Ways of Making has been the most engaging course I have been involved in throughout the duration of both the Media program and the Music Industry program that I completed at the end of 2014. It has served as a sort of capstone studio allowing me to merge together what I have learnt practically across both degrees. My work reflects this.
Going back on my initial aspirations for the class, I had hoped to improve my technical skills in order to then push the boundaries of conventional filmmaking. I deliberately set a broad goal so that I could give myself freedom to move and develop in any way that I found myself going. One of the first tasks in the studio was to create an abstract video. This was a short task but it instigated my investigation deeper into abstract footage.
I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way it turned out, but I quickly put it behind me in order to focus on other developing projects. I took it upon myself to keep an eye out for the aesthetically pleasing – things that to me looked beautiful and could be edited well in post. I began building up a library of footage for future use and this continued over the 14 weeks. Outside of class I spent more and more of my time working with both audio and visuals trying to establish a rhythmic relationship between the two. This came about through my interest in Oskar Fischinger’s An Optical Poem and my newfound obsession with the art of Bokeh. Fischinger’s work really blew me away. It was exciting and captivating – it motivated me to produce in a similar way. I wanted to recreate Fischinger’s work to an extent using modern day techniques by delving deep into the effects panels of Premiere Pro. The Eastern Freeway near my house gave me access to hundreds of moving lights. My first test of capturing these lights in the Bokeh effect turned out like this:
It was filmed purely as an exercise to see how well I could capture the effect and acted as a great starting point for my investigations into rhythmic editing. I became more and more intrigued with the concept of sight and the Bokeh effect kept reminding me of the Braille code used by the vision impaired to make sense of the world. Using the blurry Bokeh effect I recreated the code/alphabet in Premiere Pro:
I really latched onto this idea and felt the need to explore it further. It needed more than just 6 flashing circles and an audio track reciting the alphabet. Through the processes of continual filming and editing it was obvious that my skills were improving. I had progressed from just filming blurred lights to capturing everything and anything around me that grabbed my attention, and my library was bulging with footage. To create more space between each letter of the alphabet I added visuals loosely relating to each letter (eg. A = Abstract, B = Belford). I also recorded a short electronic loop to put underneath emphasising the rhythmic elements. What eventuated is something that I am quite proud of:
It captures the essence of what I imagine it is to be vision impaired – lack of understanding, lack of information and lack of 20/20 vision. After briefly showing this to a few friends with no preface they were quick to guess the relationship between the letter and the visual – almost like a game of “I spy with my little eye”. Unknowingly I had created an informative game shedding light on the Braille code/alphabet. I think what works so beautifully with this piece is the precise culmination of all elements. It adheres to a strict tempo of cuts, and the music helps it to flow.
My housemate who runs a production label named Potatoheadz became interested in my work. I decided it would be a good idea to make a video for one of his songs and he was happy for me to do so. Delving deeper into the idea of vision impairment I began pushing some editing parameters to the extreme in Premiere Pro. I had a lot of freedom doing this. I had a huge catalogue of footage to work and went to town. As opposed to the Braille piece though, I had no idea of where this would end up. I was basically doing as much research as possible into the available effects in the program. It was made up of a few different exercises, but I do not consider it a resolved work. More needs to be done. Here is how it turned out:
While completing this piece it dawned on me that the possibilities for creating visuals are endless. There are infinite ways that I could have approached representing Sedgwick’s audio for his track Sheen as visuals, but this was how it ended up. Yes, I tried to automate the visuals to the beats of audio as frequently as possible emphasising the relationship, which did help to tie it together. But the actual footage itself could have been replaced with something else entirely and it would not have lost its essence.
By making these videos focusing on imagery and music I have noticed a huge advancement in my technical skills – something that I set out to work on at the beginning of semester. This video, although not entirely complete, shows this:
It is an example of where I believe I am heading next. I have only scratched the surface of the potential of editing programs but I finally feel satisfied spending my time outside of Uni making videos like this. Paul’s guidance in Ways of Making allowed me to explore an area of filmmaking that I developed a passion for. And rather than striving for perfection, I was seeking an incremental development of skills.
I think the true goal of the studio was for students to find comfortable methods of production in order to motivate them to create. I certainly achieved this.
Gabriel Strachan, Ways of Making, 2016.