Recently, I was reading about Volumetric Cinematography — don’t ask me why…
It got me thinking about a concept that I have been struggling with since entering grad-school. The premise is that we have machines to record video in our pockets yet all that we make can only be shared through some kind of device. I’ve been asking myself: what are those devices? What kind of meaning do they hold? Where are they and what are we doing when we interact with them? I bring Volumetric Cinematography up because it shows us that CAPTURING video is smashing the boundaries of 2D. Take Pixar for example, they stage scenes and characters in 3D and shoot them from many different angles. Video game companies are in the business of building 3D worlds. All of this is is a interaction, but our interactions in storytelling are still sterile when it comes to how we, as the audience not the user, participate in them.
Since cave paintings we’ve hung our narratives in our homes. My childhood home has a stair case full of photos from all generations of my family. They tell stories I wouldn’t have known if I’d never seen those photographs. I grew up with many photo albums. All of them filled with memories that I don’t have because I was too young (or I didn’t exist), but I can tease those memories back thanks to my folks keeping those albums.Yet - We really don’t use video to record moments like this.
Well, we have - with assistance… We all know the opening to Wonder Years, and a lot of people grew up with Super 8 (not me, but lots of people did). Back then you had to use a big clunky projector to show family movies. Eventually those movies moved to tape, and now they’re all digital. I’m sure there are some that would like to go back to tape, that’s not what I am proposing, and really - I don’t know what I am proposing. I’m just thinking out loud.
The experience that I have tied to this concept is my grandfathers laugh. He was a big man. A huge man from my small 8 year old figures’ viewpoint. An Illinois Farmer born and raised. He had huge hands that were cracked and tan like the dirt his families salvation was planted in. His laugh, it was monstrous - it would shake the room. It was a charming part of my childhood - especially since it was usually me and my brother making him laugh. We had no Super8 and therefore, I have no video of this. But if I did, I couldn’t I get this on my coffee table? Or even, on my wall? The answer now is “no”.
I thought about this…
At first I jumped on the idea of the flipbook. Flipbooks are something familiar to everyone. They are simple and low cost, yet they take some thinking to manufacture. It’s not see easy to do on your own (trust me, I tried). You really cannot just export every frame of a video into a book and flip it. They have dimensions and more importantly… TIMING! There is also a swell in Flipbook interest. I read about a company in Texas that patented a method of recording and printing flipbooks on the fly (with a special flipbook printer). I emailed them and asked if I could get info on licensee or just simply discuss the printer. I heard back the next day. I am going to cold call them soon. Been thinking about a lil side biz. - I can license the stuff for 1500 dollars… hmm.
Sure flipbooks are a great way to bring a moving image into a home but there is a reason they make great party favors - because they are cheap and DISPOSABLE! Their sentimental value is minimal, so even if I could capture my grandfathers laugh in one: Would I keep it? It definitely wouldn’t end up on my coffee table. More likely, I’d pull it out of my bookshelf.
I dug a little deeper. I started looking through the history of filmmaking on wikipedia, refreshing really and I cam across two things: the zoetrope and the camera obscura (not the band, but I love them!) Camera Obscura are also fun, but I really love the Zoetrope. You’ve seen one, they are a wheel that you look into slits and see a continuous animation. You can make a cheap one pretty simply. If made nicely, this is more of the kind of object I think you would want in your home. I would want one, not sure where to put it, since I live in NYC, but I want one and I am going to make one, eh! or two, three, how many you want?
PS: Volumetric Cinematography… It came up when I searched for zeotrope with Google Image Search on Jan 10th 2013 sometime around 3:00 pm.