Video Exercise: Burning Paper on Blue Plate

This is just a short experiment. I’m trying to get into the habit of thinking with my camera. Sort of in the same way that I think through words (essays, reflections, grades, etc.) and sketching (furniture plans, text layout, web design, etc.) In this video, I was thinking through: depth of field, composing within the frame, unpredictability, subtle action, semiotic soundtrack impact, and indirect light.



video host: Vimeo. Most of the time I use Youtube for hosting my videos, and recently, I decided that I wanted a separate account for my professional work. While I was at it, I thought I might as well create a separate account at Vimeo, too. This way, you all are exposed to two different strategies. You’ll be able to choose which one seems right for you.

depth of field: Pretty challenging with this particular subject. Since I’m rockin’ the Nikon D5100, was able to choose a nice lens with a short depth of field (60mm macro). In some cases this can be great especially when I want to be able to isolate a part of the shot by keeping it in focus behind any foreground elements or the background. What ended up happening in this case was that the closest end of the paper was in focus, but as the flame moved backward it moved out of focus. I could see this effect being sort of interesting while emphasizing not just the movement of the flame, but that fact that it travels, too. Maybe I do like this effect. The more I think about it, the more rich and subtle it becomes. The shallow depth of field sort of creates multiple panes. Background, subject, foreground. Though I don’t really do anything with the foreground, I like the way the action of the flame splits into the background while the charred paper still has little glowing lines crawling around it like tiny little ants of fire. On the other hand, it would have been nice to be able to change the focus to follow the depth of the flame, but the D50 100 doesn’t auto-focus in video mode.

composing within the frame: I’m not so sure about the composition of this little video. To some degree, I was thinking about the rule of thirds. And horizontally, I think it works pretty well. But vertically, it sort of feels like the frame is split into an upper half and lower half—which I don’t like.

unpredictability: I only took one take of this video. I didn’t really know how the flame was going to work, and that was part of what I liked about this little exercise. Instead of lighting a piece of paper on fire and watching it burn, without the camera, to see what it would do,  I just did the same thing with the camera. Now I have it is a record that I can review, and if there’s something in this footage, whether I predicted it or not, I now have it on record.

subtle action: When I’m staring into a campfire, I think what I find most mesmerizing is what happens at the edge. Those bits of paper and wood that are just barely close enough to catch fire or burn. There’s a struggle there. And luckily I was able to capture and isolate that a bit with this video.

semiotic soundtrack impact: I’ll admit the soundtrack was a bit of an afterthought. But if I might give it a try anyway to see if there are was anything interesting I might learn. So I hopped on over to Jim And I realized when I got there that I had no idea how to search for the kind of music I was looking for. I was so overwhelmed with all the choices that I decided to just search for the images in my film and see if there were any fortuitous confluences between what I was looking for and the ways that various musicians decided to name their songs. It seemed to work pretty well. I was able to find multiple tracks that I thought might work for this video, but I have a hunch that there are probably much more efficient and innovative ways of looking for music to match your images.

indirect light: For some reason I’ve always been under the impression that more light is better when it comes to photography and video. However, I’m starting to realize that very low light, direct sunlight, and ambient light  each have their own affordances. However, if you know much about light, you probably know that different colors of light have different temperatures and affect light sensors in different ways. In this case, I was using ambient morning lights on a clear day, but the warmth of the flame seems to me to be somewhat incongruous with the rest of the lighting in the video. I’ll have to be more careful of that in the future.