Author Archives: Leyana Dessauer

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Found Poetry

Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 7.45.50 AM My conference project is titled ‘Found Poetry’. It is an exploration of words found in the real world that form unexpected poetry, or that can be rearranged to make poetry. The two videos that I made were a song mashup and an animated refrigerator covered with word magnets, but the concept of found poetry could extend to interesting bumper stickers, street signs and license plates, graffiti, emails, notes – essentially any words that are found in the world and have a poetic aspect. When I originally started thinking about my conference work, my idea was to create an intricate animated wallpaper as either a video in After Effects or a series of GIFs. I liked the idea of taking a mundane surface found in houses and making it into a living background, so I envisioned a detailed wallpaper pattern with birds and flowers such as those designed by William Morris, in which the different parts of the pattern moved and appeared to come alive. After struggling to draw a decorative pattern that I was satisfied with, I switched my focus to kinetic text, which I found very rewarding. I learned that I work best in After Effects when I can take a long period of time (at least 6-8 hours) and focus on completing a section of video, because it takes a while to get into the flow of the work, and also because troubleshooting/learning new techniques can take a while. I also found that new ideas came to me in the process. Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 7.42.26 AM My conference video “Fridge Poetry” draws on my ideas about taking an everyday object and creating an animation that makes it appear alive or enchanted. The poems in this video are ones found on my real refrigerator at home, made from set of word magnets by my roommates and I. I picked some of my favorites and made word tiles for each one, as well as individual tiles for the consonants that occupied their own tiles. I then took a photo of my refrigerator and Photoshopped the background so that it created a blank slate to begin animating the poems. I tried to use varying speeds for each tile I animated to give the appearance that an invisible presence was thinking of what to write and then moving the tiles across the refrigerator. Overall, I think this tactic was successful, but I find the video more visually satisfying at the moments in which multiple tiles are moving at the same time. If I did this project over, I think that I would add a few more poems, make the tiles smaller, and make the pace at which the poems form slightly faster by increasing the number of times that multiple tiles move simultaneously. I found that the best way to create a random rhythm in the movement of the word tiles was to animate them without checking the time signature and avoid making changes at exact intervals.   There are two other elements to the video: GIFs and a list of imaginary chores. The imaginary chores ranged from ‘drain the swimming pool’ to ‘filter the potion’. I added this list at the end of the animation and made it appear to float down from above the fridge and then stick. It was fun to come up with the ‘chores,’ and I think it adds to the fantastical element of the video. chores I made GIFs of a flower, a hopping spotted green frog and a crescent moon in Photoshop, which I inserted into the video like living fridge magnets that move around the screen. This was the most difficult part of the project, because when I tried to add the GIFs to the animation their previously transparent backgrounds became white. I also needed to figure out how to loop the GIFs for the length of the video so that they would play continuously. After an absurd amount of googling (some forums claimed that trying to work with GIFs in After Effects was simply a bad idea) and about four or five hours of trial and error, I eventually figured out how to remove the white background and loop the GIFs, so that I could animate them. I’m happy I stuck with it, because I like the simplistic but satisfying effect of the repetitive motion of a GIF interacting with the environment of the video. frog     flower My other conference video is titled “My Never Sunshine,” and it is a kinetic text video inspired by and set to a mash-up of the songs “You Are My Sunshine” and “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone”. “You Are My Sunshine” was one of my favorite songs as a kid, because I had a wind-up teddy bear that played the melody. One day while thinking about ideas for kinetic text, I got both songs stuck in my head. I looked on YouTube and found a live recording of a mash-up that I liked: You are My Sunshine/Ain’t No Sunshine (Mash-Up) by Justin Sinclair & Jamey Geston. It became the basis for a lyric video of sorts, with the lyrics scrambled to create cognitive dissonance between the audio and the visual. Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 7.47.06 AMI liked the idea of these two songs together, both more or less sad love songs (depending on how they are played), both focusing on the idea of the presence or lack of sunshine. Instead of a visual focusing on the sun, what came to mind was a background of intricate clouds. Clouds are still sky-themed and denote the absence of sunshine, although my clouds are quite cheerful in appearance. I made a background image several times larger than the size of the video composition and then animated it to give the appearance of a camera panning across the sky. The clouds are a pattern with similar form and scale, but some variation in color and texture. The sound of the song is quite melancholy, but the bright blue of the sky and the simple visuals (a rainbow, sunbursts, flying bird silhouettes) create a cheerful and calming effect. Most of the visuals are individual GIFs which I then imported into After Effects and animated. I think this worked particularly well for the flying birds. sun 2birdsOne of the most difficult parts of creating this video was drawing the rainbow, birds and sun in Photoshop. I originally wanted more true-to-life representations, but I was faced with a lack of technical skill. I ended up returning to the simple lines that I used to draw with as a kid, and I actually ended up enjoying the final effect, which I think is imperfect but visually satisfying. Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 7.43.26 AM I like the layers of contrast in the piece, both between the song and the mismatched lyrics and between the melancholy tone of the words and music with the bright, happy visuals. I think this contrast adds interest and complexity to what would have otherwise been a fairly simple piece. It’s confusing, but in a good way.     

Video Mapping: Projector Night

IMG_20170420_201551330 My experience of projector night was very positive. I enjoyed getting to display my work as well as see the work of my classmates projected all over the walls and ceilings of Heimbold. I especially liked seeing how much variety there was in the different work that people had created, despite it all originating from the same software. I enjoyed how our projections temporarily transformed the building. At first, having never been to a projection show before, I had a hard time envisioning what it would entail. Walking around Heimbold and seeing the different spaces available for projection, as well as seeing what my classmates tried during rehearsals, helped me to get a clearer understanding. To plan for projector night, I first thought about which of my videos would make the most sense displayed in 3D space. I chose one conference video, “My Never Sunshine,” which has a consistent theme of a blue sky with clouds, a rainbow and birds. I decided to project it onto an uneven surface of a ceiling in Heimbold so that the pipes on the ceiling would create interesting angles and shapes when combined with the projected image. This video also has song lyrics in the form of kinetic text. If I repeated this projection now I would get a speaker to play the song audio as well. IMG_20170420_202552312 The second video that I chose to project is a shape motion video with morphing outlines on a background that changes color. IMG_20170417_194444729_HDR The third video I worked with was one I called “Geometric Outer Space,” which involves shapes and lines with repeaters moving across a background of tiny points that appear like stars in space. Although the star background unfortunately did not show up in the projection, I thought that the lines with repeaters looked interesting on the ceiling. IMG_20170413_201125617 I think that my geometric shapes video was probably subconsciously influenced by Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms, especially those that are reminiscent of outer space, such as Aftermath of the Obliteration of Eternity, and her infinity nets, which inspired the star-like points in the background of my piece. kusama_33 kusama_21 The main problem I had while preparing for projector night was that I had technical issues, first setting up the Video Projection Tool software and then getting the computer I was using to communicate properly with a projector. After figuring out these issues with the help of a classmate and our professor, the rest of our rehearsal time went much more smoothly. I played around with different shapes for my projection, and tried matching the keystones to various angles in the architecture of the building. I also tried out mapping on various surfaces, including through a doorway onto a ceiling inside the room, on a flat wall and on a ceiling. In the end, I decided to map onto a ceiling with spillover onto the walls on either side, because I thought it was an interesting use of space and worked particularly well with my sky-themed video, creating a kind of immersive experience for someone underneath it and looking up. IMG_20170420_203617458 Prior to our rehearsals, I thought that video mapping for an audience would be more of a stressful experience than it turned out to be. By the time projector night rolled around, I felt fairly confident in my ability to set up my projector and my VPT map, and overall the experience was quite fun. It was gratifying to be able to show my friends some of my work displayed in an interesting way, as well as to see everyone else’s projections. I expect my maps to be experienced as fun, cheery and lighthearted, due to the use of bright colors and nature themes. I think that the kinetic text in one video also added an element of intrigue, since people would have to stop under the projection and concentrate to read the words. IMG_20170420_202648520 I was surprised by how much projection can change the appearance of a video, making simpler images look more complex as they interact with the building, toning down brighter colors, and hiding small details. If I understood these effects when I first started making videos, I would have included more saturated colors and made my shapes take up more of the space in my videos. For the geometric shapes video in particular, I would have made the lines longer and narrower, and made them move across the screen more quickly. I would have increased the size of the stars in the background so that they would have been visible. Overall, I was pleased with how my work looked, and how it worked in the space I chose.

Conference Project Proposal: Found Poetry

My conference project will consist of two videos which utilize kinetic text and animation. The central theme is found poetry, or words found in the world and transformed into something poetic. They also utilize animation of shapes and figures to add to their visual interest.

Still from ‘Fridge Poetry.’

The first video is titled ‘Fridge Poetry,’ and its inspiration is exactly that. I own a set of small fridge magnets, each with a single word printed on it, and my fridge is covered in odd poetic sentences created by my roommates and I. It always amazes me how limited words can combine to convey a new meaning. The video is intended to be a visual representation of a fantastical fridge, with the magnetic poetry as kinetic text being the focal point. I made around 80 individual word tiles, and I animated each one to appear as if someone was dragging it from its place lined up on the bottom of the fridge to form new poems. The pace of motion is varied, which I hope conveys the sense of an invisible someone thinking about what they want to write. To reenforce the fantastical element of a fridge that almost appears alive or slightly magical, I added a list of imaginary chores.

Imaginary chores.

I may also add ‘living’ magnets, such as a flower magnet that unfurls its petals or a frog that hops around. I’m still thinking through this idea. This video focuses more heavily on the words than the second one, and its background is a static image of a refrigerator (my refrigerator in fact, photoshopped to remove the real, boring chore list and to create a blank slate for the animated poems to form).  
sky video projection

‘My Never Sunshine’ projected onto a ceiling.

My second video, titled ‘My Never Sunshine,’ is a mashup of the songs “You Are My Sunshine” by Charles Mitchell and “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. I had this idea because one day I got both songs stuck in my head, and thought that a combination of the two would work well. Since I’m not a musician, I looked on YouTube and found that in fact two artists, Justin Sinclair and Jamey Geston, had recorded a live performance of a mashup of the two songs. (Watch it here.) The concept of the video is to juxtapose the lyrics in the form of kinetic text with the recorded song. I scrambled the lyrics of “You Are My Sunshine,” jumbling the words within the song to create a new poem of sorts, and interposed it with the lyrics of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” keeping each song separate. My hope is that this will create an interesting cognitive dissonance for the viewer as they are reading one thing and hearing another, with both the visual and auditory elements strongly resembling the original song but not matching it. I also used different font colors to emphasize the difference between the songs. My rationale behind using black for “Ain’t No Sunshine” and yellow for “You Are My Sunshine” was to denote the absence or presence of sunlight. Here is a brief excerpt to give an example: Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone You are my grey, my only dear It’s not warm when she’s away You make me mistaken when skies are sunshine Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone The idea of a lack of sunshine led me to a background of clouds, which the camera appears to pan over as the video progresses. I wanted to create the appearance of drifting slowly through a skyscape. The background utilizes pattern, with the clouds forming a somewhat repetitive pattern, and some of the individual clouds themselves being made up of patterns. At strong beats in the song, I will add new visuals, such as a rain cloud, a rainbow, a sunburst or a bird flying. Despite the melancholy tone of the song and the lyrics, the overall effect is somewhat cheerful due to the use of bright colors and crisp, clean lines.

Still from ‘My Never Sunshine.’

My motivation behind this conference project was to combine kinetic text with pattern, since they are the two parts of our course that spoke to me the most. Found poetry works well for me because I love words but struggle to create completely original creative content (I am more comfortable with writing essays than poems). I like that found poetry takes something already in the world and transforms it into something new and different but somewhat reminiscent of the original. I have also always enjoyed small pieces of found poetry in the real world, such as clever license plates, song mashups, bumper stickers, street signs and bathroom stall graffiti poetry. They have a surprising and whimsical effect that I hope to emulate with these videos.

Digital Tools: The Art of the GIF

gif10 This was the final GIF I made. It originated from a brush I made that depicts the shape of cattails, and I used the Fractal Trace tool in GIMP to create swirling shapes. I was inspired by the work of Yayoi Kusama, and the detail and depth in her infinity rooms. I like her varied use of color, texture, and light. My favorite pieces by her were the Dots Obsession Infinity Mirrored Room, Obliteration Room, and the Aftermath of the Obliteration of Eternity. My absolute favorite was the Aftermath of the Obliteration of Eternity, because it reminds me of both the vastness of outer space and the way city lights look from a distance, and it is so intricate that I could look at it for a long time. I was also inspired by the lush, detailed patterns of Gustav Klimt and by Daniel Buren’s use of space and color in his art installations. gif4 This GIF used the Sparkle tool to create the cloud-like effect on white pixels in the image. Since I have not made GIFs or any sort of animated images before, my plan going in to this project was to experiment with different tools and ideas to see what works and what doesn’t. I found that I often needed more than 6 frames to be happy with the motion of the GIF, and most that I made had between 8 and 12. I also found that once the images are compiled the final appearance in motion is sometimes different that what you would expect. I think I need to continue to experiment both with the software and with expanding my imagination around colors, shape and scale. One challenge that I had was feeling limited by my ability to draw shapes and to imagine what to draw. I found that by picturing what I wanted the motion of the GIF to look like I was better able to make the individual frames mesh into a collective GIF that made more sense to me. I think that experimenting with lots of different tools and filters in GIMP worked well for me because it gave me new ideas and helped me start to learn the capabilities of the software. gif7 This is probably my favorite of the GIFs I created, because I think that I got the smoothness of the motion right and I like the combination of the subdued color palette with the detailed confetti effect.