Last weekend I took a whirlwind tour of Las Vegas for my mother-in-law’s 75th birthday. I didn’t have much time, but I was able to get footage for three composite video pieces.
The first was set up on the footbridge over Spring Mountain Rd connecting the Wynn/Encore complex with The Palazzio. I was interested in getting the large video displays in a composite, but I also got a young, visibly-pregnant beggar holding her sign for the crowd. The only thing besides the casinos that didn’t move much in the video is her begging cup. Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”
The second one I tried to squeeze in between the Fashion Show and Cirque du Soleil, but I couldn’t get the perfect shot and only managed twenty minutes of footage. This one is next to Caesar’s Palace, with the video display for The Linq as the object of interest. It’s only a minute long.
Finally, after the Cirque du Soleil show, my wife and I went down the Strip seeing the sights. I set up near the Bellagio and got a final icosacomposite of the crowds. Hidden in the footage: a guy haranguing the crowds from the center island, a drunk individual hanging out of a stretched monster truck screaming “I love Las Vegas!”, various wedding parties of all description, numerous motorized signs touting “Live Nude Girls”, and my wife handing off a second set of batteries to me.
Well, it took me a while, but it’s been kinda busy. I’ve been teaching my Extension School letterpress class at Harvard, printing editions, working the day job, and slowly assembling a letterpress cooperative. But last night I finally rendered the icosacomposite videos! I was hoping for three, but I only got footage for two. One is where the hike and bike trail ascends from Cesar Chavez St to the Lamar St pedestrian bridge, and features the former Seaholm powerplant with its iconographic “City of Austin” art deco lettering, joggers, traffic, cranes, and plenty of construction noise. The other is at the corner of 24th and Guadelupe, the heart of The Drag at the University of Texas, during the rush to get to the first class of the day. Enjoy!
Jut a quick blurb, last week I was in Austin visiting the folks, and took the opportunity to shoot two icosacomposites. The first hopefully will blend construction, traffic and jogging as some quintessential Austin movements for this particular era; the second caught crowds of students on their way to 9:30 class at the University of Texas. I haven’t processed the videos yet, but here are some shots of the process.
Three major landmarks in this selection of icosacomposites. While I was on the prowl, I couldn’t turn down the chance to deconstruct the conspicuous consumption of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, especially the day after Christmas. And it didn’t disappoint. Look for high-end car wheels, fashion dress patterns and lots of shopping bags milling into a murky mass right in front of the Bvulgari store. I’m especially amused by how the diagonal crossing marks kind of stick up like stalagmites in the middle of the haze of tourism. Even weirder, no one seemed to care I was there shooting them.
Right after the Rodeo Drive shoot I went to Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood to capture another landmark, the nightclub Whisky a Go Go. Back in the day, it was the place to see The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield, Smokestack Lightning, Love and The Doors. At this point in history, it looks like it’s mostly serving the nostalgia circuit– Lita Ford and The Motels– with reality TV taking a slice of the pie. This particular video is the complete opposite of the Beverly Hills video. There’s hardly any people on Sunset the day after Christmas, so this became more of an examination of lights, traffic, and eveningtime, with the nightclub simply as an anchor. Because of that, I only shot 40 minutes of footage, which makes this video only two minutes long. Notice that the two-minute compositing slice is in quasi-synchronization with the timing of the traffic lights. In other videos, the red-amber-green lights are diffused and weak as they flicker in and out of phase, but here they’re remarkably strong and brilliant.
Finally, we revisit Hollywood and Vine, with a different crop than before. I like the placement of the buildings better, and the central building has a lovely diffuse glow as the compositing makes the shadows soften. Unfortunately, I was almost done with the fourth section of footage when some rentacops from Andrews International drove up and gave me the stink-eye from their car, so in the interests of keeping a low profile I finished recording and then moved on. The back end of their car was caught on video, but, alas, their moment of fame is indistinguishable in the composite. Because I only got 40 minutes of footage, this video is also only two minutes long.
Two icosacomposites from LA, hot off the render queue. The first is not terribly recognizable, but it’s an interesting location for me, personally: the building at Hollywood and Cahuenga (the intersection is known as “Raymond Chandler Square”) is suspected to be the model Chandler had in mind for Phillip Marlowe’s office. I also liked the Pacific Radio masts on the opposite building.
And just a few blocks down, one of the crazier tourist areas known to man, right near the Hollywood Hard Rock Cafe and the Grauman’s/Mann’s/TLC Chinese Theatre (depending on the decade you’re in). It was pretty busy, even on the day after Christmas. I was also on the Walk of Fame; Cuba Gooding, Jr’s star was right in front of me (not visible in the shot), and Javier Bardem’s star was just out of sign to the right. Lots of people stooping down to pay their respects. Look carefully and you might catch a mediocre Darth Vader and a very ratty-looking Spider-Man in the crowd. All of the high-class mascots were across the street in front of the mall, but I wouldn’t have been able to get the cafe and the theatre in that shot. I’m very pleased with the sheer pass of humanity crossing the lens in this particular video, and the total mish-mash the composite has made of Hard Rock’s carefully animated video wall.
While in California for the holidays, I figured, if I’m gonna be thirty miles away from Los Angeles, I might as well head up there to shoot some composite video, right? I managed to shoot five different corners, and this is a preview of one of them: Hollywood and Vine, also known as “Bob Hope Square”. After I shot this scene I decided I wasn’t quite happy with the cropping, but I retained this footage because it had some interesting action within it. So I’ve rendered this as its own little icosacomposite, and a longer one of the same intersection will be following soon. Just in time for New Years! Enjoy.
Just for funsies I shot two icosacomposites of the Press during Open Press Night last Thursday. They turned out every bit as awesome as I hoped. Watch for people typesetting, running the press, wandering around, washing their hands, taking in the wonder of it all, and gesticulating. It’s hard to tell people apart but I’m wearing a red shirt with a white bullseye design depicting the orbits of the inner solar system.
It took ten days of whirlwind work, but I got an even dozen icosacomposites ready for the “Entering Somerville” show at the Nave Gallery Annex in Davis Square. There’s a DVD playing in the gallery showing all twelve consecutively. That video is now up on Vimeo right here:
Each individual video is also available, in a Vimeo album right here:
If you can, get down to Davis Square in the next couple of weeks to see them projected in person, and also to see a bunch of other art up on display.
Having finished up the footage in Union Square, I had an hour and a half to shoot another composite. Some block northwest of Union Square is an architectural icon, the Flatiron Building. One of my favorite images by Paul Steichen is of this building:
So it was a no-brainer for me to create my own homage to the building.
This composite is more minimalist than most; the traffic on Broadway becomes a smooth yellow line of taxicabs both still and in motion, and the traffic lights vaguely pulse in a red-light-green-light halfway state. What few pedestrians out in the dusk are muted, except for the surprise manifestation of a ghostly apparition in front of the camera.
Once the fifty minutes of footage was over, I quickly snagged the tripod and hurried up Broadway, collapsing the legs as I went. I had twenty-five minutes to get to 34th and 8th Ave to catch my bus back to Boston in front of the Tick Tock Diner.
From Williamsburg I jumped back on the L to get to Manhattan. At this time it was getting close to the time I needed to get to my bus, so I was working the numbers in my head to see if I could pull footage for not one, but two more composite videos. Union Square was an easy target, and right to the north was the Flatiron Building, so it was possible… I sat down and decided to play it by ear. Speaking of which, a lot of times the sound blends into an urban susurration, with occasional things like sirens popping up from time to time. This time you can kinda hear the music from a urban jazz band playing behind the subway stop. (This particular band got into something of an altercation with the breakdancers they were playing for, which is kinda unusual, but interesting.) However, you definitely can hear the whistle rhythm of a lone gentleman in a OCCUPY NYC T-shirt, who was periodically attempting to incite the crowd. Alas, it didn’t work; it would have been awesome to have a street protest on an icosacomposite.