British Public Information Film: Searching (1974)

A British Public Information (PIF) film which was broadcast in 1974 and shown during television advertisement breaks. Like many PIFs in the mid-1970s, the film deals with safety issues at home. This film pays attention to the dangers of children playing with matches in a home environment.

The narrative is predominately voiced through sound and the visuals containing horror characteristics. From research and recalling PIFs shown in this period in my own youth, the horror aspect was a very familiar trait in the mid-1970s. It seemed that the more evocative was the more effective. Though whether there is any truth in that fact remains to be seen. The trajectory of the hand-held camera (being the person) stealthily moves through a dilapidated interior. The narrative makes it clear for the viewer that the dweller, a family member, is returning to the devastation. Objects on the kitchen table being  theatrically arranged as the camera scrutinizes the pitiful remains. The audio really does   dominate the visuals, penetrative echoes and cries of the family members provide visceral qualities.

The Tokyo Underground: Emerging From The Underground Experiments

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.

1 Edge Detector 1 2 Edge Dectector 4 3 Edge Dectector 3.jpg 4 Edge Dectector

 

 

Emerging From The Underground using threshold effect with crackling cicada sound bite.

 

 

 

 

The Tokyo Undergound: The Moving (experiment 3)

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.

1 Grunge.jpg 2 Fabric.jpg 3 Miscellaneous.jpg 4 Nature.jpg

 

 

The Tokyo Underground: The Commuter Rapid (experiment 2)

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:

http://www.tested.com/art/movies/452387-48-fps-and-beyond-how-high-frame-rates-affect-perception/

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tokyo Underground: The Still & The Moving (experiment 1)

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.

 

Fuchu no Mori Park-Tokyo

Was watching an old South Bank Show (1998) last night featuring the novelist/journalist Will Self. The man interests me a lot, I’ve only just started to read his work with more regularity since living back in England (2011). During the program, it was interesting to note what measures he takes when needing that ‘creative fix’ Apparently, Self heads off to the Orkney Islands, it is there he feels isolation and bacause of the presence of large quantities of water, it has a deep impact on his imagination. It got me thinking about my own strategies when searching for utopia for project inspiration . Well, it’s usually a place where I can be both inside and outside and with visual stimulus. I’m yet to find that idyllic spot in the UK. However, in Tokyo, I often go to Fuchu no Mori Park, ‘tooled up’ with sketch book, note book or just a book. You can often spot like-minded people with their sketch books or easels though they are usually pensioners! Apart from the park’s attractions (sports areas, children’s adventure playground, a woodland area, a fountain, a flower promenade and sculptures) , there are many secluded areas and hidden pockets of tranquillity if you search hard. But it gets better, there is also an Art Museum.

Fuchu Art Museum Collage

The Fuchu Art Museum inside Fuchunomori Park was opened in October 2000. Natural materials such as limestone and glass were used for this impressive building in order to create a feeling of unity with the park, which overflows with light and greenery. In addition to planned and permanent exhibition areas, the Noriyuki Ushijima Memorial Hall displays around 60 works from this Western-style artist that were donated by his family. The first floor features a public studio, work room, children’s modeling room, citizens’ gallery, and art library. Anyone can use these facilities for free, allowing them to experience art in an intimate way while appreciating famous masterpieces. There is also a museum shop and tea room where visitors can relax, and the museum has been designed with consideration given to the elderly and physically handicapped persons. These art museum surrounded by greenery is a wonderful place to enrich your spirit while viewing the changing seasons of the natural world.
Information from: gotokyo.org

Fortunately for me, when staying in Tokyo, Fuchu no Mori Park is just a 10-minute bicycle ride from my apartment. Today was a scorcher so I biked it to the park this morning and made this shaky little film just to give you an idea of my ‘heavenly hangout’. Also, I popped into the museum too and found out there is a typography workshop in June; I got my name down and luckily it’s on a Sunday. Apparently, we’re designing our own bag.

A blast from the past! These were taken by me and Torie with Anne & Michelle back in 2001.

Torie 2.jpg Torie 1.jpg

Fuchu no Mori Koen 2001.jpg

 

The Amygdala

As part of my contextual research, I’ve been researching what happens when our mind detects fear and the defence mechanisms we have to combat our fears. When we are faced with a situation where our emotions are provoked such as an immediate fear, an area of our brain called the amygdala reacts to our physical state and prepares our mind to control our emotion. However, according to many websites, the role of the amygdala is a contentious subject, as the amygdala functions in different ways, not only fear related. The amygdala is also responsible to controlling our anger and fascinatingly, it processes memory data when we have unpleasant experiences. So when we encounter the same experience, the amygdala recognizes that situation. And, depending on the situation, increases/decreases our fears.

When I was younger I suffered from  claustrophobia. I never took any medication for this; I just never felt comfortable in confined spaces such as elevators, narrow corridors, small rooms etc. When I came to work in Tokyo 15 years ago, the most fearful situation for me was taking the rush hour train (not 1 hour, continuous!). It was unbearable having to stand crushed for lengthy periods of time against bodies. Now, I’ve became so used to crowded trains that this fear is considerably weaker. So, my research has informed me that over time, the amygdala has recorded those situations and has prepared my mind to control and combat that fear. Below is footage of me (look closely and you’ll see my reflection on the train door with camera) on the way to work. The film is a portrayal of how I used to feel when experiencing the rush hour in Tokyo. Silent Hell!

 

 

 

‘Unexpected item in the bagging area’

While strolling down the Peckham Road earlier this week with a few students on my course, an ambulance with a screaming siren screeched past us interrupting our conversation. As a result, a conversation ensued about how loud emergency service sirens have become in recent years. Why is that? A thought occurred. Well, it is possible that as we now live in a ‘wired’ society, wearing headphones/ earphones and being preoccupied with our devices have blunted our street awareness and our peripheral vision. Just a thought. Anyway, back to sounds in the suburbs. We continued talking about annoying, familiar sounds you hear in shops especially supermarkets. The repetitive voices from the self-service check-out machines have seemed to replace background music. And for those of you that love a bit of trivia, a former well-known actor from the British TV soap Eastenders is one of the voices used on the self-service check-out. Check it out (excuse the pun).

Earlier Last year I made sound study while walking through a shop in Tokyo. The shop in question, Village Vanguard is regarded as Tokyo kitsch. The products are usually a mix of low-brow style with mass-produced art or design using popular Japanese or Western icons. The products can be quite pricey yet very popular among Japanese and foreigners. As I’m interested in retro industrial design, it’s a great place to kill time for a few hours. I’ve always been intrigued by the assortment of sounds that can be heard in these shops. Even though the sound quality in my film isn’t exactly high-tech (filmed with a basic Nikon digital point and shoot camera), you can get a general feeling of character and atmosphere inside the shop. Hopefully, I can follow this study up again but next time using an audio recorder.

TEST: First, try watching the film with your eyes closed. Imagine the visuals from the audio. Then, watch the film normally. Were your initial preconceptions similar or different?  Oh, and make sure to crank up the sound before listening!

UWE: Sound and Rotoscoping

Sound
My Graphics B.A. (Hons) program at the The University of the West of England offered modular courses in Year 1 and 2. The modules are designed to develop the student in areas which would be beneficial in their self-directed project in Year 3. As I had a project in mind involving  film and animation for Year 3, it was necessary for me to become accustomed to working with sound. The sound modules enabled me to experiment creatively and explore different possibilities. The more I experimented, the more ideas were generated. A Play Without Words: The Suicide was a  sound module project in Year 1.  The project had to be under 1 minute in duration, voices could be recorded though not in dialogue form. The process of the assignment made me consider the following questions: How is the suicide committed? Which sounds/ sound bites will be used bites? How much time is needed recording outdoor ambience’s? Which sound effects should I employ? In which order will I use the sounds? At which points should the audio levels be high/low? Do I want the listener to understand what is happening? Will my concepts be too abstract or pretentious? The process allowed me to be creative, original and audacious. I could learn how sounds worked together. Also, there were times when I created new sounds accidentally. Smooth transitions from one sound to another were very challenging and often frustrating. Too much going on at once would end up as a cacophony of disorder. By the end of the first sound module I had taken a lot of notes which helped me reflect on how I worked through the process. The experience gained from the modules and my reflective diary became invaluable to me when working on a rotoscope project in Year 3.

Rotoscoping
Rotoscoping involves the process of drawing on film. A lot of early Disney films were rotoscoped and more recent examples can be seen in Richard Linklater’s work. He employed the rotoscoping technique in films such as Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006).

The first time I used this technique was when making a short film called The Duellists in my final year at university. The process- Initially, I shot about 9 minutes of footage on Super 8 film then transferred the 8mm film onto a camcorder. After editing ,the film was about 4 minutes long.  To animate, my portable 14″ TV was placed face up on the carpet while I positioned myself over the TV with pen and paper. An animator’s peg bar was cello taped to one side of the screen to ensure that the paper would always be placed in exactly the same position. I drew about 3 frames every second. As you can see it’s VERY jerky!  I can still vividly remember the laborious process of clicking the VHS frame counter every time I drew a frame. By the end of the week the VHS player was seriously damaged the and tape was just one big glitch. At the time I never contemplated making the sequel for sanity reasons! All in all, it took around 700 drawings before being shot under an old EOS stop frame camera. The sound score is mainly Morricone, though I used soundbites from other well-known films. Looking back at this animation 18 years on, the work employs the same principles as DIY punk ethics. Basically, a heap of shoddy charcoal drawings awkwardly mashed together. The result being a confusing manic montage. After editing the rotoscoped version, it was whittled down to 2:32 seconds in duration.   I still have the Super 8 footage-for a future project, I intend to make a digital version of The Duellists.