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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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