Scan Lines

•March 3, 2008 • 2 Comments

So, we’re back to the argument:  Film vs. Video, eh?   

In class we talked about three different ways video distinguishes itself from film.  While these are not the only differences, I want to use them as points of departure for exploring what makes video video.  To recap:

 1.  Video Aesthetic. 

Video (particularly before the new high def movement) is pixely and based on scan lines of resolution. 

Film, as we know is a chemical process which has “grain” instead of pixels.  Artists who want to exploit the film medium for its particular texture will often accentuate the grain – by shooting a fast grainy stock,  by blowing up 8mm to 16mm or 35mm or through a process known as optical printing.  In optical printing, a film camera is hooked up to a projector and allows the filmmaker to copy a piece of film.  This was usually done for effects purposes:  you could shoot 100 feet of film of a man running through a field of cabbages at normal speed, then use an optical printer to copy each frame three times – effectively giving you 300 feet of film of that original shot in slow motion.  But this process also accentuates the grain of the film – much like a Xerox copy will look different than an original.  So filmmakers who purposefully wanted to get a grainy look, could use the optical printer to explore how far they want to push that effect.

The same thing can be done in video to accentuate the pixels and scan lines in video and this is known as “rescanning”.  (I’m sorry that we weren’t quite set up to do this exercise in class on Friday, but I hope to start with it this week.)  Basically, we take a shot of video – say, a dragonfly on a tuna fish sandwich  – and play it back on a television monitor.  While playing this back, we shoot the TV screen.  The image of the dragonfly in this second recording will be more pixely and the scan lines will be more evident.  We can also zoom in to different parts of the screen or shoot it off angle to distort the image.  Then we swap tapes – we play the rescanned image on the TV and shoot it with the camera.  Now, the dragonfly becomes more abstract, the colors bleed and shift – things get weird.  We can continue to swap tapes and do more and more rescan “generations”.  We are pushing the boundaries of the video image. 

Why?  Because it allows us to discover the unique properties of video.  Just as painters explore different mediums and techniques to get different effects, we need to see what the inherent qualities of video are to exploit them. 

Another aspect of aesthetics is the motion of film vs. the motion of video.  Now, while we know that film is 24 frames per second while video is roughly 30 frames per second – there is another difference which is key.  Film is mechanical – a strip of film is advanced frame by frame with a motor and gears.  Each frame is exposed separately – hold a strip of film to the light and you’ll see little pictures of a man running through a cabbage patch – and is projected with a flicker as the shutter opens and closes.  This creates a very specific feeling – something that we can even distinguish when films are transferred to video. 

Video is electronic – there are no real “frames” on the magnetic tape, just the assignment of numbers on a control track.  Rip out the tape from a cassette and hold it to the light and you won’t see a dragonfly on a sandwich – you’ll see bupkis.  There is a kind of flicker associated with video, but this is because video scan lines are being “drawn” on the screen in alternating odd and even “fields”.  It’s more of a pulse than a flicker.  The motion of video itself is more “realistic” looking because instead of a series of absolutely still images being projected (like in film), the illusion of motion is being  created by a constant reprocessing of electric impulses.  This is more similar to how our eyes and brains work – though with woefully less resolution – so it seems more “real”

We can also push the limits of this motion through rescanning.  While we playback the dragonfly footage, we can pause it and advance it slowly – subsequent generations will accentuate the unique motion of video.  And we can use the camera’s high speed shutter features to explore motion effects both during initial capture and rescanning. 

 2.  Instantaneousness

A house explodes.  In the days before video, a film cameraman might have been around to shoot the ball of fire mushrooming from the roof – the blastwave of debris and glass catapulting screaming passersby into the air.  But then what?  He’s gotta take the film to a lab, get it processed, then printed, then transferred to video tape and delivered to the television station.  Will he make the 11 O’clock news?  Not if the bomber struck at half past eight. 

Today, a house could explode at any time day or night and you’ll see the carnage on the news, the internet, your mobile phone in a matter of minutes.  Heck, you might see it live.  While this instantaneousness is due to the technology of video (i.e.:  the digital format doesn’t need to be chemically processed and can be instantly transmitted) it has also created a new reality for us.  We expect to be able to see things as they happen – or very close to it.  This shortens the time between cause and effect.   A house explodes – people panic, rescue units respond, we all talk about it almost as soon as it happens. 

Now, films could always show us condensed cause and effect – cross cutting between a bank heist and police response;  a man goes to the airport and voilà  , he’s in Paris.  But we know this is artifice – a convention of storytelling.  With video, this feeling of instantaneousness is real – we are seeing events either as they happen or just after. 

So how can we use this?  I think video gives us the freedom to explore stories in themes in new ways:  the advent of stories told in “real time”, showing multiple angles of the same event, and pushing the limits of cause and effect until they overlap and even reverse – where people panic before the house actually explodes.  By drawing on both the technological and cultural expectations of video, you can create pieces that play with the fabric of time. 

 3.  Multiple Feeds

Yes, film is technically capable of having many concurrent images playing at the same time on the screen – picture in picture windows.  But video is really built for it.  It is inexpensive enough that you can afford to shoot the material needed for multiple images and on the technical side, even low end video editing programs can usually accommodate close to 100 layers of video. 

This allows a whole new kind of storytelling to emerge.  Remember how in Geoffrey Alan Rhodes’ film “Tesseract” we see Eadweard Muybridge on the train in the top right corner of the frame – we don’t know where he is going or when in the story this moment is taking place.  Then, over the course of that sequence, we see multiple windows that show his wife’s courtship with another man, her pregnancy, the nursing of her love child, and Muybridge’s discovery of the infidelity.  By the end of this efficient sequence, we realize the image of Muybridge on the train – which has been up there the entire time – is actually the last shot in terms of chronology.  He is on the train going to kill his wife’s lover. 

We can use multiple feeds in many ways with video.  It gives us another way to juxtapose shots rather than straight cuts – so the image of a politician and a turd can play side by side.  This gives us the metaphorical effect that used to be reserved for editing in a single frame.  We can also use it to show many times at once:   A house in all seasons, a bowl of fruit in 50 different states of decay, a marriage and a divorce simultaneously.  Or to create surrealistic images – a room with two windows – through one it is daylight, through the other it is night.  Or tint the same event in different colors like an Andy Warhol design – the possibilities are endless.

The other thing about multiple feeds that is appealing for video is its ability to constantly re-engage the viewer’s attention.  We originally talked about how film is shown in theatres – where you are focused on a screen in a dark room – while video is watched at home with lots of distractions in a semi-lit environment.  In order for video to hold our attention – it must come up with strategies to compete with the outside environment.  While faster cutting is one way to keep people engaged – the rise of the MTV style edit – there’s only so fast you can cut, and it’s exhausting to watch.  Multiple feeds on the other hand, allow viewers to choose where to point their attention and to make connection among pictures on the screen.

So, I’d like you to take some time to think about these 3 aspects of video so we can discuss them further in class on Friday.  In the coming weeks, I’d like you to take the first project you’ve done and re-edit it with some of these aspects in mind.  It will be your time to play and experiment with footage you are already familiar with in brand new ways that accentuate some of these video aspects.

I also want you to take a look at a couple sites:

First, I want to send you to a site dedicated to film and video maker Scott Stark.  I showed you a Scott Stark-esque video in class on youtube (the man shot from both side of the room and intercut back and forth every other frame).

Feel free to look at as much on this site as you want  – but there’s one thing in particular I wanted you to look at:  scroll down the page to the piece called “Angel Beach”.  Under the picture of the woman with her arms in the air, there is a link for “more animations”.  Stark made animations out stereo photographs he found in a bin at a thrift store.  First, a warning – these images were obviously originally taken by a voyeur on a beach, so if you’re easily offended, you can skip this –  but they’re pretty tame by today’s standards.  

Click on it and check it out.  Look at how Stark creates a bizarre kind of motion just by alternating between two similar images – or creates a spinning effect by cutting a few still images together.  He is exploiting our perception for a thematic/visceral effect.  It is simple, but at the same time exhilarating. 

Next, I’d like you to take a look at this clip from Filmmaker Abigail Child on youtube:

Ms. Child is an extraordinary filmmaker who happens to live in the Boston area.  And her editing – as shown in this piece – is a crazy, kinetic wonder of images and sound.  While this piece was done in film, it was way ahead of its time.  I think it embodies the kind of near-subliminal editing that has become accepted in our video world. 

For those of you interested to see how to get the minature effect we saw in that video on friday, here is a two minute tutorial of how it’s done in photoshop.  You would use the same tools in after effects (which is basically photoshop for video) or we could figure out a work around in Final Cut.

Okay – and now – a bonus for those of you who read these journal entries (which I might remind you is a class requirement) you do not have to submit a video journal for this Friday’s class.  You can if you want, but with the other video project due, I will allow you to skip this week for the video journal. 

See you on Friday!


Remote Feed

•February 22, 2008 • 35 Comments

First off – I’m sorry.  If it wasn’t for the fact that it will actually be dangerous for me to make it down to Wheaton and back, I would absolutely be in class today.  I’m sorry too because I really enjoy the class and I was very excited to see how your projects came out. 

So here’s the deal.  Before you go out and frolic in the snow – I need you to do a few things.  Remember, you were planning on being in class anyway – so this should be no hardship.  And, as disturbing as it is – I am virtually with you as you read this – I can see if you are commenting back or not which  means your participation is still being noted.  Creepy.


First, I want you to post your entries from your overheard dialog journals & plot ideas.  That’s right – right now –  just as if we were reading them to each other in class.  Just remember to put your name by it so we can all see who is posting what.


Thanks for posting those – I can already see how Connor’s story and George’s dialog could fit together.

We’re going to continue using these quotes and plot ideas in your next project. 

The next thing I want to do is hear from you about your experiences with your first project – specifically any questions or difficulties you had.  So right now, each team should post a little something about how its shoot went – I will then reply back (either immediately if possible or throughout the week) with answers and advice on how to overcome some of these challenges.  Basically, I want “war stories”.  So take a little time and post those now.



Alright, as I’m reading your posts – you can read a bit about what I was hoping to discuss today:  Directing.


Take a look at this video called “The Girl Chewing Gum” By John Smith: 

It’s just an excerpt, but you’ll get the idea.  Wheaton actually has the whole short in the library, so we might watch the rest next week.


While the piece is funny and existential, it also makes a good analogy for directing.   Because, while it seems that the narrator – let’s call him the director – is orchestrating everything – he has total control of even things like birds and clocks – it becomes clear that he isn’t really controlling anything – that reality is actually in charge and that the director is merely pointing things out. 

So your job as a director is not to impose your will upon reality, but rather choose what to show and how to show it.   You start with your idea.  You see it in your head, then you put it down on paper.  But then, when it comes time to shoot  – things aren’t exactly as you planned.  Actors read the lines differently than you hear them in your head, the lighting is not what you imagined, a million things just seem wrong.  This is frustrating.


Now, you can get mad and stomp around and demand that everything happens just the way you want – but this is neither realistic nor fun.  The better course of action is to be flexible on set – realize what can be achieved and modify your plan.  

I am not saying that you ditch your vision and just accept that things are gonna be crappy.  Not at all.  What you need to do – before you hire actors and get to location – is to understand what your real idea is.  What you’re ultimately trying to say. 

Let’s say your piece is about how an innocent daughter is sacrificed so a family can survive.  You’re drawn to the themes of sacrifice for a larger purpose, youth being lost for experience, etc….You want to set it in the Old West – but there’s no money to do it that way.  Does it destroy your core idea to set it in modern day Boston?  Probably not.  Does it hurt your idea that you can’t get a young girl – or even a young boy – to play the part?  Actually, yes.  The youth factor is part of the core idea – so you keep looking, move your shoot day or come up with a new idea. 

Knowing what is and is not essential to your main idea is key – and it will guide how flexible you can be.  Definitely stand up for your vision – but don’t fight every last detail unless it’s crucial. 

Next – talk with your key players up front:  Your DP, your sound guy, your actors.  You don’t have to explain everything all at once – but give them the broad strokes of what you want to see.  Are there any films that are similar or inspired the look you’re going for?  Tell them.  Then ask for their questions and input.  Some ideas you’ll accept, some you won’t – but it needs to be a back and forth – otherwise it’s just an unhappy mess.


Working with actors:  You’ll work with a range of actors – professional, non-professional, some better than others – all with different methods.  THEY ARE NOT THERE TO DO WHAT YOU SAY.   They are there to perform for you.  This is a crucial difference.  After you explain what you are hoping to see (general blocking, tone, what you think the scene is about), you sit back and watch them do it.  Maybe you like it, maybe not – in order to get it more the way you like it, explain your point of view.  Try:  “It didn’t see urgent enough to me” or “ I like it better when you really jump on him”.  Not:  “Be more natural”.  Try to give actions to play not vague emotions.


It’s the difference between saying “Be more impatient” or “Try to figure out how to get to the front of that line of people”.  The first way, they might tap their feet or roll their eyes – terrible hammy stuff.  The second way, they have something to play.  They can physically strategize a way to accomplish a task – it’s real.


 If you’re really stuck with an actor who is too self conscious or way over the top – you can do a few things.  You can give them a distracting task (Howard Hawks once had an actor flip a coin during every scene which became a character trait and a way to keep the actor focused on something else) or you give them something to think about in the scene (i.e.:  tell them their character thinks they have appendicitis but doesn’t want anyone to know – instead of saying “try to look more worried”).  In an extreme case, you can have the actor look through the camera while you sit in their place to demonstrate how they don’t have to play to the back row.  This has to be very subtle – don’t insult your actors – but sometimes showing them how even a slight facial move in a close up says a lot, they get the point by a quick demonstration.  Also, don’t read the lines to your actors – it just doesn’t really work and it brings people down.


If all else fails – perhaps you can try to use your actor’s limitations to your advantage.  Sometimes a strange performance is far better than a bad imitation of a realistic one.  Some directors – like Hal Hartley – specifically go for a non-natural approach to acting.  I don’t know if this came about because of actor limitations early on, but he created a whole style out of actors not speaking or acting in a realistic way.


Okay, there’s far, far more I could explain on the subject, but in this forum, I’ll leave it at that for now.  If you have comments or questions put them here now.


Lastly, I want to explain the next project which is due in two weeks (on March 7th).It’s in your syllabus, but let me describe it again here a little better:


You will have new teams (I will email your call sheets – but also, see below).  Each team will use their dialog journals to come up with 1 short script between two actors (1-3 minutes).  Then each member of the team imagines how he/she will direct this script.  Perhaps one will want to shoot it in a candle lit room, another outside on a sunny street.  Three different visions of the same script.


If you’re having trouble writing the script in the group – each director can take 3 dialog quotes (one from each person in the group) and come up with his or her own script.  Or you can all come up with 1 script together that fills in the blanks among the three quotes (like the previous project).  The point is that everyone have at least some similarities among the scripts so we can highlight the directorial differences.


The team will get actors (it should be the same actors for each of the three projects if possible) and shoot the scene the three different ways.  Each time, the crew will take on different roles – Director/DP/Sound Recordist.  So you will each do each job once.  When you are the director, you decide the look and feel of the scene and communicate it to your cast and crew.  The crew also needs to participate and come up with strategies to help your director shoot and record sound. 

Finally, each of your will edit the version you directed.  The teams are as follows:

Team 1:

George, Jake & Caitlin


Team 2: 

Alex, TJ & Kim


Team 3:

Eli, Brandon, Connor


Team 4:

Joe, Whit & Anastasia


If you have questions, contact me.


Alright, that’s it –  I’ve added some directorial anecdotes in the comment section below – they come from Moviemakers’ Master Class (a book by Laurent Tirard).  It’s got some good advice from a variety of directors from all over the world.


See you next week!


Insert Edit

•February 17, 2008 • Leave a Comment

By now you are either having a blast assembling shots together in endlessly interesting ways – or tearing your skin off with a vegetable peeler.  Editing is, as I mentioned in class, the most fun and most frustrating part of the process.

Please feel free to leave comments to this post about any editing questions you have.   I will attempt to answer all things editing as quickly as I can – but others can feel free to answer as well – help each other out.  And remember that Eli is making himself available during the week to come by the editing room to help out. 

Because my mouth was flapping at a horrible rate towards the end of class, I just wanted to reiterate a few points:

There are many purposes of editing:

The practical: 

Condensing time; creating continuity of space; moving the story along; revealing a storytelling detail at a critical moment;  cross cutting between two simultaneous actions to increase tension…

The expressive: 

Creating visual metaphors and poetic statements (i.e.:  Maya Deren’s, “Meshes of the Afternoon” where she walks across the room, but the footsteps fall in five different environments); cutting between slow motion and regular speed to emphasize a dramatic or thematic moment; jarring/disjointed cutting to evoke a certain energy in a character or scene…

The intellectual:

Montage to create an intellectual or thematic effect (see Soviet Montage); Juxtapositions that force the audience to make connections (see Kuleshov Effect); Metric & flicker films…

But essentially editing allows you to commune with the audience.  By what you show, what order you show it in and what you leave out, you are asking the audience to fill in the gaps in continuity, story and theme.

By leaving out a few frames in a simple continuity cut – the audience will fill in the missing footage to make it seem smooth.

By cutting together two different environments (Exterior Submarine > Interior cramped room) – the audience will make a connection between the two (the cramped room is the hull of the sub).  

By cutting together two situations (Man in prison > woman eating dinner with another man) – the audience will fill in an entire story (Woman is cheating on the man who is locked up).

Understanding that the audience participates in your film is a truly powerful part of film/video making.  From watching films, you know this implicitly – but as you make films, it’s important to think about it explicitly.  Remember when we talked about shot composition as showing one thing while hiding another?  The same thing applies in editing – we show some things and leave out others in order to draw the audience into the piece.

One other thing I mentioned a couple weeks ago is the idea that every cut contains an infinity of time and a universe of space.   Every time you make a cut, the shot that comes next could’ve been filmed at anytime or anyplace:

A person in a library hands a book to someone off screen > cut to a man sinking in jungle quicksand as a hand comes in from off screen to hand him a book.  

We see a man and a woman having breakfast in their apartment  > close up of man looking up at the woman >  close up of the woman ten years later at the same table, dust lays thick on the table and the breakfast is completely decayed.

Knowing that you can manipulate time and space is the yin to the yang of audience participation.  When you discover how to use editing to underscore and defy audience expectation, you will know the superhuman joy of editing.  For now, try to keep your hands away from the vegetable peeler.

One last thing – since I mentioned Walter Murch in class, check out his six criteria for a good cut…you’ll like ‘em!  

Continuity Editing (look under Editing Techniques)

Have fun!


•February 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Maybe it’s just me – but I’ve noticed a few themes developing in class over the last few weeks that I’d like to zero in on for a moment. 

The first is discovering what each of us finds interesting: 

With the online videos we found finished work we identified with.

In the dialog journal, we pick out what hits our ear funny.

With the plot ideas, we identify what themes and narratives grab our attention.

During the scavenger hunt, we searched for compositions that were appealing (hopefully this will continue with the video journals).


But what does this teach you?  Narcissism?  Perhaps – but it can also put you on the creative path.   When you follow your interests you can start to see how they connect, intersect, contradict.  Then, as I mentioned in last week’s post, you can start to combine your interests in new ways:  Combine nuclear holocaust and comedy and you’ve got Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove”, Put Shakespeare together with film noir and you’ve got Orson Welles “Touch of Evil”; Mix Kafka and the mid-80s NYC dating scene and you’ve got Scorsese’s “After Hours”. 

Sure, this may sound trite –  but the point is, when you’re struggling to come up with an idea, throwing some of your interests in a blender and hitting puree isn’t a bad place to start. 

And this is a big part of your first group project.  I want you to smash these things together – pick quotes and plot ideas that you don’t think could possible work in concert.  Then try to weave them together.  Chances are, the more unlike the quotes and plot concepts are from each other, the more dynamic the piece will be when you stitch them up.

Another theme I’ve noticed lately is the tease.  Of not giving everything away up front – of keeping a great shot, or plot twist or character reveal in reserve.  Keeping the audience guessing.  We talked about it in class and it was evident in a lot of the videos people chose to share.  So now, as we start to get into editing, it’s up to you to think strategically about what to show at what point in time.  

How can you build your story or theme in a way that shows enough to keep the audience with you – but not so much that they don’t have anything to do?  Remember, audiences don’t watch movies – they participate intellectually and emotionally.  The worst films leave nothing to the imagination. 

Okay, so that’s what I’ve noticed.  Has anyone else out there noticed anything in class that they’d like to mention?  Anyone?  Here’s the  storyboard template I made for class – it’s a jpg.

Wheaton 16×9 Storyboard

If you’re interested in a free script document template thingy for microsoft word – here’s one I found from the BBC called ScriptSmart Gold.  Check out the readme on the website and follow the instructructions.


However, if you have a mac, you should probably download a different version from here:


Since the bbc site doesn’t have the Gold version of the program for mac in a US format.  You’ll need stuffit expander to unzip the file. 


If you have any questions, email me.  You can also check out the program we talked about called “Final Draft”.  The free demo is available here:


Just one more thing – I know things got a bit confusing in talking about the group project and the video journals, so just to clarify: 

The group project doesn’t need to be edited in the camera – this should give you more flexibility when working with your actors. 

The 3-shot video journal should be edited in camera (each shot between 5 – 10 seconds).  This will make it easier to view the journals in class.


Alright, ONE more thing.  Here’s a cool site I found with lots of videos by film, video and other artists.  I’m especially partial to George Kuchar, but if you have a minute, you should check out some of the work – you might find something that interests you:


That’s it.

Blackburst Generator

•February 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

First off, I want to say I’m impressed.

Impressed you were able to find so many interesting and diverse videos on the web to share.  Impressed with the shots you got right off the bat in the scavenger hunt.  And impressed with your attention in class.

Now before your heads all swell up like you’re allergic to bees or something, there is a lot more work to do.  I know we didn’t get to spend much time on the overheard dialog, the plot sparks or the reading in the last class – but that was an anomaly.  This coming week we’re going to start putting the dialog and plot sparks to use in the first major project.  So, make sure you have your journals with you.  Here’s where we start taking the things that interest you and develop them into videos that interest other people.

If you’re having a hard time finding the plot sparks as mentioned in the syllabus (stories people tell you or you overhear) here’s an additional option that I’ve found helpful in generating ideas – write down concepts that you can use as metaphors.

When I hear phrases like “retreat mining” or “retroactive immunity” – I write them down in my journal.   Not because I plan to do some amazing coal mining movie – which would be awesome – but because I can call on these concepts when I’m thinking about a character or a relationship in a project I’m working on.

In actual retreat mining, workers dig out every last usable chunk they can as they back out of a mine shaft.  The shaft collapses as they leave – essentially destroying the place when they’ve gotten everything they want.  Now – think of a guy (or girl) who treats a relationship that way.  Or a boss that treats his employees that way.  There are lots of concepts like this that when you apply them to a character or situation are just as helpful as a story you overhear.

I’m not going to give you something extra to look at or find this week – because I really want you to concentrate on your journals and the reading.

However, I do hope you’ll take a look at the videos your fellow classmates posted that we weren’t able to get to in class.  There’s a lot of great stuff – stuff that can inspire your own projects.  Remember, creativity isn’t coming up with something totally new – it’s taking what’s been done before and combining it in ways that people haven’t seen.  Think of Picasso & Braque – when they came up with cubism, it wasn’t something from outer space.  They chose the most common, banal images in Spanish painting – still life compositions with guitars.  But by attempting to add the element of time – how this still life would look as you moved around it – they showed people something truly creative.

So, try to look at as much stuff out there as you can – and if you start to despair that “everything’s been done before” remember, nobody has ever experienced the world exactly the same way as you.  That means, you can combine things that interest you in ways that haven’t been tried.

Alright – get to it.

Further Recriminations

•January 30, 2008 • 11 Comments

While I didn’t expect to write a second post this week, I figured it would be good to recap and elaborate on some of the things we talked about in class after all.  As you might recall, we spent some time identifying differences between film and video:

Film:  24 FPS  / Video:  30 FPS (video “moves” differently than film – different feeling)

Film: Chemical / Video:  Digital (video reacts differently to light) 

Film: Takes time to process / Video:  Immediately see what you’ve shot

Film:  Expensive / Video:  Relatively cheap (video doesn’t seem as “serious”)

Film:  Viewed in a theatre / Video:  Viewed at home or on computer (video must overcome more distractions)

Film:  Takes a lot of planning / Video:  Shoot a lot of footage and figure it out in the edit 

To which I’d also add:

Film:  Dreamlike / Video:  Realistic (though video seems more “real” than film – it is obviously also different than reality itself – this can be exploited) 

A lot of this adds up to a different level of expectation when people watch a video vs. watching a film.  This “lower” expectation, coupled with the ability to manipulate video in so many ways can give us a great advantage to produce work that surprises and excites viewers. 

And we also talked about specific uses of video:

Documentary, local ads, soap operas, youtube webcam videos, porn, sports, sitcoms, news, and home movies

To which I’d like to add:

Interviews, surveillance, legal depositions, live events like weddings, dance recitals, and music performances, and threats by super villians. 

I’d like you to spend some time thinking about how you could take one of these video uses and turn it on its head.  I’m not going to give you an extra assignment (you are finding your youtube videos to show in class, right?  Remember – you need to post those to this site before class on Friday)  But by starting to consider these ideas now, it will help you come up with ideas later.  I’ve posted a few examples of commericals that use the “low” expectations of the video look to surprise the audience.  Please check them out so we can talk about them.


And though it’s not a commercial, we’ll find out someday what the person who made this was selling:

While these examples use the video look as a gimmick, our job will be to move from simply surprising the audience to giving them a more profound experience.

I also wanted to make sure everyone understands what you’ll be turning in at the end of the year.  When you read the syllabus, I think it’s clear that you’ll be turning in your portfolio of 4 projects and compiled video journal entries – but you’ll also need to turn in your notebooks with the overheard dialog and plot sparks.  So, at some point, you’ll need to transfer what you hear and ideas you’ve found from your portable notebook to a notebook or printout you can hand in.  Don’t forget to collect these examples of overheard dialog and plot sparks every week – it’s how we’ll start every class.

Okay, I look forward to seeing you all on Friday.

Blessings and Curses

•January 20, 2008 • 3 Comments


It isn’t film – and for that we should be disappointed and thankful.

Disappointed, because film is beautifulcoolmysteriousexciting.

Thankful, because video is subversiveaccessibleintimateimmediate.

It is easy to put video on a lower level than film – it is the domain of the youtube amateur, the quick buck dance recital videographer, the traveler to Scotland who has forgotten to live in the moment.  Video is news footage and local car commercials.  It’s your friend’s backyard band performance.  It’s ugly, soulless trash carelessly packed on a $5 cassette. 

But guess what – it’s also Bill Viola, Nam Jun Paik and Gary Hill (look them up).  It’s multi-channel art installations, insightful documentaries and ufo frauds.  It’s something so ubiquitous, something that can be manipulated so completely – yet is still largely underrated by the world at large.  That gives it a special kind of power.  The power to surprise the viewer.

A riot breaks out a elementary school production of Peter Pan.  A used car lot promotes a “drink-your-own-urine” sales event.  Your friend’s band is outsourced to India in the middle of their backyard set.  People don’t see these things coming. 

And it’s not just about shock value – there are things you can examine in video that would be too costly or otherwise impractical:  What people say if you edit out every third word;  How a thousand people react to a picture of Pac-Man eating the Pope;  A stock broker’s face as you read him all of Dante’s Inferno. 

Video is about possibilities.  Once you open yourself up to what it can do – and what people don’t expect it to do – you’re going to have a great time with it.  If you think about it only as the sickly do-nothing cousin of the great man on the hill (namely, film) it’s gonna torture you like a Kansas (look them up) album on continuous loop. 

Of course we’ll talk about film in the class – there will be examples of film when we talk about composition, editing, etc… – but when we discuss ideas and projects, we’re going to focus on the blessings and curses of video specifically. 

That said, the project this week is to find AT LEAST 3 videos on youtube (or an easily accessible website) and post links to them here.  At our next class we’ll look at them as a way of introducing ourselves to each other.  So, the videos you find should reflect your interests:  Aesthetic, content, mood, or concept.  In class you’ll explain why you chose the videos and what you like about them.  Let’s keep these video examples short (1-5 minutes if possible) and here is a list of unacceptables:  No clips of broadcast tv shows, theatrically released movies, or musical performances.  No music videos (I know there are some good ones, but chaff far exceeds the wheat).  Other than that, use your best judgement – try to find something that really impresses you, something that you wish you had done yourself. 

 Here are the three I may or may not have shown in class already: – Around & About by Gary Hill – thinking of money on the train -Pirulito  (Lollypop)

See you next week.