‘Looking In, Looking Out’ – An Overview.

Photograph by Josh Jones // ‘Looking In, Looking Out’, Screenshot, 2015.

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Chris and I began this project with two separate and disjointed ideas regarding a moving image or multimedia piece. Chris wanted to explore the diversity of people living on house boats within the city’s parameters, whereas I wanted to produce a psychogeographical response piece about the city. We were therefore faced with the challenge of combining these interests into one short film. Our initial response was to focus on the floating harbour or River Severn in Bristol, possibly using a body of water as transportation as well as a metaphor for a journey. At different points along the river we would alight and respond to the surrounding area in close proximity to the river. Therefore we planned to be very spontaneous and instinctive, and not reliant upon a strict storyboard. We loosely constructed a desired shot list and decided on a shooting style which we wanted to adopt. Moving water, cityscapes and a combination of the two was what we were striving for. Considered composition was something we wanted to employ, with the New Topographics movement at the forefront of our attention.

For our first shoot, we decided to use the ferry boat to move around the city. We went to the furthest point which was Hotwells, and explored some of the areas marked on a digital map, plus new areas too. Our main objective was to get off the ferry and wander with no real intention or goal, and to record points of interest instinctively. We were aiming to include aspects of the river in most shots, concerning ourselves with careful composition with a slight abstracted aesthetic. After responding to the first location, we boarded the ferry once more and alighted at a different point along the river. This happened to be another part of Hotwells, which felt considerably different to the first point. Both were steeped in history, and the historical representation through our imagery became apparent whilst on this shoot. We were constantly thinking and developing the project, and attempting to add depth to the piece.

Time constraints and light availability were factors we had to work around, and they became very apparent during this shoot. We had planned to work quicker than we did, so we were only able to explore two locations before the light began to fade. When it did finally get dark, I travelled alone to Temple Meads and Castle Park, mainly to scout out the area but also for the sake of another journey. The lack of natural light completely transforms a place, and provides an element of uncertainty or anonymity. Viewing the city from a new perspective for this shoot, both literally and metaphorically provided a great deal of conversation and development for the project.

After our first location scout and recording session, we reported back to our tutor and fellow peers. Here are some of the points that were raised during the first seminar.

Seminar #1:

  • Is the water a kind of character?
  • Are the getting off points considered, or totally random?
  • Meditative, slowed down style of shooting.
  • What type of audio will be used?
  • Unfolding and non-linear style.
  • Will the water be used in every shot?
  • Very responsive, instinctive and spontaneous style of shooting.
  • Shot list is important.
  • The route is planned, but the reactions are spontaneous.
  • Could an online, editable map be useful?
  • Will be a stronger film if the research is strong.

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Over the following week, Chris and myself produced work for the project separately due to time constraints. I explored an area close to Temple Meads, concentrating on the contrast between glass façade office buildings and giant derelict patches of land. We managed to consolidate our shoots into possible clips, and reviewed them together. By the next seminar, we felt that our idea had progressed massively, and it felt more fleshed out than before. However, it was very useful to receive more feedback during another group seminar.

Seminar #2:

  • Is the water important, or is it just a form of transport?
  • Should we look for similarities and differences between a selection of locations, i.e. two or three? Possibly using the water / floating harbour as a visual thread.
  • Use psychogeography as a platform for thought and response.
  • Possible locations: Hotwells, Temple Meads / Quay, Wapping Wharf.
  • What message are we trying to convey through this piece? or is it simply experimental?
  • Idea of looking in and looking out – two visual languages seen in the edit. For example, it became apparent from the first shoot that I was focussing on looking into the city from the water, whereas Chris was more concerned with looking into and across the water itself.
  • Possible use of multi-screen?
  • The river and harbour are and have been many things: a tourist attraction, a means of transport and a point of trade. Surrounding areas have made the most of the existing buildings, e.g., Watershed, Arnolfini, Create Centre.
  • Could we use dialogue within the piece, and how would this adjust the feeling of it.

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After this group seminar, Chris and I discussed some of the points raised and also possible means of development. We decided to use psychogeography as a loose base to our piece, and to use it mainly as a way of responding to an environment whilst recording it instinctively. Although we were going to be responding in an impulsive manor, we decided it important to establish a few parameters. If possible, we wanted to include references to historical aspects of the different areas through our imagery. We were interested in how certain places clearly steeped in history made us, and ultimately other members of the public feel. Therefore, we aimed to respond instinctively, but also with a great deal of consideration as to whether the imagery was strong and if it communicated some sort of feeling.

During this discussion, I also thought of a possible project title of ‘Looking In, Looking Out’. This was born out of our joint interest of the river providing a new perspective of the city, and also to The Blue Mind ideology. To use the meditative qualities of the water as an artistic device was something that we thought about using. We contemplated becoming overwhelmed or almost hypnotised by the movement of the water, and only then turning around to view the city from a literal and psychological new perspective. This linked to the idea of ‘Looking In’ to the water, and then ‘Looking Out’ upon the city.

Seminar #3:

  • Recording of audio separately to visuals – spot effect and ambient sounds. Possible things to record: river, general noise of location. Variation between choice of locations. Quotes or poetry.
  • Shot list for next shoot: Solitary figures within the city or by the water, linking to the meditative state idea. More locations – responsive recording but considering composition and historical aspects.

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After the last shoot, we felt we were in a strong position to begin the editing process. We had successfully recorded a sufficient amount of clips at different locations, and also separate ambient and spot effect audio. Through trial and error, we found a way of editing that worked for us and we began by selecting possible clips from the raw footage. This meant we were able to begin to piece together the visuals according to their location, and also by their aesthetics. This was quite a time consuming process, and we were unable to make any progress on the audio before the fourth seminar.

Seminar #4:

  • Play the edit through large speakers before exporting it.
  • Make sure the audio does not feel fragmented – keep it well designed, layered and with peaks and troughs of loudness.
  • Possibly use one large audio underlay track of ambient sound as a base layer, then build spot effects on top of this.
  • Make some clips slightly shorter.
  • Overall, the sequence was considered, well paced and tidily executed.

J.

 

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