Have realised that my video practice is so doggedly observational and, well, quotidian might do as a word, that I rarely film anything that actually does anything. Nothing happens. I’ve also realised this is one of the reasons why I often use text in my movies in the way that I do. While I’m drawn to video I think I am a writer first, and where I use images they are propositions, ideas, thoughts, they are not used to describe or narrate. As a consequence as I’ve been experimenting through the first stage of the new K-film project I’ve realised that nearly all the material could just be still images, that really interesting things happen when you see, say, 12 images as thumbnails, but if you choose one to view the video not much more happens. You don’t learn much more. So as a user you then tend to keep ‘surfing’ to see the visual patterns (that are meaningful relations within the work) rather than spending time with the video. Harsh realisation that one. So in response I am now adding some commentary come text to each video, they are not to be as atomistic as in the Reveries project, though neither is it to be a linear narrative. I’ll finish writing these for the current 30 video clips that I’m using and see what it’s like. At the moment my method is to view each clip and to write, with the previous clips text visible (as the first clip returned in About a Year is always the next clip in oldest to newest temporal order), something that sort of could flow from the previous clip, but also survives by itself. Non committal, riffs. I think a better model would be to simply write, one short line for each node, and then copy and paste in. Anyway’s current draft from today is available – About a Year Version 0.2.
I’ve been very slowly rebuiling and curating my vog work into one place, using some very simple Tinderbox templates. Added three more from the vaults today, not that many more to do before I’ve caught up with myself. The site is at vogmae.net.au/vog
Pity about their website but old school DIY is alive and well. The Australian International Experimental Film Festival is up and running. Pretty clear set of regulations to enter (but since they use frames I can’t actually provide you with the url, “hello 1997 my old friend”) so there’s experimental film, video and expanded cinema. Interestingly all will be converted to QuickTime for presentation. So, where’s the international festival, heck, the local festival, for video that doesn’t treat the audience as mere viewers?
VV05 is on for November 20 and 21 in Brussels this year. Hosted by the Cimatics festival. This will be the event where they try to move Video Vortex into a more formal organisation, be good to get to this for this reason alone, but doubt I have the money in the budget, let alone the week of time flying to Europe and back actually requires.
I’ve made and published two diptych videos. For the previous nine or so years my practice has largely been one of constant formal experimentation, at a small scale, with interactive QuickTime online. The problem with this practice is that many of the works are almost unusable from a UI perspective, but also that while I thought I was trying to explore and build a vocabulary because there is so much variation amongst the works the end result is closer to noise than a language. It is a body of work that is very formal and the only significant content is in terms of the formalist propositions each of them make. Most required mouse enters to do things (the mouse had to enter a particular part of the movie). This might have been a button, though in many cases it was the entire video. Once done this might speed up, slow down, mute, or make other tracks visible or invisible. It might even make text appear and scroll.
So, the diptychs. Simple two video pane structure. You can speed up or slow down each video. You can also pause them. There is a separate soundtrack which you an also pause. Some of the videos will probably also have a link or links in them. These will be images that are clickable. This uses a child movie structure where each of the video panes is a separate QuickTime movie being played within a containing QuickTime movie (sort of Chinese Boxes arrangement). This is how I can play one and pause the other, and vary their speeds.
Why? Well, after nine or so years of doing this, and having taught cinema studies for a few years before this, and being deeply influenced by Deleuze’s two books on cinema Cinema One and Cinema Two I remain fascinated, intrigued and wondering about duration, movement and the cinema. While film and video offers a single sequence of a fixed speed (yes we can have fast and slow motion but playback is fixed, resolutely and imperially) so that relations become between this then this, with online video, well, with softvideo, duration and movement are ripe for rethinking.
For example how long is a diptych movie? What does that question now mean? Imagine each of the videos runs for one minute. Is the length one minute (how long it would run if you did nothing?). Is it two minutes (since it might be thought of as two different movies each of one minute which happen to be viewed next to each other)? But since they invite you to play and pause them independently of each other, and since they loop, it is possible to suggest that the video itself, what you or I watch, if played with (ie if the speed is manipulated by you) has no determined duration. If we think that the work itself is not just each individual video, but also the possible relations between each of the two videos (what this one shows in relation to what that one shows) and either can be slowed or accelerated then there would seem to be a variable set of possible relations between the two shots. So if the film is this, then it just doesn’t make sense to wonder how long it is.
Then, of course, there’s the whole set of questions that are a consequence of letting the viewer be a user and do things that affect, in whatever way, the work itself. At the moment, for me, this is not so much about making interactive or multilinear video narratives or poems (I think poetry, or for that matter lyrics, are a better model of what to do than traditional narrative, whether filmic or not) so much as just rewondering what video is now. Prior to this video and film were linear, sequential and fixed. This is in their very deep nature, it is what makes editing even possible. But is it still video in this new regime? Or something else?
So, I’ve made the diptychs so that I can just stick to a structure for a bit and make work for it. Work that might contrast betwen the two windows, works that might reflect each other, and so on. I’ll make up a mock one shortly and publish it so that others can use it too, if they like.
Right, so I’ve got a new WordPress blog installed, paid for a theme, which even though it can’t actually play QuickTime natively does a good job of presenting stuff for a video blog. So to do videoblogging this is my current workflow, and writing this out I’m surprised, and perhaps saddened, that it has not changed since I started in 2000.
Now, after shooting, capturing, editing and building I often do some scripting, but let’s think of this post as just about publishing the video (which is an interesting phrase in itself, isn’t it?).
- Open the finished video
- Get a screen grab for the poster (using Snapz Pro)
- Edit this screen grab down to size in Photoshop for a poster movie
- Edit this screen grab down to size for an illustrative thumbnail image used the blog template
- Put this screen grab into LiveStage Pro so that I can make a clickable poster movie
- Upload the finished video via FTP to my server
- Upload the poster movie via FTP to my server
- Log in to my blog
- Create new entry, title, tags, categories, text, etc
- Select thumbnail graphic and upload
- Launch pageot
- Enter details of the poster movie (url, dimensions, controller and autostart off)
- Copy and paste code into embed field of the blog template
Why don’t I just use a video service such as blip? The actual videos I make cause problems since they rely on interactivity which is part of QuickTime, so if they get transcoded they just break. I can of course keep the original format at Blip, and use that, but most of my recent work uses child movies, so an individual work (for example the diptychs I’m currently working on) actually consists of 4 separate QuickTime files with scripted relations between them. This means they all have to live in the right place to work. (I could upload them to Blip and write the links to the urls out of Blip, which is an interesting experiment which I think I’ll do just for its own sake.)
I have also made interactive poster movies before (which when clicked on load the actual movie), uploaded these to blip, and embedded these to the blog. The only advantage of doing this is that adding to the blog is really easy, but all the other steps are still needed so it actually just felt a bit harder to do. Perhaps I’ll do this again and compare. This would cut out getting embed source code in Pageot (though it does need uploading to blip, setting a pile of options, and then getting code – though I guess if i just auto published to the blog from Blip that would make things pretty simple).
But I digress. The point is why has this not changed in 9 years? Yes I can upload to Blip and every easily publish to my blog and it generates what is pretty much a clickable poster movie for me, but what happens if video is not a single object? Like a blog (which for example is made up of lots of individually addressed and addressable things called posts)? Why can’t I take advantage of basic QuickTime embed functionality, for example define a template at Blip (size, controller off, target is QuickTime Player, href attribute for the mouse click?
Why do I need these? Because I have diptychs that are 1280 pixels wide. I guess the answer is pretty simple, services are just that, and these are experiments. And on that note it is back to the lab!
So, been busy building a template to use as a basis for quite a few works. I’ll talk about why another time. But also wanting to start a blog that just has the video, nothing else. So been looking at the templates at press75.com where there are some video specific ones. What appealed are some of the gallery view options in some of the templates – just like the idea of that wall of images with video behind them – and the thumbnail and video plugins they have. Unfortunately they aren’t quite what I need, which is probably symptomatic of how I approach this video caper.
First of all the gallery stuff, I’m about to play around with it but I often make work that have odd shapes. For example the diptych that I’m using is over 1600 pixels wide but only 360 pixels high (it places two 16:9 videos alongside each other). But the galleries all seem to be assuming either a 4:3 or possibly 16:9 aspect ratio so how the heck will it cope with long skinny, or narrow wide thumbnails? Of course in the interests of neatness I might just have to crop and cut and hack the images into the default gallery size so the template works…
Secondly it seems the video plugin is a simple FLV player. Well, simple because all you need to do is a) upload your thumbnail (or point to its URL), and b) put in URL of the video (from a variety of service or self hosted) with width and height. Hey presto. Except since ti relies on FLV it means interactive QuickTime doesn’t work since interactive QuickTime requires QuickTime as its runtime engine. So what I thought would be a neat system actually doesn’t work at all. So, I’ll experiment a bit more, but right now I think the easiest way to embed video in WordPress is to use Pageot to write the embed/object code and stick that in your blog post.
Why you ask? (Well, I know most of you don’t but humour me.) Because then I can have a poster movie which when clicked loads the actual movie and can target a new window, QuickTime Player or the current window. Being able to target QuickTime Player through the embed code, without having to write an interactive movie, is good because when you make a movie that is 1600 pixels wide it tends to break in a lot of browsers so just making QuickTime Player actually display it means it will display properly. Also means it tends to run better since you’re using a dedicated app to view the work rather than the plugin.
So, back to the experimenting.
Well, the riveting coding work continues. So I think it is time to pop out a work in progress so that things make more sense. The diptych here is not how things will be in the final work. I do want to speed up and slow down the video, but what I was doing was constraining this so that after, say, slowing or speeding it up by a factor of 5 (so 5 x faster or 1/5 of normal) I’d flip the track back to normal playback speed. After building it and experimenting and playing with it it just doesn’t make sense. As you’re clicking the thing slows, then all of a sudden after another click, Hey Presto!” we’re back to normal speed. Nah. So this work in progress is just to see this in action. What hasn’t been done yet, well, both soundtracks remain, these will be removed and one soundtrack will be added as a separate child movie so that it plays normally independent of the image track speeds. This means the effect you get when mousing into either video so that the volume for that track changes will be removed (though in this demo it does create some pretty weird aleatory outcomes). So that also means I’d better let you mute, or perhaps pause?, the soundtrack.
For the final version clicking the slow and fast buttons (‘-‘ and ‘+’) will just keep speeding up or slowing down the video. QuickTime from memory doesn’t like to drop below 1/10 of normal speed (normal is whatever the video frame rate is) while I think acceleration probably depends on your CPU. Mousing into the other button (eg if you’ve sped the thing up, then mousing into the ‘-‘ button) will restore the current video to normal speed. Then add a pause button for the soundtrack, and perhaps see about making the buttons semi-transparent so they’re not quite so there. That should do it. I think.