Horror Film sketch No. 1

By 450pm today we had a rough sketch of the work running in the space. We relied heavily on the audio recordings of our conversations with Malcolm last year for this (audio file 2). Still lots to do – key is finding zoom lenses for the projectors. We also hope to try a lapel mic for the breath track.

Numerous small hurdles encountered on the way today – not least battery terminal issues on the 1985 Toyota Corolla and of course friends help us out – Danny (Wild) and Jess loaned us not just a projector but also a car.

Achievements: 3 x 16mm projectors running in roughly the correct alignment with breath track on mono speaker. This allowed us to both pace through the c. 30 metres from wall to projectors in the main gallery at CCAS.

Tasks carried out today: looked at the loops, projectors running the loops, projection frame sizes and height. We had a cursory look at the breath track.

Critical facts:

The fade to black in the loops makes one of the three projections disappears during the fade which makes the shadow move around on the wall – very important.
Loop length is c. 40-120 cm.
The loops need some tension, Malcolm’s paper system (read more below) works quite well.

Frame size – centre projector is the large image, the outer two overlap to produce the smaller rectangle in the centre.
Must have at least 2 zoom lenses, ideally 3. Best scenario seems to be two on c. 80 mm (ie very small), one on c. 30 mm (ie very wide). We started with 3 x 50mm lenses – this can’t work as the projectors need to be on a table all within arm’s reach at the conclusion of the piece. We progressed to 2 x 50mm and 1 x zoom on 30mm. The size difference between 30 and 50 was not significant enough.

Height of projectors – projector lens needs to be at about 160cm so that the body does not fill the frame during the walk back towards the projectors.

Focus – make the frame edge sharp. The image area will be soft focus. Loops can be reused until they are scratched to the point you recognise when the loop repeats.

The walk from the wall to the projectors- big hair doesn’t work – it just looks big, seems to lose the expressiveness of the body attached to it.

And here’s some detail with transcript from our 2013 conversations with Malcolm about how to construct the piece.

The loops: before we could lace anything into the 16mm projectors, we studied the loops – how exactly do Malcolm’s loops work? What’s in the footage he’s given us and can we afford to waste any? How will we reproduce them in the future?

LC: Have you made new loops?

MLG: I do frequently. There’s a film called Love Story 2 which is full frame colour, I use a print of that to generate the loop material I need for Horror Film and for Matrix. I waste a huge amount as the beginning part of Love Story 2, the changes are too slow. the end, which is the double screen bit with the screen split in the middle which is Matrix, the movements are too fast. So I waste a huge amount but it’s probably the easiest way to regenerate this material.

LC: So does that mean you’ve got a neg?

MLG: I didn’t but Lux does now have a neg and they reprint it as I need it.

LI: You basically put in an order to the Lux?

MLG: They last a long time. That’s probably enough loops now to last me for the rest of my life. If I’m careful the loops will go on for 6 or 7 screenings. If they get too scratched [or damaged] they get past the usage point. I’ll go through this lot and get you a little usable set.

Some critical points we observed – their length varies from c. 40 cm to c. 120 cm. The splice must fall in the fade to black. The nuanced colour changes are impressive even through they have been created using a process that’s simple in a 16mm projector (changing the filter lights – I’ve never done this so I don’t really know if this is as simple as it sounds, I’m guessing it is).

For today we used some spacer rather than Malcolm’s loops.

Here’s what Malcolm told us about the loops:

14:00 LI: when you were making these in the printer, say how you transition here between the yellow and the green, you’ve got a yellow and a green gel and they overlap each other. See how that so smoothly goes between the yellow and the green.

MLG: It’s soft focus anyway, the gels are so far away, you don’t see any sharp. I don’t think I overlapped. It’s soft focus and you just go through the spectrum order. You can see the spectrum there.

LI: It goes to blue and then to purple. There’s a kind of diagonal.

MLG: That’s because I was pulling them left then right. That diagonal movement isn’t important.

Our problems with the projectors:

About the frame size – the frame within the frame is important for the projector position as you can see in the online documentation of Malcolm performing. We have a Hokushin, and two Eikis all with fixed 50mm lenses. This is a problem! We need zoom lenses. Lucky for us our friend Danny Wild helped us out with a Hokushin with a zoom. However, we realise we need at a minimum 2 zoom lenses.

The belt on my Hokushin broke – a problem as I do have a zoom lens for that. I have spare belts but getting them on is  never easy.

About the loops – Malcolm describes a system using paper to hold the loops in place without reels:

10:45: MLG: I usually try to use the simplest possible passage for the loops … I fold a bit of paper and put that onto the surface where the projector is and run the loop through there to keep the tension. At the bottom, at the back. I rarely use anything terribly complicated.

12:30 LI: You have the reels in and it goes around the reels?

MLG: I try not to use the reels if I can I just use the arms, come around the back of one of the arms, out the back and keep a little tension somehow on the back so it doesn’t flop around.

We tried this out and it seems to work quite well.

About the height and position of the projectors – again the reality that there’s about a 40 cm height difference between Lucas and I will be a factor as it was with Man With Mirror.  Projector positions progressed from floor, to projector stands to a table top at a low height with projector stands on top. This gets the lens to about 160cm which is where it needs to be so that hands can be held up into frame towards the end of the walk.

The projectors need to be close to each other, the central one should be the large image, the outer two overlap in the centre as the smaller one. Here’s what Malcolm had to say about it:

17:18 LI: There’s something about what’s going on here, the fact that each of the loops is somewhat a different length, so the projectors will be running at a different rate. Even though each loop is finite, it would take a very long way to repeat itself.

MLG: If you’ve got a dirty loop, you can notice the repetition.

LI: So just to remind ourselves here, this is the central projector.

MLG: Yes, the outer one.

LI: The other two are focused on the same position.

MLG: That’s right. Before the audience comes in I try to run them so you don’t get the frame line. I don’t like the audience to see the set up. I wouldn’t be too happy about that line you saw there. That line, I would do everything I could in the set up to get rid of it (rack line).

LI: This moment here is very gloomy, it’s lovely, where it was red on red, just before.

MLG: I mean in a funny way with this randomness of the loops you can’t go wrong with the colour effect.

MLG: When you’re setting up, focus on the frame edge, then any scratches on the film are out of focus.

LI: Get a sharp edge …

MLG: That’s right and then you don’t see the dirt and scratches.

LI: The focus is on the edge of the frame, this is something you never do in a film screening. Instead of focusing on the surface of the film which would make the scratches in focus …