LAND OF MINE – Landscapes on Paper
Here it is!
A short journey of 4 minutes and 19 seconds into another sphere. Get in my helicopter, put your headphones on and take a flight with me.
The video is accompanied by the song “Still holding on” from Tristan Barton, a very talented composer for screen from Australia. For me, it is the perfect soundtrack for these images as the arrangement, the choice of instruments and the use of voice effects go hand in hand with the feeling I wanted to evoke. The sound of a clear and wide open space, the whisper of wind and voices, the theatrical pathos of a scenery which only is a few square centimeters on a piece of paper, but comes to life as a big picture of our planet.
Why shooting this experimental short was a pleasure
Macro cinematography is a niche. Only few people do it and in a commercial context you’d get in touch with it rather sporadic. People like me observe forms and figures, textures and movements intensively and only focus on this special topic, trying to create sceneries with a high metaphoric potential and pushing boundaries to develop unique visual experiences. I work with everyday ingredients in a different meaning. However, painting with acrylic paint is a hobby for the masses. Many people do it. The variety of colors, pigments, pouring mediums and substances to keep your materials in flow is endless. In this case I had a ton of references in art to develop my own method, no fundamental research needed.
I learned a lot from people using these colors and found plenty of videos online – different drawing techniques, methods of mixing, pouring and filling acrylic paint. Many artists use marbling styles and just let the colors do it’s thing. And they do a lot of their own.
From a creative point of view, this was a complete breath of fresh air to me and I now have a deeper understanding for plastic arts and stuff like that. And I can apply all the knowledge others share with me to create new methods of organic visualization. I didn’t paint at all but gently poured several layers and lines of color with syringes and watched it spreading across the paper. I added drops of dish soap here an there to activate the flow and tried to follow the peaks and valleys the wet paper produced by itself. As landscapes and shores did unfold in front of my eyes, I started using toothpicks to stabilize the ground and fix the bended parts of the paper. For the intro sequence I wanted something different with a much slower flow and more definition and edges. I needed to control the direction and amount of expansion more precisely because I wanted more negative space in the composition. Therefore I experimented with several additives and used much thicker mixtures. But the results weren’t convincing. But I found (again) the solution by accident. I had a large cup of base medium which I wanted to color in black. As I ran out of acrylic paint, I used some black food dye and ink. The mixture began to clot and showed an interesting spongy texture, a little bit like lava. And it did what I wanted: The colors I poured into it could only move slow and somehow reacted with the sticky base medium. The even structure transformed into an order of super thin layers, it reminded me on puff pastry. I wanted to shoot much more of this style, but I was not able to reproduce this base medium again. This not the first time that I stumble over something which presents only once and I am not able to reproduce it. Somehow I like these moments as it gives my ingredients that little bit of magic and reminds me that often I am more an observer than a creator. And as always, I produced a lot of waste, both analog and digital. But this is not new to me, I know that perfect shots a rare and the outcome of a shooting session often is nothing more than a few seconds of footage. But I don’t mind.
The editing process was more difficult than I thought. A good montage always drives me in some kind of narrative structure, abstract or concrete. If you really get into the logic and continuity of your edit, you realize that you need very specific shots. If I face a narrative a problem I always start to exchange one beautiful shot with another, only to find out that I need to reshoot a scene or may have to find a completely different solution. Again, I had TONS of footage, but in hindsight I cannot believe how many great shots did not make it into the final version and how limited I was in material in some sequences. The truth is: Experimental does not mean you can skip preproduction just because you think you can do whatever you want. In fact, the claim is as high as for any other genre. One of my goals is to concretize my storyline for a short much more than I did in the past. Not only to save time but particularly to save energy.
As always, I had several problems to solve during this project. The biggest obstacle I could not fully overcome was image quality. I didn’t expect that, but metallic pigments are so tiny and highly reflective when moving and floating, that the visual complexity might be too high for a decent 4K camera. In other words, there are structures which have more details than a modern 4k sensor can capture in terms of resolution. Concerning dynamic range, the 10 stops of a GH4 just can’t compete with a RED or Blackmagic camera if you use metallic colours on a dark background. My wish is to shift to a camera with better tech specs and more resolution, but this is the future and not the present. I really tried my best using denoising and deblocking plugins and rendering out samples in 4k, 3k and 1080 in endless sessions, but I have to admit that the 8-bit video stream in my browser looks really disappointing in comparison to the 10-bit master file. Nothing new to me, but this time it really hit me hard. Finally, I decided to edit and export in 3k which gave me a little bit of headroom for reframing in post and preserved as much details as possible.
Apart form that, let’s talk again in a few years when we all shoot 8k!
Looking back to the whole shooting and editing process, I have to say that this project has a deeper meaning to me than other works. LAND OF MINE is a project I did alone, like many others before. But this time I realized in a very strong manner, how important it is to me to shoot such videos. These days, everything runs on such a high clock rate that you really have to step out of the rush in a conscious act of self-care. If you can’t do that from time to time, you might get burned. I still work in the boiler room and collected and arsenal of gear, craft supplies, colors and fluids. It’s so crammed that I can barely move anymore. It is the nastiest place in my house but the one I love the most. Closing the door, switching on the music and experimenting with materials is like taking a deep breath. A journey to myself. It may sound ridiculous to some people, but the land of mine is a place which truly exists for me, and I am grateful I have found it.
So there you have it. I hope you can feel and understand the deeper meaning of LAND OF MINE. If you have any questions, let me know!
Thanks for stopping by!