Archive for the Moving image techniques Category

Disciplinary Institutions video (new, improved 2011 edit)

Posted in Disciplinary Institutions, Moving image techniques, My practice, Urban Exploration, Video with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I also made a new version of ‘Disciplinary Institutions’, using footage shot in 2009 already used in the 2010 edit, and new, previously unused footage shot in 2010.

This piece is rather dry, similar to the work of the Wilson sisters, whereas I believe Ghost House is closer to what my work would look like should I move into a more narrative direction. By keeping a steady rhythm and directional continuity in long corridor tracking shots that get darker and darker as the video progress, I aimed to convey the feeling of powerlessness and crushing fate experienced by the inmates.

In this video too, I applied my theoretical readings and paid great attention to steady rhythm, avoiding jerky images and precise pacing by carefully selecting shot lengths. I decided on purpose to leave the 2 last shots on for longer necessary, in order to play with the audience nerves. The previous to last shot is especially unnerving because it’s a steady frame showing a book that says ‘Ecclesiastical law’: nothing happens in it visually yet the words say it all, and the audience have to bear it and suffer it, just like the inmates had to bear their imprisonment. The last shot of the moving shadow of a ‘caged’ plant swaying in the wind is the exact opposite: aesthetically pleasing (though gloomy) but conceptually simple. It is aimed at lulling the audience into calm thinking, so that, maybe, they can start integrating what they might have learnt while watching the video about themselves, their fears, their idea of freedom.

One technical problem to be sorted later is that the words ‘Ecclesiastical law’ are not very clear because the white pages of the book are a little overexposed. This is due to shooting in abandoned buildings with nothing but a small camera and in a completely improvised manner, since neither the local authorities nor the Catholic Church are willing to have the Magdalene Laundries advertised, and access to them therefore has to be ‘taken’. I hope to sort this in post production. I have not done it yet because I’m about to get the Adobe professional software, which should make a more precise job of it than MoviePlus which I currently use.

Ghost House video (new, improved 2011 edit)

Posted in Ghost House, Moving image techniques, My practice, Urban Exploration, Video with tags , , on May 30, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I have made a new version of ‘Ghost House’, using footage shot in 2009 already used in the 2010 edit, and new, previously unused footage shot in 2010.

I needed to make a 5 minutes version for a submission that required a 5 minute film and found it a worthy exercise. The limited running time forced me to very carefully consider the appropriate length to get the most efficient effect from every single shot. I realised that in the previous version, I sometimes tended to let static shots run for as long as they were beautiful to watch. I realised that in trying to use as much of my footage as I could, I ended up diminishing the efficiency of the shot because, however beautiful the static shot, the audience was getting bored with it before it disappeared from screen. I saw that I could get more striking results by being more ruthless in my cutting, by keeping shots to the minimum length required to get affected by their atmosphere, but short enough not to get bored with it, even if it meant discarding well shot footage. I also took the difficult decision to discard beautiful shots because they did not quite suit the mood of the piece, whereas last year, I always tried to edit in everything pretty.

Reading all those reference cinematography and editing books, and writing down the tutorial helped me realise the paramount importance of coherent mood and precise rhythm. It’s more important to have a piece where the mood is coherent and not disturbed by elements that don’t quite fit, and a rhythm very precisely designed to lull the viewer into the desired reaction that to try and use as much of my good footage as I can just to prove I can shoot good images. Reading those reference books also made me more aware of how easily a viewer may be ‘jerked out’ of the world of the film by bad editing transition or jerky shots. It’s not about aesthetics, it’s about maintaining the illusion.

I feel my technique improved by following those abstract concepts, but ironically, I ended up breaking several textbook rules on purpose. You are supposed to start and end each sequence on a static shot, but I found out I got better results by ending and starting most moving shots on movements, but making sure that there is a continuity in the speed of fluidity of the movement in the 2 thematically different shots each side of the cut. Part of this is due that if I zoom in or out with the camera fixed on a tripod, there is often a slight jerk when I press the zoom button. It’s very slight but noticeable because the camera does not otherwise move. Ironically, it was more natural to start and end slightly jerky hand held shots on a freeze frame, because the slight sway was present all through the sequence and therefore not shocking. The other reason In think this particular rule was not appropriate is that it is designed for traditional narrative cinema where the camera is fixed and the actors move within the frame. Whereas I film static building and the movement comes solely from the camera move. Therefore what matters is to keep the movement of the camera fluid and regular, to give the impression it is travelling through the house without interruption. It’s as though the camera is the only character, the unseen narrator’s eye, and what must be preserved is the coherency of its point of view. Therefore, I aimed to keep a very fluid rhythm all through the piece, to give a sense of geographical continuity even though the video was shot at three different houses, to give the impression that a ghost was moving through the house, no longer limited by laws of physics and Euclidean geometry, and that we were seeing the world through its eyes.

It reminded me of a comment in The Technics of Film Editing by Reisz & Millar about Alain Resnais using moving camera shots in Last Year in Marienbad for the sheer sensual pleasure they procure. And indeed, in Marienbad, the camera moves a lot through the endless corridors while the actors in them are frozen like statues, almost becoming part of the décor, as immobile as the discarded objects of my ghost houses. I think the words ‘sheer sensual pleasure’ struck me, because I had never considered my relation to the moving image medium that way, yet I realised it was very true.

By the way, thank you WordPress for finally allowing to embed youtube videos!! 🙂

Video tutorial

Posted in Moving image techniques on May 1, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I’ve uploaded a video tutorial:

In this tutorial, I have compiled technical tips from four reference books: The art of technique: an aesthetic approach to film and video production by John S. Douglass and Glenn P. Harnden, Cinematography: Image Making for Cinematographers, Directors and Videographers by Blain Brown, The Techniques of Film Editing by Karel Reisz and Gavin Millar and Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Film-maker must know by Jennifer Van Sijl. General knowledge present in any reference book is not referred to a particular book. When a book made a particular point not seen anywhere else, I point to the exact reference.

This tutorial is aimed at video artists and makers of short experimental films with a low budget and minimal crew (or working alone) therefore it focuses more on mood, atmosphere and the look of the film than on traditional narrative, and techniques involving high budget and /or large crews are not discussed (complicated lighting set ups, camera moves requiring expensive equipment and such).

I have written this tutorial mostly for myself, that’s why it is currently presented as a series of notes. I may write it down properly later if I have spare time and enough people find it useful.

I very much hope this tutorial will be useful to many people, however, it took me a lot of work to write it therefore all content is copyrighted to me. You are welcome to use the information, quote etc… but please refer to the source as:

Please give this above link, not the link of the actual document you took because the general link will always contain the latest version of the document.

Many thanks and have a good read!

Note: sound design section is currently incomplete.

Research Paper ‘Director’s Cut’

Posted in Cinema, Critical theory, MADA Coursework, Moving image techniques, Research Paper with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

Click the link and it will send you to a pdf of my research paper Mental space on screen: through the examples of Last year in Marienbad, Stalker and Lost Highway as submitted for the MA.

Research Paper: Mental space on screen (Melanie Menard)


This paper explores how the different elements of a film work together to depict the mental space of the characters, that is, give the impression that the events shown on screen reflect their subjective experience, and the space shown on screen is a projection of their mental state. Through the examples of Alain Resnais’ Last year in Marienbad (1960), Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) and David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1996), I show how similar techniques recur in films made in completely different cultural contexts, but that have in common to picture the subjective world of the characters. These techniques are: narrating events as the characters think about them, remember them or imagine them rather than how they actually happen; a labyrinthine set design where the inside and the outside contaminate each other; lighting and colours that reflect the mental state of the characters; rhythm that traps the viewer inside the characters’ subjectivity and, finally, sound that creates a mood of its own rather than illustrating or simply enhancing the images, with sparse dialogues becoming an integral part of the sound design.

Keywords: space, subjectivity, cinema, cinematography, sound

A few sections of the research paper were removed to keep word count down. Mostly I rephrased and condensed, which accounts for the somewhat dry style, and the lack of sometimes explicit transitions between ideas. The dry style is fine by me, it’s a research paper not a literary work, but I think more explicit transitions between ideas would have made the paper more reader friendly. However, I had a word count problem and decided to sacrifice a bit of fluidity in order not to cut out relevant ideas. I think the 2 last sections ‘sound’ and ‘rhythm’ are written more fluidly, with more explicit transitions between ideas. That’s because I wrote my paper backward so I was not so worried about concision when I wrote them (the last sections, more technical, were written first, and the first sections, more general, were written after).

However I cut out 3 complete paragraphs because they were interesting but not so directly relevant. I put them here.

1)This was cut out because it was a discussion where neither me, nor the person whose idea I was discussing, were really convinced of what we said. We were both formulating hypothesis to open up discussion, without being personally convinced of these hypothesis. So it was interesting but non essential.

Vida & Petrie (1994, p190) discuss Tarkovsky’s habit to shoot dream scenes in black and white in most of his films, and compare it to Stalker:

‘The choice of black and white for dreams may reflect the conventional idea that most people dream in black and white, but more probably implies, in line with Tarkovsky’s belief in the essential “reality” of black and white, that the inner truth of our experience is to be found within our dreams. In Stalker the basic pattern is reversed, with black and white creating the sordid reality of the everyday world of the future and color representing the potential escape from this offered by the Zone.’

This leads to an interesting issue. The only sequence in the Zone that contains monochrome shots (sepia rather than black and white) is indeed the dream sequence. If characters are dreaming, they may approach their inner truth. It is possible, then, that the Zone as a whole offers fake hope and illusion rather a gateway to inner reality, an interpretation that could be corroborated by the characters’ final decision not to enter the room. Maybe the Zone is, like in Lost Highway, the world of illusion and fantasy, rather than the world of hope and spirituality.

2)this was a transition between the ‘rhythm’ and ‘sound’ sections. It contained an interesting reference for further research, but was non essential to the subject.

Quoting Vlada Petric, Vida & Petrie (1994, p240-241) list ‘cinematic technique’ which can be used to simulate the experience of dream in films. Tarkovsky uses several of them, not only to depict literal dreams, but to ‘throw a dreamlike aura over virtually the whole film.’  ”Camera movement through space [contributing to] a kinesthetic sensation”, ”illogical and paradoxical combinations of objects, characters and settings”, ”dissolution of spatial and temporal continuity”, ”ontological authenticity of motion picture photography [which] compels the viewer to accept even the most illogical events … as real” together correspond to the combined action of discontinuity editing and slow rhythm described in this section. “Color juxtaposition [which] emphasizes the unusual appearance of dream imagery” has been discussed in the previous section. ”Sight and sound counterpoint” will be discussed in the next section.

3)In the conclusion, I discussed the philosophy of art of the 3 directors, and the way a film interacts with its audience. This was interesting but not directly linked to the subject, so was cut out.

When all these elements are combined, we get what Deleuze (1985, p35) calls a ‘conscience-camera’, that is a camera that ‘subordinates the description of a space to the functions of thought’ and ‘enters’ inside ‘mental relationships’. ‘Objective and subjective’, ‘real and imaginary’ then become ‘indiscernible’. The camera is no longer descriptive: instead it ‘questions, responds, objects, provokes, theorises, hypothesises and experiments’. This new nature of film allows new possibilities (Deleuze, 1985, p210): it ‘elaborates a circuit between the author, the film and the spectator’. This circuit has two ways of communication that work together: first a ‘sensory shock’ that ‘elevates the images to conscious thought’, then thought that brings the viewer back to the images and gives them an ’emotional shock’. This ‘coexistence’ between ‘the highest degree of conscience’ and ‘the deepest level of the unconscious’ is what makes, for Deleuze, the power of ‘Time-image’ cinema.

This vision of the dual nature of film, intellectual but also unconscious, sensual, emotional or irrational, the later allowing a direct connection between the artist and the audience, is shared by Tarkovsky, Lynch, and Robbe-Grillet. Tarkovsky (2008, p176) states that ‘cinema is the one art form where the author can see himself as the creator of an unconditional reality, quite literally of his own world’ and ‘a film is an emotional reality’ perceived by ‘the audience’ ‘as a second reality’, which ‘allows for an utterly direct, emotional, sensuous perception of the work’. For Lynch (interviewed by Rodley, 2005, p140), films are ‘a subconscious thing’. In an interview together with Resnais, Robbe-Grillet (Resnais & Robbe-Grillet, 1967, 170) says that art is ‘a reminiscence’ or ‘an illumination’ of ‘the world’ and that it ‘interests us because we find in it ready-made the things to which we feel impelled by the emotions reality has generated in us’, and Resnais agrees with him on that. Robbe-Grillet also says that ‘when an image strikes [him] in the cinema, it is always because [he] recognise[s] [his] own experience’ in it, and this shared experience is what makes ‘communication’ possible between the artist and the audience, through the medium of the work.

Canterbury University Symposium: “Video art: between documentary and fiction”

Posted in Critical theory, Methodology, Moving image techniques, Reading notes, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

In June 2010, I attended a Symposium at Canterbury University: “Video art: between documentary and fiction”. Below are reading notes from this symposium. I was interested in it because it focused on lens-based images creating an awkward feeling of ambiguity regarding their documentary or staged nature, something I came to identify as a key concern in my practice.

Jon Dovey ‘The Limits of Vernacular Video’

Gaza Sderot: interactive video
The Himan Pet: Fake hostage video asking viewers to save the filmed subject
Derrida – Kate Modern on youtube ? the camera crew is no longer invisible

“Creative manipulation of reality” (author?)

Sarah Turner ’On documentary and Perestroika’

In Perestroïka, Sarah Turner repeats a journey to Siberia done 20 years ago (1987-88). Two friends present in the original trip are now dead at the moment of refilm in dec 2007- jan 2008

external events internalised
“Why and when does a documentary work display the truth of fiction ?”
memory, loss, photography, truth/fact, evidence
ourselves vs others and how it makes us
refuses the duality between facts and the fiction of memory

questions from audience:
Does the web esthetic of autobiographical filmmaking infect normal filmmaking?
I thought of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park. Someone names Eli Harrison
“Who holds our story if the other is not here to do it?”
There is a more democratic access to cinema than to Art (just buy a ticket and be anonymous in the dark, compared to gallery environment)
Stiegler – Montage

Elizabeth Cowie  ‘The Contingency of the encounter in  documentary video art’

Rien que les heures – Cavalcanti – 1926 shows the city of paris and images of poverty
Deleuze – intervals ????
Walter Benjamin “dialectical image” = image charged with history

Lauren Wright ‘The time between reality and fiction’

Curator at Turner Contemporary, Margate

picture by Turner of an imaginary landscape: he had read the description of it but never seen it
temporality shaped by artwork shaped by artwork and exhibition space
Bergson “creative evolution”

Matthew Buckingham: situation leading to a story
The visitors hears the sound but they have to walk around some walls to see the images (the sound continues in 2nd space with image)
the images are found footage: 4 rolls of 1920s home movies. The soundtrack is the artist’s comments/reflexions about what these films are about, who are the people in it, why the films have been thrown away, suppositions about unknown family drama and the possible cause of it.
Time as a collection of different temporal frames ? it does not let us collapse the different temporal frames

Robert Smithson, spiral jetty

Irit Rogoff ‘Bared Life – On the Documentary Turn in Visual Culture’

I missed most of this because I was watching the screenings.

Foucault: territorial ->population

Adam Chodzko ‘Latitudes’

ghost, echo, journey

Salam Cinema, 1995, Teheran

1998: Meunien ? he tried to find the 16 young victims from Pasolini’s Salo. Only one responded, he found doubles to replace the other original actors
The actor that responded was the one whose character did not do the final execution scene !!!
originally, Pasolini wanted footage from the cast party at the end of the film. But he finally decided against it, decided it was more disturbing not to explicitly tell the audience it was “only fiction”
-> makes me think of the ending of Greenaway’s The Baby of Mâcon

fabricated images from Milosevic trial ?check?

1967: David ?Holsman? Diary. Story of a director who obssessively records everything. Against the claims of “direct cinema”

Strawberry pickers
archive show “migrant workers” from East London come to pick hop in Kent in the 20’s and 30’s
the archives were edited by contemporary Romanian strawberry pickers. They said that the workers in the archive looked happier than themselves. By the end of the archive watching session, their attention start to drift and they start talking about themselves and their dreams

Chris Marker, Sans soleil: People sleeping in the tube, intercut with scary images of their dreams

An actor comes to an audition for a movie and pretends to be blind. When asked why by the director, he says he did it for the love of cinema.

A man burns himself with a cigarette, saying it is the only way to show the effect of Napalm (which causes a 3000°C burn compared to 400°C for a cigarette.
-> Does trauma/hurt guarantee authenticity ?
-> My own work on Magdalene/asylums ? Is it a cheap trick ?

Agnostic anxiety: not to know whether what you see or think is real or not, correct or not.

As a spectator, do you expect transformation from an artwork ?


My question: in “A letter to Uncle Boonmee”, “soldiers occupied the place, killed villagers, forced them to flee to the jungle”. Yet the deserted houses are very clean (and houses in ireland show how very quickly they deteriorate). So this image hints at recent trauma/violence. This is reinforced by the presence of fictionnal soldiers played by local teens. Are they real houses or stage design ?
-> previous speaker: trauma/hurt guarantee of authenticity
-> I point out to a urbex forum discussion of the moral implications for the artist/urbexer of picturing recent trauma. Are the moral implications different between taking pictures of Tchernobyl and post Katrina NOLA?

Michael Newall

Pyramid – Adam Chodzko: Folkestone residents reaction to the appearance and disappearance of an otherworldly object, the pyramid.

International God Look-alike competition – Adam Chodzko

Philosophy of Art
Cognitivism: the value of Art is to offer knowledge/deepen understanding
Bourriaud – relational aesthetics: art that facilitates communities
-> critic of it: it designs only social situations where there are no conflicted interests. Different from real life.
-> he argues that activist art can change social situations, as opposed to relational
-> my objection: Activist art gives an answer to the audience (thesis, propaganda) whereas relational art make audience make their own meaning
-> later I actually get the opportunity to ask this and here is the answer: he refered not to propaganda/thesis art but to activist art in situ that have uncontrollable consequences where the happening takes place. And also other things like Antisocial Networking which used Google advertising revenues in order to buy google shares.

Brian Dillon

André Breton and Dogma 95 have in common a confusion between fact and fiction, and put serious and comedy together.

Artists are increasingly encouraged to be academics (“practice led research”). The relationship between Art and Academia is ambiguous. He says that the artist does not like the label of intuition and wants the image of rigour (my unvoiced objection: Certainly not all artists !!!)

The museum values what is not Art in Art: what looks like Art is called kitsch! That’s how the Avant guarde gets into the museum, because it looks different. The Avant guarde blurs the line with everyday life. In order to be successful, the artist produces something that does not look like Art. My unvoiced objection: this is a recent “postmodern” phenomenon. Dada and surrealists certainly did not make it to museum when they first started making strange objects, rather they were insulted n the press by respectable art critics.

What is now valued in Art is the research/knowledge underneath the work. References to other disciplines, “the world as such”. My unvoiced objection: “the world as such” is not the same as “the world as observed by academics”. What did art refer to before ? Didn’t it refer directly to “life” as opposed to an academic representation of life?

Jeremy Millar

Human Forms in Art (2008)
-> taken from the name of a display case in the Pit Rivers Museum (Oxford) that was emptied for building works
-> When interviewing someone for a documentary, people first say what they want to say. You have to keep looking at them without saying anything or stopping the camera and after a while they end up saying what they did not want to say, which often turns out more interesting.
Withdrawal of responsibility by pretending to be just passing on some found material: this is an old tradition in literature.
-> he found something about Duchamp by making a film, a fact that no academic knew of, but someone commented to him that a Phd would be more valued than the movie: the Big Duchamp stained glass “The Bride stripped bare by her bachelors” was apparently inspired by sash windows he saw for the first time in a little town in Kent.
-> My idea: there may be a pun behind this. Sash window = fenêtre à guillotine. A nickname for the guillotine was “La Veuve” (= “The Widow”) which sounds a lot like window. This coincidence may have amused Duchamp -> sacrificing a bride to make a widow?

Jeremy Millar filmed “Ajapeegel” (“Time-Mirror” in Estonian), a video set in the abandoned plant where Andrei Tarkovsky filmed “Stalker”.

Ajapeegel (2008)
Digital Video / PAL 16:9 Anamorphic / Stereo
Narrated by Simon Paisley-Day

The work has been developed from an earlier, abandoned video of the same name, that was to explore the relationship (or lack thereof) between groups of English men on stag-weekends in Tallinn, Estonia, and the three men in Andrei Tarkovsky’s film ‘Stalker’ (1979), which was also shot in and around the city. In ‘Stalker’, the eponymous guide, a scientist and a writer all travel to a room in the ‘Zone’ where, it is said, their inner-most wishes will come true; similarly those men on stag-weekends also make a transitional journey, where, they hope, their desires will be made real also. However, after having filmed a great deal of footage on the original locations in 2005, I found it impossible to realise this planned film, and this new work is, in many ways, a documentary of this failure; an ‘unmaking of’ rather than a ‘making of’ film.

Time-Mirror (2007)
Duration 00:19:20:10
Digital Audio File

This project has been developed from another work, ‘Ajapeegel’, (2008) inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film, ‘Stalker’, much of which was shot just outside Tallinn, in Estonia. ‘Time-Mirror’ — the English translation of the Estonian ‘Ajapeegel’ — was made by mixing recordings made at the site of a disused hydroelectric power station outside Tallinn, where parts of ‘Stalker’ where shot, with recordings made at Grain Power Station during an artist’s placement there. The similarities between the ‘Zone’ and Grain — the power stations, the desolate landscape, even the military installations — mean that they act as ‘Time-Mirrors’ to one another, or perhaps, more appropriately in this context, as echoes; these are places that reverberate.

Ajapeegel (2005)
Colour Photographs

These are photographs taken in and around Tallinn, Estonia, on locations used for the filming of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 masterpiece, ‘Stalker’; these locations were also used for my own film, Ajapeegel (2008).
The title of these works was taken from that of a book by Tatjana Elmanovits, the first monograph on the Russian director, which was found in a second-hand bookshop in the centre of Tallinn; it means, in Estonian, ‘Time-Mirror’.

Untitled Drawings (2002-onwards)
50 x 70cm
Colour Photograph

Part of a series of photographs that take as their motif the throwing of a metal nut and bandage which is found in Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker (1979). In the film, the Stalker ties bandages to the nuts and uses them to navigate around the mysterious Zone; if the nut travels true through the air and lands safely, then the Stalker and his two companions may travel that way also. While the actions were carried out in similarly uncertain spaces, between nature and industry, and suggest an uncertain presence also, they might also be considered as a rather elaborate means of merely making a line on a piece of paper. The first photograph was made in 2002 in Blean woods, between Whitstable and Canterbury; the remaining photographs were made in Hungary in 2003, during a brief artist’s residency.

One of the speakers?: the inventor of anthropology invented fieldwork techniques because he was forced to stay extensively in Australia in order to avoid being drafted in 1st world war.

A filmmaker’s guide to freaking out your audience – Part 2: camera placement and editing

Posted in Cinema, Moving image techniques with tags , , on January 5, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

Gilles Deleuze believes that our brain has two modes of functionning: action and reflexion, and that these 2 modes are mirrored in cinema. He calls them “movement image” and “time image”.

“Movement image” is the most traditional in cinema: the camera follows a character and the point of view changes in response the character’s actions. “Movement image” follows the principle of action-reaction and abides to rationality: the camera reacts to the character’s action in a way that is predictable, so that the audience knows what to expect. For example, somebody walks out of a room. When this person crosses the door threshold, the camera stops filming towards the inside of the room (now empty) and instead films the character now walking outside.

In “time image”, the length of the shots is not determined by the action taking place. Deleuze calls this “a purely optical and sonorous situation”. For example, a long shot on 2 characters fishing and not talking. Since nothing is said, the only information to be gathered by the viewer is that the characters are fishing, and this would require only a very short sequence to be communicated. The time after which the shot ends is arbitrary since no specific action by the characters cause the shot to end, and, if the shot had continued longer, nothing more would have happened (the characters would still be fishing in silent). In “image time”, the next shot is also unrelated to the previous one. For example, a shot of one of the characters going on an undescript errand in town. The new action the character is doing is not caused by the previous action (fishing) and therefore the viewer is unable to determine when it is taking place compared to the first one. The errand could take place just after, long after or even in the past compared to the fishing.

Deleuze place the apparition of the “time image” in cinema after the second world war. He thinks that the war was such a complex and unprecedented events that is escaped people’s understanding, and therefore shattered their ability to plan rational actions responding to events. The traumatic event, too big for human understanding, broke the chain of action-reaction. Unsettled, the characters of a time image find themselves unable or unwilling to act. Instead, they become witnesses of “a pure moment of time”.

Because the logical chronology of actions is broken by the “time image”, Deleuze believes that “the cinema image is not in the present”. Rather, cinema images show different layers of memories whose meanings sometimes converge towards the present.

Just as human beings constantly alternate between action and reflexion, it is possible to mix “movement images” and “time images”. Let’s take the same example of a man going out of a room. The camera shows him walking out but rather than cutting just after he crosses the threshold, it keeps showing the empty room for a bit before switching to the man outside. This confuses the viewer: why is the camera still showing the empty room ? The viewer starts wondering whether there is something in the room that he is not noticing or understanding. Is there a hidden threat in the room ? The camera follows follows the man going out and cut shortly after he is gone so there is action-reaction, but is perverted by the unexplained pause to look at the empty room: the timing of the reaction is not correct. Additionally, when the camera stops showing the empty room, it may not show the man now outside, but switch to something completely different. In that case, not only is the timing of the reaction wrong, but the reaction itself is not logical. The presence of action reaction but the absence of correct timing and/or logical sequences of events unsettle the viewer: it gives them the feeling that they are confronted with a sequence of events whose logic they cannot understand. Therefore, this sequence of events is perceived as threatening however ordinary each individual event might be. This process is often used by David Lynch: a noise or flash suggesting sudden action is shown, then an empty room is shown so that the viewer wonders “could the sudden event be happening right now behind my back ?” Often also, a phone is shown ringing and nobody picks it up. Later in the film, someone may be shown picking up the same phone up, so that the chronology of all events shown in between the 2 shots involving the phone become unclear. Or, if someone picks the phone up straight away, the camera stays on the phone and does not show the person apart from a glimpse of their hand.

A filmmaker’s guide to freaking out your audience – Part 1: sound design

Posted in Cinema, Moving image techniques, sound design with tags , , , , , on November 23, 2009 by melaniemenardarts

During research, I randomly found out theories concerned with creating a sense of disquiet in the viewer of moving image.

At Cambridge Film Festival, I saw the film Cuckoo about a young woman, Polly, suffering from auditory hallucinations (or not ?) in her flat, a film which reminded me a lot of Polanski’s Repulsion. The director commented on how the sound design was made to cause the viewer to physically experience the same hallucinations as Polly, and share the ensuing distress. The key to that was to disconnect the sound from the visual, so as to cause sensory and space confusion in the viewer. In traditional film sound design, foley effects are made to match what is being shown on the images. The two sources of information (visual and auditory) are coherent and support each other, so that the viewer can feel confident about understanding the information. One could almost say that the information is “surdetermined” since the same concept is presented in several ways (i.e. the image of somebody putting a glass on a table and the sound the glass makes when it touches the surface). If you drop the surdetermination, the viewer starts to be confused, feels unable to trust their senses and starts experimenting anxiety. The Cuckoo team did that in different ways. Polly hears sounds that are coming from out of the image field and not easily identifiable, for example because they are muffled or intermittent. Although they come from outside her flat, these sounds are quite loud so as to suggest an invisible presence in her flat. Comparatively, the sounds from her flat seem low, which cause a feeling of space distortion: one does not know anymore what is far or near, foreign or familiar. These sounds have no obvious directionality, so Polly feels lost. Some of the sounds from her flat are also too loud, for example a dripping tap. The director explained that the idea came from a real life experience of his wife, who started hearing specific sounds much louder when she was pregnant. Some of these sounds were imperceptible to other people.

I thought of it and it reminded me of a family dinner scene in “Las Meninas” (Ihor Podolchak, 2008) where the sound of a fork on a plate gets more and more intrusive as the family atmosphere gets more and more oppressing. In Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky also extensively used the disconnection between sound and images in order to blur the line between reality and illusion. The sound could be either completely disconnected to the images (one hears things without ever seeing the visual equivalent, like in Polly’s hallucinations) or, more perversely, the sound could be related to the images but wrongly synchronised in time (a very slow visual transition accompanied by a harsh sound transition). This last technique gives the illusion of time-space distortion, which may or may not be due to the mysterious events that created the Zone.