Pixelated Pop – Experimental Filmmaking

In late January, we held a unique workshop called Pixelated Pop with a group of eight creative and talented young people.

Over three days, these young people became some of the first in Australia to create augmented 3D videos using a technique that utilises the Kinect game controller and digital video cameras.

To elaborate on the artistic journey that followed, resulting in an ethereal composition of digital portraits, we caught up with ACMI Screen Events Coordinator, Tim Bright:

Tim (ACMI's Screen Events Coordinator) leads the group in discussion

Tim (ACMI’s Screen Events Coordinator) leads the group in discussion

Using a mix of light, video, scanners and new software our group set out to create a work of original moving images responding to all manner of reflections.

The new software is the work of James George, Jonathan Minard and Alexander Porter who developed it with support from a series of artistic grants. As is the encouraging trend in creative technologies, they released their hard work as open source software. That means everyone can use and manipulate their software (RGBD Toolkit) as they see fit. It also means the software is for free for everyone, too!

On the first day, we needed to draw out artistic inspiration for the portraits. The group made its way over to the Candice Breitz: The Character exhibition and spent some time studying the artist’s film installations.

After some storyboarding we went to the studio to record the portraits. Appropriately, everyone took a very minimalistic and avant-garde approach to their portrait.

Esther records her portrait

Esther records her portrait

Caiden recorded himself in one take completing a rubix cube, while Samantha danced and weaved before the camera. Esther expressed a wordless tale of dual personalities and Matt made the simple action of a paper plane flying seem poetic and meaningful.

Simultaneously capturing 3D data and HD video is no mean feat, yet the group did not make a single mistake. Everything was captured perfectly, ready to be edited at the computer lab.

Using software to create art is complicated at the best of times, and you would think using experimental unreleased software without a manual is even harder. But once again the group surprised taking to the visualisation software like ducks to water.

The most interesting thing about working with the 3D data from the Kinect controller is that you were essentially able to re-photograph what had just been recorded in the studio. It works by moving a virtual camera around the subject, changing the perspective, the depth of field, and how the subject is rendered, all at the user’s discretion.

For the rest of the afternoon we played with this software, creating engaging visual ideas.

The group get to grips with the software

The group get to grips with the software

The next two days were spent editing, creating the soundtracks and colour grading the videos in post production. It was wonderful to see everyone create original soundtracks for the work using iPads and some unique synthesises from Matt Tierney’s personal collection.

Towards the end of the workshop we dipped our toes into the serious end of digital animation, loading our Kinect data into a 3D modelling program. The possibilities from this point were limitless in terms of where the students could take their work. As the students advanced their understanding of the software, they began to conceptualise some very interesting ideas.

Here’s the final work of each student weaved together into a series of digital portraits:

As you can see by the short clip, the workshop was a great success and the content created was beautiful.

Every piece of software used in the workshop was either open source (free) or very inexpensive, which has the added bonus of allowing participants to continue their experiments after the end of the program. I suspect it won’t be the last we’ll see of these talented individuals.

It was a privilege to be a part of such cutting edge experimentation and I look forward to a lot more of it in the future.

– ACMI Screen Events Coordinator, Tim Bright

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