Your Process

This course presumes you have worked with time-based media for screen. How do you approach your process differently in structuring time? Is it different than when you are structuring space? What is your process in making movies? Do you story-board? Begin with audio, image, gesture, conception of time?

Yes, I know, it is always different dependent on the needs of the project. That is not what I am asking.

posted by Tony Brock on January 25, 2007 | comments: 12 | post a comment

i am trying to structure time on my own terms, but I am having to work through my preconceptions. I structure space by organizing into containers and boxes, and then let it slowly decay into mess until i have to organize again, which i enjoy doing immensely. I generally begin with an image or idea in my mind, jot a few notes down in my black book, thumbnail the progression of my scheme, and then start playing with my media. gesture and image usually come first.

Posted by Koger on January 26, 2007 11:52 AM

well - it is always different dependent on the needs of the project... ;)
It's funny that we think about structuring time, when time is a structuring organization of its own.

so if we understood that. if we understood how time works and instead of controlling it we designed for it/ with it, would our work look any different?

If we look at time as a structure, then there is some type of hierarchy involved, and manipulating that hierarchy will affect meaning somehow.
Just like manipulating a "visual" hierarchy changes the meaning of a poster/book/whatever.

How will meaning change if I show a picture of a bloody eye for 15 frames, vs 5 sec?
How will meaning change if the words "shut up" are big or small on a poster?

same examples- it's all part of a language we deal with... and use to design.

I map. that's what i do for everything.
for the movies I've done so far (this and other classes) I walk around, look, slow myself down and think about what the movie is about. then i shoot random stuff and collect a variety of shots.

i map and then i make. which to me is the same thing.

when i make, i don't know that there is an order, because time/imagery/audio/gesture is all part of one thing. i can't deal with things separately, because they don't come separately anyways. They make meaning. It's about juggling all of them at once.


Posted by 123 on January 26, 2007 10:13 PM

Time based media as we are discussing it today is fairly new to me. I come to "time based media" with an aesthetic and approach that is informed primarily by the study of drawing, painting, and music. To a large degree, I think that I am looking at the same formal elements because I continuously think about time in all of these media. Progressions, contrasts, emphasis, subordination, unity, variety, sequences, spatial relationships, balance, harmony, discord, pattern, rhythm, repetition, texture, all play a role in each of these disciplines. However, texture in drawing can be quite different than texture in film, but I still think that one can tell us something about the other. If nothing else it can raise my awareness of something else that happens in film of which I was not aware. For me the creative process is about decision-making, and that process is informed by your awareness and sensitivity to form.

I DEFINITELY intend to storyboard. I can and do start with images, audio, gestures, and concepts of time. It is different than structuring space, but it is also very similar. Structuring space for me is more about framing and creating a context for events.

I don't "own" a process for making movies. I simply haven't made enough yet. For now, I am culling it down to a limited set of elements and trying to look at film as a language, trying to discover something that carries meaning to me between the practice of studying its language and making it.

On the other-hand, I often try to conceive something through drawing first before I touch the computer or camera, so that I have a sense of what I want that is not dictated by what the technology does easiest, or hindered by being offered too many options.

I like to compose things, in relation to other things. Whether it is color, rhythms, sequences, sounds, shapes, gestures, attitudes, and so on. In the end what I want to see is a record of how I think and how I create and manipulate relationships. I think that I enjoy that in the work of other artists, looking at how they are putting things together. That can be as small as a particular red placed beside a particular blue or their conception of life through a series of relationships. Those compositions are narratives, they do have a system of aesthetics, they do explore form, they are true expressions of life and who we are, and they are about world-building. But this is all broad. Certain types of sequences and relationships, stimulate me more than others.

I like learning cool shortcut keys and studying the intricacies of the interface, or the knowing difference between vector masks and layer masks. I like tools, shiny and new ones if I can get them. As far as software goes, I like to know it well enough to teach it, and that if I am confronted with something I haven't done, then I can figure it out. Learning it can be fun and/or a hassle. Knowing software (or any tools that you have), is valuable. The tools that you use affect the way that you make what you make. Likewise trying to learn everything about them or applying them to everything can inhibit the creative process.

It's like when I stop painting because I'm waiting for my tube of portland grey to come in the mail, or I'm debating with myself about the temperature and quality of the lights that I use in the studio, or create test paintings to understand the behavior of alkyds versus oils, filberts or flats. Even small tools can have an impact on the final. But you can't let it keep you from thinking about what you are essentially trying to make, and just because you have access to certain tools or know how to finesse them doesn't necessarily mean the overall product will be any better or worse in the end. But it could.

Posted by keyframe on January 27, 2007 10:54 AM

i guess i have some idea of what i think the movie should look like. i shoot some things and look at them, and then i realize that what i had envisioned is pretty lame. i shoot some more until i have some variety to work with. then i edit what i've shot down to the least boring (or most interesting?) portions. maybe throw some music on top if i notice a correlation in tempos. it's all very chance really. i used to plan out second by second, but things always turned out too slow or too fast and i came to realize that i couldn't control time very well. i guess the material controls me more than i control it.

Posted by dptrentl on January 27, 2007 05:52 PM

I also feel like I have a general 'idea' of what the movie should look like, and, like Dana, usually feel the need to redo/remake after my first attempt. Last semester was my first foray into motion and time. All of my design experience until about October of last year had been static print work. The new media is exciting and scary. I like the challenge, but I think we all understand the problems involved with learning-as-we-make. I know we're all constantly learning, but I still feel like I'm trying to catch up on the technology side.

I start with some sketches. I don't fully storyboard, because once I start messing with After Effects, the final outcome inevitably changes. I'll discover that I can move things a certain way, find new connections or possibilities once I'm in the throes of manipulating images or footage. So sometimes I'll start with "beginning, middle, end" sketches. Sometimes I'll sketch a path I think something should follow.

Posted by Kellissima on January 29, 2007 12:11 AM

Sequences of frames are captured and sequences of frames are played back
Frames are generated and played back
Areas and images are painted or drawn to create an image
Images of scenes are captured and framed
or areas of light are captured and translated to a surface to create an image
Frames are generated and organized in a spatial sequence

How are the frames captured? What frames are played? When do I stop and start playing them? In what order are they played? How fast or slow are they played? How does a sequence of frames relate to the next?

Which frames are generated, how are they timed and spaced.

What is the difference between a frame and image?
Why are you capturing, composing, and painting in the first place?


I would consider the terms //generated// and //captured//. Does this present a fair distinction? Look at the results and the experience of the image. What is this flatness to the constructed image that the photographic + cinematographic seem to escape? How can they be equally flat? Equally open and multi-dimensional?

The means are not primary maybe? The goal (as you ask) is the point—the //why//. Better story-telling. More impact. Longer impression/ memory. Longing to copy. We must believe in/explore the full range of forms and open ourselves up beyond what is known, comfortable, and ingrained?

The challenge for us is to consider the ways of leading one in and out of a range of visual languages with the benefit of transition over time. Here is the distinction that animation and motion design must actively consider in contrast to the histories of cinema and the cinematic image. [tb]

Posted by keyframe on January 30, 2007 04:29 AM

why reduce?

this question has been bothering me for a week now... and i'm battling with myself.

yes yes, i know.
reduce to deal with one thing, to fully study and understand it.. or disect it...

or reduce to make ourselves slow down, and truly examine, understand, learn... blah blah bla... we've heard that.
slow down + reduce + disect = understand/learn???

BUT wait...

we can't reduce reality to 1... nor does the world come at us one thing at a time.
Things are complex, messy, interrelated. and that's beautiful.
Why do we have to reduce in order to study something?
Why does it have to be about reducing?

Can we slow down without reducing?

Is that where you start to deal with complexity and systems? is that the only way?

I like Venturi's "gentle manifesto". to be about both ends, to cherish complexity and contraddictions, to be about inclusion vs. exclusion, clarity vs. simplicity.

Is reducing a form of rejection?
Is reducing killing the cat?

i wonder...


Lion tamers hold a chair in front of a lion because it has four points of focus/four legs—this tames the cat/subdues the cat. This shifts any focus on one point. Complexity and contradiction are parts of life and are beautiful in their own right and acceptance of them is important—does this make them right/right for you? Each of us has a shifting threshold to manage and consider such things. Know your limit(s) and seek to expand them either into simplicity or complexity (both?). If you must find the simple in the complex, then so be it. But do not allow yourself to be confused with this either/or. Just do and be. Pace yourself and focus no matter what environ meets your beliefs, motivation, and need. Apply your questions to form-giving—make marks.

If not more/less, then loud/quiet.
If not fast/slow, then simply this/that.
Make a contrast to what you know so you can reconceive of any of it—see it anew. [tb]

Posted by 123 on January 30, 2007 05:48 PM


But it happens just the same. I can't help it.

Does process depend on expectation of outcome?

I ask this because I wonder now. There are many ways to get to a result, but perhaps only one way to get to one specific result.

When I worked in video, we shot a lot of boring industrial video. Training films, PR stuff, even a quite strange series of videos on Tennis (the tennis pro would play the flute while students practiced). It was very easy to storyboard. Cut and dry documentary film making.

But it doesn't have to be that way. For me, Michael Moore was the Penn and Teller of documentary filmmakers. No pretense that the camera is an impartial observer. He put himself (the cameraman) right in the movie. Brilliant! He changed the process of making a documentary, and in turn changed documentary film making.

I tend to spend a lot of time experimenting with stuff before I hit upon something. I have always liked doing this but used to feel guilty about it. Now less so.

Opposition. Sometimes I do the opposite thing just to see what happens. I have found that it is a good way to break free of assumptions that get in the way of my understanding. I do not have to like the results, but I must learn from it (EG Happy Tree Farm). I love my mutant one-eyed baby just as much as my mutant web-toed baby. You may not.

Lots of time thinking/imaging/imagining, and then frantic doing. This is a pattern that has it's use, and is beneficial for certain types of things. Writing. Music. Sometimes movies (Godard Lynch). But it can also be really stressful, and there is the regret I feel when I know that I could have done more.

Nuclear Fission: I like things that lead to other things, so I think of processes that let me do that. The trees movies were so I could work out how to shoot movies with the burst mode on my camera -- even better temporal resolution than HDTV. Now I wonder could I make movies with actors that way. I hope to find out soon.

I throw things away. Strip things down. Every step. Is this essential? I am not looking for efficiency, I am looking for clarity.

To answer 123. I am suspicious of reducing as well. Semiotics gave me a rash until it became another tool in my toolbox. I don't use it for everything, but it is helpful when talking with others. The challenge for me is in understanding the grace of complexity without losing sight of the object itself. As tony would put it, let's not kill the cat.

So -- more questions:

Does it even help to think first? Or just do, and then think?
Can professionalism get in the way of process?
Is there a legitimate defense for procrastination? Or is it just the way it is?


Posted by hal meeks on February 6, 2007 08:50 PM

Process -

The story fortunately drives things.

Storyboard. Parts where I don't want to forget something because I can't go back, or talent won't be available. I am never successful at capturing the image in my head, so it becomes a reminder instead.

Outline. Put stuff into lists, throw those away and make new ones off the old ones. Eventually what needs to stay and what needs to go shakes out.

Trust. If I am lucky enough to have good talent, I trust them. I think when it works it is like shooting a documentary, even if it is fiction.

Oppositional. This is an obvious tactic to unstick. Warning: bad stuff can happen, but I may have to do it anyway to get it over and learn from it.

Head Theatre. I play it in my head. The tape gets stuck. Unjam, that part got eaten, must not have been important.

Fission. I do something that starts something else. Shoot walking movies with a still camera. How can I extend that further (actors, extended exposure, time time time!).

Forgetting about appropriateness. Instead of a video camera, I use a cell phone. Play guitar with a weird tuning until it sounds normal, etc.

This is all just a cookbook of stuff I know works. It still doesn't help me with the really hard questions.


Posted by general malarky on February 7, 2007 09:30 PM

i have been thinking/making (cannot find a clear distinction between the two anymore) about what hal said + tony's response to my getting hung up on reducing.

got me thinking about direction - and our need for direction, and how uncomfortable we may be with the notion of slowing down or standing still.

i think as designers / design students standing still is uncomfortable also because we seem to be obsessed with the New, the Original, the Solution, the Objectives, and make that the center.

Let’s loot at technology. It seems to be always about faster, better, more efficient, prettier…. er… est… more.

Why more? Wait, wait.
Is there room for improvement? sure, there will always be, as perfection is only an idea - and it demands a constant moving forward to _ blank. nowhere?

But when I look at this obsession, I become worried with how we perceive our world, and our obsession with making it better. Is it not good? Is it not good enough? Have we actually looked at it?
How do we know it’s not good enough? I worry that we start from the assumption that there is always a better state, and forget to work with what we have. We are always looking outside, to start from scratch, instead of dealing with the complexity we live in. Me too. But I am just finding out that this something we live in and work with is much more complex and beautiful than anything I could ever anticipate or make.

i don't even think it's about less or more anymore. moving forward or slowing dow.

how about we just stop and look?
i am starting to think that it's about acknoledging what we have, and that maybe the more, the unknown is really what we know we are afraid of and intentionally avoid.
it’s the known we stay away from. so there is no unknown. we know, and we choose not to partake.

i don't know - i feel like i am talking about a lot of stuff.
let's just bring it home for now - i think the movies for me are becoming about experimenting and looking at how I am experimenting - as a way of realizing what it is that I am comfortable with, and what not.


Posted by 123 on February 20, 2007 01:14 PM

>don't know - i feel like i am talking about a lot of stuff.
let's just bring it home for now - i think the movies for me are becoming about experimenting and looking at how I am experimenting - as a way of realizing what it is that I am comfortable with, and what not.

Thank you. That is how I feel now. You did a great job of explaining it for me. I have given up practicality in search of outcome. It has become about experimenting. What I look at is suddenly fresh and new again. This is good.


Posted by general malarky on February 22, 2007 08:04 AM


the GD grads attended the School of Thoughts 3 conference in Pasadena, CA this past week-end.The conference was kicked off by Peter Turchi, writer and head of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

ok, so... I will admit this was my first big conference, so it all sounded good...
But this was really good!

Turchi talked about how we get depressed when we know where we are, the importance of being a perpetual beginner, and described the serendipity in finding yourself stranded on an island of your own making.

he then concluded: "get lost, find your way, and get lost again".

so yes, let' do that.
let's go to new places - bring on the questions.
let's go somewhere we know nothing about and believe only in the irrational and unconscious. believe that the dots only connect looking backwards. let's believe in something so much it takes us places that made us forget how we got there in the first place. let's fall in love with it all once again.

and then let's tell stories of this journey.

see you all wondering around.

Posted by 123 on March 14, 2007 10:29 PM