Wednesday, May 23, 2012


So synesthesia. It’s probably the most interesting neurological condition and it kind of borders on having super-powers. According to Wikipedia (gasp! I know) synesthesia is “is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” Basically, all your senses pathways are all mixed up, some wires are crossed, and when a sense comes into the brain it gets all turned around and shot out with another. 

Apparently New Jersey was constructed by people with synesthesia.

So the letter “Y” might be magenta, the color yellow might smell like oil, or maybe the sound of violins look like bells raining from the sky. But you’ve heard that a million times, it’s boring whatever. What is interesting is the role it plays in art and, even more, in cinema. And I don’t mean when filmmakers try to set out and ‘document’ synesthesia for the sake of documenting it, which always feels trite to me.

 (Have a wonderfully un-trite example, though)

What I mean is actual, pure mixing of senses on the canvas of film.  What is interesting is that there are two ways to try to evoke a sense of synesthesia: by relaying the artist’s own sensory connections, or by trying to impart a connection between multiple senses onto the audience. 

Full Movie Alchemist

Either way has some serious impact on concepting your work. Would you rather express your own personal metaphors, or would you rather the audience leave with some new mental connection they might not even be aware of?   I kind of like the second, especially for its Pavlovian implications. 
Whose a good audience? Is it you? Yes it is. You're a good audience, yes you are.
It's the filmmakers job to train the audience on how to  watch his or her film. Do you want to make a movie with no dialogue? Sure, go for it, but you'd better teach the audience fast.

Do it right and you'll win all of the Oscars.

In that light, synesthesia then becomes another tool on any well-rounded filmmakers toolkit. Sure, you can go crazy with it, but subtle manipulations of our sensory adaptations can work wonders out of your audience.

Q: Where's this scene take place?
A: A horserace.

How do you know that if you didn't see any horses racing? Because the filmmaker (Robert Bresson) built his world out of sound, which he was a huge fan of. Bresson didn't like relying on the image, which is what a lot of filmmakers continue to do, but built his world for the audience using sound. Watching the clip, you can see it all in your minds eye. This clip is the introduction to the film (which I 100% recommend) and does a perfect job of mixing your senses up but also telling you what to make of them and how to make it.

So how do you do that?
Basically just be this guy, I guess.
Well, that's kind of for you to figure out. Even if you want to impart a unique feeling of synesthesia onto the audience, you can draw from your own senses and your own experiences. Don't make it too cryptic...
(Unless you're this guy)
But try not to bludgeon anybody over the head with boring visual metaphors just because you saw an old master do it, or else you'll start looking like this:

Monday, May 21, 2012

5.17 - Rhythm

What was really interesting about Norman Mclaren’s film that we watched in class was his use of texture; that was the first thing to catch my attention. A lot of the processes look like they were probably rather complicated, but what materials he used at any given time are a mystery to me. He seemed to use some sort of fabric at times to create a sort of fish scale patterns, which gave a lot of rhythm to the movement. But the whole thing seems to be about rhythm and more importantly personifying it.

The filmmaker used the techniques at this disposal to give voice and personality to abstract shapes and colors, which by extension gave personality to the musical notes, which are automatically abstract in nature.

This is especially apparent apparent in the slow piano interlude section, where the beams of light seemed to be dancing with eachother in some sort of beautiful ballroom. The delicate shapes really emphasized the character of the high piano notes, which themselves seem like they’d be easy to crush. What was really amazing was how he gave movement to the lines and shapes in this segment, as it’s very coherent and smooth. While the high notes were represented by shining white dots and star-shaped objects, they interacted with the lower bass notes, and their movement together created a ballroom dance. In each case, the qualities of the visual emphasized something about the quality of the sound. And of course, it all worked with the rhythm of the music, but the ability to use the audience’s psychological understanding of sound and shapes to create a sense of personality and maybe just the tiniest hints of a story