Time Base Corrector

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:


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.



~ by sosundays on March 31, 2008.

6 Responses to “Time Base Corrector”

  1. On Vietnam 1967:

    The subtle shifts in light and shadow on the hills and on the underbelly of the plane itself suggest to me that for the moment the plane broke apart time within the wreck stopped. I’m thinking in a magical realist sense, where a fragment of time can be subjectified (as opposed to objectified) and therefore last an infinite amount of time relative to the subject (as opposed to relative to the physics-governed “reality”). For the pilot, who may or may not still be alive (when the photo was taken), this is the single most important moment in his existence: a fragment of time that goes on forever. (Claerbout’s description says little about the meaning of this piece).

    On Sections of a Happy Moment 2007:

    I don’t know how he did it, but this piece seems to represent and reproduce the same singular moment from a multitude of almost time and space-controlling vantage points. This is a fleeting moment in a time of happiness for this family, but on the other hand the moment has been corrupted by the infiltration of the voyeuristic camera, however hidden from view or obscured by space and the surrounding buildings. (It seems Claerbout was going for something along these lines, a dichotomy between intimacy and publicity, freedom and domination, etc)

  2. After seeing all of the pieces at MIT the “Shadows” piece was my favorite. Before reading the handout on the exhibit – I walked in and sat in front of the huge screen projecting footage of a door from the top of a staircase. I had no idea what the title was or what it was about, but I felt it had to do with the facial expressions of the people trying to get in and realize that the door was locked. Once I read the packet I realized I was to focus on the shadows, which made a lot more sense and was much more enjoyable. The shadows formed characters all by themselves which was a very interesting and creative approach. Overall I found the exhibit to be very well-done, I especially enjoyed the way in which they were presented; being projected on those enormous screens.

  3. The Shadow Piece was also my favorite. As I mentioned at MIT, I feel as if the viewer feels a sense of satisfaction when watching the people and the reactions they have when they try to open the door. The reasons why I think this are because, while people are trying to desperately get inside this place, you the viewer are already inside, making you feel ‘exclusive.’ Also, you have these doors that act as a window to the outside where you see people, and in turn they cannot see you. I thought aesthetically that this piece was wonderful, the lines of the piece and the stairwell lead the viewers eye right to the doors. And lastly, I noticed that everything is mostly of square shape making an agitated look that connects the audience to the agitated feeling of the people trying to open the door.

  4. Sections of a Happy Moment
    Unlike the majority of the installations at this exhibit, the basic concept of this piece was made apparent almost immediately to viewer. Only a few seconds after I began observing this piece, I came to feel that I understood what it was providing me with: several images taken from numerous perspectives of the same subject. This is not to say that the reason I felt this was one of the better exhibits because it was easily comprehensible. The opposite actually happens to be true and this is why… After having observed the piece for more than 5 minutes I became overwhelmed with a feeling of dread. For some reason the intensive focus on a seemingly banal everyday occurrence of human interaction forced me into an uncomfortable, almost horrifying awareness of the speed at which time its self evaporates. Eventually I had to stop looking at the piece due to the discomfort it provided me with.

    Though I have no idea if this was intended by the artist, it did not seem to matter to me, as I was very impressed with the level of stress it was able to evoke in me.
    The pamphlet highlighted the artist’s intent to show a serene moment within the dark reality of cramped housing within communist china. To me this had little to no relevance in comparison to my own personal interpretation.

  5. Vietnam 1967
    When I originally saw this piece I was instantly captivated by the strong and frightening image before me. When I sat down to watch the screen, I noticed that the colors were changing in the image ever so slightly. I initially thought that the artist had done this in editing, changing the colors to alter the mood and the perception of the piece within the audience. As the colors got darker, the scene got more intense and frightening, as the colors shifted to more neon greens, I did not feel as much immediate horror for the plane, as he was at least suspended in air on a beautiful day.
    Later, while reading over the caption for this piece, I learned that the change in lighting was actually a natural affect. The artist filmed the valley where the crash took place 33 years after the incident. He filmed the changing light throughout the day during the month of November when the light is particularly theatrical. Its kind of incredible how varying the lighting was. It was hard for me to believe that it was natural.
    I liked this piece the most out of all of David Claerbout’s work at the MIT show. I liked that it was simple, it did not play too much with various video techniques as some of the others did. I also liked that the piece let you imagine, to some degree, what was happening. Who the people were inside the plane, and what had happened to them was free range for your imagination. I really thought it was a quite beautiful piece.

  6. Quite overdue, but I thought I would take a moment to reflect on “Sections of a Happy Moment”. This particular piece, as Jake discussed, is in some way bizarely uncomfortable due to its simplicity. But what struck me so profoundly, was perhaps the mode the film took to fixate on a number of different characters, invoking entirely different emotions and storylines. Look at the distant picture and you see a group of people standing around watching two kids throw a ball, a man walking into a building, all while amidst a seemingly empty terrain. From a broad scope, the scene is what it is: people in an open terrain watching kids throw a ball. But go closer. By focusing on each character individually, I suddenly began to feel like the piece represented an entirely different image, that couldn’t be summed up in its entirety in one open shot. From the perspective of the young boy, we see this child-like innocence, total involvment in the ball he’s throwing, and genuine pleasure for being in the monent. But swtich to the father figure behind him; he’s got a blank distant stare towards the ball in midair that provokes a sort of eerie tension. It makes us wonder, “Is this guy feeling the same thing as the kid? Does this moment mean something different for him? There’s something that image isn’t telling me!” Cut to the man walking towards the building; we are immediately pulled from the distant picture of a happy moment, to wonder “Who is this guy, and what’s his story? Does he have any relationship to these people? Is he homeless? Envious?” The more and more I watched this piece, the more and more confused I became. I wanted to know more than the picture was telling me. I wanted to know the people; I wanted to know their motives and what they weren’t telling me. The iconic shot I initially thought summed up the piece, had suddenly dismantled, rearranged, and morphed into a multi-faceted, hodge podge of individual character emotions that told entirely different stories….

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