The End of Civilisation by Douglas Gordon is a three-screen video installation with sound. It shows a piano burning at a remote landscape, a re-enactment of an ancient local tradition of igniting beacons as an admonition or communication.
One screen is devoted to a close recording of the burning piano, from when it is first set alight to when it has been reduced to ashes. Another presents a panning shot of the tranquil surrounding landscape. Occasionally, licks of flame or wisps of smoke invade the periphery of the screen, the only indication that the seemingly serene landscape is in close proximity to a raging fire.
I find this project interesting as there are three cameras at the same location, but they are recording different things at the same time, the artist makes use of space and the visibility of the piano to make the audience wonder if the videos are showing the same location. The artist also makes use of layered sound to further differentiate between the three events, making the audience feel that they are at three different locations when they are actually not.
Déjà-vu, by Douglas Gordon
Déjà-vu uses footage from D.O.A. 1949-50, a Hollywood thriller directed by Rudolph Mateé. The film has been transferred to video and is projected simultaneously on three parallel screens at 25, 24 and 23 frames per second (left to right).
All three identical videos start simultaneously but diverge increasingly overtime, this play on time induces the experience of déjà-vu in the audience, also, as the three videos are placed side by side, the artist also uses space to have the audience able to see all three videos at once, but diverge as time passes, making them feel as if they are suddenly watching three different videos. As each video is playing its own sound, it also diverges overtime, making the viewer hear the same thing repeated two more time, furhter inducing the experience of déjà-vu.
Comparison between the two artworks
Both artworks uses measured, linear time.
The End of Civilisation further uses linear-edited time, when the camera cuts back and forth to close-ups of the burning piano. However, it is still in linear, or chronological time.
Déjà-vu can also be seen as to have used edited time as the framerate for the other two videos are sped up and slowed down by one frame, making them faster and slower than the normal video respectively.
An interesting use of edited time to make the two people look as if they are solving the cube with their feet and blindfolded, when in actual fact they are scrambling the cube and the video we are seeing is played backwards.
To fool us further, there is a third person walking in the background, when in actuality, he is walking backwards.
This is an example of measured time, but also conveys edited time as it is played in reverse.
For this project, we were tasked to study how rhythm can be achieved through the use of exploring composition, transformation in a visual sequence, how sound and image can reinforce or contradict each other, and explore literal and metaphorical use of sound with image.
This short video is about a ninja who has found himself in a secluded mountainous area, basking in the calmness and serenity of the environment until a crow disrupts the peace…
Task 1 & 2 – Visual Sequence & Soundscape
30 Places I’ve never been
New York City
30 Sounds I would hear at selected location (Mountainous area)
Airplane flying by
Fishes in ponds
David Attenborough narrating for National Geographic
Someone shouting, echoes
Step 1: Rough Storyboards
My first step of pre-production was to draft the rough storyboards, where I planned the camera angles, composition of elements, and sequence of events for the entire video.
Step 2: Soundscape
Based on my storyboards, I used the internet to find the sounds that would appear in each shot. I also recorded a few of my own sounds for use in my Hi-Fi storyboard and final video.
Sounds from free online sources:
Sounds recorded using the Zoom Recorder:
Underlying Piano Melody (Non-diegetic sounds)
I also created some simple piano melodies to help bring out the emotion of the character (Applied in Final Video, after Hi-Fi consultation).
Step 3: Low Fidelity Animatics
I then converted my storyboards into an animatic, along with the soundscape. I also used this stage to plan out the duration for each shot.
Step 4: High Fidelity Storyboard
The final step of pre-production was adding the colours, reflecting the overall mood of the film. Sounds were also recorded and finalised to be added into the final video.
The initial walking scene was removed as I wanted the first shot to be more impactful, i.e. dropping the audience right into the establishing shot of the vast mountainous area.
Task 3 – Final Video
Once again, here is my final video entitled Serenity.
Mood graph for my video. Character is at a location, encounters a problem, solves the problem, and everything goes back to normal.
A sunset theme of orange and purple was used to evoke a sense of serenity, it also signifies the peacefulness at the end of a hard day’s work, or in this case, maybe the ninja had just finished assassinating someone and is taking a break in the mountains.
There are three main parts for the soundscape in my final video: The ambience, the sounds created by the different elements in the video, and the underlying piano melody.
The waterfall and howling wind are the two sounds which can be heard throughout the entire video. It immerses the audience into the location, as if they were there themselves. The intensity of the sound of the waterfall is manipulated according to the scene, i.e. the closer it is to the ‘camera’, the louder it will be.
Sounds of elements
Due to the constant sounds of the ambience, the sounds of the other elements in the video had to be loud enough to be heard, but not so loud as to make it unnatural.
Underlying piano melody
As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the piano melody is to bring out the character’s state of mind and change of emotion throughout the video. The main idea was to have a serene melody for when he is calm, and an off-key note when the crow disrupts the peace. A repetition of notes is used for the scene where he takes aim at the crow with his bow and arrow, which creates tension.
Research and References
I was heavily inspired by the short film ‘Palmipedarium’ by Jérémy Clapin. The film has great ambience and subtle sounds in a relatively quiet background which really immerses the audience into the film. It also has brief moments of an underlying melody which brings out the characters’ state of mind and emotions. There is no dialogue so all the attention is really on the characters’ performance and soundscape.
Lastly, the artworks of Pascal Campion has always been an inspiration for many of my illustration based projects. His use of colours and ability to tell a story through an image is breathtaking.
This project has been fun as I was able to incorporate what I’ve studied when pursuing my diploma in Animation, going through the pre-production process of storyboarding and animatics right down to the final video, although it was just until the animatics part. It has allowed me to think more deeply on how important sound is and how it affects visuals.
Classroom Exercise – Analysis on Rhythm, Movement, Causality and Duration
rhythm – regularity or irregularity? any repetition? movement – successional or oppositional or stillness? is there presence of attack, sustain and decay? causality – clear expectations or unexpected? easy to track or not easy to track? duration – too long or too short? length of time effective?
Rhythm – A regularised repeating of movement or sound
There is the continuous soundscape of the ambience, i.e. the sound of the waterfall and the howling wind, creating a sense of calmness. There is also a continuous use of a consistent colour scheme of orange of purple throughout the film.
Movement – A shift or variation in the location of an object, light or sound
There are a few moments of successional movement, where the audience is attention is focused to where the main character is looking and pointing the bow and arrow at.
An example of movement can also be seen in the difference between the smooth-moving clouds and the staggered movement of other elements (animatic animation).
Causality – The principle that everything has a cause and effect
The story is relatively straight forward to understand and predict, when the crow interrupts the character’s calm state of mind, and when he puts down his bow and arrow, the audience can predict that he is going to shoot the crow down, an expected outcome. There is a brief moment of anticipation or suspense when the character eyes the crow while pointing the bow and arrow at it for a few seconds, taking aim at his target.
There is also a causality of sound when the character pulls the bow string back, the audience will expect the sound of the bow string snapping back and the sound of the arrow whizzing through the air.
Duration – Whether the time allocated to the work is effective
The video lasts 1 minute 7 seconds, which is around the required duration of the video in the project brief. The duration is also effective as it manages to illustrate the story being told. The story has a start, middle and end.
For this project, I looked towards surrealism as it is a style in art that feature the element of surprise and unexpected juxtapositions.
I also aimed to use anthropomorphism for this project as it is an easy way to make things look more interesting and visually engaging.
The first artist I researched on was Eugenia Loli, courtesy of Joy, I like how she merges different elements of different ‘styles’ but is still able to make them work and come together as a whole.
Joy had initially given me the idea of replacing the power plant chimneys with cigarettes, which I thought was pretty cool, I went on to research on anti-smoking posters and other similar posters, they subvert the meaning of the object in focus and lets the viewer think about the meaning of the object in its new ‘environment’.
The following two weeks were spent improving the first two designs, making the tote bag, and working on two new quotes.
In this post, I’ll be covering:
Comments for first two designs from 1st group consultation.
Practising silkscreening & Tote bag creation
Ideation for 3rd and 4th designs, comments from 2nd group consultation.
Comments for first two designs
“Mankind was born on Earth … it was never meant to die here.” – Interstellar (2014)
For this design, it was mentioned that the soldiers needed to have more contrast to make them pop out more, the field of garbage on the other hand had to have lesser contrast as they were too distracting. The direction of the smoke also had to be flipped to better direct the viewer’s eye.
“T-Rex doesn’t want to be fed. He wants to hunt.” – Jurassic Park (1993)
For this design, it is a little unclear that the girl being pushed away is lusting for the man, one suggestion is to replace her with a ‘world’ of women or a plate of women, the latter with reference to food from ‘be fed’. The size of the rose could be bigger so that the audience can focus on the rose and move their attention down southeast.
Practising silkscreening & Tote bag creation
After practising, we went on to print our final designs during recess week.
Didn’t turn out as great as I envisioned (looks a little dark) but I was happy with it, the reduced details of the field of trash worked well; the trash bags look like trash bags, I was afraid it would look like blobs of ink.
Ideation and comments of 3rd and 4th designs
The week before the deadline, I worked on my final two designs.
“If you are good at something never do it for free” – The Dark Knight (2008)
For this quote, I referenced the story of the Golden Goose, instead of giving its golden eggs for free to the little boy in the story (I think there was a little boy), I made the goose demand payment for it, in this case, to a man. I deviated from ‘money’ for this quote and used fish instead as the form of payment. I used a chef instead of a business man as it fitted the theme better.
“You are no longer black, or brown, or yellow, or red! You are now green! You are light green! Or dark green!”- Jarhead (2005)
As the quote is talking about soldiers and their camouflage, I went on to use the classic example of camouflaging, chameleons. Comments from the consultation were that the chameleon could stand out more, the plants are interrupting the silhouette, one suggestion is that the chameleon could be holding up the plants. As the snake is not the main focal point, it can be smaller.