them to sit through your video for a certain duration – make that duration worthwhile. We will all die far too soon – make the stories you tell worth the time we spend listening to them.

Okay – I will not give you a web assignment – your assignment is to finish your assignments. Make them great.

David

Time Base Corrector

•March 31, 2008 • 6 Comments

I’m glad that so many of you were able to make it to the David Claerbout show at MIT – I really enjoyed too.  There was a lot to think about it in there – time moving forward, time standing still, how we interact with a medium that is essentially time-based in a gallery setting.  I was very glad to see everyone so engaged in the different pieces too and coming up with so many good insights. 

As I mentioned, it would be great if each of you could post at least one of the observations you made on site – your first impression of a piece and then your thoughts after you read the pamphlet statement. 

Another thing I wanted to point out about the show is how several of the pieces really were pretty intrinsic to video, rather than film.  Certainly, you could shoot “Bordeaux Piece” on film – but a 13 hour film would be very cost prohibitive – a piece like “The Stack” (with the man under the overpass) would not only expensive to do, but with a continuous 36 minute shot it wouldn’t be possible without changing rolls.  That would mean you’d lose some time on the change – maybe not enough to see the cut, but since the point is seeing continuous change over time, you might lose the effect.

So while video gets a bad rap as being cheesy or not as “artistic” as film – we’ve seen several examples of thought provoking art that relies on video.  The pieces like “Vietnam”, “Shadow Piece” and “Kindergarten…” are also easier to do in video because of the compositing required.  In film, you’d need to digitize the film, edit it, composite the elements with software and then print back to film.  Again, time consuming and expensive. 

I think the subject of time suits video very well because you can let the camera roll for extended periods of time without cutting or being too worried about cost.  I also really like the idea of breaking down a moment into many separate elements – highlighting certain things and making other things go away.  The piece “Sections of a Happy Moment” is a good study in this.  You may have noticed how Claerbout showed a wide shot and then would go in close on a person’s face.  While some of this was done through shots from different cameras, some of it was also done thanks to the resolution of video.

You see, video resolution (let’s talk standard definition for awhile) is 72 dots per inch (dpi) with a pixel size of 720×480.  So, if you take a digital photo at a resolution of 300 dpi also at 720×480 you can zoom into that photo nearly 4x without the image looking all pixely.  And if you take a digital photo at 300 dpi with a much bigger pixel size (like 3000×1688) you can zoom in a lot more without getting all pixely.  So this gives you the ability to show a wide shot of a still image and zoom in close, or be tight on it and move across it (like our friend Ken Burns).  There’s all sorts of interesting things you can do with still images in video – so perhaps we’ll take a look at that in class on Friday.

Okay, one other thing I’d like you to do before class on Friday (but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it) is to check out this site:

http://www.clarkandmichael.com/

Scroll down to the bottom of the side bar and watch Episode 1.  If you like Arrested Development (or are a fan of Michael Cera) you’re in for a treat.  What I’d like you to do is think about this phenomenon of “webisodes” – television created for the web.  What is it’s aesthetic?  Who is making it?  Who is watching it?  Is it a fad or is it a new form of entertainment? 

No need to post anything about it – unless the spirit moves you – but I’d like to talk about it in class.

Okay, thanks again for a great field trip.

David

Non Drop Frame

•March 24, 2008 • 9 Comments

We’re switching gears.  That’s right.  Theory time is over – put it to bed, read it “The Giving Tree” and shut off the lights.  Now we’re in practical city.
Phew – I think I mixed about ten metaphors there.  But it’s true.  I think we’ve covered a lot of conceptual ground over the first half of the semester, but I’m not sure we’ve completely addressed the technical side of things.  While the projects you turned in (and will hopefully turn in as the case may be) were technically solid, I think we can do a bit more with the nuts and bolts of how to use the cameras and the editing software. 

I’ve been debating with myself on how to do this.  The logical, pants-one-leg-at-a-time Me thought that putting together teams of people at different experience levels would help everybody learn from each other.  Now the wavy-thinking, 12-minutes-into-the-future Me is considering a new approach.  This wild-eyed Me has discovered that mixed-level groups – when thrown into a time maxed out situation – end up relying on the most experienced members to push all the buttons so the project gets finished on time.  There might be some osmosis learning with this approach, but probably not a lot that sticks. 

So the new Me is thinking – let’s try groups of similar experience levels – at least during class time.  That means I’ll go around and teach the beginners how to do the basic stuff, the intermediates how to raise their game, and the experienced folks how to experiment with totally new stuff.  Then I’ll bounce around among the groups to see what’s what.  Sound fun?  We’ll see.

This means we’re going to need you to bring in your documentary footage to class on Friday.  I mean, you were supposed to anyway, but if you don’t well, we won’t have anything to work with and we’ll all go silly with fear.  Now, we probably won’t be able to load up all your footage (since class would be long over by the time we did) but we’ll get into our new groups and capture as much as we can. 

Before we strike out into this absurd new land of production, I do want you to keep thinking about different ways to make videos.  To that end, I want you all to go to this website:

http://www.dukeandbattersby.com/m-video.html

On it, you’ll see a bunch of videos by the contemporary videomaking team of Duke and Battersby.  I want you to pick one video, watch it and post a comment back on this site about it.  You don’t have a reading assignment this week, so consider this your reading assignment. 

There’s only one weird thing about the site – when you click “watch” from the site above, it will take you to a page with a movie player – however, it doesn’t play the video you selected from the previous page – just the first one on the list (called “A Year in the Life of the World Demo).  So, just make sure you remember the name of the piece you intend to watch, so when you get to that second page, you can click on the right one from the menu.  Confused yet?  You’ll get it!

ALSO – since Caitlin and Joe have already commented on the piece called “The Fine Arts”, let’s have everyone choose a different video to review.  While it’s a good piece, I think Caitlin and Joe have given terrific insights already.   

What do I want you to comment about?  Well – what you thought about the video, sure – but not just your opinion.  I want you to talk about what the piece was trying to say and what techniques it used to get its themes across.  I’d suggest not choosing any from the series called “New Freedom Founders” simply because it was originally a three-channel installation for a gallery, and I’m not sure the piece will make complete sense watching the video feeds one at a time.

Okay – so that’s the assignment.  Watch one video and write a paragraph about it on the weblog.  My god – what an easy class you have!  It’s sick with easy-os-ity!

By the way, Lost Highway just came out on DVD this week in the USA – strange timing.

Alright,

Dave

Rewind

•March 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

After you float through the dizzying haze of Spring Break, take some time to rewind back through the web log posts and the reading assignments.  Along with our discussions in class, these readings will be form the basis of the mid-term test taking place on March 21st. 

 See you soon!

David