Wired Fire

So four days and a continent later, it’s hard to believe it all really happened. Did I actually play a giant game of late night tag across Manhattan? Or rip apart children’s toys to manipulate their circuits? Or obey the whims of iPod Shuffle right into the red light district, or even play on seesaws on the Berlin Wall? Did I gain an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art that I couldn’t have possibly obtained on my own? Have I stretched the limits of my creative potential and grown as an artist and storyteller? Did I survive the British abomination known as cheese salad?

Yeah, I guess I did.

The culmination of this wild new media ride was the creation of our final project and the near suicidal attempt to do a 24 hour film festival piece immediately afterwards. It was awesome.

Initially, Jeremy, Julian, and I were going to do a serial fiction podcast about a crazy cross-continental spy plot. It could have been cool, but due to the time restrictions of the trip and our desire to do more than shoot and edit during our time abroad; it was scrapped in London. And thus we took up John Schott’s plea for a VJ project.

VJ-ing, or video jockeying, is the manipulation of video images, usually in a club, to create an awesome visual experience. With the advent of new digital technology, it’s become possible to live mix visuals like DJs mix records. Well, sort of. We used Livid Union, a high end VJ software that uses a midi keyboard to mix short video clips or live cameras. We nixed the idea of doing a live show pretty early because we didn’t have the enough experience with the program or enough time to practice to make it good enough to be our final project.

I was initially pretty nervous: I don't have the audio skills of Julian, or the video experience of Jeremy. My real strength is story, and this was the first time I'd stepped outside of narrative to express myself. It was a pretty strange experience, to be honest. One of the things I'm proudest of is our audio track. I also hadn't really worked too much with audio, but I had collected some cool clips with my snazzy iPod recorder and I made some pretty sweet tracks with subway sounds. The awesome beat you hear toward the middle of the piece in the "subway techno" section was actually someone drumming on big plastic paint buckets and a trashcan. Julian put it all together and fortunately did a fabulous job, because despite listening to the track at least fifty times while editing, I never got tired of it.

The editing process itself was quite a journey. We had wanted to record our mix straight out of Livid Union, but due to either the bugginess of the program or the limited processing power of our many laptops, anything we tried to record directly was slow and choppy, and quite frankly unacceptable. Thanks to the sheer wizardry of Mr. Sairsingh and the helpful folks at the German Apple center, we ended up with a tangle of wires and laptops and cameras and cables that bypassed Livid Union's lameness entirely. After sifting all the video we shot into about 60 ten to twenty second clips, and sorting out far too many clips of flamingos (Jeremy went to the zoo), we took turns mixing and projecting and recording using Livid Union's digital effects banks. One important discovery was that even though Livid Union has tons of different effects, a lot of them are lame. In fact, we soon grew a little tired of the digital visual manipulations and started experimenting with the live camera instead. Pretty soon, one of us was typing on the laptop and using the iSight camera, one was holding the other camera and the third was editing with the midi keyboard. It was a truly collaborative experience. I think nothing shows this more than the shot towards the middle of the piece where Jeremy has the iSight in his mouth, Julian appears inside it and uses a key to "unlock" the potential of combination of digital and analog effects, while I turned on the effect with the keyboard. A lot of what we accomplished couldn't have been done without the cooperation with all three of us, and we had a lot of fun working together, which I think you can tell while watching the piece, especially when we made flamethrowers out of Old Spice deodorant and a lighter. There's nothing better than a final project where you can breathe fire.

It's been interesting showing this project to my family and friends. A lot of them have been thrown off by the fact that it's so, quite frankly, weird. One person said,"I can't say anything because I don't know what to look for." We get kind of hung up on this idea of "getting it" or finding some deep hidden meaning in everything. One thing I've learned on this trip is how to appreciate things without a clear meaning. Sometimes it's not about getting it.

With that in mind, don't be too worried about "getting it." Just enjoy it. Despite not setting out with a form a narrative, I think the piece evolved into the story of our journey in creating it. And I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Watch the Video


Derek Deren said…
I, too, will say that I don't know what to say.

Other than, bravo.
laura said…
Holy crap--I loved it. So, so cool. My favorite parts are the Julian-inside-Jeremy's-mouth, the flamethrowers, and that gorgeous shot of the white city and vibrant sky at the end.

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