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Analog Encounters: Video Workshop at the Encounters Film Festival

Analog Encounters: Video Workshop at the Encounters Film Festival

Wednesday 1 October 2014, by Alex Widdowson

The Encounters Festival presents the viewing public with more than the darkened, flickering embrace of countless feature length screening events, in which back-to-back short film and animation programmes douse one’s mind with such wit and artistry that by the end excellence feels so common place, real world experience of film and television are a sorrow disappointment.

I write specifically about the Encounters’ workshop and lecture programme, where I feel the true substance of the festival lies. In 2012 the Paul Bush Masterclass, Getting it Write: Script Writing for Animation, and the Animation On Prescription art therapy conference dazzled me.

Encounters’ chose to honour the legacy of Malcolm McLaren on their 20th year. Of the series of workshops centering on experiments in audiovisual synthesis, it was my privilege to attend McLaren the Musician: Analog Video Workshop.

Alex Peverett and Chris King treated the class to a reel of experimental films that tracked a brief history of artificially generated moving image. They drew a line that began with McLaren’s experiments in painting frames directly on clear celluloid film and drawing audio tracks by hand.

Norman McLaren: Pen Point Percussion, National Film Board Canada, 1951.

The advancement in analog electronics allows sound and moving images to be generated and manipulated entirely by synthesizers. The first Dr. Who intro providing a perfect early example:

Doctor Who, by BBC, 1963

Eventually this culminated in the contemporary Glitch Art movement in which the original intentions of audiovisual technologies are subverted to produce characteristically inorganic outcomes through data corruption.

depths from Chris King on Vimeo.

Depths: music and video by Chris J King, 2011

Alex Peverett then delivered a concise technical crash course in the architecture of video images. A key principle differentiating video from film or digital was that it always existed in a fluid signal state. These complex wave formations cannot be dismantled into a larger set of discrete static images, instead, as the video image is deconstructed what we see departs from recognition, conjuring a visual language of its own.

In the following 30 minutes Chris King taught us how to assemble and solder our very own phono jack dirty mixing box. This is a simple circuit that produces a video output signal constructed from an adjustable blend of two video inputs. An ominous looking red knob controls the proportion of these two channels.

With the smell of solder still fresh in the air, and under the expert guidance of Alex, we began experimenting with the equipment at hand; using our two channel video mixers, we overlaid the sprawling neon geometry of video static with a feedback loop, composted of a camera gazing infinitely into its own monitor.

By the time we started generating something comparable to a 70’s disco video, on an incredibly expensive video synthesizer rig, my brain was scrambled. As I slid back down the learning curve my attention latched on to the tiny fragments of personal life that speckled the otherwise crushingly technical discussions. From what I could tell, Chris worked as a technician in the television industry and ran the blog Video Circuits, chronicling the revival of the analog world of video. I pictured him living in a geek cave, like that of the mathematician’s flat in Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (1998).

Alex on the other hand felt compelled to explain that, despite his northern accent, he sometimes struggled speaking English having lived in Japan for the past ten years. This polymath’s career included selling limited edition digital prints, directing music videos and high-end cooperate motion graphics (mostly in Japan), as well as releasing studio albums under various pseudonyms for Skam and Warp Records (among others), most notably as one half of Team Doyobi.

Art of Memorex from soft ocean hotel on Vimeo.

Art of Memorex - Computer Music and LD Video by Christopher Gladwin & Alexander Peverett (Team Doyobi) - "Art of Memorex" is taken from "Digital Music Volume 1" EP by Team Doyobi, Skam Records 2012.

There were unconfirmed utterances of a future run of workshops similar to this, for which I will go to great lengths to attend. My guess is to keep an eye the Video Circuits blog or Facebook group

Any message or comments?

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