Unphotographable Phiction

Share Button

This is a picture I did not take of a home security firm, housed in a fortress-like brick building ringed with wrought-iron fence and razor sharp wire in the bright sunlight of an early Sunday, the security firm’s own burglar alarm ringing loudly into the empty morning out and over the highway where cars and trucks breezed by, heading nowhere else, oblivious. 

For this task, I want to take advantage of Creative Commons so I can use sound that would be difficult to capture on location. The sound will be the burglar alarm, and given the availability and massive database of open content online, the possibilities of finding if not exploring different kinds of sound that I am looking for, has the potential to change the composition of my multimedia piece.

The quote I chose sounds achievable, given the task of going to local places and collecting many samples of media. After living in one spot for nearly three years, there are fences, allyways, run-down buildings, and what-not. These are raw materials that correspond to my response toward the quote, and indeed, it’s not a very pleasant one.

I do know some places in Coventry that can fit the criteria of the setting, so I used Google Maps to help me pitch the route, sounds and images that I might record…

Phonar_#3_2 Phonar_#3

As the task clearly states, “phiction” means that I probably don’t have to be so direct with the reflection of the chosen description. These sites show a range of buildings, and fences, all part of the fabric of the “security firm”. I have walked plenty of miles over Coventry throughout the years, remembering places that can also adapt to the final piece.

I knew I had to start this task on a weekend because I specifically wanted a morning, lacking of sound, isolating busy areas from otherwise quiet ones. This would allow me to record that similar silence of the wind on an early morning to really pull in the viewer and immerse them in my piece. In addition, given my initial research of possible sampling locations, my approach could be seen as validated.

Other than my research, I didn’t know what else I could visualise toward my final piece. Maybe this is because of the spontaneity of raw, location-based material? I knew I wanted to capture mood, on a weekend, but at that point, that was it. Is there an issue with this, or is it just a small bump in the production? I would call it an issue, as it does have an affect on the visualisation of the piece.

Since visualisation accounts to the effeciency (in this case) of content production, there is clearly no known knowledge of how raw material could present itself on a day of production. It could mean that extra planning and realistic visualisation is required, asking for more applied time toward production and cataloging and editing of material collected on location. It is particularly apparent with sound, as it may not be full of clarity or as expected in such a planned assignment such as this. It changes, too; no sound will be the same on each day. A car driving on a road will not be the same the next day and this time it may be two cars, with different composition in both image and sound.

But even with that said, I consider it a reflection. I produced my piece by just heading out at about 7am on Sunday. Unfortunately the weather was raining and it was unplanned for. Again, this could have been a consideration – a vital anti visualisation that can delay a massive project or create complex production values that goes beyond the working practices of images. The weather, however, gave me spontaneous ideas toward my final piece. It, alone, was enough to contextualise a sinister feel that I think would be unmatched on a sunny day; I captured video using my DSLR camera in full HD, with the appropriate settings for PAL displays. I did this in “bursts”, using intuition of when to start and stop, but the most essential thing that I did was to record longer than what I would think. There was no telling what would change next in the moving, unplanned image. The same applied for sound, and I traveled extensively to record varying weights of activity. One side of a road, for example, may have less people than on the other side.

Going back to what I said about visualisation, the images I made were composed to develop context and tension toward the description of my chosen location, which is obviously the housing firm. Because I responded to the quote in a sinister way, I made images of textured walls, fences, broken barriers, signs, etc. Most of these images were based on the idea of semiotics, giving small pieces of information that does not aim to portray a location as a whole, for the sake of it.

I used archived sound of a car alarm for the “burgler alarm” <>during the final seconds of the piece. It was licensed as CCO 1.0 universal. Unfortunately there was not a lot of alarm sounds on for me to discover in such a short space of time, but I did use Adobe Audition to manipulate the sound so that it becomes less distracting and corresponds to the composition of the footage I shot. The original sound describes a car alarm bursting 8 times, in rapid succession. I used Audition to space each burst so that it becomes less like a car alarm and more belonging to the housing firm. In addition, I moved the sound channels so that the alarm sounds like it’s coming from the left, not in front of the viewer.

Here is what I have said in the vimeo page where the piece is hosted:

“This is a picture I did not take of a home security firm, housed in a fortress-like brick building ringed with wrought-iron fence and razor sharp wire in the bright sunlight of an early Sunday, the security firm’s own burglar alarm ringing loudly into the empty morning out and over the highway where cars and trucks breezed by , heading nowhere else, oblivious.”

The weather conditions were far from sunny. And there’s no razor wire to be found. What are the capacities of spaces these days? The core objective of materialising the quote was the mood, plus the grounding context (cars and roads).

To revisit a scenario that was an unfortunate reflection of a missed opportunity, was very difficult. At the same time, it was a much more intuitive production process as opposed to making just images. I spent one (very wet) morning with a camera, sound recorder and a tripod, with the primary goal of creating and aggregating raw multimedia from the field. I wanted the eerie seductiveness to come out.

I would not have captured rain on an isolated puddle if it was not moving. I would not have isolated the sound from the cars panning around me if the image could not capture and contextualise that either. The moving image and the sound makes a story more meaningful and complex.

I made a lot of editing post capture; images were not used and sounds weren’t either. The main problem was inconsistency and perhaps stems from a lack of previsualisation. However, what sounds, or video, our outcome altogether would I be able to successfully visualise anyway? There’s not a lot of things to predict that would come true.

I am proud of what I have made.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>