Sunday, 15 August 2010

Thundering Skies (Live)

In the previous post I showed you a video I have made, for a piece of music I recorded back in 2001. At the time I sequenced everything, which made live performance problematic, but I eventually hit upon the idea of loading all the samples into Audiomulch. This is a fascinating piece of software that was originally developed as a kind of arty sample manipulation tool, but works equally well as a live electronic music studio.

Back in 2001 it was relatively primitive - it wasn't very good at sequencing patterns, which explains why I use the same bassline all the way throughout the song - but I can't remember anything similar at the time. Audiomulch let me loop samples and apply effects in real time, and also chop them up, apply transitions etc, without crashing very often. The designer has continued to work on it, and nowadays it is no doubt a monster although I haven't used it in ages.

So, here's a live performance of the basic material that went into Thundering Skies, recorded on 05 February 2001. A Monday. The footage is the same as before but slower, so that you can look at it more. It's worth pointing out again that the timelapse effect was achieved by shooting ten minutes of video and then speeding it up, rather than shooting thousands of individual frames.

Clouds are themselves fascinating things. They are gigantic like alien spaceships, enormous mountains hovering in the sky, but most people never look at them. Way back in 2009 Gavin Pretor-Pinney's The Cloud Collector's Handbook was a surprise hit, and started off a mini-industry of cloud-related books. Publishers are always looking for a fad, and clouds were the fad of 2009/2010. Clouds are ideal subjects because they don't demand royalties and they disappear quickly. They are the ideal photographic models in this respect, akin to the naked native girls that helped Victorian pornographers make their pornography cheaply.

Some Clouds are just innocent currents of colder air, but some of them are vehicles for germs that ride the clouds in order to colonise the Earth, according to the National Geographic in this report from 2009. Perhaps one bleak day there will be war between the peoples of the Earth and the clouds. We will fight them with fire, and the clouds will rain on us.

In the second clip above you can see clouds forming spontaneously in front of your eyes. As a child I came to believe that clouds help disprove the concept of God, or at least push him into irrelevance. Clouds, and icebergs, and currents in the water. They did not need God to make them, they are the product of a system. They are made by the interaction of warm and cool air, and so they are indirectly created by radiation from the Sun and gravity from the moon. If we should worship something, we should worship the Sun and the Moon, not God.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Thundering Skies

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." So wrote Jane Austen in her classic novel Pride and Prejudice, which was published in the early 1800s and has never been out of print since. Over the past week or so I have been working on the following video:

It is a mass of timelapse footage set to some music that I recorded back in 2001. If I could re-record it today I would chop off the last minute and make the drums more interesting and louder, but the software I used is long-gone. I believe it was mostly rendered with an early version of VAZ Modular, a software synthesiser with a big fat sound, and a sequencer called Cakewalk, but whatever files and samples I used are lost to time.

The video was shot with a 5D Mk II, almost entirely with two lenses, an Olympus 24mm f/2.8 and a Nikon 75-150mm f/3.5. They are small and light, which is important when you're carrying around a camera and a tripod. They are also manual focus, but that isn't a problem when shooting timelapse video of distant clouds. The two lenses would make a great holiday kit, if you added a fast 50mm in there somewhere, or simply ignored the middle focal lengths. The 75-150mm has a relatively short maximum range, but that's what cropping was invented for!

Also, I have recently been pondering the word stroll, which has a very precise meaning. Only a man can stroll, for example, and he cannot be a ruffian. Strolling is not the pursuit of anything, but it is not aimless ambling either. It is not wandering or staggering or hiking or striding or slouching or sidling or any of those. It is not even walking, because it takes place exclusively on the flat.