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Design History

Fire Sprinklers Erupt from Ingeniously Camouflaged Huts to Protect a Historic Japanese Village

October 29, 2020

Grace Ebert


Situated in a mountainous region of the Gifu Prefecture is a small village of Gassho-style homes, uniquely Japanese structures with thatched roofs that are built to withstand heavy snowfall. Dating back to the 11th century, the historic community of Shirakawa-go was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. While the designation draws tourists each year who are keen on studying the architecture and local history as they pass through the village, an unusual attraction draws inordinate crowds to the region.

Simply called the Water Hose Festival, the biannual event involves testing the site’s ability to respond to fire. The flammable and historic nature of the structures spurred caretakers to install massive sprinklers and hoses to prevent extensive damage. Each year in December and May, they test the lines and douse the homes, according to the video above that shows a similar process occurring at a site in Miyama. The systems are concealed inside structures that mimic the original architecture, and the new buildings open from the center allowing water to erupt into the air, a spectacular and almost comical process. (via Spoon & Tamago)

 

Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go

 

 

 

 



Design History Photography

Watch the Birdie: A Restored Brass Gadget Dating Back 140 Years Reveals a Historic Photography Trick

October 29, 2020

Grace Ebert

Prior to asking subjects to grin and “say cheese,” photographers would entreat those awaiting a portrait to “watch the birdie.” Now generally out of use, the phrase dates back to 1879 and references a technique to capture both kids’ and adults’ attention at just the right moment: Photographers would attach a little brass bird to the top of their lens—the 1950s film Watch the Birdie erroneously positions a songbird on the main character’s hat rather than his camera—and squeeze a pneumatic bulb, making the creature chirp and flap its wings as they snapped an image.

Austria-based Markus Hofstätter recently restored one of the historic gadgets, a process he demonstrates in a new video. He begins by degreasing the 140-year-old pieces, 3D printing a new base, and finally attaching the water-filled device to his wet plate camera. After removing the lens cap and blowing into a tube, he reveals the bird’s whistles.

For more tutorials and explorations into historic photography techniques, check out Hofstätter’s  YouTube and Instagram. You also might enjoy these similarly chirping antique boxes that feature singing bird automata. (via PetaPixel)

 

 

 



Design History

A Glass Floor in a New Dublin Grocery Opens a Window to Medieval Viking History

October 23, 2020

Grace Ebert

Embedded in the architecture of a new Lidl store in Dublin is a glass floor that allows shoppers to peer down into medieval history. During the supermarket’s construction, archaeologists discovered a 1,000-year-old home of Hiberno-Norse Dubliners, who were ancestors to the Vikings, in addition to a 13th-century wine jug and the below-stage trap of the former Aungier Street Theatre. Rather than excavate the items and build on top of the site, covering the ruins, the store installed glass flooring that provides shoppers with a literal window into local history. (via Twisted Sifter)

 

 

 



Documentary Food History

Immerse Yourself in the Luxurious Process of Artisan Butter Making at a French Shop

October 9, 2020

Grace Ebert

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better pairing for the flood of sourdough loaves baked in recent months than a pat of butter, and perhaps a tour of Le Beurre Bordier will inspire the next craze for ambitious home cooks. Claudia Romeo, a journalist with Food Insider, meets with artisan Jean-Yves Bordier to document the processes of French butter making at the Bordeaux shop, revealing the slow and luxurious methods of manufacturing the milky staple.

Le Beurre Bordier is dedicated to 19th-century practices, including using a wooden malaxage, a large grooved wheel, to churn the substance and extract excess water. Workers knead the butter by hand, constantly slicing it with their fingers and turning it over and over, before shaping it into miniature cones and stamped cylinders. The entire process is measured and manual, similar to the laborious nature of baking bread from scratch.

For more of Food Insider’s deep dives into global food culture, head to YouTube.

 

 

 

 



Animation Music

Who Dat: A Suave Pigeon Struts Down the Sidewalk and Shows Off its Groove Thang in a New Music Video

October 8, 2020

Grace Ebert

The swaggering pigeon in Emmit Fenn’s new music video might upend the notion that peacocks are the proudest avians. Animated and directed by Patrick Jean, “Who Dat” opens on a quiet street corner before zooming in on the lone bird. As the bass drops, the pigeon begins a subtle strut down the street while it grooves to the beat. Soon, the bird reveals in its dancing skills after a shake of its tail feather. To see more of the Los Angeles-based director’s humorous animations, head to Vimeo.

 

 

 



History Photography

A Colorized Snowball Fight from 1896 Shows Not Much Has Changed in the Art of Winter Warfare

October 8, 2020

Grace Ebert

A short clip, originally captured by Louis Lumière in 1896, documents a rowdy snowball fight on the streets of Lyon, France. Thanks to Saint-Petersburg, Russia-based Dmitriy Badin, who used a combination of the open-source software DeOldify and his own specially-designed algorithms to upscale and colorize the historic footage, the video of the winter pastime is incredibly clear, revealing facial features and details on garments.

Badin applied a similar method—which involves a lengthy process of removing duplicate frames, adjusting brightness and contrast, and manually correcting color—to clips from cities around the world, many of which you can find on YouTube. You also might enjoy this flying train ride through a German village in 1902. (via Twisted Sifter)

Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly cited Barcelona-based Joaquim Campa as the creator of the colorized footage.