The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

September 18, 2009

Outline, thinking through film, a brief formal/informat analysis

Spatially, there are x and y coordinates for each frame. (Take for example
the lower-left corner for the origin. Temporally, there is most often a
constant frame-rate f. Consider frame [z] at time t and frame [z+1] at
time t+1. Then (t+1) - (t) = T = the time between [z+1] and [z], and 1/T =
f. For example, [z] = 1 second and [z+1] = 1.01 second. then the differ-
ence is 1/100 of a second, and the frame-rate is 100 fps.

There are several 'temporal orders' in film:

1. Frames per second of the projected film.

2. The speed the film was recorded at. Generally this the same as the
frames per second of the projected film, but need not be; there are all
sorts of instances of overcranking/undercranking in silent film, not to
mention slomo or fastmo shooting.

3. The speed of the original action. This generally assumes the obdurate
nature of the real somehow determines a 'natural' speed - for example, the
time it takes a train to pass, tree branch to fall, and so forth. This
also assumes there _is_ an original action, and that the original action
is related to real-world timing and events.

4. The speeds set in editing: a sequence may be rendered at any speeds (by
'speeds' plural, one take varying rates of speed into account).

In summary, all of these are supple; the speed of film in the projector
can be creatively altered during projection; the speed of original
recording can be altered during recording; the original action-subject can
occur at variable speeds (i.e. a performer might speed up or slow down,
hirself); and the speed set in editing can vary as well.

Note that we're referencing the relatively simple situation of apparently
recording real objects and events, one way or another: for example all of
this applies to animation, rotoscoping, 3d, and so forth.

In terms of individual frames - the internal rectangular _field_: each
frame possesses (x,y) coordinates; each point may be assigned a color and
brightness value. One might consider each frame as (f(t), {x,y, {c,b}});
define the film as: F = {(f(t), {x,y, {c,b}})] - in other words, the set
of frames and their 'internals.' (Here c and b, today, are digital/hex.)

In terms of the phenomenology of cinema, and in parallel with Reichenbach,
consider a notion of 'visidentity,' paralleling genidentity; the latter
references the identity of a physical particle or assemblage through time
- in other words, the identity of a world-line. Visidentity then
references the identity of an assemblage from one frame to another. It is
within the aegis of visidentity that the supple temporal layering of film
is presenced; the viewer sees continuity or discontinuity from one frame
to another. Visidentity is fundamental in viewing a film; one must follow
the apparent appearance of identical objects from one frame to another.

Visidentical objects, for literally all practical purposes, possess their
own trajectories, their own apparent physics. The appearance of a bat
appears to hit the appearance of a ball, and the appearance of the ball
appears to recoil from the appearance of the bat, appearing to fly in what
appears to be a trajectory cohering to the appearance of common, ordinary,
physics, in the real world. (Given the digital nature of cinema today,
'appearance' here is tripled in terms of verisimilitude - for none of this
need occur at all. So the primary appearing is that of the projection of
light and darkness, the secondary appearing is that of visidentity, and
the tertiary appearing is that of an original, and (potentially) digital

In terms of the phenomenology of viewing, it is clear that the simulacrum
of motion in film is not the result of a 'persistence of vision,' but in
fact stems from the ordinary viewing of motion in the real world, which
has everything to do with the continuous 'jump-cut' saccadic movement of
the eyes, and the like. Thus visidentity in the real world is 'usually'
identified with genidentity, and in ordinary narrative film, visidentity
implies the projection of genidentity, which is an introjection: the
actor, actress, object, appears within the preconscious as if real, and
for the duration of the film, is assumed to be real. This parallels the
function of symbolic actions in Bharata's Natyasastra, in which image-
actions on stage project/introject emotions and 'relative truths' within
the members of an audience literate in the conventions.

Now of course experimental film may cut through any and all of these
layerings, which are not written in celluloid granite; they reference the
complexity of cinematic phenomenology, from the obdurate-physical (frames
per second), to the perceptual-psychological (visidentity). Thus cinema is
a slice through and among intersecting sememes. One might briefly note
several orders at work here:

The _digital_ in the gap between frames and the independence of every
frame from every other (in other words, absence of genidentity). The
digital also appears in the very fabric of the frame, to the extent that
the frame possesses a raster and specific digital encodings of color
values. The digital also appears in the encoding of sound.

The apparent _analogic_ within each frame (to the extent that raster is
invisible or absent), and the analogic of sound, as digital sound,
transmitted through speakers, takes on the characteristics of the theater
or viewing room.

One might thus consider an _analogic smear_ with digital bases, on a
formal level. On an informal level, there is the analogic of the psycho-
logy/phenomenology of the cinematic experience, as well as the analogic of
visidentity, which is, of course, a formal suturing of objects, in terms
of projection and introjection, within the viewing of the film.

Two other orders, intertwined with the above, are the _immersive_ and the
_definable._ The definable references formally definable, within given
tolerances, and temporal absence. This applies even to the temporal
sequencing of frames, since one might embed [z], [z+1], etc. into a
three-dimensional space-time manifold; one can examine each frame indep-
pendently. In this sense, the definable also applies to each frame as an
independent _object,_ whether projected or not; much formal film analysis
deconstructs particular scenes, for example, on a frame-by-frame basis.

The _immersive,_ on the other hand, references the embedding of the viewer
/subject within the experience of watching the film projection; thus the
immersive is within the aegis of time and the phenomenology of internal
time-consciousness. Immersion is often a form of abandonment, not to a
willing suspension of belief, but an (un)willing acquiescence of belief in
a naturalized motion of visidentified objects within the film. (un)willing
acquiescence equally references the subject in what might be considered
hir natural attitude of being-in-the-world; thus the film is within the
world, part and parcel of the world, a 'natural artifacture' or artifical
nature. I am not hearkening back to Bazin here, but to the very obdurate
nature of film, projection, visidentity, and so forth; this nature holds
even in the most experimental work.

Finally, these categories are rough at best; all they do is point to
various semantic and physical regimes, and their intertwining, and to the
extent that they do this, they're applicable to scientific film, video,
and other recording modes and media to one or another extent.

References - Bazin on film, Reichenbach on the direction of time, Susskind
on relativity theory, Riemannian geometry of curved space/curved metrics
(and this opens up a whole other area of invstigation), Metz on cinematic
language, work done on the cinematic apparatus, my writings on analogic
and digital regimes, as well as immersive/definable hierarchies, the films
of Leslie Thornton, Dziga Vertov and Second Life 'machinima,' and so



so yeah, foof and i are talking about the big dance event coming up in
manhattan january, we're on skype, and he's also got a dancerun thing
coming up end of september in italy which is south of switzerland maybe,
anyway so he's exercising foomph foomph foomph while we're talking, it's
just before he's running about, foomph foomph, we're talking about
filming, i take out the hd sony, such a little thing, point it screen-
wise, we're laughing about it, i set the lens at closeup for near and far.
anyway, so i record, we're fooling around for the camera, he's exercising,
i'm making bad jokes, can't do anything else being so tired and sick and
all, i'm recording these five short pieces. so i'm doing that and say well
there's a video in this, wait and see. so then i edit it all and our silly
voices kept going and going, it was too much. so what to do. so i took the
voices out, added a slowed-down or sped-up cobza soundtrack, forget which,
and there you are, it all fit together. but then i saw it all looked like
masturbation, foomph foomph foomph, it was no such thing, it was just this
exercise stuff. well now what. it made for a good video, that's the truth
of it, so then i thought i didn't want people to get the wrong idea. so i
thought, maybe i'd add this description, and they'll get it right, that it
wasn't masturbation at all but just warming up for a practice dancerun
which to be sure is a warming up for a real dancerun shortly down the
line. so here it is, have fun with it, it might be a sunny day yet on the
upswing although it's the middle of the night, .

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