Tag Archives: softvideo

A 2010 K-Film Explaining How to Make your K-Films

I’ve made a k-film that is very linear. Well, not linear, you can listen and view the clips in any order you like, but it is not so much a k-film as using Korsakow to collect some screen casts together where I go over some things to think about in relation to making your k-film projects. This was made using Korsakow 5.0.4, and I’ve included a playhead in the interface which shows you where in the clip you are. The advantage of this is that it immediately tells you how long a clip is, since if the playhead progresses very slowly then you know it is a long clip (and vice versa).

So, the k-film. It is commentary on some of the things to think about in your final projects. I made it as a k-film because it was just much faster to talk about this stuff and record it than trying to write it all out. YMMV. Click the pic go there.

Knotes

Representational Fallacy

Students are currently using Vine or Instagram (predominantly) as their medium of choice for filming in our smuggled in Korsakow based subject. We get them to make a lot of quick, sketch video work, largely so that they can produce a viable media library, to provoke them to question their implicit model of media monumentality as their default position for making anything on video, and to get them to think quickly and critically about what makes a good shot a good shot by doing a lot of them.

A common problem, which is the same as the ten fonts in the brochure and the twenty two edit effects in the iMovie clip problem, is that even where the video clip is only going to be six seconds long (Vine) they clutter it up. This happens in two ways.

The first way is that they get worried or are unsure about what their clip is about. This is unnecessary as they are given a quite specific brief (e.g. ‘light’) that while open, also grounds it. So they will film a light (for example), but then move their camera in, out, around. As if six seconds of watching the light shimmer as the CCD and compression plays with it is not enough. So we talk about one clip equals one idea. If it is about light, and the movement doesn’t contribute to how it is about light, then it just gets in the way, it reveals an insecurity in the material and the practice.

The second way is what might be called the ‘representational fallacy’. This is where they feel obliged to have to explain everything. Even for six seconds. If they start close, and it is not immediately evident what we are looking at, then the camera will pull back, or there will be the Vine equivalent of a wide shot, so that we now know what it is. Or the reverse. Start wide, then go close. If there are several shots, a list, then there will be a closing shot that reveals what this is a list of. It is like there is an obligation to explain, account for, that ambiguity or even just abstraction, the simple pleasure of what the brief glimpse is for itself is not sufficient. The collapse of a possible poetry of the image into the rationalisation of explanation. This is the dark side of Bataille’s restricted economy where there is the logic of the bookkeeper’s double ledger so that what is spent on one side must be recovered on the other. It is a variety of epistemphilia.

Some Korsakow Sculpting

Was a beautiful day Saturday. Mid 20s, ms 7 y.o. having a sleep over. Ms A. taken over the dining room with all the furniture moved out and a quilt laid out, mix of new modernism meets Amish. Very impressive piece of work. Real coffee. Spent some time working on the sonnet Korsakow film. It’s tricky, this one.

A sonnet is all about structure. That’s part of the point. It’s a modern sonnet, which means it’s free verse, but still following the 3 stanza’s of four lines and a closing stanza of two lines structure. I have written the lines, well, more or less as they get edited, fiddled and worried with pretty regularly. I have the video. The video’s are very very simple, and repeated – that’s just part of the poetry really. But the structure, a sonnet needs to be fourteen lines, not more, not less.

A Korsakow film is all about structure. That’s part of the point. It’s shape is, essentially, musical (or poetic) and it is music that gives us the richest and simplest vocabulary to deal with repetition, rhythm, chorus and its close friend, the hook. You return, leave, come back again. Repetition, in different guises, is a fundamental architectonic principle here.

And therein lies the trickiness. I could make a simple HTML based work that you progressed through, a line or even a stanza at a time, to its close. However, in using Korsakow I’m interested in something a bit different, where each stanza’s line could be read in any order, and so letting the lines of each stanza change in their order each time you view the work. Each stanza is marked by a change in interface, but the problem of how to shape this film so that it works as a sonnet is problematic.

One option is to fake it, and provide a fixed path through each line and video. The last line of the first stanza taking you to the first line of the second stanza, and so on. That is hardly what I’m after, and I can hand code in HTML so don’t really need the generative engine that Korsakow provides. So the other option is to let the lines and videos of the first stanza be connected, in any order. This is pretty easy. I could give each clip one life, let it join to the other stanza’s, and each time you view it the order would vary simply because each line has the same chance of being connected to another as any other. The problem though is that in Korsakow I can’t write Boolean conditions, so I can’t provide a rule that would in effect say “if all clips viewed provide a link to stanza 2″. So I can provide a link from one clip to stanza two, as a bridge across, but if I wanted to constrain it to only appear as the fourth line, then my concept of letting each line appear anywhere is broken. If I let it appear at any time then you could arrive there after only one or two lines, and then find yourself in stanza two, and then the four line structure of the sonnet disappears.

korsakowInProgress.jpg

Similarly, I could let clips be able to appear more than once (what Korsakow describes as ‘lives’), but since it doesn’t count in accessible ways I also can’t write a rule that would say “once any four of these clips viewed, move to stanza two”. Now, this would be a better rule, as the rhythms I like and value in these works would be more apparent. With this rule you might read the same line in stanza one twice, and never see one of the other lines until you read the poem a second or third time. I’m very good with that. That is what should happen in these sorts of self organising systems, you read and return and in these changes between readings you learn the shape of the work (and therefore what it’s about). But I can’t write such a rule.

So at the moment building it is feeling like a bit of a clunky hack. Any of the first four lines are set as start films, so we can begin anywhere. Thinking it through the solution is to have the four lines of a stanza all linked equally to each other (they all share the same in and out keywords in Korsakow). They have only a single life and the interface only allows for one thumbnail to be shown. This means a clip loads in the current stanza, you only get one choice of where to move to next from this clip, but this choice is only constrained by being any of the remaining clips for the current stanza (remaining as with clips only having a single life the current clip cannot be returned as a possible connection). Then every clip in the first stanza also contains a second keyword which links to the second stanza. This second keyword is listed on the second line of the out keyword, and so if the first keyword doesn’t match then the second is used. In this way the film is able to cycle through the four lines of the stanza, in any which order, and once four have been viewed it then links to anywhere (as all four clips in the second stanza contain the same keyword that all four clips in the first stanza are pointing out towards) in the second stanza.

(Brief note, the second keyword search is on a line by itself because if you list them like “keywordOne, keywordTwo” on the same line then Korsakow treats this as an ‘or’ search – so it will search for keywordOne or keywordTwo. This means you end up in the second stanza quickly, whereas listing the keywords on individual lines means the first search is performed, if a match is found, it is selected, if a match does not exist then it performs the next search – I only found that out by testing both options.)

So, that’s my current solution, which I think achieves the desire to have a sonnet which has stanzas, where the lines of each stanza can be viewed in varying orders, where the four lines in three stanzas and two lines in a final stanza can all be realised, while still allowing multiple passages. Yes, you have to start again each time, if you want, but, much like the strange prohibition on repetition, poetic networked objects can only be understood through reviewings, the old model of a single, comprehensive (start to finish) reading is not merely redundant here but hermeneutically wrong.

Yet More Ways I Get to Feel Old

Just needed to share that in Keynote I added a Vine clip as a background, scaled up to 800 x 800, plays automatically and loops. Text on top with dissolves in and out. Then over 30 seconds I zoom in 10x closer onto the video, then over 30 seconds back out again. Plays fine. Then I stuck it on my iPad and it still works.

F$*k me. When I started working in video 120 x 120 was the viable window size for online work. Maybe 12 fps. To have a little sliver of a screen in my hand that could do this. If you’d told me that back then. I really would not have believed you. Seriously.

Documentary and Systems

Hot off the new documentary list.

Jeni Thornley on September 24 wrote:

“Sure the digital turn beckons in the era of the active co-creator-maker of the text, as Gaudenzi’s four interactive modes indicates, but a sentence like this seems quite a sweeping statement: “….to move documentary studies from its obsession with representation to a wider focus on documentary systems. From questions of what does documentary mean to questions of what does documentary do?” (Aston, Dovey & Gaudenzi 2013: 124)
I don’t think that documentary studies is ‘obsessed’ with representation; and also plenty of documentarists and scholars have investigated deeply ‘what documentary does’. I am thinking of Thomas Elsaesser’s application of being ‘stung into action’ by one’s own intense and empathic engagement and response to a film – in his terrific essay: ‘Subject positions, speaking positions: from Holocaust, Our Hitler, and Heimat, to Shoah and Schindler’s List’, in The Persistence of History, Routledge, 1996.”

Again I think Jeni’s picked a really important part of this essay. The shift from representation to ‘doing’ is picked up in lots of recent theoretical work, part of the stuff being critiqued via ‘new materialism’ and the ‘media archeology’ sort of stuff. This work argues that media (and we’ll stick doco studies in there for now) has been fascinated with representation, with what things mean, what people do with them, and what institutions do with or around them (the audiences, texts, institutions which defines media, communication and much cinema studies). The criticism of the recent work is that this research looks straight ‘past’ what the media is, to what we think it does in relation to whatever social system we want to investigate it through, but in that moment we don’t see or can’t see what the thing is in itself. I think Jeni’s point from Elsaesser is a good one, though still within the regime of ‘documentary doing’ that is representational or at least as a call outside of itself towards something else. (This could well be an elegant definition of documentary in relation to fiction.)

On the other hand I don’t think Aston and Gaudenzi quite get to where they could. Documentary systems is where the research needs to go. Partly to pick up and intersect with all the work being done in software studies, platform studies, new media and so on. I’m currently writing about how Korsakow, We Feel Fine, and Cowbird could all be thought of as documentaries, but as systems they are qualitatively different and this is a difference that makes a difference. (Bettina F. also used Cowbird as an example at Visible Evidence last year in Canberra.) The shift we are now defining is post digital to the extent that it is computational (procedural and processual) and networked. Yes it relies on the digital but the first wave digital was really only about access and ease. Just because I shot and edited digital I could still make the same sorts of things in much the same sorts of ways. But once we think of them as systems, then representation falls to some extent by the wayside, certainly to begin with because system dynamics (different systems produce different representational epistemes and experiences), and it is the relations afforded by the systems (between content and its parts, people, other systems, as well as procedural and computational processes) that matter.

Why don’t I think it quite gets there? Because the focus on what ‘documentary does’ risks becoming another way to representation, of what it means. Which is fine. But there is a lot to be learnt and understood by first thinking and answering what documentary systems there are, where system is closer to systems theory (let’s not forget Burnham’s system aesthetics either) and Actor Network Theory than socio-political conceptions of system. Different systems, different documentary possibilities, at all points/moments/facets of these systems.

New Documentary 02

Over on the new documentary email list we are trying to begin arguing, pulling about, speculating with, and wondering about the essays in a recent special issue of Studies in Documentary Film. The essay we’ve begun with (and the rate we’re going we’ll have the issue discussed by about 2016) is:

Aston, Judith, and Sandra Gaudenzi. “Interactive Documentary: Setting the Field.” Studies in Documentary Film 6, no. 2 (June 1, 2012): 125–139. doi:10.1386/sdf.6.2.125_1.

Here’s part of the conversation.

gmail, as a good example of how material practices affect immaterial ones, has pretty much killed list culture by the way it hides quoted email by default. For the young people here, there was one a very very strong etiquette on academic email lists that you quoted only those parts of the email you were replying to, and you put your response after those parts you responded to. Weaving your writing as paragraphs between someone else’s paragraphs. Helped with clarification, keeping on topic, and getting insanely long email threads. Insanely long threads is what we get every now now courtesy of gmail, but gmail auto-hides it from us so we don’t have to bother with the etiquette and we just reply and add our bit to the top of the thread.

Which is an introduction to say that I’m weaving my comments below Jeni’s, and I’ve included Jeni’s so you know what I’m talking about.

On 24 September 2013 at 4:49:17 am, Jeni Thornley (email redacted) wrote:
2. There are some assumptions-statements in the article (and the preamble) that I ‘react’ to – that I think may need teasing out; perhaps because I am also a documentary filmmaker who tends to work in the analytical, discursive essay mode; but also I think it’s because ‘reader-participant’ ‘interactivity’ does also reside in previous pre-digital documentary modes, especially in the reflexive, poetic and performative modes

The rest of this passage from Jeni is something I’d also like to tackle, but another time, I think Jeni’s picked out a couple elf really good key points in the essay that really can be prised apart some more. But I’m starting from this bit.

I like that here they are insisting on this difference. A lot of the work that I read, and a common misunderstanding that it has (and with students) is the idea that because we all interpret differently, or that there are always multiple interpretations of a given work available, that that is the same thing as what new media theory is talking about when they say that works are different each time you view them.

Two important things. The claim in new media theory is not that we interpret differently. But that each time we view the work the work itself is different. The second is that new media theory is gilding the lilly if and when it thinks only digital media does this (which is also Jeni’s point).

The first one. We can all read a particular edition of a novel, or that version of this film, and every time we read it, for each and all of us, on page 42 it will always contain those words and sentences, and at 32 minutes 46 seconds that particular 4 minute sequence will always be there. What we take these to mean, that varies. It varies when we see it a second, third, fourth time. It varies depending on who we are, and what frames of reference we bring to the work. But what is not negotiable is the facticity of the thing we are interpreting and discussing. In my reading and your reading what happens on page 42 is the same, as is what happens at 32 minutes and 46 seconds. Interpretation is negotiated, not the facticity of the thing. When we use a media form that changes with and through each viewing then what I find on page 42, and what you find on page 42, are no longer the same thing. What happens for me at 32 minutes and 46 seconds (for instance) in this particular Korsakow film will be quite different to what happens for you at 32 minutes and 46 seconds in this particular Korsakow film. Different words, different shots, different sequences.

In this case we are longer just interpreting differently, we are looking at different parts of different things. And this is a difference that makes a difference, if only because I don’t have to do anything to let my work be interpreted differently beyond sharing it. But to make a work that changes, in itself, each time it is viewed and even during the course of its viewing/reading, that requires some different ways to think about how to compose such works. Not necessarily radical ways (anyone who has improvised a conversation – i.e. all of us) as we all are quite adept at building communicative patterns that involve different sorts of feedback loops, but radical enough to change the transactions that now happen between an artefact its parts, and its audience.

A question that arises out of this, for digital documentary, is to list all the sorts of feedback loops (as this is about cybernetic systems), social, technical, narratological, and so on, that could be used or might matter (that’d be an interesting list).

It is though a category mistake to think this is only a digital form. Espen Aarseth makes this pretty clear in his Cybertext book, as there’s a long history of procedural constrained art (OULIPO, Fluxus for instance) which produces texts that change each time you read them, and even the quixotic project Phil Hoffman’s showed at the DNA symposium in Montréal in 2011 achieves such change. (Lay out I think it was 6 film cans, with paintings on them, crowd arranges them in preferred visual order, he then cuts the contents of each can end to end and projects the resulting work.)

A consequence of this, and one that seems trivial, or at least risks getting trampled over (because in literate culture we tend to privilege thinking about something to doing something) is that the sort interactivity being described that matters is where we have to do some thing in relation to the work for this to happen. This thing is a mechanical action, which is why it is often pushed to one side and made merely mechanical in relation to ‘real’ interactivity which is somehow what this action does. Nah, the action is what matters. It is a material event that really has to happen, somewhere in the feedback system, that materially affects the work. This is why it isn’t about interpretation but action. (And why Aarseth makes such a strong distinction between trivial and nontrivial acts, these acts are defined by how physical they are but by the degree of effect they have on the work, so nontrivial acts are so because they have serious consequences for the work itself.)

That’s me teasing this out, thanks for what you’ve written Jeni, I think it really helps to go to some of the key understandings in this are and can help make where we start from firmer (or softer?).