The Veil

This was one of my earlier fractal animation videos, (original soundtrack). I guess it’s logical to show this in the light of talking about working with students who are submitting video as part of their HSC body of work. This work was exhibited at last years Digital Fringe in Melbourne and screened internationally as part of that festival. I think it’s relevant and also good that students see that the person teaching them also practices.

What’s also interesting is that it was through learning about it, i.e., to teaching students how to edit and work with video, that my eyes were opened to the possibilities, and I became interested in working with this art form.

This is how you disappear | Anke Vermeulen

An work of extraordinary sophistication and dedication. Combining a number of her own works; this student, 2008 HSC candidate Anke Vermeulen stretched my technical expertise to the limit. More of the story to follow…..

There were some lessons in the making of this work that might be worthwhile passing on. This was the second video work that I was involved in providing assistance with from a technical point of view. This time it was a student of mine who had emigrated from Belgium where she had gained some experience with video work and was quite a proficient scriptwriter / director / camera operator. Well motivated and disciplined, as a high school student, she was well ahead of the pack in terms of organization. To briefly outline the scope of the project; by the end of term one she was clear about the direction her work would take. Over the Xmas break she scripted and filmed what was ostensibly a music video, (excerpts of which appear in the 3rd of the smaller screens in the video). On her return to school we discussed the footage and decided that it needed to be opened out to include other work. She had a green screen sequence to film and in the absence of being able to access one, (green screen) just shot the footage against a neutral background and chroma-keyed the subject from the background. She didn’t know how to do that so I had to learn that process in Adobe After Effects and pass that on to her. During term two she scripted and shot a second sequence that was to become the mainstay of her work. This involved elaborate set construction and lighting at a warehouse that she had access to. The documentation of the filming of this work became the basis of a very successful series of photographic images that also became a part of her submission. This also involved extensive chroma keying and proved to be quite difficult because of reflectance problems, and certainly tried the collective patience of both student and teacher. She now had two strong standalone pieces but the work still needed more to tie it together into a cohesive unit. This was where the left field players entered the scene.

After extensive discussions, Anke had decided on a split screen approach. We put together some prototypes, in Premiere Pro, after which it became apparent that the work needed something to lead into it that was a strong aesthetic counterpoint, but enabled the work to bleed through. We discussed the validity of appropriation and thought it the best way to go. She liked some footage of Tarkovsky and settled on a grab from “The Mirror”, a short dolly from a hallway into a large room. This provided a workspace into which she could flash excerpts of her own work onto floors, walls, ceiling and into picture frames in the shot. This involved extensive use of the motion capability of Final Cut HD, again another steep learning curve for both student and teacher.

By now the main body of the video was taking shape, but the pacing and sequencing of the shots was still unresolved and we decided to anchor the work with text. This however proved problematic as the transitions were a little unconvincing so the transitions were anchored around a common letter in each word. Quite a time consuming process.

The piece now needed a bridge, so a second grab from a Fellini movie (3 secs) was used. Everything was coming together well. No point to discuss the soundtrack save that the dialogue Anke created and brought to the work early Term 3 made the rest of the process so much easier. No copyright issues here.

At this time of the development I did not consider any aspect of the work contentious in terms of copyright. The grabs were short and not identifiable in terms of adding to the significance of the students work by virtue of a recognizable connection to a work of importance, nor did it detract from the integrity of the works they were extracted from nor was it being used for commercial purposes.

To cut a long story short the work-included components covered by Creative Commons license, original footage and appropriated footage. None of which should have been cause for dispute.

The Body of work was preselected and subsequently selected for ArtExpress. A good thing to remember here is that if you have a student with a video component that is selected you will have to provide a copy of that work on Mini DV tape. Advice on the ArtExpress website relating to this is incorrect. You can only use iMovie HD (06), Premiere Pro or Premiere Elements. Any other version of iMovie does not support this process.

When the clearance forms were received they were filled out accurately with times and sources clearly defined. The copyright department at BOS began the process of obtaining clearance for the appropriated pieces and believe it or not for components released under Creative Commons license. An email was received stating that they tried to contact Creative Commons and had not received a reply. This was when I realized that whoever was at the other end was not up to date with standards in copyright practice that had been in place for quite some time. The license type that an author of a work applies under Creative Commons determines the kind of copyright and usage that relates to the work. Creative Commons do not authorize clearance of works released under that licensing umbrella. These components had been released to the student under an Attribution, Share Alike distribution and were appropriately cited. So no problem. That was two years ago. Hopefully they have come into line with the rest of the world in relation to this since then, but buyer beware, if you have someone using material obtained through Creative Commons distribution, get clarification from Copyright at BOS well in advance.

By this time I was onto the Copyright Council and received extensive advice from their legal department. One of the sticking points in clearing this student’s work was getting release for the Tarkovsky and Fellini grabs. Copyright Council deemed this as fair usage but explained that organizations like galleries and BOS could also interpret copyright differently and place constraints on the public viewings of works whether they fell into the category of fair use or not. Unfortunately, unlike music distribution, which is controlled by APRA (Southern Hemisphere) and BMG (Northern Hemisphere) there is no organization or body as such that oversees copyright pertaining to film and video and its up to anyone seeking clearance for work to approach the distributors or copyright holders individually. Despite that fact that ArtExpress is a big event, with a high public profile, it somehow falls into obscurity in the offices of big distributors. This was borne out by the fact that the distributors never answered emails sent from the Copyright department of the BOS. I repeatedly requested that they ring them if they wanted a response, but this suggestion was never acted on.

As you may well guess, permission was not granted for the video component of this student’s body of work to be exhibited at the venues that her work was selected for. Such a pity considering the extraordinary ammount of time and effort put into the work.

Lessons ???

You can view the high resolution file (much better quality) at YouTube here

After all this time

After so many resource posts, time to talk.

Years ago after moving to a new school I was confronted with the task of assisting a student with editing a video submission as part of the HSC Body of Work. Up to that point I had not had to handle anything like that, but I figured it couldn’t be too hard. I had taught myself Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, had a working knowledge of Logic, Cubase and FL Studio and worked with procedural and fractal landscape generators like Terragen and Mojoworld, so finding my way around a new interface shouldn’t be all that difficult….learning curve No1.

I had just stepped into a Mac environment and was discovering a mini version of heaven. Having been a long time PC user who had just crossed over I certainly welcomed the opportunity to get ‘under the bonnet’ and learn more.

I cut my teeth on IMovie HD, (I still keep a copy because it’s the only version that can export to mini DV). The student I was working with was not mine, but was an HSC candidate of another teacher in the faculty. However, I had her in my Design class and this was where we worked on solving some of the technical problems that turned up in the process of the work being put together. I quickly learned the basics of editing and this student was fast in picking it up, and in a very short time had a substantial amount of footage to work with and a head full of ideas that quickly exhausted the editing capability of iMovie. So the next logical step was to upgrade to Final Cut HD and relearn. This was possibly the best thing that could have happened.

Having the basic principles of editing under control it proved to be substantially easier to move across to a new interface and multi-layers. The addition of Soundtrack and Live Type made the crossover even more pleasurable. However refining the process to the point where I could fluently instruct someone else, meant long hours after work sorting out all the pros and cons of codex related issues and the finer points of the craft of editing. No one told me how time consuming it would be (and still is).

Putting the soundtrack together meant taking my iMac into school and working with her there. Using an extensive library of royalty free loops, the piece came together with relative ease:) and the ability to sync video and audio in Soundtrack took the strain out of the final edits. As far as I remember the soundtrack had something like 15-20 seperate tracks………….there was some very interesting dialogue in the development of this piece.

Exporting the completed project to iDVD proved to be an interesting experience. The 06 version of iDVD had some interesting idiosyncrasies and again provided another learning curve that was relatively painless but time consuming for both student and teacher.

So here it is, (from 2007), a small part of an extensive body of work comprising photography, graphics, video and an interactive website and my initiation into the world of teaching video editing.