Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Design Lesson:
Mood and Experience
Part II - Cool and Hard

Yesterday morning, I met with Clayton Rodney, technical manager for the Edmonton Opera. Clayton graciously agreed to answer my questions and chat about lighting design and how light, texture and colour can be shaped to effect a particular mood. He was so sweet and engaging that our "quick coffee" turned into a 45-minute long conversation.

Besides enlightening me on how to use my Roscolux swatch book, and warning against using green to light people (in the language of light, green equals dead), Clayton did a quick and dirty tutorial on how to light people and backdrops, and we talked about focal areas given a limited budget, how silk and frost filters work, modifying light with a filter vs. in the fixture itself, the beauty of #99 chocolate, and hard vs. soft lighting, among other things. As we wrapped up the meeting, he also told an entirely my style joke that I very gullibly believed. It made me wonder if we might eventually be friends, and not just colleagues, some day.

I knew he wouldn't have a simple answer for my last question, as there are rarely simple answers to conceptual creative problems (everything gaining meaning by its relationship to many other things, like threads in a tapestry), but I asked him anyway: are there guidelines or rules for light and what it says, e.g. hard vs. soft or blue vs. gold? He said, of course, that there are no hard and fast rules, but if he was lighting a production that was very modern or contemporary, perhaps New City Suburbs-style Gothic or dark in mood, that he would likely think to use very high contrast light and dark lighting with a cold, hard edge, whereas, if he was doing a vintage-style production with antiques and lace, he would more likely use a warm colour palette with softer edged light.

So, while Part I brought you warm and soft, this collection brings you cool and hard. Enjoy!
  1. Alexander McQueen's Fall/Winter 2006 runway show - A hologram of Kate Moss

  2. KM3D-1

  3. If you have blue and red 3D glasses, now is a good time to break them out.
    Created by AnOther Magazine with artist and filmmaker Baillie Walsh, KM3D-1 is an experimental, multi-dimensional image-movie, first seen at Alexander McQueen's autumn/winter 2006 fashion show.

    Using state-of-the-art Phantom HD cameras, the film was an experiment in 3-D technology. Although you can't watch 3-D on You Tube (at least, not yet), the short back then was a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, way before Avatar hit the movie screens.

    The film starred the beautiful supermodel Kate Moss, and was also groundbreaking for it's use of holographic technology, making Kate appear on stage almost from thin air and giving her a three dimensional appearance.

    Here is the film as it looked on screen.

  4. The Knife: Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience

My friend Scott is teaching me how to drum. After 8 years of classical piano training, adding in feet is quite the challenge! Una corda and damper pedalling just can't compare.

Design Lesson:
Mood and Experience
Part I - Soft and Warm

I'm looking into making future event projects more interactive and, as part of my research, am investigating lighting technique, film and projection, and how they contribute to mood and atmosphere. For you: a collection of videos in two parts!
  1. Patiences - A short film produced, directed and photographed by Peter Wunstorf

  2. As a cinematographer, Peter worked with Ang Lee on Brokeback Mountain and is currently shooting a TV series in Vancouver. We were very fortunate to have Peter consult on the lighting for a photographic editorial we did this last August.
    Eve has gone to the cottage where their rendezvous take place.

  3. Days of Heaven - Terrence Malick

  4. When Peter and I were discussing the mood for the editorial, he suggested I look at this film. Much of the film was shot during magic hour...
    A euphemism, because it's not an hour but around 25 minutes at the most. It is the moment when the sun sets, and after the sun sets and before it is night. The sky has light, but there is no actual sun. The light is very soft, and there is something magic about it. It limited us to around twenty minutes a day, but it did pay on the screen. It gave some kind of magic look, a beauty and romanticism.
    - Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography

    Though the film was set in Texas, the exteriors were shot in Whiskey Gap on the prairie of Alberta, Canada and a final scene shot on the grounds of Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary.

  5. A Trip Down Market Street, 1906

  6. A 104 year old film clip of the view from a street car/cable car ride in San Francisco. The first 35mm film ever, I'm told!

    The accompanying track is Air's La Femme D'Argent, from the Moon Safari album.
    It was taken by camera mounted on the front of a cable car. The number of automobiles is staggering for 1906. Absolutely amazing! The clock tower at the end of Market Street at the Embarcadero wharf is still there. How many "street cleaning" people were employed to pick up after the horses? Talk about going green!

    Great historical film! Watch the scampering as Joe Public race away from autos, horses, cable cars and bicycles.

    This film was originally thought to be from 1905 until David Kiehn with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum figured out exactly when it was shot. From New York trade papers announcing the film showing to the wet streets from recent heavy rainfall, and shadows indicating time of year & actual weather and conditions on historical record, even when the cars were registered (he even knows who owned them and when the plates were issued!) was filmed only four days before the Great California Earthquake of April 18th 1906 and shipped by train to NY for processing. Amazing, but true!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Design Lesson: Anticipation

Design Lesson:
Make It Like You Mean It

My friend Scott and I were having a conversation yesterday about Darren Aronofsky and how he made Pi. The aesthetic of Pi was a consequence of its low budget, but because the film was so successful1, the style that might never have happened, had Aronofsky had "enough money", has since been recognised as a unique style worthy of merit and attention.

I thought of that conversation when I saw this video on The Year In Pictures blog.

I'm pretty sure that pyramid of white buckets is in fact a pyramid of Fniss waste baskets...followed by Lack coffee tables, Lack bookshelves on casters, Skruvsta swivel chairs in Idhult white, Henriksdal chairs, another Lack coffee table, a Lack side table, and more swivel chairs.

Remember this video?

A little ingenuity goes a long way. A lot of ingenuity, even more so.

So why am I bringing all this up? In anything—be it your life, work, a party, a house, whatever—where to focus your limited resources (and by limited, I mean not-infinite) is always a consideration. Our lives are bound by limitations of time, money, food, and a myriad other justifications. Preston Bailey, an internationally recognized event designer who has produced events for the Royal Family of Qatar, even says he has yet to have a client who lets him do whatever he wants and spend whatever he wants.

Last Friday, I met with a lovely lady named Tracy, who won the draw at Bridal Expo for a 2-hour consulation and two customised Moroccan lanterns from yours truly. Together, we looked through her ideas and I offered my suggestions, encouragement and answers to her questions. The last questions she asked were if I had any suggestions for hard-and-fast rules, how to make a wedding more fun and successful, and common mistakes to try and avoid, and this is what I said (more-or-less) to her:
The first thing to remember is that this event, your wedding, is for you and your fiancé (Hi Jerry!). More than anything, you want your event to be an expression of you, your future husband, your life together, and the love you have for each other. Your guests are coming to celebrate with you, and when they walk into your wedding, it should feel like they are walking around inside your life (rather than simply an impressively decorated room). It should feel like somehow they know you better for having come to be with you.

Beautifully coordinated colours are important, yes, but your wedding will ultimately be most successful and fun if you are having fun and enjoying yourself, which in turn, comes from being honest about yourself and sharing your life with your friends, family and colleagues. Feel free to pull ideas and details from your life, your fiancé's life, and your life together. If you like watching movies, maybe pull quotes from your favourite films and use them around the room. If you like to travel, maybe you can use your favourite travel destinations as table numbers. Do you like going out on a Saturday night or staying in? What do you do for fun? How can you incorporate that into your wedding?

Probably the most common mistake I've seen, and that I've made myself, is to try to do too much. It's better to have one spectacular display (think "room centerpiece") and simple, yet elegant, tables than to have all your tables look like you didn't have enough money to finish them the way you really wanted. If you have a really inventive and artistic escort card display at the entrance to your reception, people will remember it, talk about it, and admire it. If all your tables and decor are so-so, then few people will notice anything, if at all. In other words, however you decorate, simply or lavishly, make it look intentional.
Make it like you mean it.

1 Made with $60,000, it grossed $3,221,152 in the U.S. alone, and continues to sell well on DVD.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Inspirations and Diversions:
Come to Mama, Big Daddy

I'm embarking on a quest to reduce refined sugar in my diet. But it'll have to wait a day or two...

My sister sent me and Aaron several boxes of chocolate from Theo in Seattle:
Coffee Salted Caramels
Grey Salted Vanilla Caramels
Pink Salted Vanilla Caramels
Marshmallow Big Daddies
and...*drum roll*
Peanut Butter Big Daddies

I realise you probably don't need to see an up-close sample of my bite pattern, but I wasn't about to sacrifice the pleasure of first bite for the sake of real or imagined sensitivities. Note the layers (from top to bottom) of peanut butter, caramel, and graham cracker, topped with roasted peanuts.

Theo chocolate is certified organic and fair trade. I'm in ideological and flavourological heaven.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Some Like It Ruff: Part II

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth: The Golden Age

I like ruffs.

While preparing to shoot a Gothic editorial, I thought it would be interesting to make a ruff—a dramatic one, like Elizabeth!—but then decided to take the art direction in a more Victorian bent. Both are well-suited to the Gothic aesthetic, but decisions have to be made to keep things tight.

At some point, though, I'd like to revisit ruffs, and possibly use them in a shoot. It's amazing how much information is out there once you have an idea of what to look for. Ruff Sex, from Coilhouse Magazine, on ruffs in fashion and film, was a great primer for an arty dilettante like me. (Scroll to the bottom for links on how to make your own ruff!)

For the more involved, the lovely lady below, a brain-injury researcher by day, makes costumes (including Elizabethan ruffs) and documents them and her related research on Extreme Costuming. She made this Elizabethan embroidered jacket entirely by hand, including the orange embroidery! Each dot in each and every pea pod is a tiny stitch. (Love the set-in sleeves.)

"For the modern re-creator, the cost was not materials, but time. The jacket cost less than $100 total in materials, but took 1,947 hours over a year and four months to complete. I really did spend all my spare time on this, almost to distraction..."
And then there's this jacket, which took over 4000 hours and 250 people to make.

Click here for a story about it in the Boston Globe. If you have even more time, click here to read "The Embroiderer's Story", a day by day chronicle of its construction on on Plimoth Plantation (the non-profit museum that commissioned the jacket).

My research into Elizabethan costuming has birthed a yearn for a joust. Yes, a Renaissance Fair is now on the bucket list. All the feasting, and no small pox!

Ahh, history as it was supposed to be.

Some Like It Ruff: Part I

Dominion by Natalie Shau via Wicked Halo

I like Natalie Shau. You can see some of her work on deviantART, in addition to her professional site. I ran into her while researching Elizabethan ruff construction for a photo editorial that we shot this summer.

When I was in art school, work like that featured on deviantART was aggressively frowned upon. Different schools and countries tend to get known for different styles of art, sure, but anything illustrative or fantasy was somehow less worthy than Monet, Manet, Matisse or Motherwell at the school-that-shall-remain-unnamed. I admit I debated posting her work here, in part because it's quite a bit darker than what I usually look at (and some of her images show boobies!), but more because of that school-instilled bias.

I guess, in posting it now, I wish to establish a line between the creative thinker then vs. now. A divide and a bridge. A signpost. Now that time has granted me sufficient intellectual and emotional distance from educational rhetoric, it's nice to (re)discover a love of illustrative art. I remember that sense of wonder I felt as a child, reading bedtime fairy tales, and I am glad of it.

Here's to freedom.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Inspirations and Diversions:
A Bird & The Naturalist

Oh Kanye. Is it ok to be a punk when you're that good?

And while I've got your creative attention, come see a fashion show at Strathcona Pool this Saturday. The inimitable John James will be showing her neckpieces (styled by me? we'll wait and see).

Off the Deep End from Parlour Magazine on Vimeo

Admission is free, but it's a fundraiser to save The Pool, so donations are welcome and encouraged.

Speaking of fashion shows, we went to a bridal fashion show tonight. Stay tuned.
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