As well as being glued to the cricket, yesterday afternoon was spent designing the audio in Audacity for the rotoscope animation in my last project, Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2: The Tokyo Underground. The audio is made up from an eclectic mix of ambient sounds. The train carriage audio is applied primarily as the base sound. Ambient sounds such as cicadas, crackling and popping wet wood and lost laughter in the breeze have been arranged fading in/out at various points. In the past, I’ve found that when experimenting in Audacity, it’s very easy to over-tweak, cut too much, over-amplify, suffocate the sound with heavy effects and end up with a cacophony as a result. While editing yesterday, simplicity is key with subtle adjustments. I’m pleased with the overall arrangement and finding my way round Audacity with more ease is encouraging.
The Tokyo Underground was a site-specific project was made between February-July 2015 as part of a series (Don’t Have Nightmares) which explores aspects of fear in art. The resulting rotoscope animation, Alienation & Conformity is a personal interpretation of how fear pervades daily urban life while living and working in alien environments. The animated passenger pan is a comment on emotions and anxieties endured over a period of time. The journey begins with a feeling of trepidation, being watched, analysed and under scrutiny and over time the tension begins to diminish though the fear is still underlying. Though the work is largely a personal experience, it also a comment on how an economic and political system can be ruthlessly exposed and pushed into the psyche of the inhabitants. The many who are caught up within these brutal capitalistic parameters, all carrying the same flag in pursuit of profit, wealth and the material gain.
Over the past few months I’ve been working on an animated film I made in Tokyo which examines conformity and a fear which I felt when living abroad for the first time, alienation. The film footage is shot on an over ground train carriage in the Tokyo. Panning 180 degrees, right to left conveys an arc of life. The pan is a comment on emotions and anxieties endured by myself over a period of time.
Alienation & Conformity Test 1
Alienation & Conformity Test 2
However, after a few tests, I felt to comprehensively project this concept, I decided to continue the sequence and pan an extra 180 degrees, the pan returning to the starting point.
Also, I’m experimenting with the relationship between live action and animation which I’m pursuing more and more in my work recently simply because I find the relationship visually engaging. Frames 94 & 146
The silhouetted passengers all matching with similar characteristics and behaviour. A feeling of trepidation, being watched, analysed scrutinized. Time, like the pan, moves jerkily along until the passengers become clearly visible, the tension diminishes, the atmosphere less threatening. Frames 225 & 305
To capture more atmosphere and mood, each frame has been rendered and textured. When projected continuously, the moving image radiates an assortment of dynamic characteristics. I had been researching artists that primarily employ composites in their work and how dramatically the visual alters as a result.
Frames 20, 90, 184 & 216
I’ve not quite completed the rendering and texturing though hope to premiere the animation on Tuesday. The audio will be completed later this year.
When filming inside trains coming out from the underground into the overground, the visual effects can be quite dramatic. Here, I am particularly interested in the contrast between the dark merging to light, as if being released from a subterranean world. The sequence is shot from the first carriage. I was fortunate to be able to film without being obstructed by train drivers or passengers (that does require being up at some unearthly hour!). The graphic shapes in the footage offered a lot for me to experiment with. I found that the edge detector effect (again) worked well, enhancing geometric and linear forms.
This afternoon I was experimenting with selected frames from the footage. By adding more contrast and colouring areas, frames appear much more expressive with translucent characteristics. Sometimes analysing areas of interest (fig 4) and enlarging that particular area. Multiplying the image and colour application dramatically alters its original form; interchangeable to a screen print or textile design.
Emerging From The Underground using threshold effect with crackling cicada sound bite.
Spent most of Monday and Tuesday in the Underground on Metro lines. Managed to gather miscellaneous underground footage of passenger actions, the masses on their way to work, train rushes and more passenger pans inside trains. I was surprised to find so many commuters as it is Golden Week (public 3/4 day holiday). It’s so true! There’s so much guilt over here about taking a bit of time off! Anyway, today, started filming around 7:00 in the morning. Got some interesting footage which appears to be a sea of black and white suits moving along in droves. I’ll time my run slightly later tomorrow, around 8:30 just after the rush hour has past its peak. I feel I’m steadily building the footage which will be useful later in the project though I still aim to capture more of a characteristic which conveys intensity and chaotic movement.
Other than that, I continued to experiment with footage from earlier experiments. The edge detector effect makes linear form visibly prominent, clearly defining shape and form. As in experiment 2, the film speed stays at 48-frames per second which prevents, but not entirely, blurry and strobbing visuals.
* Experiment 3 (b) has audio included. An underground ambient though there is nothing to suggest that the footage has been enhanced by the audio. Visual familiarity?, nothing really to add other than that. (* footage not uploaded )
While editing, I was interested in isolating frames which offered more possibilities and explorations. The frames have been randomly textured using textures such as grunge, nature, fabric and material. In fig 4 I get a texture & colour clash whereas in figs 1 & 3 I feel there is more of a relationship between texture and image. So are darker, grungier textures more appropriate? Should I be considering appropriacy?
I feel I’ve got more out of today’s experiments and fortunately earlier than expected. The ‘contriving’ aspect of today’s tests has really opened up possibilities.
Footage sequence: 25 seconds (approx.) Experiment 2 consists of three sets of footage. The commuters in various actions, as follows: Walking up/down platform steps, descending/ascending escalators and walking through tickets gates. The film speed has been altered to 48 frames per second using a posturizing effect. By doubling the film footage, I can remove the motion blur and any strobing from fast moving images.
Process/Outcome: During the edit the footage was chopped up into two second sequences on a high film speed. It was noted that the high film speed removed the motion blur and strobing and as a result, the footage is smoother and graphics crisper especially when using the posturizing effect. Having partly achieved my aim, I’m considering rotoscoping the footage. Later, I looked into adding audio. The visuals suggest a working community, cogs in a wheel moving though moving in various directions. The audio is a factory sound with metallic clanging. However, I’m unsure whether a factory ambient is relevant or enhances the visuals in any way. I’m interested in pursuing the performativity aspect of the visuals. I feel I’m making some ground now but still a long way to go.
After the experiment, I researched into 48 frame film theory and came across an interesting article in Tested.com. Tim .J. Smith a lecturer in the Psychology Sciences department at Birkbeck University in London. He specializes in film cognition offers insight into how our brains process images and how perception interacts with the world of film. Below is a relatively recent (Jan, 2014) article about 48 frame film theory:
These past few days I’ve been out on-site (The Tokyo Underground) filming mainly around the Shinjuku area on underground and overground trains. Also, I’ve been using archive footage I took earlier this year, hence passengers in coats, hats and scarves attire.
Although I’m not over-excited with preliminary results, it was essential that I get the ball rolling. Hopefully, these initial experiments will activate new ideas, generate alternative angles and I can gain more impetus over the next few months.
On a different topic though project-related. I’ve noticed how I’ve tended to become more impatient with projects recently. It’s like I DEMAND immediate success for my labour. This has been cluttering my mind for some time now. Is that because of all the overflowing imagery I now see on the Internet every single day? Or is it that everyone and anyone, creative or not has readily available software tools at their disposal? Again, I’m just needlessly ranting to myself as usual.
The Still & The Moving: Video Experiment 1
Footage sequence: 55 seconds. The first video is a combination of conventional footage; train passenger pans and commuters ascending and descending escalators and platform steps. The passenger pans are edited at a conventional 24 frames per second whereas the station commuters are edited at 48 frames per second. I played around with the footage, adding sepia for the passenger pans and threshold film effect for more graphic imagery. The combination didn’t work so I reverted back to the original. At this early stage, I’m observing the chemistry between stationary and animated footage with the intention to capture intensity and calm simultaneously. Overall, visually, the moving vs the still dynamic is too over-whelming and the narrative is too clearly visual (if that makes any sense!). The passenger pans appear to clash against the pacey speeded footage. However, after playing with the graphical imagery, there are some visually interesting components which can be explored.
Recently I have working on revamping archive Tokyo Underground passenger drawings. When I say ‘revamping’ I don’t mean improving, I mean reconstructing as to redesign overall appearance in order to portray a troubled state of mind or a moment of anxiety. I felt a wave of nostalgia leafing through old sketchbooks especially reading my often turbulent thoughts scribbled on the back of some sketches. And even today, after another hectic term, hectic surroundings, hectic frame of mind, I always say to myself, ‘never again’ but always return, always.
The context: Being inside a congested train during the rush hour can be a frightening experience if you’re not used to the daily crush. The close proximity among commuters can be unnerving as passengers are tightly pushed against each other. Here, my aim was to pursue this extremity visually. Over the years I have tried to capture these moments on film during the rush hour on the Tokyo Underground. However, I’ve usually been disappointed and as a result, discarded the film. Using my drawings, I’ve been experimenting from another angle.
Stage 1: ‘Distortion & Abstraction’ Using selected train passenger drawings, the aim is to create evocation through distortion and exaggeration thus contriving the image to suit my purpose.
Stage 2: The images are torn, fragmented and overlapping in various juxtapositions. ‘Intensify Congestion’ From experience, the uncomfortable rush hour moments are when having to endure heaving and pressing body parts in a confined space for lengthy periods of time. Notes about my experiences follow: ‘Your face could be practically pressing on a hand, an alien hand that is tightly gripping an old creased-up newspaper. You try to face another direction but your vision is obscured by a mass of perfumed hair wafting around by the air conditioner. The Louis Vuitton designer bag jutting into your sweaty back. You attempt to look down and a child’s satchel is digging into your ribs. You are momentarily being held against your will inside a rapid shuttle shooting through the darkness of the underground. Murray, June 1999
I take drawing tool considerations highly in the same way painters consider their brushes or in a different context, a golfer choosing a particular club. At art school (College/University) I’d always favour graphite pencils graded between HB (hard black) -7B. I’d never consider H (hard) or F (fine) graphite pencils. I was always encouraged to use softer graphite by Art teachers. However, I was very interested in the work of Cy Twombly, largely because he could use 9H or 8H pencils and create dynamic and dramatic scribbles. So why didn’t I? One reason could be the fact that the graphite doesn’t dominate the white paper. The image is less intense and as I constantly strive for expression, I would be unable to convey this element effectively. Also, I like to smudge the graphite with my fingers or the side of my hand and for me these actions are an essential component of my drawing process. So I stick to HB +, end of.
I didn’t consider using biro pen for drawings until I came to Japan. Being addicted to stationary from a young age (and still now), fortunately for me, stationary is popular culture in Japan especially for elementary, junior and high school students. It’s not surprising, in department stores you can find such a range of stationary and clusters of students around testing the pens. Each pen catering for your writing/drawing needs. I’m in heaven! Having not done much pen drawing, I was curious to find out the versatility of drawing at speed on trains using pen. So between 1999-2003, I was mostly drawing in blue or black biro (ballpoint pen). Below are a few pen/pencil drawings from 1999-2014. Later this week, time permitting, I hope to work on revamping selected passenger drawings.
I landed in Tokyo in March 1999. Five months later I was heading home via China and Russia on the Trans-Manchurian Express. Why leave so early? The number of people living in one area was just too much for me, too overbearing. I remember suffering from severe headaches every time I ventured outside. I would return though, I always knew that. When I returned to Tokyo, surprisingly the following year, I didn’t seem to be as affected by the crowds, I could commute to work and return home without taking aspirins or other pills (whatever gets you through the night). I suppose it always takes time to get used to change.
While at the Tokyo Museum of Photography in Ebisu, sometime in 2000, I came across a photography book called Nobody Tokyo. I leafed through the book, the images are very sharp and vibrant, I thought; totally different from images you generally see spotlighting Tokyo such as in the Lonely Planet guide books or the National Geographic magazines. Also, there is so much to consider in Masataka Nakano’s (the photographer) work. For instance, the photographs highlight spatial relationships in a city, there is no one in photographed the city yet there is evidence that people exist. Also, his locations are places in Tokyo where we associate a mass of people which gives the viewer an unusual angle. He documents an urban environment with an abundance of concrete, glass, wire and plastic. Interestingly, the project also informs us that Nakano employed extreme patience in order to achieve to his aim. No need for digital tricks. A dying breed?
Taking a leaf out of Nakano’s book , I sat in multi-storey cafes; ones with huge windows, without visual obstruction in busy areas of Shinjuku. The result; a set of of drawings depicting urban realism yet people would not be evident only evidence of mankind. As a result, the triptych appears eerie, apocalyptic or even abstract expressionist. Next time, how about a deserted, empty Tokyo Underground?