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Who experiments?


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Probably lots of us do camera tests, but who does experiments?

Like, make a film:

  • using only one lens (or with that crazy lens)
  • only looking up / down
  • with no people
  • with only people walking away
  • with only peoples faces
  • only close-ups
  • non-standard compositions (mostly sky and everything in the bottom quarter of the screen)
  • multiple shots at the same time (eg, like Sliding Doors, or 24)
  • strange speeds, like all footage is sped up or run backwards
  • nothing is in-focus
  • no dialogue
  • dialogue without any pauses in-between
  • start with music or soundscapes you've never worked with and shoot something to match them
  • etc

and by 'make a film' I just mean take a bunch of shots and put them together, it doesn't have to have narrative or anything.  I guess in a way these might be experimental or even abstract films.

I'm thinking about doing more of these myself, just to do things and see what happens.  Explore new angles and ideas.  Learn how they feel and what they do.  It's only trying new things that we can find things to add to our normal style.

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Yeah, I did this and the final movie was a mess and I didn't like it.  Not because of technical choices, but because I started shooting without a shot list, just a generic story line.  Sometimes you capture stuff that's compelling, other times it just never really gels.  Went into it hoping it might flow together somehow and I'd get lucky.  Nope.  I chalk it up to my wife and I not really being "into it" once boots were on the ground.  We were crew and cast, so it just went sideways from the start as we both don't really like being on camera.


no dialog, no nat sound, only one crazy lens (pentax a110 f2.8 with an adapter that light leaked), started with music or soundscapes you've never worked with and then was shooting something to match the music, no scouting, found locations that looked cool and used them. Whew.

I can't even go watch the thing now 'kuz it's so cringy to me.  Learned a lot about myself and the wife though!

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8 hours ago, fuzzynormal said:

Learned a lot about myself and the wife though!


Yeah, I'd imagine that most attempts would not strike gold, but I'm anticipating that with enough work you would take away things that you could use.

I often wonder where people with strong signature styles 'got' those in the first place.  Soderburghs strong colours in post and long tracking shots, Wes Anderson using crazy coloured sets and centring everything, J.J. Abrams lens flaring, and even Bayhem.  I suspect that it is probably from 'happy accidents' but my theory is that by experimenting we can create our own happy accidents.

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I once heard a story about the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner where he may have mentioned the importance of not introducing children to formal education until their second set of teeth had grown in. The theory behind was that this juncture (second set of teeth) was to allow for the development of the child's imagination. I then wished I had passed through something like a Montessori School (no official grading system)... until I began to hear jokes that these graduates lacked a kind of necessary 'hungry drive' to establish themselves in the capitalist world. Go figure.

It's no surprise that some of the most original works arrive from nuts who grow up in places far and away from Williamsburg and Berlin. Though I don't read near enough, I like what Herzog mentioned, " Those who watch television or are too much on the Internet, they lose the world. And those who read, they win it."  But hey ;)

In my process I like a narrative thread, though it doesn't have to be overt. I'm hunting stories in places where the ridiculous, surreal and absurd play out as everyday life for so many hundreds of millions... material I can't always or easily find in the developed world. Blurring the line between reality and fiction is the most exciting place for me... the challenge is to shake off what I grew up watching and more fully embrace my inner idiot.

Sound is 70% of a film.

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One thing I experimented with was "Two panel Cinerama". Historically, the real Cinerama process in the 1950s used three separate cameras, locked together, and the resulting three projected images were brought together on a single ultra wide screen. The two overlapping edges were blurred by using moving combs to help fuse the presentation together.

I did not hope to replicate all that stuff! As a simplification I used two camera positions, and in fact I just used one camera which filmed the two panels one after the other (two cameras would have been used for a "live" shoot). I had my camera display set for a "thirds" grid, and filmed the left side, then to shoot the right side I panned the camera on the tripod over by two thirds. This meant the image overlap would be one third in the middle.

In post, I would first create a custom wide canvas (the exact dimensions were arrived at after some tests) and import the left and right clips. You can temporarily lower the opacity of the top layer a bit to help the line-up of both panels by moving one of the clips into position. A simple feathered mask (which you can animate over time) is used on the top layer within the third overlap area, to make a sympathetic and less obtrusive join line according to the subject.

Yep, I realise all this sounds nuts (lots of restrictions compared to normal shooting), and I didn't do much with it, but it was fun. I messed around with this several years ago during the FHD era, but when I got an UHD camera, that canvas size seemed big enough to me to make 2-panel Cinerama a bit obsolete (you can mask it down to simulate an ultra wide look without much loss). One thing that it doesn't replicate of course is the wider field of view (just as using an anamorphic lens has a laterally wider field of view compared to just masking a 16:9 frame). It was quite interesting to shoot on a crop camera with say a 35mm lens but get a wide field of view by the two-thirds "extra" you get when you pan over to film the second panel.

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Interesting experiment @TrueIndigo.  It reminds me of the YT guy who uses a custom rig, moving the camera in relation to the lens, shooting a static scene several times and then combining them to get high-resolution or large sensor output files.

I'm also reminded of the people that experimented with taking a flatbed scanner and putting some kind of lens on them so that when the scanner did a 'pass' it was actually taking a photo from the left to the right of a scene.  It generated absolutely enormous resolution files, but of course it was a horizontal rolling-shutter and took a few seconds to make the pass, so if anything moved you were stuffed!

I shoot 4K and will crop into it for 1:2.35 and my problem is that I forget that the resolution is so high and so I tend to try and get too close to things in framing.  I need to train myself to have faith that things will be visible and I can go wider!

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