Category Archives: Video

"Eclipse" music video

What does the future hold for storytelling — can a machine create cinema?

The release of the trail­er for Mor­gan provides fur­ther insight that Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence (A.I.) is creep­ing slowly onto the cre­at­ive stage. After ini­tial pro­gress was made in 1996 when IBM’s Deep Blue beat World Chess Cham­pi­on Gary Kas­parov, IBM’s Wat­son then beat human cham­pi­ons in Jeop­ardy, and more recently Google’s Deep­Mind conquered the ancient Chinese game of Go. Google Pho­tos gen­er­ates videos (with music) auto­mat­ic­ally from images on my phone. It’s becom­ing obvi­ous that deep stra­tegic think­ing is at least pos­sible using machines.

So, can a machine cre­ate a video nar­rat­ive? Could we tell the difference?

The unfor­tu­nate fact is, of course, that the Mor­gan trail­er is hol­low and poorly-paced (even with the help of an “IBM film­maker”), and the musi­cians behind the AI-dir­ec­ted “Eclipse” music video have dis­tanced them­selves from the end product.

Look­ing deep­er into each of these pro­jects, they still required a human hand to direct/collate/guide the machine — it’s a ground-up approach to AI, so there’s no “Wat­son Video Edit­ing Soft­ware” on the market.

How­ever, the build­ing blocks have already been cre­ated — the Google search engine uses nat­ur­al-lan­guage pro­cessing, and Wolf­gram Alpha accepts com­mands in basic Eng­lish. We now have (pretty good) auto­mat­ic web sum­mar­ies and head­line ana­lys­ers. There’s a reas­on why Google’s Prin­cip­al Film­maker Jes­sica Brill­hart thinks Zork’s lan­guage pro­cessing will heav­ily influ­ence the future of VR.

It seems that although we prob­ably have a while to go before cre­ativ­ity is real­ist­ic­ally threatened in any way, most people won’t care if some­thing has been cre­ated by com­puter. For example, much of the in-house pro­mo­tions we cur­rently see on TV chan­nels are pack­aged in a way that would­n’t require human inter­ven­tion — so per­haps it might not be that long after all (for spe­cif­ic situations).

So a machine can assemble a video (I even hes­it­ate to use the words ‘edit’ or ‘dir­ect’). But not very well — at least not yet. How­ever, as Lin­guist­ics expert Noam Chom­sky said, per­haps we are even ask­ing the wrong question:

“Think­ing is a human fea­ture. Will AI someday really think? That’s like ask­ing if sub­mar­ines swim. If you call it swim­ming then robots will think, yes.” 

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The Rise of the Diegetic Intertitle

Pri­or to the integ­ra­tion of sound, movies often dis­played text-based inform­a­tion using title cards or inter­titles. This form of com­mu­nic­a­tion is known as die­get­ic con­tent, as the act­ors can­not see it.

How­ever, even after the inven­tion of the talk­ie, oth­er types of inform­a­tion needed to be dis­played — such as trans­la­tions for a for­eign audi­ence. This was usu­ally done in a very per­func­tory way, with non-descript­ive text (typ­ic­ally achieved using a font such as Times New Roman, with a black out­line to con­trast with any back­ground) on the lower third of the screen. This text is extern­al to the story, so it seemed nat­ur­al that it should be styl­ist­ic­ally different.

In more recent years, there are increased demands on visu­al storytelling — small screen devices (e.g. mobile) and com­puters have star­ted to become part of the lan­guage of cinema (and, by exten­sion — the video and digit­al screens on which they are ‘pro­jec­ted’). Addi­tion­ally, in today’s more mul­ti­cul­tur­al world, the require­ment to show mul­tiple lan­guages with­in the same film means that dif­fer­ent typo­graph­ic tech­niques can be used to enhance this aspect of the story. In fact, this is an exten­sion of tra­di­tion­al sub­titles — where often sound effects and untrans­lated lan­guages are still included.

As mobile and inter­net tech­no­logy star­ted to appear on screen, an edit­or would typ­ic­ally cut to a shot of the device — allow­ing the view­er to read the dis­play. As post-pro­duc­tion tech­no­logy improved, TV’s require­ment for an increased speed of plot expos­i­tion, and product place­ment costs (and leg­al clear­ances) required a more gen­er­ic approach, this even­tu­ally evolved to show the inter­face dir­ectly incor­por­ated onto the visu­al frame.

Sub­titles, cap­tions and inter­face design typ­ic­ally sits inde­pend­ently on top of the con­tent as a lay­er added in post-pro­duc­tion — i.e. as a semi-trans­par­ent wall between the story and the view­er. Integ­rat­ing these titles to make them appear part of the con­tent can be quite a tech­nic­al chal­lenge — espe­cially when they need to be tracked to a mov­ing camera.

This over­lay­ing tech­nique was demon­strated in movies such as Man On Fire (2004), Stranger Than Fic­tion (2006), Dis­con­nect (2012), and 2014’s The Fault In Our Stars, John Wick, and Non-Stop, as well as TV shows such as (per­haps most influ­en­tially) Sher­lock (2010) and House of Cards in 2013.

There are two main types of ele­ments in mod­ern cinema: die­get­ic — any­thing that the char­ac­ters would recog­nise hap­pen­ing with­in their world (of the nar­rat­ive story) and non-die­get­ic — any­thing that hap­pens out­side the story (for example, this would usu­ally be open­ing cred­it sequences).

How­ever, (much like mod­ern media itself) on-screen typo­graphy has sur­passed merely being integ­rated visu­ally into the back­ground plate. It is now becom­ing increas­ingly self-reflex­ive, and blurs these die­get­ic lines. This is often referred to as “break­ing the fourth wall”, and is per­haps best demon­strated in the open­ing titles to the 2016 film Dead­pool, where even the actu­al names of pro­du­cers are sub­ver­ted into nar­rat­ive elements.

For more exeges­is of the dieges­is (sorry, I could­n’t help it), see Tim Car­mody’s excel­lent 2011 SVA Inter­ac­tion Design present­a­tion “The Dic­tat­ori­al Per­pen­dic­u­lar: Wal­ter Benjamin’s Read­ing Revolu­tion”.

“A fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That’s like, six­teen walls.” – Deadpool

Masters of Videomontage

Some of the most fas­cin­at­ing video anim­at­ors I’ve ever seen — Cyriak (Brighton, UK), Fernando Livschitz (Buenos Aires, Argen­tina) and Till Nowak (Ham­burg, Ger­many). Using found foot­age and masks, they cre­ate a sur­real and often dis­turb­ing view of reality.

As men­tioned in the ‘Her­oes of Anim­a­tion film’, Cyriak sees this style as a nat­ur­al evol­u­tion of the Terry Gil­li­am school — tak­ing pho­to­graph­ic ele­ments and mov­ing them in unex­pec­ted ways. I would go fur­ther and in that it takes Rus­si­an Con­struct­iv­ist fine-art pho­tomont­age to a nat­ur­al conclusion.

We are so used to ama­teur cam­cord­er and mobile films these days that this approach seems to tran­scend anim­a­tion — and we are drawn into their world.

We are so used to ama­teur cam­cord­er and mobile video these days that this approach seems to even tran­scend anim­a­tion — and we are drawn into their world. So much so that The Insti­tute for Cent­ri­fu­gal Research seems to be (remotely) plausible.

And here’s how it’s done.

This pro­file of Cyriak includes a his­tory of his work, and a demon­stra­tion of his pro­cess. This behind-the-scenes video from The Cent­ri­fuge Brain Pro­ject shows the CGI over­laid over the source foot­age, and this After Effects tutori­al explains the basics, using a locked-off cam­era (then you can add nat­ur­al cam­era move­ment afterwards).

The Others - Hiroshi Kondo

Hiroshi Kondo

Hiroshi Kondo cap­tures the the energy and the loneli­ness of liv­ing in such a vast met­ro­pol­is in his exper­i­ment­al short, The Oth­ers. The slit-scan­ning film bends time and place into a mov­ing por­trait of a Tokyo square by high­light­ing the indi­vidu­al and the crowd mov­ing both sep­ar­ately and in haunt­ing uni­son. The over­all product is some­thing between glitch art and aug­men­ted reality.

You can see more of his tal­en­ted work at his web­site below.


Bob Dylan — Like A Rolling Stone

This inter­act­ive video (from 2013) is the song’s first offi­cial video. It allows view­ers to use their key­boards or curs­ors to flip through 16 chan­nels that mim­ic TV formats such as games shows, shop­ping net­works and real­ity series. People on each chan­nel, no mat­ter what TV trope they rep­res­ent, are seen lip-syncing the lyrics.

“I’m using the medi­um of tele­vi­sion to look back right at us,” dir­ect­or Vania Hey­mann told Mash­able. “You’re flip­ping your­self to death with switch­ing chan­nels [in real life].” Adds Inter­lude CEO Yoni Bloch: “You’ll always miss some­thing because you can­’t watch everything at the same time.”

The sta­tions you can flip through include a cook­ing show, The Price Is Right, Pawn Stars, loc­al news, a ten­nis match, a chil­dren’s car­toon, BBC News and a live video of Dylan and the Hawks play­ing “Like a Rolling Stone” in 1966.

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Eric Prydz - Hologram

Eric Prydz — EPIC 4.0 Tour Visuals

Com­ing off the very suc­cess­ful cam­paign for Eric Pry­dz’s Gen­er­ate music video, our friend Michael Ser­shall hired the team back to design the visu­als for his EPIC 4.0 tour. The setup for the live show was fairly insane, with con­tent screen form­ing a cube with a 28mm see-through LED in front, a Holo Gauze through the middle for a mes­mer­iz­ing holo­gram pro­jec­tion, and finally a 12mm 4:1 wide-screen LED in the back enclos­ing the cube and play­ing back the key content.

For the gig, Munkow­itz tapped his favor­ite col­lab­or­at­ors, the great Con­or Grebel and Michael Rigley, both ridicu­lously tal­en­ted Cinema4D Artists and Anim­at­ors, who brought their A‑Game for this throw­down. All the con­tent was rendered with the amaz­ing Octane Ren­der­er which meant the team bought two super­Com­puters and a fuck­Load of graph­ics cards to render all the wet­ness. In the end, the pro­ject was about mak­ing art for enter­tain­ment, and these kinds of pay­ing gigs are what we love.

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Werner Herzog Talks Virtual Reality

“I am con­vinced that this is not going to be an exten­sion of cinema or 3‑D cinema or video games. It is some­thing new, dif­fer­ent, and not exper­i­enced yet,” the film­maker Wern­er Herzog said of vir­tu­al real­ity. An inter­view by Patrick House with the film­maker about sim­u­la­tion and experience.


Wanderers — a short film by Erik Wernquist

The film is a vis­ion of our human­ity’s future expan­sion into the Sol­ar Sys­tem. Although admit­tedly spec­u­lat­ive, the visu­als in the film are all based on sci­entif­ic ideas and con­cepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever hap­pens. All the loc­a­tions depic­ted in the film are digit­al recre­ations of actu­al places in the Sol­ar Sys­tem, built from real pho­tos and map data where available.


Wireless DMX Lighting Control Using Arduino and Vixen

A step-by-step tutori­al on how to con­trol and sequence wire­less light­ing effects — either for install­a­tions, dis­plays, or wear­able designs. It’s based on the Ardu­ino board (or Freak­labs’ Fred­board) using Vix­en soft­ware (v3). Everything you need — from scratch right through to code and work­ing examples.


A 3D Fractal Artist Is Building an ‘Interstellar’ Inspired VR World

Film­maker Juli­us Hor­sthuis, the fre­quent explorer of fractal­ized cav­erns and end­less ali­en plan­ets, has begun a line of com­puter-gen­er­ated exper­i­ments that could let us explore our own Inter­stel­lar-like mul­ti­di­men­sion­al real­it­ies. His impress­ive series of sweep­ing fractal vis­tas, begin­ning with Gei­ger­’s Night­mare nearly a year ago, has giv­en him a wealth of know­ledge about mak­ing gor­geous fractals. Now, he has channeled that exper­i­ence into build­ing Hall­way 360VR, the first in a line of 360-degree vir­tu­al real­ity animations.


Lightpainting with Pixelsticks

Pixel­stick con­sists of 200 full col­or RGB LEDs inside a light­weight alu­min­um hous­ing. The moun­ted con­trol­ler reads images from an SD card and dis­plays them, one ver­tic­al line at a time, on the LEDs. Each LED cor­res­ponds to a pixel in the image.


Cymatics — Nigel Stanford

Cymat­ics is the first single from Nigel Stan­ford’s new album Sol­ar Echoes. It was shot in 6k res­ol­u­tion on Red Dragon cam­er­as, and fin­ished in 4k / Ultra HD.

The team went through months of research, test­ing, and devel­op­ment to make sure the exper­i­ments — includ­ing a Chladini plate, speak­er dish, hose pipe, ferro flu­id, Ruben’s tube, and tesla coil looked great in the final film.

Cymat­ics is the study of vis­ible sound co vibra­tion, a sub­set of mod­al phe­nom­ena. Typ­ic­ally the sur­face of a plate, dia­phragm, or mem­brane is vibrated, and regions of max­im­um and min­im­um dis­place­ment are made vis­ible in a thin coat­ing of particles, paste, or liquid. Dif­fer­ent pat­terns emerge in the excit­at­ory medi­um depend­ing on the geo­metry of the plate and the driv­ing frequency.


3D Projection (without a screen)

A team of research­ers in Japan lead by Akira Asano­have developed the tech­no­logy they call ‘The Aer­i­al Bur­ton.’ The device works by fir­ing a 1kHz infrared pulse dir­ectly into a 3D scan­ner, which focuses and reflects the laser to a spe­cif­ic point in the air. When the molecules reach the spe­cified point at the end of the laser they ion­ize, releas­ing energy in the form of photons.


Why good leaders make you feel safe

What makes a great lead­er? Man­age­ment the­or­ist Simon Sinek sug­gests, it’s someone who makes their employ­ees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust. But cre­at­ing trust and safety – espe­cially in an uneven eco­nomy – means tak­ing on big responsibility.


Isaac Delusion’s “Pandora’s Box”


Cre­ated by Stu­dio Clée – com­prised of Alizée Ayrault and Claire Dubosc–with addi­tion­al con­tri­bu­tions from Romain Avalle, the pro­ject includes 600 videos and 1500 pos­sible slots, yield­ing a seem­ingly-infin­ite num­ber of com­bin­a­tions. After 20 seconds, you get the option to share the unique video with friends, where they can either watch your per­son­al­ized video, or exper­i­ence a fresh, rein­carn­ated one. All get adorned with eye-catch­ing vin­tage stock footage–cuts from North By North West and oth­er 20th cen­tury gems–taken from the Prelinger Archives, a pub­lic domain data­base cre­ated in 1983.

View the pro­ject here