Video Cubism and the Video Collage

My current creative investigation relates to what I call “video cubism,” although so far my efforts are really just panoramic video collages, and the cubist aspect hasn’t been fully investigated.

In theory, however, they are sort of a cubist approach to video. This approach compresses and fragments both the time and sound content, which is as jarring as cubist artwork in other media. I’m not sure these initial efforts really completely embrace that aspect of the technique yet, but hint at some possibilities for it. I haven’t been a big fan of cubism myself, but I was rather awestruck by seeing Hockney’s Pearblossom Highway at the Getty; it’s huge and fills a wall, and was pretty engaging in a way unlike any prints of it that I’d seen.

David Hockney, Pearblossom Highway

However, to say these were inspired by David Hockney’s photo collages is really only partly true. Hockney referred to his collages as “joiners,” but what makes them more interesting than panoramas assembled by software like “autostitch” is that the seams don’t match. Hence he describes how he realized he’d incorporated an element of cubism into his work.

David Hockney, Zen Garden

Panorama Photo Collages

I’ve been experimenting with panoramic collages for years. I generally shoot them by hand, and eyeball the point where they’ll overlap. It’s a meager attempt to possess the grandeur of a spectacular natural location for me, something that will allow me to re-experience someplace uplifting that I’ve visited.

The first one that I actually kept was a 180 degree panorama I shot in Rocky Mountain National Park above Lawn and Crystal Lakes, near the second highest peak in the park. I’ll post it here once I scan it again. What happens with these scans is that they’re too wide to display well; they end up being tiny if you reduce the width to fit in a web page. Then you can’t really see them.

(update 2019: Jetpack enables full-size display of the images now in an overlay if you click on them)

Occasionally I get something worthwhile. The sunset over Santa Barbara (at top of post), from July 1997, was truly awe-inspiring.

Fortunately you don’t have to fight off the black flies that drove me to seek refuge inside my tent, despite having saturated myself with DEET.

That was really the first time I didn’t try to have the separate shots match when I shot them, although I did when I made the collage. Some wet ink got onto the prints too, hence it could use some photoshop retouching.

I shot this panorama of the well loved Reeve’s Hill, near South Woodstock, Vermont. It may actually be considered South Redding, I’m not sure. The weather wasn’t spectacular by the time we reached the summit, so it’s not as enticing as it could be. Vermont gets hazy and humid in the summer, so the visibility suffers, and of course, photos don’t capture the things you can squint to see.

In New Mexico, the wide open spaces beg to be photographed, and I shot a series of shots of the Summer Solstice Kundalini Yoga gathering west of Espanola in the Jemez Mountains.

Ram Das Puri Summer Solstice Camp and Tents

Video Panoramas

But the video panoramas: they’re huge, don’t bother if you don’t have a cable modem or DSL – and I just uploaded the flash shockwave files, I didn’t embed them in web pages, because that sets them to a static size. This enables them to resize according to how big your browser window is. So experiment with the size of your window, and scroll back and forth with them. You can also download them and then use, “File: Open” to view them. They make nice screensavers, especially the nightime city shots. There’s something hypnotic about them.

So far these weren’t really intended for web display; I’ve just been using web tools to make them. Because this medium is generally how I share work with friends, I expect I’ll soon create smaller web versions that will be less taxing for viewing. These aren’t unusable; they just are rather large and take a couple of minutes to load on a good connection.

My initial experiments in this direction were hampered by some miniDV camera problems. Digitizing tape in Premiere, cutting the clips, and THEN finally being able to manipulate them in Director added a layer of horror to what is still a lengthy, though navigable process. Current footage is shot on a card in avi format, and manipulated in Flash.

This was the first time I had something that was nice to look at regardless of how well it worked. I’d shot panoramas of the beach near Carpenteria, but it was overcast and that made the footage rather unpleasant. I also shot a lot of footage of the highway where James Dean died, contemplating a companion Monroe piece, but the camera began misbehaving and it wasn’t really clear whether the tape was damaged or the camera just needed adjustment.

I had hoped to do more vertical layers in the following series; that will come next. It’s hard to align the tripod I used vertically. As I’ve said, sometimes it’s kind of interesting to discard alignment entirely anyway.

For some reason WordPress is ignoring the instruction to open these in new windows, so you might want to consider doing that with a mouse command if you’re able to with the browser you’re using. You do need to click the links to see the video files, of course. These thumbnail stills are just to give you an idea what you’re about to see.

Only the first has audio.

(update 2019: YouTube embedded versions have replaced the Flash shockwave files now)

Runyon Canyon Daylight Panorama With Sound 26.5MB:

I think the alignment in this is off. I’d have to reduce them even

further to fit the entire panorama in. Flash has limitations for how wide the file can be.

Night-time LA Coast with Sunset 

This was the first one I got to work. I still am most fond of it.

Downtown Los Angeles Night Skyline

This file is smaller because the file dimensions were reduced – too small for my tastes.

Runyon Canyon Dusk

Runyon Canyon LA Night Sky 3.8MB:

There are two strips of panoramas in each file; each one is something like 180 degrees of the 360 degree panorama. You could open the file twice, in two different browser windows on a big cinema display, or two adjacent computer monitors, and line them up so you can see the full vista. People are already clamoring for full room-size projected installations of the pieces.

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