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In Field Recording

By Varun Nair

GFF: Content – Working with restrictions

On 13, Feb 2012 | No Comments | In Field Recording, Work | By Varun Nair

Five days until we perform at the Glasgow Film Fest and we are on schedule. My Max patch seems to be working well and I couldn’t stop after playing with it for two hours yesterday = a good sign! I can’t wait to release it as a downloadable app and see what people use it for.

Max/MSP aside, this post is about the content – field recordings, voice and music.

Field Recordings


As I mentioned in the previous post, Gervais and I spent two days recording in Glasgow. We primarily followed the trail of the poem which covered these locations:

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In Thoughts

By Varun Nair

GFF: Content. Tools. Performance.

On 05, Feb 2012 | One Comment | In Thoughts, Tools, Work | By Varun Nair

In a little over two weeks we will be performing a film at the Glasgow Film Fest – improvised sound, music and video to make a film in real-time. I outlined the project in a previous post and starting with this one (and another three or four that will follow) I will collect and share my ideas behind this project – creative limitations, Max patches, hardware interfacing, field recording, communication, video and the performance itself.

A project such as this is not without problems:

  • Real-time: The project requires us to trigger and process sound and video in real time. A non-linear DAW (Pro Tools, Logic, Nuendo, etc) would be useless simply because they aren’t built for something like this. Other performance-centric solutions (like Ableton Live or Resolume Avenue) might work, but we are still tied down to it’s architecture. Why not create custom audio, video and performance solutions in Max/MSP with specific functionality? Rebuilding a different version of Ableton Live (with a gazillion features) is not only difficult, but impractical and stupid.
  • Balance: There needs to be a fine balance between creativity, purpose and technology. Getting carried away with technology is not cool – we aren’t building tools and performing to a Max/MSP convention of Geeks. It will be an audience made of curious people who might not care if I’m granulating a sound in to a million grains with variable pitch followed by an auto filter and the most awesome reverb ever known to mankind! The only thing they will take away is the emotional impact and experience.
  • Technology: While technology is our solution, it can also be our biggest problem. In creating custom software we not only have to make sure it works but also that it works well. Time has to be invested in making sure it is stable and that it doesn’t crash every five minutes!
  • Communication: This project reminds me of when I used to play in a band. A lot of improvisation is based on trust and giving the other people in the group a chance to take center stage (or not to). Silence isn’t a bad thing. The music, sound effects, voice and video must find their own space and form dynamic and resonating relationships (just like in every other form of audio-visual media).
  • Logistics: Equipment type, content type, equipment reliability, ease of use and communication between performing members (how do we know when to stop or bring the piece to an end?) is important in making sure everything works well.
  • Unpredictability: Even with all this thinking and planning, there will be surprises.

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In Sound Design

By Varun Nair

The Glasgow Film Fest

On 22, Jan 2012 | No Comments | In Sound Design, Work | By Varun Nair

About two months ago, Gervais Harry, Chris Prescott, Fiona Keenan and I worked together on an improvised sound for film project using tools built in Max. We took the performance a bit further (thanks to Gervais’ trickery in Jitter) and created an improvised film – where not only was the soundtrack improvised but the video too. The video was triggered and ‘edited’ on the spot. We would respond to Gervais’ video cuts with sound and he in-turn would respond to the sound through further video edits and visual effects.

The result was something unpredictable, unexpected and completely improvised since there were no rehearsals or a pre-determined plan. It was interesting as the traditional boundaries of film making were broken and it was a true collaboration between visuals and sound. It was a success and we were invited to perform at the Glasgow Film Fest.

We will have to create a 15 minute improvised film themed ‘Glasgow: A symphony of a city’.

How will it work?

We are collaborating with a film maker, Susan Kemp, who will shoot a variety of footage in Glasgow for us. Additionally, we will record sounds in Glasgow, including Glasgow-related poetry written by Fiona Rintoul.

Gervais will control the video side of things (and some sound design), while Chris and I will control the design of the soundtrack. We will have no rehearsals with any of the video and recorded sound material. Our first performance at the festival will be our first attempt. Exciting!

We have built tools in Max/MSP, which not only makes all of this possible but also allows us to communicate and share data with each other as we perform – automatically influencing each other’s tools. Over the next three weeks Gervais and I will blog about the tools and processes we will be using to make this performance possible.

We perform on 18 February at 17:30, at the CCA Theatre. More info here.


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