Month: March 2014

Blog Prompt #11: DIY Adobe Premier Pro

DIY Blog Posts should provide practical instruction on a particular skill or technique that is not covered by the in-class studio, in-class practice or assigned tutorials but that might be useful for other students in the course. DIY posts should include relevant images (screenshots, etc.) and links to additional web resources or tutorials, as needed.

The idea behind these is that you do a little research and play around with the software. Google something you might want to figure out and then make your own tutorial. Personalize it and make it fun.

tc

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Baldessari makes his own irony

Having watched A Brief History of John Baldessari, I am able to take away to major traits about him.  He enjoys being humorous and he is a much accomplished artist.  The humor was captured by the video in multiple ways.  What I noticed first was the use of quick cuts.  They were so quick, it almost did not allow the viewer to completely see and notice everything that was in the entire frame.  A similar technique was used to literally spell out each word the narrator would say for a sentence or two at a time.  This over exaggerates what it is that is being said to a point of over dramatization.  The audience is fully aware of what is being said, whether the words are written or not.  However, having them appear physically and through audio makes it seem funny as though one of those forms is unnecessary.

Not only does he prefer to use humor, he specifically enjoys dry humor.  For example, the narrator states that Baldessari burned all of his art made up until 1970.   Immediately following, there is a shot of Baldessari stating that since it was done in a crematorium, the proper word is ‘cremated’.  There are also a lot of sentences in the narration that begin with “This is John Baldessari’s….”.  This very basic technique is so basic that it is laughable.  It is done for such simple objects such as his desk, chair, wifi password, coffe maker and others that it is almost ironic that these objects need an introduction.   However, what this technique also does is show how simple of a person this obscure artist truly is, which could also be considered ironic.

The irony continues to build when Baldessari’s world renowned art form of putting dots over peoples’ faces is introduced.  The narrator even introduces it as basic, but Baldessari now decides that he would like to speak slightly complexly about something.  Claiming things such as “it is his take on the world” and “it levels the playing field” are the first real pieces of evidence of his artistic thoughts, yet they are about something so simple.  This contrast of a simple though and detailed explanation really is made possible by the technique of allowing Baldessari to do so.  In the video about Amar, there are no parts that allow him to talk or elaborate on what is happening.  This video allowing Baldessari to speak on the topics being discussed is what sets up all of these different scenarios for dry humor and irony.

This is John Baldessari

I decided to focus on A Brief History of John Baldessari for this visual analysis, because the style was very interesting. Like Baldessari’s artwork, the short made use of vibrant colors and high contrast between B+W and color. The short was also edited at a very rapid pace, increasing throughout the duration of the piece. The reason I was drawn to this presentation was the way the shots of Baldessari were cut and intertwined in the still shots of his artwork. And the way the editor used Baldessari’s voice to finish the sentences of the narrator. By connecting the dialogue of the narrator and Baldessari, it creates a humorous interaction with Baldessari and the audience. When people think of famous artist, the persona that Baldessari is showing in this piece is not what you would expect. He seems very colloquial, boring, and simple, yet the short build him up to be extremely interesting and experienced. This creates an interesting dynamic of informality between the artist and the audience.

Another strategy I saw in A Brief History of John Baldessari was the very rapid cuts. Sometimes it would even cut in the middle of Baldessari’s sentence. I noticed that when music was brought into the short, the video started cutting on the beat, making the cuts even more rapid. As a viewer, this made me pay closer attention to the piece. I had to focus on each cut to understand what was happening, and the cuts had enough variance in color and contrast that it was entertaining. An example of this is when the narrator says “John Baldessari has been called the godfather of art…” ect and the words appear full screen in different colors and typeface. This was really interesting because every shot had a unique color, a small nuanced joke, and entertaining fonts.

I think this video really shows how important and interesting it is when juxtaposed shots have a high variance of color and contrast. Had this rapid cutting video contained washed-out colors and low contrast, it would have been much more boring. I think that high-variance color is very important in making a quick video portrait. I also think that incorporating the subject’s voice within the short is very clever, the way the narrator and Baldessari had pseudo-conversation in this piece.

Blog Post #10: Amar

While most American kids only have to concern themselves with what activity they want to dedicate their evenings to, Amar, (who we assume is from India), is a kid who has been forced to grow up at a very young age. His days do not go by with carefree feelings of enjoying a day at school, only to be picked off by mom or dad and taken to soccer or baseball practice. No. Instead, he begins his day by waking up at about 3:00am. He moves about the tiny one-two room living space so as not to wake his younger siblings and parents, all of whom share a bed. His efforts are in vain seeing that everyone watches him prepare to leave to start his newspaper delivery route, whispering “goodbye” as he steps through the feeble doorway. Amar doesn’t have his parents to drive him from point A to B. He instead relies on his sturdy bicycle to get him all over the city. In between stops, or after completing his round (6:00am), he spends a little bit of time reading the content on the day’s paper, in its entirety. He then heads to work for a few hours. After, he returns home to freshen up before going immediately to school. After school is more work, followed by a late night of studying. We assume, from the video’s conclusion, that the pattern just repeats itself.

 

Strategies

The immediately noticeable and rather interesting strategy that caught my attention was the lack of words or voices in this documentary. Rather than using an individual to narrate the story, the creator(s) chose to only include sounds from the surrounding environment(s) to serve as the soundtrack. This allowed me to really focus on what Amar was doing, and to really grasp the intensity of this eleven or twelve year old kid’s life. He was enduring (without complaint) things that I know the average adult couldn’t even begin to handle. This choice of (shall we say), “isolation”in terms of voices, created a strong impact and was cool because it was something I immediately recognized, though it was in no way off-putting or distracting from the overall story. The only time when this pattern was sidestepped was when Amar was in school- where the class was learning English and the teacher continually correcting him as he read aloud. This was intentional. His learning the English language was the one factor that connected him to the States.

Use of time/ captions

I LOVED how the creators chose to incorporate time captions as the theme (into the title), and use it to mark scene changes and cuts as Amar moved about throughout the day. They helped with marking the story and keeping things in order and flowing. It helped the viewer to more easily follow along and keep pace with everything that was going on. In addition, I think this immensely helped with putting the challenges and amazing work ethic of Amar (who never once complained) into perspective.

In regards to my own project, this one showed me that silence can in fact be golden. A lot of talking and narration is not always necessary to create an impact. However, if it is properly placed it can make all the difference. I also saw that the use of captions can really enhance a story or assist with the flow of my story. Key points: captions need to be relevant and have key placement.

Meeting Amar

All great achievements require time. By the end of this documentary, the viewer feels like they know the great achievements Amar is capable of, and the ones he desires. Really, there are two compositional techniques that the director uses to beautifully accomplish this feat, extreme close ups, and lack of sound.

The first shots of the piece show an entire family, cramped into a small apartment. The camera pans over the tangle of bodies, all in a cool blue light and eventually, the lens finds our protagonist. Making quick cuts between the family and Amar establish that he stands out, that he will be the focus of the documentary. Amar is the fist person we see completely alone, and engaging in a specific action (washing hair/brushing teeth). From the beginning, all shots of Amar are either close ups or ecus. This creates a distinct intimacy with the protagonist, it feels like it is just the viewer and the subject.

When Amar leaves his apartment, before the sun even rises, we see him riding his bike, and the camera follows his actions, still in close-up form. He does not appear to be alone because we are with him, we feel like we are riding along side, and with him when he goes to pick up the papers. This makes the extreme long shot at 2:30 a particular jarring and sobering experience. The viewers can see just how alone this young boy is at 4 in the morning, riding his bike down a shady ally between apartment buildings. The only light is from a streetlamp, and the cold blue light that comes from the early pre-dawn hours. This is the first time in the film when we are not right there with Amar, sharing his experiences.

The intimacy between the viewer and the subject the director creates is on full display when Amar is in class, and we hear him talk for the first time. This scene is as startling, jarring, and insightful as the first long establishing shot, when we realize we are not actually riding with Amar. The best analogy for this classroom scene is when a popular book gets converted into a film. Fans know the characters well, and despite the fact that they know their motivations, their backstory, their life, they don’t know how they sound. When they hear the actors voice for the first time, often it is not what they imagined it would be. The same is true for Amar. Even though we’ve been with him for only 6 minutes, we feel like we truly know this boy, we see the clothes he wears, the work he does, the words he studies, we feel like we’ve know him and his routine forever.

Not hearing Amar speak until 6 minutes in (he doesn’t speak again until the end of the film) also helps with intimacy. This seems counter intuitive, but by not speaking we actually feel closer with the subject. On an emotional level, it is like best friends, who know each other so well they don’t feel the need to pass time with small talk, they just revel in the moments they spend together. In the extreme close-ups we often see a little smile in the corner of Amar’s face, reinforces this feeling.  There is also a practical reason behind not having Amar speak; it makes the film universal. Any one in the world can watch this film and follow it. If Amar spoke, it would tie the movie to a specific market, and if subtitles would be used, we would not feel the same emotional connection to the subject. Instead of looking at every detail of Amar’s life, and learning about him visually, we would be concerned with what he was saying and listening to the how he pronounced words. Just having the noise of the city in the background is enough to immerse the viewer in Amar’s day.

 

Other Observations:

1. Soft focus: While at times it was a little overused, I enjoyed the way the director would focus on Amar and have everything blurry in the background, then change and show the detail of the environment and blur the subject. Helps the viewer focus on one thing at a time.

2. Overwhelming intimacy: When Amar first goes to school, and we the sea of children, the ecu’s make the scene claustrophobic and overwhelming. We lose Amar and are stuck in a crowd of school kids , and we can see each of their faces. The subject gets to stand out again in the classroom though.

3. The literal interpretation of the “time” in “All great achievements require time” was also a fantastic choice. Showing the time of day to take the viewer through Amar’s day in a linear fashion was beautiful.

4. Amar works really hard.

A brief humorous history of John Baledessari

“A Brief History of John Baledessari” is an up tempo humorous retelling of the life of a great artist.  After watching the three options for the blog entry I was most intrigued by Baledessari’s video portrait.  Not only is it attention getting, it also has impressive video editing as well as interesting shots and pictures.

This video has a unique audio-visual storytelling feature I believe.  It uses video, voiceovers, and pictures to tell one fluid story.  The quick cuts of pictures as well as the quick cuts of past videos Baledessari’s shot I believe gives it it’s own tone/ feeling. It makes it both causal as well as fun. When I first think of documentary my immediate thought is a long boring history lesson.  However, Baledassari gives us his own take on “documentary.”  He inserts his personality into the audio clip and makes it more relatable for the audience.

As Annie said in her blog post, from this video it seems as if Baledassari has a very dry sense of humor- which he shows through the set up of this video.  He inserts the cuts of him sitting at his desk talking at perfect locations to highlight his humor.  In addition, the topics highlighted in the video highlight his humor.  He prefers to talk about the “fun” aspects of his life, not drone on about all of the awards that he has won.  Both of these features add to this video as well as make it more “John”.

One thing that I can take from this video moving forward is that you do not have to have the person being highlighted narrate the story.  This video portrait uses another individual to tell a story, as contrasted to the ones that we watched in class.  For the project my group and I need to complete I believe it would be easier for us to narrate the story (due to time constraints) and this video is a good example on how to do that.

Question for class discussion:

How quick is too quick for different cuts? Did Baledessari loose some of his viewers with this tactic?