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Documentary Photography Science

A Short Film Dives into the 15-Year Process Behind the Documentary 'Fantastic Fungi'

September 1, 2021

Grace Ebert

We shared footage of the mesmerizing mycelium networks pulsing underneath our feet back in 2019 to mark the opening of Louie Schwartzberg’s Fantastic Fungi, and now the dedicated director takes viewers behind the scenes to show his painstaking process. Filmed throughout a 15-year period in his home studio, Schwartzberg’s timelapses zero in on myriad spores as they burst open, sprawl in every direction, and morph in color and texture. They’re a compelling visual representation of time and nature’s cyclical processes, which he explores in a new short film produced by WIRED.

Most of the challenges in capturing the footage center around predicting where an organism will grow to keep it within the shot and understanding the frame rates of different lifeforms. Schwartzberg explains:

For example, a mosquito on your arm, having a little drop of blood, takes a look at that hand coming towards it in ultra slow motion and has plenty of time to take off because its metabolic rate, its lifespan, is way shorter than our lifespan. And our lifespan is way shorter than a Redwood tree’s lifespan. This reality of real-time human point of view is not the only point of view, and that’s really the beauty of cameras and time-lapse cinematography. It’s actually a time machine.

Watch the full making-of above—note that it does include a clip of a mouse decomposing near the end—and find Fantastic Fungi on Netflix. (via The Kids Should See This)

 

 

 



Design

Zen Gardens by Yuki Kawae Interrupt Doomscrolling with Meditative Patterns

August 30, 2021

Grace Ebert

A welcome disruption to doomscrolling, the patterned zen gardens composed by Yuki Kawae are an antidote to today’s seemingly endless anxieties. The Bay Area designer records meditative footage of wide-toothed prongs and dense rakes that scrape across beds of white sand, creating intersecting loops, fractals, and other organic shapes. Each clip is evidence of Kawae’s steady hand and penchant for precision as he meticulously plows the otherwise smooth grains to form clean lines.

His practice dates back to 2019 when gardening served as an escape from life pressures and the anxiety-provoking nature of social media. “I was quite overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks and what are the ‘expected’ next steps in life…One day, I realized all of those thoughts were completely gone when I was gardening, pruning, watering, and re-potting the soil. That process let me be clear-minded somehow, and it was very calming and refreshing,” he writes. Because he didn’t have space for a larger outdoor plot, he shifted to a coffee-table-sized zen garden, an initial design that’s now provided a similar reprieve when it pops into the feeds of Kawae’s massive followings on
YouTube and Instagram.

 

Today, the designer focuses on pattern and precise movement, creating visuals that are minimal and deliberate in their execution. Each video requires hours of work consisting of conceptual vision, rake design and production, pattern practice, revisions, filming, and editing. “You may have some idea of the end product but with trial and error, you end up with a completely different end pattern,” he says. “All the zen garden patterns are not permanent, and they get erased to start a new one. It is temporary like many things in life. It taught me about what not to overthink as what I am stressing about may also be temporary.”

Although Kawae’s works have been limited to digital platforms so far, he envisions a large-scale botanical space with greenery, zen gardens, and his abstract paintings, some of which form the backdrop for his videos. He also has a background in woodworking and shares detailed instructions for creating your own sand space, from building the enclosure to choosing rakes.

 

 

 



Amazing

An Absurd Mockumentary Follows a Disheveled Robot that Mooches Off His Ornery Creator

August 26, 2021

Grace Ebert

Brian and Charles are just like any other roommates. They enjoy bedroom dance parties and competitive games of Scrabble, pull dated clothes from each others’ closets, and even argue over whose food is whose—Charles is notorious for sneaking bites of Brian’s vegetables when he’s not around. In most senses, the bond between the perpetually disheveled pair is typical of other friendships, but one thing sets them apart: Charles is a bumbling, redundant robot Brian built during an intense depression one winter, and now they’re stuck together.

Similarly brash and awkward, the quirky duo stars in a brilliant short film written and directed by Jim Archer. The mockumentary-style production follows their shared routines of eating berries and wandering their bucolic cottage property, before capturing the cabbage-fueled fight that threatens their bond.

Archer shared some behind-the-scenes details on the low-budget production with Short of the Week, and you can find an extensive archive of his short films on his site.

 

 

 



Documentary

An Advocacy Campaign Spotlights the Ordinary Lives of People with Disabilities in a Lighthearted Short Film

August 23, 2021

Grace Ebert

To kick off their joint WeThe15 campaign, the International Paralympic Committee and International Disability Alliance commissioned a short film that takes a humorous and playful approach to showcasing the ordinary lives of people with disabilities. Produced by Sam Pilling of Pulse Films, the ad uses a series of vignettes to spotlight members of the disability community, who speak to their joyful, frustrating, and routine experiences alongside the discrimination and stereotypes many confront on a daily basis.

WeThe15 will help launch the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and be shown at the opening ceremony on August 24. It hopes to spur greater visibility, inclusion, and accessibility for the 1.2 billion people living with disabilities worldwide, making it the largest marginalized group at about 15 percent of the global population. We’re also enjoying “Superhuman ’21,” a similarly lighthearted film by Rina Yang.

 

 

 



Photography Science

A Dive 2,300 Feet into the Atlantic Ocean Uncovers a New Bright Red Jellyfish Species

August 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

This beautiful red jellyfish in the genus Poralia may be an undescribed species. It was seen during the third transect of Dive 20 of the 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones expedition, at a depth of 700 meters (2,297 feet). Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration, 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones: New England and Corner Rise Seamounts

Considering eighty percent of the earth’s oceans have yet to be explored, it’s not surprising that their mysterious depths continue to turn up new discoveries. A July 2021 expedition into the Hydrographer Canyon off the New England coast was no exception when a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stumbled upon a striking red jellyfish. Spotted at 2,297 feet, the pulsing creature is presumed part of the genus Poralia, which until now, was comprised of a single species.

Scientists say the unfamiliar marine animal appears to have more tentacles than the Poralia rufescens, meaning that it’s likely an entirely new species yet to be classified. “The jellyfish also seemed to have nematocyst warts on the exumbrella (the upper part or outside of the jellyfish’s bell) that probably function both for defense but also to trap prey. The radial canals of this genus often branch randomly, which is not usual for other related jellyfish,” the NOAA said in a statement.

Using the remote-operated Deep Discoverer, the team spotted the creature in the mesopelagic zone—this area, which spans 656 to 3,281 feet, is also referred to as the twilight zone because it’s the last region sunlight can reach before giving way to total darkness—of the Atlantic Ocean around the Gulf Stream. The vehicle is equipped with 20 LED lights that illuminate the ocean depths and allow for high-definition footage like the rare video shown below.

See more discoveries from this dive, which spotted at least 650 creatures, in addition to previous expeditions on the NOAA site, YouTube, and Instagram. (via PetaPixel)

 

A total of four samples were collected during Dive 20 of the 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones expedition using the suction sample on remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer. Here, Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration ROV pilots deftly maneuver to collect a potential new species of jellyfish during the 1200-meter (3,937-foot) dive transect. Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration, 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones: New England and Corner Rise Seamounts

 

 



Art Documentary Music

Through Totemic Sculptures and Sound Art, Guadalupe Maravilla Explores the Therapeutic Power of Indigenous Ritual

August 11, 2021

Grace Ebert

In 1984, eight-year-old Guadalupe Maravilla left his family and joined a group of other children fleeing their homes in El Salvador. The Central American country was in the midst of a brutal civil war, a profoundly traumatic experience that’s left an indelible impact on the artist and one that guides his broad, multi-disciplinary practice to this day.

Now based in Brooklyn, Maravilla works across painting, sculpture, and sound-based performances all veiled with autobiography, whether informed by the Mayan architecture and stone totems that surrounded him as a child or his cancer diagnosis as a young adult. His pieces are predominately therapeutic and rooted in Indigenous ritual and mythology, recurring themes the team at Art21 explores in a new documentary.

 

“Guadalupe Maravilla & the Sound of Healing” follows the artist as he prepares for his solo exhibition on view through September 6 at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. Titled Planeta Abuelx, or Grandparent Planet—Maravilla expands on the often-used idea of Mother Nature to broaden its scope—the outdoor show is comprised of the artist’s trademark Disease Throwers, towering headdresses and shrines made of recycled aluminum. Allusions to Central American culture bolster the monumental works, with imprints of corn cobs, wooden toys, and other found objects planted throughout.

Covering the surrounding grass are chalky white markings, a signature component of the artist’s practice that delineate every space where he installs a piece. The abstract patterns evoke Tripa Chuca, one of Maravilla’s favorite childhood games that involves players drawing lines between corresponding numbers to create new intertwined motifs.

 

In Planeta Abuelx, Maravilla pairs his visual works with meditative performances that are based on the sound baths he used for pain management while undergoing chemotherapy. These healing therapies are designed to reduce anxiety and tension that often trigger stress-induced diseases. Using gongs and glass vessels, the palliative remedy has been the foundation of workshops the artist hosts for undocumented immigrants and others dealing with cancer that more deeply connect his totemic artworks to the viewers.

“Having a community that has gone through similar experiences can be really empowering,” he says. “Making these elaborate Disease Throwers is not just about telling a story from my past, but it’s also about how this healing ritual can continue in the future, long after I’m gone.”

If you’re in New York, Maravilla is hosting a sound bath to mark the close of Planeta Abuelx on September 4, and you can see more of his multivalent projects on Instagram. For a larger archive of documentaries exploring the lives and work of today’s most impactful artists, like this visit to Wangechi Mutu’s Nairobi studio, check out Art21’s site.