Archive for symmetry

Montage Projects 6 + 8 – ‘Colourful Symmetry’

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by Adam Broome

Bringing up the rear was the final montage project, a hybrid of two words and a somewhat ‘sequel’ to ‘Dirty Text’ completed the week before. Colourful Symmetry was designed to further my understanding of editing in FCP, particularly in terms of grading and colour technique. I also wanted to learn how to use ‘mirror’ effects.

The approach to this project was similar to Dirty Text – the only difference this time was that I was using a PDX10 as opposed to a Z5, so the quality was slightly lower, and there were no slow-motion shots. For the last time, on a nice sunny day, I returned to the memorial park, but avoided the forest this time. I had a vague idea of what mirror effecs I was looking for, and got shots of trees in the centre of the camera, along with some naturally-occurring symmetry as well. I took a video of several lakes and stream, trying to capture the reflections in the water. I also took some footage of local flowers coming into bloom, as I figured they’d be a good focal point for colour.

Then, just like several times before, the trip around the nature park was quickly followed up by a trip to Coventry city centre, where I got additional footage – one was an extremely long shot of my journey as I walked towards another park on the other side of town. This was sped up to about 1000% in the final cut. Once I felt I’d obtained enough footage, I returned to the editing suites and uploaded.

We were told not to do this a long time ago – upload images and overplay music. However almost every student on the course has an example of this artefact in some form or another – at least I can say I made my version of the artefact last when I saw no other way forward. Once the videos were uploaded, I sequenced them in a way I was happy, and re-sped the long shot. I used what I had learned from Dirty Text to grade most of the shots, and applied mirror effects to the 360-degrees ‘tree’ shot, which turned out more or less exactly how I had hoped. The shots of the duck on the lake were kept until the end – not did this fit the music, but it was also a ‘cute’ way to end the piece (much like with the squirrel in ‘The Urbanisation’).

Critically however, whilst meandering around the internet looking for ways to further improve my editing skills and make this artefact look better, I stumbled across something called ‘The Pleasantville Effect’. This effect is named after the film Pleasantville.

I remember watching the film many years ago when I was young – I didn’t think much of it (probably too young), but I recognised the name and knew what it meant straight away. The film used a very unique technique – the whole film is black and white, but half-way through, things start turning into colour. It’s much like the ‘arrival’ scene in The Wizard Of Oz or, the ‘red coat’ scenes in Schindler’s List (see below).

I thought it would be a really great idea to learn this and get something really productive out of a simply artefact. I saw the tutorial for it, which can be found below, and it took me step-by-step through the process. I used the shots of the flowers to implement the effect, only bringing the bloom into colour, and leaving the rest of the image black and white.

Here’s the tutorial I used on how to make this rather ‘spiffy’ effect:

Overall, I think the effect worked really well, and I can see it coming in use in the future. I’ve not seen many students on the course use this effect yet, and for me (whose knowledge of editing is… was limited) this was quite a big step forward. Split-screen and wireframes were experimented with during the production of this artefact, but it didn’t look right, and I decided to save those effects for the actual montage itself.

The final piece of the puzzle was choosing the music, which came from the regular site FreePlayMusic.com. The tune is called ‘Witches Approaching’, and I fell in love with it straight away. The music was over-the-top, but that was sort of the point. This tapped into what I had already researched around symmetry itself – it doesn’t take much to make symmetry (or distorted version of symmetry) to seem like a threatening and rather sharp affair. The music added a certain gothic atmosphere to the images (despite the images being taken mostly in the sunshine), and I think that really added to the piece. What the visual elements lacked was compensated for in the soundtrack.

I liked the way it turned out overall. I think it complements Dirty Text nicely – the pacing is completely different, as is the content. The former worked on a much deeper level, whereas this piece was just something that looked pretty and sounded intriguing. Nevertheless, despite the simplicity of this artefact, the editing skills I learned from the production will no doubt benefit me in many projects to come, meaning this project has achieved it’s purpose 100%.

Symmetry – Fearful And Otherwise

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , , on March 5, 2011 by Adam Broome

BIOSHOCK.

A lot of people will try and convince you it was the best game on the XBox. They’d be telling a lie – trust me, I played it, argued with a die-hard fan, and convinced him it was actually not that good. And the word of the week is ‘symmetry’ – Level 2 of this game that I played last year shot straight to my mind. Why? Because it features a mad doctor in it who hates symmetry, and cuts people’s faces up to make them look more ‘attractive’.

Yeah, he was crazy. Yet funny that, although this game tried really hard to be a master of all trades (and became Jack of all, and master of none), out of the sacred few levels that played the ‘horror genre’ card, this one cropped up. Doctors can be creepy, yes. But they really went to town with this level – flickering lights, those ‘Big Daddy’ boss monster things, the works. Always in the background – the doctor and his hatred of the symmetrical. Put simply – symmetry was used for the purpose of horror in this level. ‘Fearful Symmetry’?

The term ‘fearful symmetry’ was actually coined by William Blake in his poem The Tyger. What it actually means though is largely open to debate. Perhaps a symmetry that signifies danger. With relation to Bioshock, I don’t think that is the case so much – more a case of lack of symmetry that causes fear, and this idea of the familiar and the unfamiliar. It relates to binary oppositions in some ways – cause and effect templates, and the two sides of every narrative. They all feature symmetry to a degree, and by meddling with the ‘balance’, you can start to make weird things happen in your artefacts. Think ‘good vs evil’ – a symmetry of sorts in narrative design. Take away evil, and make it ‘good vs good’. Add another, make it ‘good vs good vs good’. The film The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly did this to some extent. What about a story that has ‘evil’, and nothing to counterbalance the argument?

When you think of the world around us, a lot of it is based around symmetry. That’s probably because we as living creatures are symmetrical – heck, even microscopic organisms are to some degree. Lack of symmetry is an unfamiliar thing to us really, especially if it’s something that we would usually consider symmetrical. When we think about is comfortable, what is attractive, and what is genuinely accepted, via codes and conventions of sorts, symmetry is always there. It allows us to identify with the object, as their design is similar to ourselves. So thus can we assume that lack of symmetry is altogether something more sinister?

Perhaps it provokes a feeling of the grotesque. Things that aren’t symmetrical tend to be rejected, as our eyes don’t seem to recognise them as familiar objects. This means that we are uncomfortable with the sight. This notion could be very useful in creating horror effects, which is what Bioshock seemed to be doing. I will likely be exploring and advancing my editing skills for this word artefact, but all the same, this idea of ‘unfamiliar symmetry’ is one that I wish to explore in further detail a little later down the line.

Here are two videos of the game and level in question:

(skip to five minutes in for the relevant part)

Also, here is a link to the thirty second ad for the X-Files episode ‘Fearful Symmetry’ (the first time I came across the term). The episode, if I recall correctly, had little to do with symmetry at all – it did, however, feature various animals being abducted from a zoo and being turned invisible – one of which happened to be a ‘Tyger’, if you get my drift.