Long exposure photography

Throughout the course I’ve been looking at ways of creating digital long exposures by using a video camera to record a series of frames and then combining these frames, using variuos algorithmic techniques, back into a single frame. These ideas have been explored a lot by artists in the last 40 years, but it was good to try them for myself.

So far the algorithmic manipulation I have in mind often doesn’t produce what I’m looking for – so has to be adapted to deal with certain problems – so each program is different (simple image processing ones written in Java). I guess this is because I’m working on footage away from a studio setting, where lighting can be rigourously controlled. As Simon Ball demonstrated in his After Effects demo, key framing (or seperating foreground from background) is still not a perfect science, and having to write exception code which deals with specific problems is somewhat hit and miss – I need to start creating software where the user can adapt the effect themselves rather than hard coding the process.

Here are a range of effects I’ve been creating:

Slit scanning
A single vertical (in this case) slice is taken out of each frame of a sequence. The slices are then placed side by side to create a single image. The footage here was quite heavily treated already – It was Simon and Nicola in FightCloud where they shadow boxed against a green screen. They are seperated from the green and then faded in and out and rotated through 360*4 degrees over the course of one minutes = 1500 frames. This was done in Premiere. The slit scanning java program was then applied to these 1500 frames.

Simon+Nicola (click to enlarge).

In other cases i used small video sequences shot from a bus window in Liverpool Street.

Here I used a short section from a horror film, starring a blurry Elke Sommer

I also did the same for a longer sequence as I’m interested in a very long thin format for print presentation. there was a crit on Narrative last year in Printmaking where a woman had filled a concertina sketch book with drawings and as she unravelled it people were gasping almost! I made the comment, semi-ironically, that it was a good piece of narrative art because it was so long. The corridors in Wilson Road which will be available for the end of year show lend themselves to this format. I’ve talked to the print technician and he said if i buy a roll of print paper (10-15m long) costing about £50 then he could print onto the whole roll and a deal could be made for just the cost of the ink – probably in the region of £100. The subject I had tentatively suggested was a walk from my home to the college. This would be filmed in a continuous take by someone on the other side of the road from me, and then the footage would be algorithmically compressed into a single long strip about 20cm by 10m. The background would be squashed and blurred as college is about 1 mile away, but the foreground figure would be focussed and smeared across the whole length. I may be trying this soon. The difficulty will be in counteracting the inevitable wonkiness of the camera footage, including buses and lorries passing between the camera and the walker. Each walker will have to be extracted from the background too? Or more likely I’ll have to go in after the footage and centralise the walker (maybe wearing something bright will help) so that then an average of all the frames nudged along one pixel over time will leave the walker smeared across the middle of the image. I’ll post in more detail about the image – if it works.

Long exposures in daylight

This image was made by taking about 1 minutes worth of high definition video of a drip in my flat and then combining all frames into a single image – if you look closely the drips form a symmetrical rose shape. Again to get the effect as clear as possible several parameters had to be tweaked in different ways from the previous images.

This was taken of the doors closing on me in the lift, which are now being replaced, so this may form my end of year postcard/business card for sentimental reasons. The effect wasn’t quite what i was expecting and even trying several basic weightings over time it was never quite as contrasted left to right as i’d expected.

Predicting what effect digital long exposures will have isn’t all that easy which makes the waiting to see what the program outputs exciting – similar to the magic of a photo coming to life in a darkroom. This ‘magic’ is lost to the viewer of the final digital art piece (although as a programmer i can read this into other people’s works). If this ‘becoming’ can be made available to others, perhaps writing software usable by them, then this may be a way to focus on the real subject of these exposures: The excavating of new imagery from a digital database (or film in this case).

Another example I couldn’t resist posting is this rough image which was made as a flyer for the end of year show. I’d hoped the image would be a fitting farewell to the course and also hint at a victory sign. Actually it looks more like some strange comic mutation. Fortunately this image wasn’t chosen by the students.


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