Author Archives: Alina Pontius

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Let Me Delete Your Anger

Screenshot (44)

I started thinking of my project by looking at natural elements in the world around me on campus – fractal leaf shapes, clouds, the blossoms on the dogwood tree on Glen Washington Road. I was looking at the color and shape motifs in the works of Frank Stella and Yayoi Kusama. I am also very inspired by movement and performance artists, especially those who engage with earthwork. During the inception of this project, I was looking at Robert Smithson’s Yucatan Mirror Displacements. I thought about his introduction of foreign surfaces into the environment and how he used the human technology of the mirror to augment a place. I wonder how using Aftereffects can augment the textures and surfaces we experience in our lives. I became enamored with the particle effect, and so I attempted to play with the software and create something that could not exist under our current laws of gravity and motion. An initial draft sprang from a dream of watching blossoms fall upward. I animated a sequence somewhat like snow which I layered on top of a video.
Screenshot (50)
However, I received the critique that my personal interests in video art were at odds with the technical demands of the class. I realized that when making creative work, I have a habit of relying on my interests and current obsessions and allowing them to guide my workflow. I had to adjust my mindset to working consistently in small chunks of time rather than in large obsessive stretches. My hardest challenge was in stretching myself to find new ways to do things in order to create what I was imagining. After building the initial particle sequence, I felt dry of ideas for developing the sequence into a longer piece. In turning through my notes, I recalled our glitch assignment. I spent a session making .png glitches of screengrabs of my blue and white cloud.  However, although I’m really interested in glitching and would like to explore it in the future, I realized I had to make quick decisions and finish a polished project.
After converting a .png file to a .txt file, I thought the text looked really interesting and had all sorts of graphic symbols like the apple that I could use.  In the past, I have been  drawn to work that makes the text into a graphic part of the piece.  I decided making a text tunnel would be an appealing challenge that would help me practice my skills in building a tunnel and also develop my knowledge of the text animators.
I wanted to make the fog blow through the tunnel toward the viewer.  I copy and pasted sections from the long text document into the text box in Aftereffects.  However, this method stretched the text box in undesirable ways and didn’t look visually pleasing.
I watched a video for inspiration and learned to put the text into a separate composition with settings that made the comp long and skinny.  This allowed me to animate the text in three dimensions like we learned in text studio.  I then made a copy of the layer and flipped it, so that its animation would mirror the bottom layer.  This was the most challenging part of my animation, because it required such close attention to the detail of the keyframes.  I am still not completely satisfied with the symmetry; the top layer moves into frame at a faster rate for the initial 10 seconds before coming more closely into alignment with the rest of the tunnel.
Screenshot (51)
I think the simple color scheme of blue, white, and black is successful at creating the tone I wanted for this piece.  I wanted to amplify the sense of harmonious symmetry by having the video form a complete loop.  So, I doubled the length of my comp and applied a time reverse effect to the second half.
The title refers the peaceful mood that this piece evokes in me.  I like the idea of using glitching for good.  Maybe the computer is refusing to process all the stressful data it receives and instead is sending a peaceful cloud into our minds.  Or, it could be a sinister memory loss gas like the climactic scene of Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer.  I leave the interpretation to the audience.

Kinetic Text: As I Begin

Screenshot (46)
From viewing other work in class, I liked the idea of  using background images to keep the composition cohesive as the text changed.  I wanted to recreate the colors and textures that I was seeing when I wrote this poem.  I wrote the text sitting by the ocean in San Francisco last summer.  I wanted to use the ripple effect to explore animation patterns which mimicked water.  I like the way this animation simulates the light on the edges of the rings and how the movement makes the piece dynamic.  I was also simultaneously working on another video project for a performance media class, and these two pieces definitely informed one another in color and texture.
I struggled to fill four minutes before the deadline.  I started by breaking up my source text into stanzas and worked only with the first stanza.  I have been thinking recently about the differences between still and moving images.  Gotthold Lessing says about the difference between painting and poetry that “signs existing in space can express only objects whose wholes or parts coexist, while signs that follow one another can express only objects whose wholes or parts are consecutive”.  This made me think about how reading a sentence is different from looking at an image.  I realized that language is a time-based art form, just like video.  (And if we are talking about video as a medium for expression of ideas, then obviously language is also a medium).
I was introduced to the idea of “radical digital painting” by a friend recently, through this webpage:  This made me think about the work we are doing as paintings that can be run.  I think these works have a lot to say about objects existing in space and time.  A section of Scudder’s Ten Minute Painting states that “repetition is the only thing that makes something less random than it already is”.  I see a connection between this quote and the way I have been using patterns in my work.
This project tested my patience and taught me much about when things go wrong.  I spent a frustrating evening with the Media Encoder, which taught me more about how the Dynamic Link works.  This knowledge was useful when I was rendering my second draft of the project.
Screenshot (47)
In refining my initial sequence, I decided to add the second stanza of my poem.  I thought a shift in color was needed to reflect the tonal shift of the text.  The bright pink seemed like a strong contrast which would still exist harmoniously together with the blue. I also tried to incorporate the general notes given in class about smooth transitions between sections and at the ends of pieces.
The piece has a gentle rhythm with slow and gradual transitions between sections. I wanted to let the text sit without much adornment on the screen.  I am still not fully satisfied with the finer technical points of my animation.  In critique, I received notes about making the transition between phrases more smooth, and that is something I could work on.  I also would like the sequence where I make the letter “c” rotate to be more lively and seem like one concrete element.  I do think I was successful in choosing a font which complemented the mood of the piece.
Screenshot (48)

Space Oddity

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 4.15.29 PM

still from climax of video piece.

My first action in response to this prompt was to make a mood board. I found myself drawn to representational images of the solar system. I was finding images of spheres and circles. I was also influenced by images I found in a book on Elizabethan theatre: Kingdom for a Stage by Joy Hancox. The architects of the Globe and other contemporary theatres were influenced by cultural ideas such as astrology, sacred geometry, and the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Their sketches contained complex interlocking patterns composed of simple shapes. I wanted to work with rich colors and textures, and this dark purple to me has the mood of Bowie’s song and the feelings of deep space and travel.  The background layer is a solid color with a “noise” effect.  I lowered the opacity of the noise so that it would show the purple. Now for the animation. Initially I wanted nine planets and nine movement paths for them. If I’m able to work on this animation further I think I’ll build it out.  I started with the goal to animate a single planet moving along the path of its orbit.  There is no sun or visible central point in my animation until the video shifts and I cross fade in the fractal shape.  I kept my turbulent purple background layer behind the fractal to keep continuity, but key framed the color scheme of the fractal to create a sequence of rapid change.  The symmetry of the fractal equation complements my symmetrical orbital paths.  I see the fractal as a wormhole or mysterious portal, and the color wheel sequence as an electrical storm in deep space.
Preliminary movement sketch.

Preliminary movement sketch.

I began with a solid filled circle overlaid on a circular shape layer with a trim path. The circle follow the rotation of the white path. The rings of my planet are larger than the frame to suggest a cosmos which extends beyond what we are seeing. The blue planet disappears and reappears to stimulate the eye.  I used a repeater effect on the shape layer of the original white ring to create 2 more complementary rings moving in harmonious motion. Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 4.13.31 PM Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 4.13.55 PM I was challenged early in the process to think about color holistically. The flat fill inside my circle created by the program was not speaking the same language as my textured background layer. I tried creating a sphere shape, but that changed the way my animation moved, so I stuck with the simple circle. In critique I received the suggestion to stack many shape layers together and reduce the opacity of the fill color to create depth.  I am also not satisfied with the spacing of the rings.  They do not align with the center of the image.  I believe that this is an unintended consequence of the repeater animation.
showing the building of concentric, harmonious movement

showing the building of concentric, harmonious movement

Digital Tools: The Art of the GIF

!!openmeangelicinfinity This glitch gif started as a cut-out mask of my image from the original photo.  This I layered over a stock photoshop background.  I saved this file in various formats, like png, jpeg, and bmp.  I then experimented by converting the files to txt, opening the text file, and making changes to the text.  I started by typing sentences or phrases, like “hi mom!” into the code because I wanted to find out what these sentiments looked like, and whether an angry sentence produced a different glitch than a happy one.  This process initially produced very subtle changes that were not extremely glitchy enough for my taste.  The alternate image in this gif is a glitched png in which I deleted large blocks of text before I converted it back to a png.  I then opened the two files in photoshop and alternated them with one another in the timeline. After learning to tween the layers, I wanted to play with a subtler shifting.   I played with color overlays of pink (the file behind the pink image is a jpeg glitch) and introduced a peek of city hall behind me in one of the between layers.  So, the portrait can be seen glitching from my original photo to a color shifted, turquoise toned block in the middle of the image. gif5

These two gifs are variations of an animation which shifted the color of the background layer behind graphic tiles.  If I were to make this again, I would start with a suitable base file.  Instead of opening a tile pattern on top of a base layer, I started with the jpeg image I had made as a wallpaper of leaves.  Then, I used the magic wand to select the negative space around the leaves and delete it to show the purple layer beneath.  This resulted in a pattern with small imperfections in the mask – they can be seen in the final gif.  However, what I like most about these two gifs is their style of clunky, neon internet art.  So I’m happy that these look like the myspace background of a clueless 13 year old.   These two gifs show how I developed my animation of the lighter pink square.