Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

GPS Cinema Project Artist’s Statement

The concept for my GPS cinema project was inspired by an idea which came to me during the discussion over mobile cinema highlighted by Tara’s presentation on HyRyong Ok’s article. During that discussion, I had the realization that the mobile screen, and more specifically, the iPhone screen had similar dimensions to the nickelodeon machines during cinema’s infancy. This realization was then linked in my mind to the George Melies clips that were looping on the computer during class.

From these inspirations, I decided to create a series of silent clips which would feature locations around the York University campus. I wanted these clips to maintain the Melies-style interest in depicting the fantastic. In order to do so, as I did not have the funding to create stage-set pieces for filming, I decided on an animation alternative. This alternative stems from the idea that the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) era in video games is analogous to the early silent-era from which Melies’ work stems. The games of this era were more complex than the single screen reflex-driven experiences offered by the initial wave of early 1980s arcade and home console games (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, the Atari 2600, etc.), but were still limited in their storytelling capacity due to technology, relying on the type of between-stage animated cut-scenes introduced in Ninja Gaiden for the NES (Tecmo, 1989). Additionally, as side-scrolling games were the predominant genre of the period, the visual style also dove-tailed easily with Melies’ more theatrical way of shooting his films, from as idstance, as though from the audience of a theatre.

These ideas coalesced into the two clips I have prepared for class. Their construction was a complex process, which is why there are only two at present. First I took photographs of locations on campus, with the idea of overlaying NES-style sprite-characters. What I discovered in this process, however, is that the disconnect between the real-world image and the 8-bit characters was jarring. Because of this disconnect, what I proceeded to do was alter the photographs using Photoshop, in order to make them resemble 8-bit environments. This alteration has actually been integrated into the narrative of the clips by way of the main character’s “alternate reality goggles” (which resemble old red-and-blue 3D glasses, or as close as I could with 8-bit sprites, at any rate), making everything appear 8-bit as a view into this alternate reality. This alternate reality concept also allowed for the sort of flights of fancy which are present in the Melies films: the main character meeting his evil twin, clay automatons, an elemental projector, etc.

One of the issues encountered in designing this scenario was the problem of a discontinuous narrative. As there is no way to have the viewer/user go through the clips in a particular order without an artificial and restrictive direction system, a continuous narrative would be difficult to accomplish. Therefore, each clip is designed to be fairly autonomous which still referring to the situation as a whole.

For my characters, I have taken the idea of modern-day machinima (Red vs. Blue, She-Puppet) and applied aspects of the practice to my clips. The characters are modified sprites from NES and Game Boy games. I discovered that, due to resolution differences in display technologies between the time of these games and the present day, I was forced to completely re-build these sprites from scratch, using the original sprites as templates or mere suggestions for the finished characters.

In addition to the locations I have for my two clips (Vari Hall; the third floor of Goldfarb), I also have photographs for several additional locations. Part of the idea of using locations around campus is to encourage exploration of a space generally taken for granted by students. By using both indoor and outdoor locations, there is an encouragement for the viewer/user to not merely look for the point at which the clips will start playing, but also to seek out the locations depicted in the clips themselves. This encouragement will take the viewer/user to places that might otherwise be overlooked in day-to-day experience. In this way, I am not only indulging in flights of fancy and fantasy, but adhering to Krakauer’s notion that cinema can illuminate the ‘blind spots of the mind’ (pg. 53), making the familiar unfamiliar and provoking additional reflection about the spaces inhabited in day-to-day existence.

Wed, February 29 2012 » futurecinema2_2012

One Response

  1. Clint March 2 2012 @ 10:41 am

    Vimeo link?