Category: Blog

2022.09.29 Quick video: wide journeys

I made three quick experimental videos the other day with footage from train journeys in three different countries. Note, they are all extremely wide, so it might be hard to make them play on a phone. On a computer, you can make them fullscreen by double-clicking somewhere in the video.

France

The first video I made was from France, taken sometime in 2016. I think it’s just outside Paris:

Link to the video

Stills from the video:

Sunsine on the French countryside Sunsine on the French countryside Sunsine on the French countryside

England

The second video is from an old video of a train journey across England, about 2013:

Link to the video

Stills from the video:

British countryside, as seen from a train window British countryside, as seen from a train window British countryside, as seen from a train window British countryside, as seen from a train window British countryside, as seen from a train window

USA

And finally – and perhaps most successfully, a longer form train journey across Chicago, from 2015. Note this is the only version with sound:

 

Link to the video

Stills from the video:

Compilation image of Chicago skyline from 10 videos Compilation image of Chicago skyline from 10 videos Compilation image of Chicago skyline from 10 videos Compilation image of Chicago skyline from 10 videos Compilation image of Chicago skyline from 10 videos Compilation image of Chicago skyline from 10 videos Compilation image of Chicago skyline from 10 videos Compilation image of Chicago skyline from 10 videos

Why?

I make short experimental videos quite regularly (see here, here, here, here, here, etc), as a way to sketch an idea, and keep developing my video editing skills. For years, I’ve been taking videos of places I’ve been, looking out of various vehicular windows. I’ve got scores of them (and other footage) stored away on various hard drives. And whilst I enjoy the process of taking films, quite often I find the videos themselves are a reduction of the experience of being somewhere, as if you have to perceive the environment you’re in through a very thin rectangular cardboard tube. There is so much in a journey that doesn’t come across in a film; a wider field of vision than a smartphone camera can capture, the sounds all around you, the lingering smell of a stranger’s fried dinner further up the carriage.

I’ve been reading Ed Yong’s book An Immense World lately, and thinking about the myriad ways in which animals perceive the world, and how our umwelt is so specific to our physiology. I’m on the part about vision at the moment, and it is so much stranger than you might think. Jumping spiders have multiple types of eyes with different functions; scallops distribute their vision throughout their body; there are so many ways to see. Yong argues that the mode of vision we take as ‘normal’, i.e. two eyes in the front of the head, is anything but. Take, for example, birds of prey:

Many birds of prey, like, eagles, falcons, and vultures, actually have two acute zones in each eye – one that looks forward, and another that looks out at a 45-degree angle.

– Ed Yong, An Immense World

 

All of which caused me to think about vision, and memory, and how the films that I take regularly always fail to capture the entirety of an experience; that cameras are made not to capture reality, but to frame an aspect of it for a screen. I wanted to make films which capture the texture of experience, so that you experience the texture of a place on a journey; rather than focusing on individual things in the journey, my intention is to show textures and patterns in movement. I think they’re getting towards what I’m trying to do – there is too much to focus on any one thing, and so instead of watching a video, you can see similarities between them, how parallax movements shift into and out of logical sync, and so on.

This is not an articulate definition of this stuff – it’s hurriedly written, and these are sketches, rather than exhibition-ready things, posted here in the spirit of sharing my experiments in progress.

Song rememberer bot

I made a bot a while ago called Song Rememberer, which asks if you remember a song. It’s continually remembering songs but can’t quite name them – really just an extension of the sound system in my own head. It asks questions like:

and:

and:

I am one of the only people who follows it, but every day I get to remember an imagined song or two. Occasionally someone replies with an attempt to name the song. You can follow it too at @songrememberer.

The code was made with Kate Compton’s amazing Tracery, and hosted via Cheap Bots Done Quick!. The source code is available here, if you want to make something similar.

2022.03.08 Quick video: Seoul loop

Today’s quick video – a looping clip of driving along a highway in Seoul. My PhD supervisor Stephen Gage calls this type of thing a ‘finger exercise’, I assume because it’s like practicing scales on a piano – it’s one of many playful, small things that helps you work out ideas for larger projects.

I took this video on the way from the airport to my accommodation in Seoul in 2016. I was messing around with a camera I’d loaned (A Canon C100, if I recall). The footage isn’t remarkable, but you do get to see part of the city looming in the distance and the huge river. I just wanted to make it loop, nothing special – just to play with video a little, and make a quick accompanying sound bed.

The original shot looks like this:


link to original

The longest loop I could make is just short of the original clips’ length, 33 seconds and 9 frames, with the looping part coming from the van that overtakes. The hue of the video shifts throughout, from pinks and reds through to purples and blues and back. It also has a 12-bar sound bed I made quickly:


link to original

The 12-bar bed meant that I could cleanly cut the video in thirds. Here’s a version that’s 22 seconds and 6 frames, in blue, pink and purple:


link to original

And finally a version in 11 seconds and 3 frames, one third of the original length, in a yellow palette reminiscent of the Blade Runner 2049 desert scenes:


link to original

Scam

I finally received the art scam email! I know a few people who’ve received this in the past, but it looks like “Grayson Benjamin from Washington DC” contacted me with exactly the same message that “Vincent Harris from Hoboken, New Jersey” contacted someone else I know at about the same time. The scammer sent their emails to the addresses on our website. I guess they’re just scraping artist websites.

I’m only sharing the message because I think the more times it comes up on search engines that this is a scam, the better protected we as artists will be.

The contents of the emails received reads:

Subject: ART product enquiry

My name is {Grayson Benjamin/Vincent Harris} from {Washington DC/Hoboken, New Jersey}. I have been on the lookout for some artworks lately in regards to I and my wife’s anniversary which is just around the corner. I stormed on some of your works which i found quite impressive and intriguing. I must admit your doing quite an impressive job. You are undoubtedly good at what you do.

With that being said, I would like to purchase some of your works as a surprise gift to my wife in honor of our upcoming wedding anniversary. It would be of help if you could send some pictures of your piece of works, with their respective prices and sizes, which are ready for immediate (or close to immediate) sales. My budget for this is within the price range of $1000 to $6000.

I look forward to reading from you in a view to knowing more about your pieces of inventory. As a matter of importance, I would also like to know if you accept check as a means of payment.

Best regards,

Benjamin.

If you get the email, delete it. There are several signs that this is fake (wanting to pay by cheque, no specifics about my work, a price range that’s tempting for an artist but not ludicrous).

2022.02.22 Quick video: Walking to Delftse Poort

This is my quick video for the day, shot whilst walking from Rotterdam Centraal station to Delftsepoort (an office building). The subject is fairly mundane, but there are a few layers of square video on top of each other, and another clapping soundtrack made quickly.

I actually made two versions of this video, one with a regular offset:

And one that uses a 2-frame offset per layer to recreate a ‘wavy’ special effect from the 70s. I remember seeing this sort of effect in old music videos as a kid, back when I was glued to music television:

One thing I like about the original video is the way that it’s abstracted a completely mundane journey, yet maintains the rhythm of my walking. The stills of the escalator are perhaps my favourite part:

abstract image of an escalator abstract image of an escalator abstract image of an escalator

But then again, the flooring, which seems to be particular to Dutch train stations, also looks more dramatic than usual:

abstract image of pavement abstract image of pavement abstract image of pavement

As does the utterly mundane pavement found on all streets near here:

abstract image of pavement abstract image of pavement abstract image of pavement abstract image of pavement

2022.01.12 Quick video: Foggy day

This is a video I made a while but forgot to put online! An extremely foggy day, under a bridge near my house. Looking back at it now, it’s a bit more stress-inducing than I think it needs to be, mostly because I was trying to do the opposite of the slowness that I felt the video wanted to be edited into. I guess I should have gone the other way. Still, it’s nice to have the perspective of hindsight sometimes.

Link to video

2022.02.22 Quick video: shadow chasing, redux

This is a quick doodle-video to play around with composition and looping. The source video was shot on Tottenham Court Road on a sunny day in 2014 (see here); this version tries to lean into the strange and playful composition of the original, adding a clappy/clicky soundtrack and the idea that walking on the street is a form of game.

Link to video

2022.02.21 Quick video: flying over northern Canada

A very quick video edit today, compiled from some footage I shot a few years ago whilst flying over northern Canada. Not a great video, but I wanted to play with the stark textures of the snow and rocks, creating a slow-moving wallpaper. There are a few things I’d like to fix (that crack on the right hand side for starters), but the aim of this task is to make something quickly and post it, rather than aiming for perfection, so here we go.

2022.02.18 Quick video: Chicago L train

Maintaining my streak of making quick videos on a near-daily basis, here are two videos of impossible journeys on the Chicago L-train. Shot in 2016, now spliced into infinite (and impossible) loops in 2022.

The first features ‘transition moments’ from one place to another:

Link to video

The second features several buildings with typical early skyscraper façades:

Link to video