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, we were assigned an object and we had to produce a series of images that captured the object’s denoted and connoted meaning.
Task 1 – Denotation
For Task 1, I captured the object’s physical attributes, where the object is commonly seen, and the practical function of the object. I paid more attention to the camera angle and composition of the fork, as well as keeping the background interesting, but not so much as to distract the audience from the object in focus.
This image focuses on the fork’s shape and form, mostly on the tines. The background of wood and plants is a contrast with the fork’s hard metallic structure.
The fork in its ‘natural habitat’. A portrait shot as opposed to a landscape shot in order to capture the entire length of the fork in the compartment. A touch of green in the background to add colour and balance out the dull greyish colours.
The basic functionality of a fork. In Asia, we tend to use chopsticks for noodles, while it is the Western culture that uses forks. I also wanted to portray a more classy dish, and therefore went for spaghetti.
Task 2 – Connotation
For Task 2, I subverted the object’s meaning, showing what it is not meant to be used for, and touching on the object’s cultural meaning.
You obviously don’t drink soup with a fork. I made the soup in the bowl too watery and had to dip the fork in another bowl of thicker soup to make the soup on the fork more thick and slimy. I took quite some time with this shot, as I was trying to recreate the camera angle I envisioned in my sketch.
The fork as a murder weapon. There were too many colours going on in the original image, and the background was predominantly orange, I had to convert the image to grayscale and blur the background, leaving the fork unblurred in the foreground and the red of the blood.
In order to create the burning fork, I had to wrap cotton wool around the tines, applied a little bit of thinner, and light it up. I had initially wanted to photoshop an image of a flame onto a fork but that would defeat the purpose of a photography project, and the blending of the flame and fork would probably not look as good.
Task 3 – Text and Image
For Task 3, we were to give one of the images from the above tasks a title, and have it serve to clarify or emphasize something in the image, or to expand or explain the significance of the image. I chose one of the pictures of the object’s subverted meaning as I wanted my title to be more engaging for the audience and not tell them what they already see.
The image I chose for my poster was a person scooping soup with a fork, accompanied by the title “Alzheimer’s, Prevention starts with you.” This poster aims to show us the intellectual and behavioural disabilities caused by Alzheimer’s, and tells the audience that it can be prevented and that they themselves have the ability to prevent it.
However, as Wen Lei pointed out, replacing ‘Prevention starts with you’ with for example, ‘This is what Mary sees everyday’ would have had a stronger impact as it engages the audience more emotionally.
Final Layout for Critique
The layout of my printed images on the wall for critique during class.
Key Concepts & Ideas
Below are the initial sketches I made before I started on the project. As shown, I managed to use four of my initial ideas for my final six images. I have also included some of the inspirations I have gotten for a couple of my images.
For this image, I was inspired by an IKEA breakfast menu, where they had the food on one side and the text on the other, against a simple background.
For this image, I was inspired by how angry mobs in the past would bring along torches and pitchforks, and hence I decided to combine the two, and have a hand holding the ‘pitchfork’ up high like an angry mob would. I shot it in a pitch black background to direct the audience’s focus solely on the burning fork, inspired by a poster image from Hell’s Kitchen.