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Category Archives: 770 ~ Photography & computer art

Video sharing apps – Vinestagram Lightt

Yesterday Instagram released the 4.1 update incorporating the ability to upload video content from your camera feed. This is a significant step, distinguishing the app from Vine and Lightt. Whilst still restricted to 15 seconds of video, the ability to upload video makes it closer to YouTube than the other two apps. This means footage that has been pre-recorded and edited can now be uploaded. You can upload snippets from different video footage, manipulate the length of the footage and create a montage for 15 seconds. Thus the ability to utilise the app as a basic editing tool has also been enabled. Comparisons between Vine and Instagram have been quite rife with some predicting the demise of Vine. This review –  Instagram vs Vine: Battle of the short-form video-sharing apps indicates the depiction of the two apps as being in competition.

When Instagram first launched video, a few like minded individuals including myself, came together and formed an account dedicated to capturing stories in 15 seconds. 15secstory is an international collaborative account purely dedicated to the Instagram video format. Interestingly, the contributors to this account connected via the Vine app and continue to be avid Viners. In this respect there is a useful purpose for both apps and each has its strengths

Within the initial instagram format, the challenge of capturing a story in 15 seconds was difficult. However, it became apparent you could preview, as you filmed, delete clips if they didn’t work and reshoot. You could work with the limited filters to alter the look of the final clip. Thus the ability to utilise post-production techniques was built into Instagram from the outset, even though limited. One thing Instagram didn’t have was the ability to have a fine-tuned stop-start recording feature enabling stop-motion and time-lapse clips to be created as effectively as you can with Vine. With Instagram stop-motion just seems a bit clunky to achieve as you are not able to capture miniscule segments of footage, as you can with Vine

The comparable app, to this initial version of Instagram, is Lightt. Lightt allows the filming of footage with the benefit of manipulating individual clips for sound, image, duration and effect. You can reverse clips, cut and paste and move them around on the timeline. You can post-record sound and apply simple effects like echo for individual clips. A particular bonus is that you can manipulate individual clips with more options than you can on Instagram. In terms of post-production abilities, within an app, Lightt is superior to Instagram even with the current Instagram update. Post-production ability with instagram is limited to duration of clips, deletion of most recent clip posted on the timeline and the application of a filter across the 15 seconds. There is no ability to move clips around a timeline or even work with asynchronous sound. Unless… post-production occurs elsewhere… Which is what the new update is about.

With Instagram’s new update, you can effectively record the whole interview outside of instagram and edit it down to a fifteen second snippet to upload later if you choose. This is quite a remarkable change to the process. If you wish you can utilse Final Cut Pro X to edit your video and then transfer to your camera. Effectively more time, resources and capabilities are utilised but the opportunity to share highly polished videos in this instant social media format is there. This is where Instagram becomes comparable to YouTube even though it is a short-form video format.

I decided to test the new ability to upload clips to Instagram from my camera. I chose three vine clips that were on my camera feed and uploaded them. I then altered the time of two clips so that they fit within the 15 second limit and posted the final clip. If you consider this process and what it actually consists of, the time factor comes into play. I haven’t utilised any post-production software in this process at all, just two social media apps that allow video sharing. Following is the final clip that was uploaded yesterday.

Vine video upload  to Instgram

My first uploaded video to Instagram composed of three Vine clips. Click on the image to play.


The overall process consisted of planning my individual Vine clips, setting up and filming these clips utilising the Vine app and posting to Vine. To upload to Instgram I selected three of my Vine clips that were saved to my camera role. I manipulated the duration of two of the clips and posted the final version. The majority of the creative process occurred with the Vine process where the clips were created.

With Vine there is no post-production ability. Essentially, Vine is the most restrictive of all the video sharing apps. There are no post-production options. You cannot upload content. There are no filters you can apply, there is no ability for asynchronous recording or editing. Preview is the last stage before you post and you can’t delete clips and reshoot segments. If you choose not to post, you lose the ability to post that clip. Gone. Just like that.

I have worked on stop-motion clips for Vine for over two hours and lost everything when the app crashed because of a low battery. I often shoot and reshoot a clip over twenty times before I am happy to post a final version. Sometimes an earlier version is better but because I wasn’t satisfied with it at the time, it never made it to Vine. So it sits on my camera roll. Sometimes I never see what a clip looks like whilst in the process of creating a clip, nor am I ever able to until the end and it’s impossible to recreate. This is often the case with stop-motion Vines. With Vine, the process is similar to in-camera editing. It is restricted to stop-start and that is all. Once posted Vine is a six second format that continuously loops. There is no delay in the video starting when viewing as I have experienced with Instagram and Lightt.

The restrictions or limits applied by the Vine app have proved to be incredibly liberating at the same time. The focus has shifted to pre-production. I find myself questioning what do I want to film, or as I’m journeying, an idea pops up from stimulus around me. I look at the world around me and start seeing visuals that work. I question how do I want my final six seconds to look? What do I want to convey and how can I achieve this within these limits? I get inspired by other creative Viners and wonder how did they do that? I feel propelled and compelled to experiment and to push boundaries. I’m almost certain that this wall of limits is movable… This is the mindset that Vine has inspired.

Over time this process of incredible experimentation has become evident amongst many who are participating in the Vine video-sharing community. This is evident with the use of Assistive touch by many focussed on stopmotion wanting to squeeze in more frames in the tiny six seconds offered. It is evident in experimenting with physical lenses to apply desired effects including the use of coloured crystal glasses, experimenting with stretching soundclips so stop-motion sound seems more synchronous in the recording process and so forth.

As the first video sharing app, Vine captured the imagination of those focused on the filmmaking format. Adam Goldberg is one example of the incredible talent that transformed and inspired many with the boundaries overcome by the incredible Vines created. With limits you become resourceful. Failure is not crushing, just another learning experience, it becomes a dialogue with the others in the community that have been inspired by the limitations and determined to achieve a great little six second story.

I’m not so sure this will happen on Instagram. Instagram is first and foremost a photo-sharing app. Video seems like an added feature but not a focus as it is on Vine. Lightt has a focus on just video sharing and provides an interesting approach where all the clips stream one after the other. Effectively, over time, a whole movie can easily be created with this app. Because of this Lightt has interested me and is certainly an app worth exploring.

 

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app review of Stop Motion Studio for iPad

I came across the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Stories on Screen competition and forwarded the details to the Early Years Leading Teacher, also the early years ICT leader. She expressed an interest in participating this year with the younger students creating stop-motion animations  inspired by children’s books.

In the past couple of years the school has been purchasing iPads to be used at school. At this stage, the younger years are using the iPads and grade five/six students have helped with reviewing some apps for education. However, they havent been satisfied with any of the stop motion apps. As a consequence I decided to investigate apps for iPads with a focus on creating animations and films. I located a few stopmotion apps and identified Stop Motion Studio to investigate along with the iMovie app.

The aim was to determine:

  1. Key features of the app and how to use it.
  2. How easy the app was to use by younger children

In this activity I downloaded Stop Motion Studio, iMovie and Extras4iMovie to my iPad. I then asked two children (my daughters) if they would like to create animations with paper cut-outs. They were both very keen on the idea of creating animations. The process of planning and animating happened over a weekend. My involvement in their planning stage was minimal. Basically they showed me their cut-outs and asked me what I thought. Sometimes I suggested some more elements may be needed.

On the second day, my involvement was geared towards setting up the iPad to capture the stop motion clips. We did not have a iPad mount to firmly position the iPad to a tripod. Consequently, gaffer tape was used to hold the iPad in place on top of a silver case, on top of a table. The paper elements were on a black cloth on the floor. Little LED lights provided the lighting source.

Once this was set up, each child continued without any assistance. They were able to work out how to use the app without many instructions and even taught me some of the features such as the scrolling back and forth to see the overlay of the animation image.

The animation process took a while involving constant movement between the iPad to shoot frames and the paper elements to change them as part of the frame by frame capture process. They completed the animation with Stop Motion Studio but are yet to edit the final animations in iMovie. They photographed close ups of elements that will need to be edited into the the animation along with the final sound and titles sequence.

During the process, I documented with my iPhone by filming and photographing. I then edited the documented photos and clips with the animations the children made using the iMovie app on an iPad. The titles were created with Extras4iMovie. This video forms the app review that was exported to Youtube and subsequently embedded in this post. By creating this video I was able to test the iMovie app in the process.

This week I will be sharing this review with the school in support of the initiative to use iPads to create animations and films for the CBCA competition and for future projects. Being able to identify the information, curriculum and technology needs is an incredibly important function of a librarian in a school. With this activity, I have been able to provide curriculum resource ideas and support with technology to enable successful outcomes. By working with the children to assess ease of use, I am focussing the needs to the target group and this is very important.

What I learnt is that you definitely need an iPad mount to enable an effective and steady support for the iPad. This will make filming and animation easier. I discovered the app is a fantastic app for the targeted age group and feel confident in transferring these ideas to the teaching and learning community. In working with children to assess the app, it is much easier to demonstrate the ease of use by the target audience.

The next stage involves working through the editing process with the iMovie app and assessing how easy post-production is for the target audience.

 

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Outback Colours

On the Murray River

On the Murray River

Over a six week period I have been on the road across three eastern states of Australia and the Australian Captital Territory. During this time I did not blog and arriving back to Melbourne just over a week ago has presented a challenge of catching up before my studies commence in March. Often my internet connectivity was not good enough on the road and all I could manage was to upload a photo or two to Instagram with my mobile phone. This proved difficult as network speeds were very slow and sometimes non-existent, thus highlighting some of the connectivity issues in Australia and particularly when travelling on the roads less travelled.

However, despite connectivity being less than desirable, for our information age,  it was delightful to stumble upon artwork upon the way. From a yarn bombed tree, large sculptures in a small town, Lister in Bryon Bay and the Woden drains in Canberra, these are the artworks that are visible to smaller audiences.

In cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, people can chance street art on a daily level and audiences are larger. In the outback, Street art is viewed by fewer people and stumbling upon a work feels special indeed.

Artists such as ROA have left works in very remote areas, such as the Pilbara desert and it’s a very fortunate experience to stumble upon such a treasure. More information about Roa in the desert can be found on The Pilbara Project. However, I didn’t have the opportunity to traverse the Pilbara and stumble upon ROA’s work but I did stumble upon other wonderful works on the roads less travelled and the places less visited.

Following is a gallery sample.

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For more photos from regional areas you can view my Flickr set on Regional Street Art

 

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Evolving Street Art: Be Free

Having grown up in Sydney’s innerwest during the 1970’s and 1980’s, I was privy to the developing graffiti scene around me. Initially, it was tags around train stations, on trains and around the industrial areas that were experiencing a decline.

I lived up the road from the Pye Television factory during my childhood. This was the first factory that my mother worked in when we arrived to Australia. She was in the production line, putting together television sets. However, that factory shut down leaving the building uninhabited for the many years that I lived there. All the kids in the neighbourhood were curious about the empty factory buildings and we would ride our bikes to them to have a peek in to see what we could see. The same street had lines of factories shutting down and becoming empty shells. This was Marrickville South, also called ‘The Warren’.

The Warren, bordered the suburb of Tempe. The division between the two suburbs was marked by a train line. On the Tempe side was a cliff edge, a great big blank wall of concrete, with housing up the top. On the Marrickville side were the industrial buildings. This became the face of graffiti in the area. As I remember, it started with tags and then tags started to transform to larger pieces on these walls bordering the train line. Watching the transition always fascinated me and continues to do so….

That was a long time ago… since then the transitions have continued and my fascination has intensified. This is the reason I started documenting art on the streets. I love watching the changes. I revisit places continuously to observe changes. Now my observations are not only with the eye, but with photographs to document the changes. I sometimes focus on the changes that are a result of different lighting, other times it’s the changes as a result of the elements weathering the art, or art being capped, buffed, tagged over and so forth.

However, there is one piece in Fitzroy North that has captivated me with the interactive changes and evolution over the course of a few months. It is the three dimensional Be Free artwork installed on a side wall of a cafe. I love this piece and many times over the past few months elements have disappeared, it has been added to, taken away from and then added to again. The natural elements of greenery have started to grow and weathering of the artwork has appeared too. The following photos are in chronological order demonstrating the evolution of this artwork as I have photographed over the course of this year.

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Street art verses Advertising?

Living in Melbourne provides the wonderful opportunity to experience an amazing urban gallery. The art scene is an incredibly healthy one with diverse artworks adorning lane-ways, buildings, warehouses and gallery spaces. Urban art contributes to the joy of life as it provides moments to stop and ponder, contemplate some ideas, or just enjoy the talent that is given to the world free to enjoy.

As a personal preference, I welcome urban art more than the unsolicited advertising assaulting our public spaces. Banksy’s position on advertising is an interesting one and, whether you agree with it or not, it is certainly worth pondering in this context.

People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are the Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

…Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.

Moving along…. A favourite pleasure is documenting the changing landscape and the wonderful contributions of artists to the streets of Melbourne. When artists pop in to visit from other places in Australia, or from other countries it is an incredible rush to dash and and capture the new artwork. As it is so ephemeral, what is here today may be gone tomorrow, the ability to document with a camera is one way of sharing and hopefully capturing the moment that was.

I’ve decided to share some of my photos that I capture on this blog and I will start with a small selection from Melbourne artists…

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Scaling the tower by Baby Guerilla in Clifton Hill

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Flight to Freedom by Baby Guerilla in Brunswick

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I stopped wearing a watch after the funeral… Collaboration by Kaff-eine and Precious Little in Brunswick

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Rainbow Shower, a collaboration with Suki and Be Free in Brunswick

 

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Tintype photography and preservation

This past week, as an activity for my studies, I investigated one photographic process and I chose the tintype process. I now need a medium format camera as I just want to dive in and start taking tintype photos!

The tintype was discovered by Adolphe Alexandre Martin, in France, 1853 and patented in the USA in 1856 by Hamilton Smith (Martin et.al. 2008). Use of the tintype spread quickly and has an interesting history. As a process, the tintype was predominantly in use from 1853 to1930 (Lavédrine, p. 38). The process delivered photography to a wider audience, was a precursor to what is now known as street photography and a precursor of the photobooth (Martin et.al. 2008). The faster process, than the daguerreotype, contributed to more candid images and experimentation, as no longer did a pose have to be held for such a long time (p. 2). In the USA, the tintype process is responsible for collections of photographs taken during the civil war. For the first time photography was faster, portable and tintypists travelled with their portable darkrooms, unlike the studio setting of the daguerreotype. Furthermore, having an iron support made the photographs less fragile and people were able to mail them to each other or keep them in books whilst away (Lavédrine et.al. p. 37).

A tintype is a positive monochrome image on metal (Lavédrine et.al. p.4). The other two positive image processes of the 19th century are the daguerreotype (on copper plates and encased) and the ambrotype (on a glass plate also encased) (Reilly, 2009 pp. 51-52). The tintype is also known as a ferrotype, melainotype or melanograph (Lavédrine p. 38). The metal support has a thickness of approximately 0.15mm (Lavédrine et.al. p 35) and the sizes of the tintype were commonly 2.25 inches by 3.5 inches (Martin et.al. 2008). However, it was possible to produce multiple images, the size of a stamp, on one sheet. This is where the idea of the photobooth is born. Unlike the daguerreotype and ambrotype, which were housed in cases with a glass cover, the tintype mostly wasn’t. However, some were and when cased it is difficult to tell the difference between a tintype and an ambrotype. Reilly (2009) suggests a magnet being the only way without needing to remove the case (p. 52).

Lavédrine et.al (2009) elaborates the construct of a tintype. It consists of a metal sheet of iron as the support. The sheet was lacquered, often with darkened shellac. The metal support is then coated with a binder consisting of collodian mixed with bromide and/or iodide. This is bathed in a silver nitrate sensitiser causing the collodian solvents to evaporate. This plate is placed in a frame and inserted directly into a camera where it is exposed. The exposure time of a tintype varied from 2 to 10 seconds (Martin et.al. 2008). The sheet is then developed in a solution of ferrus sulphate and nitric acid and fixed. Finally a varnish is usually applied to the image. (Lavédrine et.al p 36). The whole process was complete in 10 to 15 minutes. The tintype process of creating the image is similar to the wet-plate collodian process. However, the darkened tin layer produces the effect of a positive, with the image remaining laterally reversed (Lavérdine et.al. 2009 p. 34).

The Tintype process appears to have experienced a revival in recent years with a few people currently working with this process including Keliy Anderson-Staley, who exhibited a mixed media installation titled ‘imagined family heirlooms: an archive of inherited fictions’. This installation incorporated Tintype portraits and found objects. Robb Kendricks had Tintype portraits of a Cowboy series featured in a National Geographic issue in 2007 and published books with his works. Alice Blanch is an Australian photographer that works with alternative photographic processes including the tintype. Gold street Studios in Victoria, Australia provide workshops in alternative processes.

It is interesting to locate a commercial portrait studio called Photobooth, in The Mission area of San Francisco that is dedicated to creating portraits specifically with the tintype process. Michael Shindler, the owner of Photobooth, utilises a medium format camera to create and sell tintype portraits to people who walk in for this purpose. Shindler describes the process of his work and, like others currently working with the tintype process, there are modifications to the original process. For instance one modification relates to the support utilised, which is a plaque made for trophies, sized 4 inches by 5 inches. As it is already black on one side this eliminates the need to coat the metal sheet with dark shellac. Shindler applies collodian, also a modified mixture, directly to the plate and proceeds with the rest of the process. Shindler sells the portraits for sixty dollars. The following clip, by Tested, has Shindler discussing his tintype process.

In a museum or archive setting, the George Eastman House, as well as being a Museum of Photography housing collections, delivers courses in the tintype process. As the tintype process documented much of the Civil War period in the USA, collections have developed in other museums or archives including The Black Archives of Mid-America; housing a tintype collection specific to African-Americans in the Mid-West. In Australia, Picture Australia produces a result for tintypes housed in Australian libraries.

Because most tintypes were not provided with a protective glass there are some specific preservation issues that distinguish it from daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. Initially, not having the glass encasement contributed to their robustness, which is why they were so portable (Lavédrine et.al. p 37). However, this portability has meant that they are often scratched or bent. Being metal they can easily rust in humid environments and this contributes to the image layer and lacquer to blister and even become detached from the support. The chemical components of tintype photographs are sensitive to light and can be damaged if displayed under strong light.

In light of this fragility of tintypes, Lavédrine et.al (2009) recommends keeping tintypes in storage envelopes and protected from light and humidity with a sheet of cardboard to prevent further changes or deformations (p.38).

Lavédrine, Bertrand & Gandolfo, Jean-Paul & McElhone, John P & Monod, Sibylle & Getty Conservation Institute (2009). Photographs of the past: process and preservation (English language ed). Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, Calif.

Martin, A.A., Smith, H. & Wallis, B. (2008) The Birth of the Snapshot, American History, 43(5); 48-53.

Reilly, J.M. (2009) Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints, Kodak publication, no. G-2S. Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak Co.

 

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History of photography (The quick version)

I’ve been fascinated with photography since a very young child. My father was an avid photographer with a darkroom set up at home where he would develop photographs and experiment continuously. It’s no surprise that I developed the passion for photography and this later translated to teaching photography in a highschool a few years ago.

As the school had a darkroom set up, it enabled the opportunity for many students to benefit from the learning process. From making pinhole cameras, creating sunprints and moving through the history towards a final assessment of planning, shooting and developing photo essays to be exhibited at school, the students discovered their own passion for photography. I even found that once engaged in the analog/chemical process, students preferred it to digital photography.

However, the expense was always an issue at the school, and the darkroom was under constant negotiation to be turned into a computer lab. Digital photography was, and continues to be, much cheaper. I’m no longer teaching and today I wonder if the school, where I taught photography, is still teaching the subject…

leaving memory lane aside, I am now finding my passion for photography as relevant in my current studies. For the next couple of months I am studying Photographic Preservation via San Jose State University, as part of the WISE program offered by my home university. As a consequence, my posts for the next couple of months will most likely be centred on all things photography.

To kick start, this post will provide a brief history of photography. You can view a timeline of photographic processes from the Graphic Atlas of the Image Permanence Institute (highly recommended!).

Or for a shorter version the following two clips sum up the history of photography briefly and nicely…

 

 

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