A Change of Scale and Timescale

There has been a lot of excite­ment about the fact that some of the high­er end dig­i­tal SLRs (notably the Nikon D90) can now shoot High Def­i­n­i­tion Video. This means that there are new pos­si­bil­i­ties for peo­ple who don’t have huge stu­dios or wal­lets to do cre­ative things. In one case, it was with lens­es and a spe­cial tech­nique called ’tilt-shift­ing’ that makes for an extreme­ly nar­row depth of field from a dis­tance, and video — in this case, time-lapse pho­tog­ra­phy. The result is some­thing that makes one feel like a god, (or per­haps King Kong or Godzil­la), look­ing down with placid seren­i­ty upon the bustling of tiny human­i­ty below. That’s what a series of videos by Aus­tralian Kei­th Loutit has pro­duced seem to be. Have a look at what I mean:

The North Wind Blew South

Loutit’s work has been fea­tured in lots of geeky places like Boingboing.com and Giz­mo­do, but I found out about it from my friend John Biehler, who showed anoth­er of his clips on his site.

I think there is some­thing here that tran­scends just the bizarre and unset­tling. It’s per­haps that we already have such a short time on the plan­et, but still, if we could just slow down and watch, we might see all sorts of things that we’d nev­er seen before. If we could take a drug that would slow us down so that we were, say, oper­at­ing at 1/10 nor­mal speed for just a day, and did­n’t suf­fer any ill effects, I bet that’s a trip that many of us would like to take. Yeah. A long, slow, trip.

I write this, remem­ber­ing that this morn­ing I heard that a crit­ic and tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tor who I used to watch reg­u­lar­ly, John Leonard, died on Wednes­day. Kurt Von­negut once said: “When I start to read John Leonard, it is as though I, while sim­ply look­ing for the men’s room, blun­dered into a lec­ture by the smartest man who ever lived.” Who am I to dis­agree with Vonnegut?  Leonard was indeed bril­liant. When­ev­er I heard him talk on the show Sun­day Morn­ing, I thought that he made being smart some­thing that was sexy, which per­haps the US is once again redis­cov­er­ing. I hope he was con­scious and knew what hap­pened the day before he died. Per­haps he left with a smile on his face.

6 Replies to “A Change of Scale and Timescale”

  1. Great post David. Loved the video. It seems so strange to see it and then real­ize it is real and not some sort of ani­ma­tion. I guess we all look at life through dif­fer­ent ‘lens­es’. Hope all is well.

  2. Hi Gene,
    I know what you mean about it look­ing like some sort of a stop-action with minia­tures. I remem­ber when I was a kid, and my par­ents took me to New York City dur­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­days. There were 2 dis­tinct mem­o­ries from the trip: 1) the smell and taste of roast­ed chest­nuts and 2)the train set that I saw at the offices of Swis­sair in Man­hat­tan. It was a lit­tle alpine loop with small vil­lage, a tun­nel through a snowy moun­tain, and pine for­est. I was utter­ly fas­ci­nat­ed with it and watched it as long as they let me. I prob­a­bly would have hap­pi­ly sat for hours watch­ing the train move through the tun­nels, around to the vil­lage (and their tiny street­lamps, parked cars and even small­er pedestrians).
    Things are look­ing up. I hope to have more news soon, but can’t say any more at this point.

  3. I found that quite mov­ing (no pun intend­ed), par­tic­u­lar­ly with the choice of music. You cap­tured it — feel­ing detached as tiny human­i­ty bus­tles in its lit­tle impor­tances. It elicit­ed com­pas­sion from me, and I also agree, I want­ed to inject myself right into the mid­dle of it all, and take it all in. Thanks for posting.

  4. Hi Nan­cy. You’re wel­come. I guess the music does add a cer­tain feel­ing of lan­guor and dis­tance. The high lit­tle sparkles of glock­en­spiel or what­ev­er they are using for that effect adds to the charm of small things.

    BTW, for a sim­i­lar, but also quite dif­fer­ent view of real­i­ty via time-lapse, but this time with the music of Philip Glass, check out the film Koy­aanisqat­si, which came out back in 1983. (I can remem­ber that year because I remem­ber see­ing it late at night in Cam­bridge, Eng­land, as a student.)

  5. Thanks for shar­ing the video David. It is unset­tling and mov­ing at the same time. Def­i­nite­ly rem­i­nis­cent of films like Koy­aanisqat­si and Bara­ka. It’s inter­est­ing that the tilt-shift tech­nique makes it pos­si­ble for a sin­gle artist’s work to have a sim­i­lar impact. 

    All the best,


Comments are closed.