This article traces the video production of a multimedia work. The genesis of the piece is explained, and the acquisition of video footage is described. The footage is assessed and characterized. This is followed by a description of each scene in the piece: what is seen, the aesthetic underpinnings, and technical notes.
“Hang Time on Jones Street” is a work for any solo instrument, color video, and digital sound. The video is an image-processed study of architectural details on a one-block residential street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. Joyce Weidenaar and I recorded the camera-original video and dat-original audio footage on this site. Then I created the processed video and audio and composed a live-performance instrumental part. The video portion of the work and its production are described.
GATHERING VIDEO FOOTAGE1
For 21 years this street was home. I moved into a railroad apartment (four rooms laid end to end) at 5 Jones Street in August 1978 and moved out on 17 July 1999. On move-out day, the workmen expressed profound dissatisfaction at their company’s under-estimation of the job they were there to perform. Fearful that they might misdirect their wrath toward my possessions, I asked my new wife, the strangely beautiful Joyce Weidenaar, to take a camcorder (Sony DSR-PD100 dvcam) and record some of the work where the movers were loading their truck.
There was no cause for alarm; the workmen were treating my belongings quite well. Joyce reassigned herself to the more inviting task of taping nearby iron railings, fire escapes, metal sidewalk doors, and other features of buildings. That evening we looked at the footage and decided that its graphic qualities might be well worthy of a piece, for which we would record video and audio together.
We returned to Jones Street on 7 August and 6 September 1999, methodically gathering handheld and tripod shots of architectural features of every building on the street. We recorded over 150 shots, totaling 105 minutes of footage.
ASSESSING THE VIDEO FOOTAGE
Several months later I had gained enough distance from the footage to be able to approach it with a fresh yet jaundiced eye, and select acceptable segments for transfer to the computer. Gazing at the video screen, I became its audience.
What do we see? Structures, reflections in windows, keystones with faces, carvings on buildings (new, worn, damaged, and retouched), aged and weathered masonry and wood, doorways with crazed, crackled paint, strikingly fatigued, and ironwork both ornamental and structural (railings, fences, spikes, and fire escapes).
What do we understand about this? What do we sense? What are we aware of? We feel the enigma of humble existence: a respect for the qualities of pavement, fallen leaves, bricks, iron—a spiritual connection with them—at their most basic, fundamental level. We undertake a gentle and detailed exploration of the familiar. The multi-layered visual landscape of the street and its buildings illuminates the subtle beauty of everyday life. We are standing before a place of memory, loss, and past identity.
There is a mystery to these layers as images. Nothing there is not commonplace, but with chosen framings and angles, we discover new views of locations and places. Sometimes there is inscrutability and the unexpected. Perhaps so inscrutable, we are powerless to decode it. It is a metaphor for the exploration of the soul, its many rooms; some elaborate, some simple, rooms we only dimly knew were there. Seeing them through video darkly is a ritual of stillness and repose, a sanctuary of light and shadow, an obsessive elegy all the more interesting for the sometimes disorderly rasp we may hear there.
As our eyes range the images of the streetscape, now and again they pause, a breath between phrases, a momentary stop of the pendulum. The eyes hover at one place, wait, then at another. Hang Time on Jones Street.
THROUGH THE WORK, SCENE BY
I worked on the image processing and editing July–September 2000, November–
December 2001, and April 2002. Between these periods I produced the music. All of the footage was made in Apple Final Cut Pro 1.2.5. The only other software was Adobe After Effects 4.5, for the production of two mattes.
Final Cut Pro is widely used as a mid-level editing package on the Macintosh, with other software (After Effects, Commotion) being regarded as more powerful for compositing and image processing. That may be true, but there are also the questions of direction and philosophy. Final Cut Pro is a mainstream product that happens to have an extensive array of tools capable of transforming images artistically. FCP processing is capable of a very “organic” look. Layers can blend and meld into a single image that has depth and richness. Other compositing programs tend to emphasize slick motion graphics and overlays for industrial logos, commercials, 3-D animation, etc. They do not have to be used this way, of course, but that is their strong suit and their reason for being.
I took it as a challenge to explore fully and exclusively Final Cut Pro’s capabilities in producing this piece (particularly since the documentation in the manual of many filters and compositing modes could not have been more frustratingly inadequate). Having worked with much image-processing equipment at the Experimental Television Center since 1980, it was an interesting limitation to restrict my toolkit to one commercial software package. It proved to be a fascinating and rewarding process.
Abbreviations used in this section are: B = bottom, BL = bottom left, BR = bottom right, BW = black and white, C= center, CU = close-up, DV = digital video, ECU = extreme close up, FCP = Final Cut Pro, FE = frame edge, FF = freeze frame, FI = fade in, FO = fade out, L = left, R = right, T = top, TL = top left, TR = top right.
Technical notes appear at the end of each scene description. They are given in smaller type, so they may be easily located or avoided.
The Musical Structure
Although the music is described in detail elsewhere, it would be helpful to mention the basic structure here. From recordings made on the street, I developed five characteristic sound elements used in the piece:
Motoric sounds (from an iron gate latching).
Rhythmic percussive figures (from the iron gate).
Rapid vocalizations (from male and female conversations).
Slow vocalizations (from a high-pitched female voice squeal).
Airy, diffuse vocal music (boyband pop music from the radio of a passing van).
All the sounds fall into one or more of these categories. The music is structured as Part A (Sections 1-7), Part B (Sections 8-13), and Part C (Sections 14-16).
00:00;00 Scene 1.
Establishing shot and title
The movie opens with a realistic, establishing long shot of the northern end of Jones Street and West 4th Street. We see sidewalks, parked cars, the street, trees, and buildings. Slow pan R. As the “on Jones Street” portion of the title fades in, the music begins, and two pigeons emerge from center screen and fly past the R FE.
Music: Section 1 (introducing all the sonic elements), first :04. The music is motoric unpitched percussion sounds; this section extends through the next Scene.
00:09;10 Scene 2.
Second establishing shot, broken up and
The opening shot is repeated. It immediately dissolves into a B&W high-contrast outline that looks like a woodcut. The larger pigeon emerges, bluish. As the bird reaches center R, the shot cuts to a realistic image matted by an undulating irregular curve. The matte travels R and grows smaller, framing the pigeon as it flies offscreen; here the screen is mostly black. Cut to a scene of small and medium diamond mattes of different parts of the scene on a black field: trees in a flat but bright light, like a storybook illustration, the size of the matte diminishing; the sidewalk, seemingly static but moving slightly left; the little white tavern on the corner, high-contrast, moving left faster; the high-contrast parked cars just inching left as their matte enlarges. The breaking up of images, the slow changes in matte size and location, the camera pan, the juxtaposition of high and low contrast, the different rates of movement of the elements, the large amount of black field shaped like a gaping, open jaw with the tavern building inside it—these elements break up the shot into disparate, hypnotically dislocated elements. We have entered a world of memory. Fast FO.
Music: Section 1, remaining :21. There are short, fast, semi-pitched rhythmic percussive figures, giggly conversation sounds, squeal sounds, and the boyband. Section 1 and Scene 1 conclude together.
The intention was to make this scene bright, energetic, and a little unsettling.
The undulating irregular curve was created with the 8-point Garbage Matte filter. The diamond-matte elements were processed with the Gamma/Pedestal/Gain filter and several tracks were composited in the Hard Light mode.
00:30;02 Scene 3.
Eroded window ledge
Fast FI to the deeply eroded sandstone window ledge at No. 23. Pan L to reveal terra cotta carvings below and the window above. The brightness levels change, emphasizing the round and jagged forms of the hollowed-out ledge. A small unprocessed miniature of the ledge is at the T L of the frame. The intense, beating sun casts deep shadows that are driven into darkness by the brightness changes, creating a slightly noir effect. The ledge is a slab of almost pure black capped by a light tan patch. The red bricks are mottled with light burgundy and maroon above, reddish-tan below. Slow, partial FO.
Music: Section 2 (stretching out the squeal, fast rhythms), complete :17. There are motoric sounds, hollow percussive sounds, a muddy vocalization background that runs to the end of the section, a long-held vocalization that glisses up, motoric, and gate-shut sounds.
The brightness levels were adjusted with the Equalize filter.
00:46;28 Scene 4.
Crumbling stone facade
From tight red bricks, cut to the flaking, cracked, crumbling white rusticated stones at No. 15 in bright sunlight with strong shadow lines. These are framed by a large rectangle of four rectangular panels within. The camera pans L and R, at slow and fast speeds. Opacities of the four panels change quickly. The energy is high and jerky. Touches of steely blue and green appear, the colors of lichen, then a stroke of russet. Shortly the four panels shift position, moving outside the large rectangle, then change size, too, as if post cards were sliding, flipping, and melting through each other. Rough cut stones undercut a formal design. Camera movement becomes slower, finally ratcheting by single frames as the large rectangle returns. Cut.
Music: Section 3 (twisting the boyband, squeal, and motor sounds), first :12. There is a quick soft female voice exclamation, then the airy boyband with chattering accompaniment, solid albeit diffuse and in the end uncertain. It fades slowly.
The footage was set up as four partially overlaid tracks that were altered in size and screen location, and run at various speeds. Frame blending was removed to increase the jerky quality. These tracks were mostly invisible, with brief alternating increases in opacity to make them visible. The top three tracks were duplicated as three lower visible tracks, so that there would always be three or four visible panels. One problem with this approach is that certain layout lines appear more often than others do. This was skirted by changing the hierarchy of tracks (re-stacking them in a different order) midway through.
00:59;00 Scene 5.
This is a crudely made plywood container with a lid, built to house garbage cans at No. 11, to make it inconvenient for passers-by to put dog poop in the cans (as well as for tenants to put their garbage therein). We see CU details of hinges, a plywood corner, pale green flower petals from the Japanese pagoda tree overhead, a bottle cap. The camera tilts down and tracks in; objects increase in size. The scene design carries over the jerkiness and framing of the previous scene. A rectangular panel slides fitfully behind a rectangular frame from the same shot, exposing a black field within. The frame debuts with a metallic, sort of muted psychedelic look, transforms into a bland and grainy echo of the moving panel within, then becomes intensely solarized at the end. The moving panel starts in dappled sunlight and becomes very cool and gray as the camera moves to a shady section. The shaking does not prevent us from reading the shot; in fact the rhythmic phrasing is intended to be intensely musical, as is the altered repetition of objects. We are looking at increasing detail of similar objects, new and larger hinges and petals. Partial FO to FF.
Music: Section 3, remaining :08. There are thin, repeated swelling voice sounds, ethereal and cadential yet uneven, with motoric sounds. Section 4 (strong short rhythms), first :07. Fast stair-step sounds give way to fat, rhythmic percussive figures, repeated quickly and quietly shaky.
This scene was made possible by the seemingly aberrant behavior of the Image Stabilizer filter. Instead of stabilizing motion in the clip, it jerks it around wildly, because the change in visual information is too great. The camera operator was tilting instead of trying to hold the shot. Increasing the Scan Range control of the filter gives the craziest result. Unlike the transparent blacks created elsewhere in FCP, the black area generated by this filter is opaque. The perimeter frame was run through several filters: Quicktime Color Style, to solarize and posterize with keyframes; Sharpen (highest setting); Stop Motion Blur, to provide a time-lapse second image; and Stylize/Solarize; to provide a second, opposing solarization.
01:14;11 Scene 6.
Iron railing of garbage bin
Cut to another view of the same garbage bin, an overhead tracking shot of the edge of the lid, which is built up to an ornamental wrought-iron fence with a double-ridged concave railing on top. We see the railing, flower petals, plywood edges and corners, and soon the iron handle of the lid. The grain and cracks in the plywood are crisp. Flower petals collect on the railing and the shot ends in dappled sunlight. The odd thing is that the shot is partially duplicated as a triangular panel that appears for all the world like a corner shelf sitting about a foot above the main image. Even though the shape of the panel changes continually, militating against the illusion, the slightly increased size of the hyper-realistic image forces us to read it as a nearer object that still looks like a little shelf. The contrast of sun and shadow near the end of the shot enhances the effect. It is intended to be a floating play on perspective and perception. Cut.
Music: Section 4, remaining :02. Section 5 (long complex stretching of conversations with motoric background), first :12. There are a rumble, a scrape, and long, drawn-out fluttery female voices, “ehhahh- - -ahh- - -eww- - -err- - -” (below these a grinding rumble). The floating, ungrounded quality of the voices is not stable; they move as glissandos or wails, a hovering also felt in the video.
The lower track’s sharp realism provides the foil for the upper image, which was scaled to 116% size and bounded with a moving 4-Point Garbage Matte filter.
01:26;25 Scene 7.
Iron hand railing with chain
Cut to the iron hand railing at No. 7, wrapped with a chain to secure a garbage-can lid. The shot is an extreme CU, this railing that fills much of the screen being less than 3 inches wide. There are vivid blue and white highlights. The chain comes into view, and a small center inset of the same image starts moving, aligns twice with the chain, and moves in opposition to the camera. It is a play on position, but reveals the rich visual depth of a freshly painted iron railing. Cut.
Music: Section 5, remaining :12. The grinding rumble and drawn-out female voices continue, “ehh- - -ehh- - -ahh- - -ehh,” and dissolve to a soft grinding sound.
This was accomplished by scaling and the 4-Point Garbage Matte filter.
01:39;04 Scene 8.
Magnified bricks with flaking paint
Cut to another framed extreme CU, this one of bricks, mortar, and flaking residues of gray paint at No. 19. The formal treatment is complicit with the regularity of the brick wall. There is an off-center rectangular frame, posterized in BW. The color panel within displays the seam between two buildings. There are old, faded, mottled bricks and crumbling mortar with flecks of gray paint on the left; and smooth, new dark orange-red bricks on the right. As the camera tilts up slowly, the top FE of the rectangular frame descends to reveal more of the posterized BW material. There are glittering speckles that turn into a blur. The frame changes to an animation: its top FE slides back up and oscillates a few times, revealing more mortar in the color panel. Cut to a more extreme CU. There is formal/color play as the whiteness of the mortar melts into a white fog with diagonal frame edges, which covers the left half of the frame. The fog recedes into a few highlights, like patches of snow that rest mostly on the patches of gray paint. The snow melts and disappears. Cut to a realistic shot of very fat, tactile paint flakes. They are thicker than gourmet potato chips. The building seam is gone, there is only paint on old masonry. Once again a rectangular frame appears, this time of black speckles, as rectangular sections within the color panel begin to blur and shake. As the magnitude of the shaking increases, it becomes almost uncontrollable. Cut to another realistic shot. Cut.
Music: Section 6 (thick boyband, slowed motors and squeals), entire :14 The music has windy, muddy boyband sounds (a stolid pop-music quality that somehow coexists with the picture), fast stair-steps, fat percussive figures, and soft squeals. Section 7 (long stretching and twisting of squeals and conversations with grainy texture), first :19, starts as the fog turns to snow, surreal with a kind of high-pitched drawn-out squeal as the shaking rectangles are seen. There are also low, hollow vocalizations, sharp percussive sounds, and a very slow vocal glissando as the next video section starts.
The posterized BW frame was done with the Abstract filter, a plug-in from Eureka2. The ‘seed color’ was set to a very dark gray. The Eureka Chromaglow filter generated the fog and snow, with keyframes set for changes in tolerance, glow, feather, and texture. The diagonal frame lines were created with the 8-point Garbage Matte filter. The shaking was done by moving superimposed crops with the Eureka Jiggle filter, which has very useful amplitude, frequency (“distance, amount”), and overscan settings.
02:11;28 Scene 9.
Flaking painted brick facade
Cut to the iron fence with trident spikes at No. 21. Behind the large iron points is a brick facade with scaly paint. The camera tilts up the building and there are repeated unfinished dissolves across short shots, such that two images are always in view, until the building parapet is seen. The screen dances with moiré, as the multiple mortar lines and video lines intersect. There is an enervated softening of the textures of the flaking paint into large quivering pools and patches. FF and FO.
Music: Section 7, middle :11. The remainder of the choralized female glissando, tense and slow, up a half step, is followed by surreal chattery male vocalizations that sound like tongue tremolos. Then a brief whir and bird scratches, as the camera reaches its height.
FCP has very good opacity controls with keyframes, and tedious adjustments of same are all that was used here. The scene was done in Draft mode (lowest of three resolution settings), to duplicate and thus thicken the horizontal information. This gave a very pronounced moiré.
02:23;15 Scene 10.
Cut to an atmospheric collage of the two black iron lamps, one on either side of the doorway, at No. 11. One of these hangs upside down. Two short shots of the lamps are duplicated and overlaid. Slight shifts in position and filtering bring out strong variations in shape and darkening shadows. It is a very slow progression of movement, giving time for hidden highlights to appear and recede. For a shot taken in bright sunlight, the effect is fairly noir, heightened by the natural blacks, grays, and whites of the shots. Slow partial FO.
Music: Section 7, remaining :19. There is a descending whirring female voice sound, very windy and long-held, ending in a short stinger and a few seconds of silence.
The Gamma Correction, Matte Extract, Edge Detection, and Abstract filters were employed on five video tracks. Other techniques included motion paths, center shift, scaling, rotation, composite mode modifications, and combining Hi-Res and Draft modes. This was the last scene completed for “Hang Time,” finished on December 31, 2001.
02:42;02 Scene 11.
Wooden door frame with flaking paint
Cut to a jumble of advertising papers at the doorway of No. 23. As the camera tilts up the wooden frame, we see puffy flakes of dark red paint. There are flecks of bare wood, some of light color where the paint has recently flaked off, some dark and weathered. Two insets appear at the top of the frame. There is a miniature of the same shot at the left, delayed several seconds, as homophonic counterpoint, a chance to re-examine what has just passed from view. There is a multiple overlay version in the center, undulating as the overlays form waves, with a deceptive smoothness harvested from countless rough edges, chips, and flakes. As the camera tilts up, we see that the frame has carved ornamentations: first a pair of rosettes, then a bouquet of leaves and fleurs-de-lis. Above this the recent loss of paint becomes severe as we see more fresh, warm wood tones basking in the growing sunlight. The shot ends on a decaying wooden overhang from which is hung a canvas awning for a shop. Short dissolve.
Music: Section 8 (rework section 1: thicker orchestration, more animated sounds with complex intermodulations), entire :27. Fast chattering sounds give way to brief percussive figures with heavy echo, then overlaid, stretched-out female vocalization sounds, ending with the boyband trailing off to silence.
The delayed duplicates of footage were made with the Stop Motion Blur filter. This appeared muddy, and tests with De-interlace and Unsharp Mask filters and luminosity settings turned out to be fruitless. A midrange setting of the Quicktime Sharpen filter improved it.
Dissolve to a repetition of the carved bouquet, a 4-track collage of three different enlarged shots. The paint chips and exposed wood float on black. Cut to three shots of the overhang which align quite closely at first and then diverge widely at the end. Very short dissolve.
Music: Section 9 (rework Section 2: higher pitches, subtle variations in soft fast rhythms), entire :18. Hollow percussive sounds are followed by a female vocalization, brush-on-cymbal sounds, and a male voice that sounds oddly like “Come to me” (which was neither in the location footage nor set up in the processing; it is either an artifact from some demo sample in the Reaktor music software or an audio mirage). Then a brief sound like a baby crying, a high bending female voice, and a fast rhythmic low rattle followed by a short cadence and a second or two of silence.
One of the bouquet shots was duplicated on a fourth track. They were scaled to 180% size. Time delays were set up so that the tracks would coalesce at the end of the shot. The Color Key filter was used to key out the dark wood, replacing it with a black background. For the three tracks of the overhang, the top track was chroma-keyed and the middle track luma-keyed, to reveal material from the lower tracks.
The intention of this scene is almost like a little journey so interesting that one has to make parts of it again. Simultaneous passages from cool to warm, shadow to sunlight, round puffs to flat fresh wood, ornamentation to warped and crude. The paint flakes are as tactile and inviting as heavy curls of hard chocolate on cake frosting. But what we see the second time instead are the swirls of the carved ornamentation and the disheveled overhang flying off in different directions.
03:28;08 Scene 12.
Fast dissolve to the window at No. 25. The camera zooms out to reveal the double wooden window frame and the steel security gate. The scene begins with big screw heads in the corners of the frames and the darks keyed out to black. As three overlaid time-lapse copies of the shot enter one by one, the look flows from whitish paint bumps on black to a plan of grays: slate gray paint, light gray window glass, and grayish-white diagonal bands of steel gating. The repeated overlaid zooms create a dizzy feeling of depth. Then multiple diagonals slide over each other and the images coalesce at the end. As the camera tilts up, the small horizontal wooden frames, separating the panes of glass, descend almost floatingly. They have heavy banding, as if sprouting a crust that drifts lazily on and off. Cut.
The scene presents re-orientations of continuous movement—first up, as if in a rocket taking off from earth; then out, as it becomes clear we are looking at a window; then down as the two window frames touching in the center seem to move ever lower.
Music: Section 10 (rework Section 3; complex fast-varying conversations and vocalizations, repeat twisted boyband), first :14. It starts with a quick “ah-chew” and a kind of questioning “ahh.” There are thin then pitched rattles, soft short repeated whistles, harsh and edgy sounds like crackling fire, brief vocalizations, and then quiet, pure, whistly sounds.
The top two video tracks were adjusted with the Color Key filter, to key out the slate gray paint on the frame. The third track keyed out a very dark gray, almost black. The four tracks were set at different speeds (top slowest) and aligned to end in sync.
03:42;15 Scene 13.
Cut to the visual chatter of ratcheting horizontal shapes, here much larger. It is the fire escape at No. 5, a slow pan across the bottom of a ladder between two stories, multiplied to four images. It is in very slow motion and we see the jumps of individual frames. Soon they flow in different directions and we see a forest of I’s and L’s, the bands of light from the grates in the steps. At the end the images slow down and several disappear, leaving a clearer image of the shot. Short dissolve.
We are in a floating world of ratcheting, shifting, rotating shapes. Aside from a light splash of green from trees near the beginning, the scene is a pure play of iron, light, steel, and shadow. Beams, grids, and rails jump, swirl, and overlap, increasingly divergent and disconnected until the scene suddenly simplifies at the end.
Music: Section 10, remaining :20. It starts with the chattery boyband, followed by sample-and-hold sounds, mellow clangorous electronic tones, then soft little chugging chattery figures. Section 11 (rework Section 4; multiple short rhythms of vocalizations and motors, pitched slowed vocalized motors), first :11. There are thin rattles, then quiet and spaced rhythmic percussive figures.
To augment the jerky quality, clips were de-interlaced and then lengthened without frame blending. There were four tracks and the Compound Arithmetic filter was used on the top three. To create slight differences in chroma and contrast, a different operator was used in each (Add, Overlay, Multiply). The top two tracks were set to rotate to two different destinations (0 to –90, 0 to –70) and continuously scaled in size (to 170%); the top three tracks were set with time offsets.
04:13;17 Scene 14.
Keystone face with hollow eye sockets
Fast dissolve to a keystone face at No. 11. The face is framed by the bottom rungs of a fire-escape ladder, and lined by deep shadows from the iron slats of the fire escape above. We see FFs alternating with extremely slow motion. Each shot has an odd sort of FO—in the Soundscape Version of the piece, the eye sockets glow with an eerie orange and the black shadow bands, draped on the building surface, turn a metallic green. The soundscape music here is spaced, spare, and angular. However, in the Concert Version, the added solo part has a very different quality, quite lyrical and placid. It does not fit the intenseness of the picture, and so the footage for this version was altered by colorizing it in various monochromes: violet, a bland orange with slate green, dark green, blue, and slate blue. The six clips were reduced to five and slowed considerably. The color in the eye sockets has a different tint in each clip and the spectral glow is attenuated. The scene is about 7 seconds longer in this version. Cut.
Music: Section 11, Soundscape Version middle :09, Concert Version middle :16. The short rhythmic figures continue, widely spaced and a bit edgy.
The shots were controlled by the Levels filter, which allowed separate control of chroma, blacks, and whites. The values of Input, Input Tolerance, Gamma, Output, and Output Tolerance were set with keyframes to vary continuously the chroma highlights and the amount of black. The Input level was critical, and this was set to decrease to a progressively lesser amount in the six clips. This created a progression of color such that, at the end of each clip, the shadows on the building surface change from almost total black to a mottled green/brown/black. In the soundscape version of the piece,
04:22;17 Soundscape Version Scene 15.
04:29;07 Concert Version Scene 15.
Keystone menacing face
Cut to another keystone face at No. 11, this one decidedly pugilistic and menacing. It has the same shadow bands as in Scene 14. The camera moves circularly; a mask appears, derived from the keystone. This truculent visage, a mask upon a mask, moves jaggedly across the screen, an unsteady doppelgänger. In the Soundscape Version, it has a slate color scheme of blues, greens, tans, and grays. It moves independently of the camera; the mask and the camera freeze together, the mask always in a different alignment; several times during a freeze, the mask fades or flows from one position to another; sometimes the mask has a vibration or jitter. In the Concert Version, the sternness has been softened by adding color to the first part of the scene, a slow shift from blue to green to red to none. When the lyrical instrumental solo ends, midway through, the two versions coincide once again. Here the mask aligns directly above the keystone. The two shift and align again. Then again, with a vibrating flow. The amount of black has increased greatly. FF and very slow fade to dissolve.
Music: Section 11, Soundscape Version, remaining :19, Concert Version, remaining :12. The music is percussive, chattery, burbly, but spare and restrained. Section 12 (rework Section 5; sudden volume changes, somewhat chaotic quality), first :16. The music begins to choke and stutter with sudden changes in loudness and texture even as the image stares out very still and fixed.
An animated mask was created in Adobe After Effects. The original scene length was 4:06 and there were 40 keyframes for motion control. The Eureka Strobe Dissolve filter (despite the name, not a transition between two shots), which holds a frame and dissolves to others in the same clip, was applied to the mask clip. This was put on top of the original footage track. The mask track was set for Difference composite mode. This mode subtracts the color values of the underlying track from the selected track. In practical terms, it tends to generate grays and a luma-key effect, often creating graphically complex and dynamic shapes. To make still frames, the movie was exported to reduce it to one track. Then single frames were cut, isolated, and extended to 2.5 seconds, with Frame Blending selected to create a slow dissolve from field 1 to field 2.
04:58;01 Scene 16.
Dissolve to the stoop at No. 11. Extreme slow motion reveals movement frame-by-frame. A long FI shows dark, intense colors. A matte that starts out looking like just a few patches of snow moves above and expands continually. As the image lightens, the music starts, and the two images misalign. The matte becomes a flat opaque outline as the image below keys through. As the camera moves backwards, the image jerks toward the UL corner. The matte aligns. The matte shows rippling circles of light. The images move at a faster rate, seeming to chatter now. As another alignment is reached, suddenly the matte is replaced by a double image, also slightly out of whack. There is another alignment, a pulling away. The image becomes richly dark with intense grays and browns. There are slow changes in light level and alignment. A final solid alignment. Slow FO.
The undulation of alignment, a series of slow waves, complements the slowly descending and backwards camera movement.
Music: Section 12, remaining :08. Two thin percussive sounds lead to a processed voice sound that drifts away. Section 13 (rework Section 6; boyband with blue notes, pumping and chugging sounds, strongly rhythmic phrases, some isolated), entire :39. There is a smooth, mellow pumping organ-like section, leading to high chatter and thin percussive figures. They become thinner and more spaced, more silences. A chugging section marches in and out, followed by march-like and dotted rhythms, little percussive figures, tiny resonances, spaced out, finally several seconds of silence.
A copy of the original 28:28 clip was divided into four equal segments, then each segment was changed to a different duration, but still adding up to 28:28. Using the Matte Extract filter, an alpha-channel matte of the original clip was placed on the track above. The matte was set with keyframes to transform from inverted to normal and from low to high tolerance; both of these settings allowed more of the matte to be revealed with time. When the two clips are seen together, they align at the beginning, at three points in time, and at the end. (Originally the alignments were set up with sounds in the music, but this did not work.) At the point where the matte is replaced by a double image, the alpha channel of the track was changed from “white/copy to RGB” to “none” and the Composite Mode was changed from Lighten to Multiply.
05:46;16 Scene 17.
Trees reflected in glass
Cut to a composite of three reflections of sunlit trees in glass. At L is a window of small panes at No. 11. At TR is the glass door to No. 4. At BR is the glass door of a letterboard cabinet at No. 11.
The L panel starts with a black window above the white carved stonework of the building. The TR panel begins with a green frame bisecting two panes of glass that reflect a tree and the blue awnings of the bar across the street. The BR panel shows a splash of green leaves, and purply darkness from the letterboard strips, which also cause a pronounced moiré. The cameras tilt slowly, and the color saturation intensifies.
The cameras move away from the light or white areas in their shots. The scene gets darker the colors more intense, almost a day-for-night look. It ends with a very “night light” sort of wire-covered lamp in the TR corner, burning above some dark foliage set off by the impossibly sunlit red brick of the building. Dissolve.
Music: Section 14 (wobbly burbles and washes, blue notes, and soft metallic brushes), first :20. The music begins with little vocal burbles, then goes into very long held vocal notes, slowly overlapping, continuing into the next Scene.
The Input, Tolerance, and Gamma settings of the Levels filter were gradually lowered to reduce the brightness but still permit the bright sun highlights of the foliage to be retained somewhat. This also brought out the intense yellow of the lamp in the UR panel.
06:06;06 Scene 18.
Dissolve to the iron ladder of the fire escape at No. 17. This drop-down ladder hangs parallel to the ground, under the fire-escape platform at the second story. A slow panning shot is rendered as four layers of video; the pan on each track moves in a different direction (up, down, left, right).
Iron braces and steps form 45 angles with the side rails of the ladder. The grayish blue of the iron (black in reality), the tan of the building surface, and the hard-edge shadows, all give a sense of the patterns and colors of a southwestern Indian blanket. About two thirds of the way through (26.5 seconds), the video layers begin various rotations outwards which open up a rising or floating sensation. Dissolve.
Music: Section 14 (remaining :31). The spacey, open, long held sounds continue. There are soft ethereal metallic figures. As this section concludes the video rotations begin. Section 15 (short spurts of rhythms and metal brushes, rhythms interspersed with vocalizations, percussive, increased tension), first :11. A vague ringing, rolling sound leads to a bit of hiss and then deep pigeon-like sounds, bigger and more assertive. This continues into the next scene.
The treatments of the layers variously include slow motion, still and moving crops, overlaying, center shifting, scaling, Difference Compositing Mode, and a luma travel matte. To straighten out footage with a slight rotation over the long pan, the Matte/Mask Shape filter was set to Rectangle/Invert on a black slug above the actual footage, which was then rotated with keyframes to align it to the straight-edges matte. The track arrangement is: 1 (top)—image moves L, is matted and has luma key; 2—image moves U, is doubled (composite of side by side duplicate images), Composite Mode = Travel Matte (Luma); 3—image moves R, is a luma travel matte (via Video Extract filter) scaled to 145%; 4—image moves D, is scaled to 145%.
06:48;01 Scene 19.
Dissolve to the stoop with newel-posts at No. 11. The camera moves in toward the post. There is an animated expanding matte that is shaped like a cross that evolves to a diamond and then to a square with rounded corners, from which extend moving swirls. The matte separates four screen quadrants of different designs (sometimes overlapping) and a center image of low-resolution BW similar to an etching. The designs contrast: one gives black shapes, another is noir-ish, the third gives painterly extremes of textures, and the last gives midrange, sculptural highlights. As the matte edges move in near each other to form an “X”, the center image and three of the triangular screen quadrants drop out and then reappear one by one. The camera does a slow circular pan around the post. Each quadrant has a different design and a different time delay. The quadrants disappear one by one, replaced by the flickering etching shot. FF and partial FO.
The dark and gray rendering turns this sunny scene into dim flashes of slightly disconnected, unsteady motion. The flashing quadrants undercut the rocklike stability of the post, and the etching at the end is a frozen memory.
Music: Section 15, remaining :24. There are long vocalizations, rattles, chirps, chatters, many swells, edgy spacey sounds, “huh” and “ah” sounds. Then it trails off over 5 or 6 seconds.
A luma key was used on each track, to drop out various light or dark portions of the image, and provide the various designs. The moving matte is an 8-point Garbage Matte on each track, with keyframed Smooth and Choke settings. The etching track was made with the Edge Detection filter.
07:12;19 Scene 20.
Iron stairway to second-story exterior
FI to the exterior iron stairway to the second-story entrance at No. 29. The brick facade is in bright sunlight and there are patches of yellow among the red bricks. We see expanding mattes of the iron structure. There are dropouts to black, color shifts, moiré. The iron slats ripple in bursts, like the strumming of a banjo, as the overlaid images of steps and rails flow over each other. Sometimes the intense chroma is forced to its limit, elsewhere it is pastel. There is play of dark fields of blues, violets, purples. At the end it is very slow and we see the pulsations of individual frame fields. Fast dissolve.
The flow of color into darkness and back again. The play of a super bright, almost washed-out brick facade, as stairway shapes grow, blacken, disappear, and reappear. A long, long phrase that moves ever more slowly. The horizontal edges of the iron slats ripple, flicker, vibrate, and finally just pulsate a little.
Music: Section 16 (weightless vocalizations, soft racing motors and brushes, long suspended gender-bending vocalizations, placid bouncing slabs of wuffly burbles and rattles, and a grand very fast scream), first :39. There are thin vocalizations, high whirring and white noise, the vocalizations descend to a soft motor and windy background, there is a mellow clang and a contralto gliss down, heavy echo, then a long slow vocalization glisses up.
The matte of the stairway was created in After Effects. Five tracks were composited, with animated scaling (ranging from 70% to 140%). Opacity and center points were keyframed. From T to B, the Composite Modes were: Hard Light, Subtract, Difference, and Difference.
07:51;07 Scene 21.
Garage door and front door
Dissolve to the facade of No. 17. We see the garage door, the entrance door, and the fire escape and ladder from Scene 18. It is a flat rendering with highlighted edges. There are bluish grays and light salmon. The camera tilts down slowly. Bland panels of location color fill some of the outlines, then fall out to reveal the strong graphic contours and shapes of the fire escape and its shadows, in bright almost-whites and deep blacks. Outlines and edges are thinned and dissolve to dots and flashing panes of light. Then the constituent elements of the scene emerge—the front door, the fire escape, its shadows, and two parked cars. For a time there is also a small inset of the front door, elliptically still and gray. A wealth of strong lines are shifted ever so slightly off the horizontal/vertical—a study in the barely diagonal. The scene resolves in total realism. Cut.
Music: Section 16, next :32. There are little motoric sounds with the slow vocalization, then low male vocalizations, cadential, peaceful. Many short burbly sine-like resonances go by, with thin held notes, then clacking, whirring, crickets.
The Matte Extract filter was used on the upper three of four tracks, the middle of these copied to the alpha channel, the other two copied to RGB. Various Tolerance and Threshold settings created outline mattes and slow transformations of the image. Rendering in Draft mode gave maximum edge flicker and moiré.
08:23;18 Scene 22.
Triptych of iron spikes, rails, gate handle
FI to a triptych of ironwork, three panels overlaid on a full-screen iron picket fence. The L panel shows pickets at No. 18, the C panel displays very pointed spikes at No. 21, the R panel shown an iron-pipe hand railing at No. 11, and the full-screen fence is at No. 21. Later in the scene, the L panel shows the fence at No. 21, the C panel shows the trough-style railing at No. 11, and the R panel displays the gate handle at No. 18. The motion is very slow and the full-screen spikes are particularly jerky. The coloring of the bricks has been pushed up to bright orange. There are variations in the stability of the image: five times during this scene, the three panels oscillate slightly, in a musically phrased vibration. The full-screen iron fence slowly ratchets by, sometimes in the background, sometimes as a foreground compositing element. There are ECU’s of rotted brick, curved pipe, and crusty rails. There is very forced processing—reverse colors, over brightening, impossibly luminous highlights. There are also realism, washed-out color, and deep darks. Then the color design gets blander, bluer, darker. Then we see two panels of iron rails and an iron gate handle that looks like a penis. The color starts to deepen; there is flame red and cobalt blue. The full-screen footage becomes a brilliant shiny orange-red. The jerkiness mutates to a few quick shudders. Cut.
In the Concert Version, this scene seemed too intense to work with the character of the added solo. The color and brightness were attenuated, except for the last few seconds.
Music: Section 16, next :36. There are thin, sine-like held notes, and hollow, ethereal soft held sounds, almost pink noise, then a slowly thickening vocalization. Then there are both short and held vocal sounds, choral “eh,” “ooh” “reh” sounds, and finally a high shriek at the end.
Besides the usual scaling and cropping, the Eureka Jiggle filter was used on segments of all four tracks. (This filter does not operate exactly as one would wish: at low settings it does nothing; there is a lag in response to the keyframe settings; and, the motion response is not very linear.) The bottom (full-screen) track also employed the Chromaglow and Levels filters. In the Concert Version, the opacity was lowered and the Desaturate filter was applied.
08:59;17 Scene 23.
Cut to the same shot that concluded Scene 19. FO.
Music: Section :16, remaining :02. The decay of the last note.
09:02;15 Scene 24.
End credits and house numbers
The credits were created with an opacity level of only 42%, to minimize the infernal fringing and ringing that occurs on high-contrast titles, particularly on VHS dubs. For the record, all the house numbers on the street are shown here: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 32-4.
The three soundfiles that were used in creating the soundscape music are played in their original form. Because they are so short, the first two (:03.5 and :00.75) are played four times and the third (:07.5) is played twice.
“Hang Time on Jones Street” is two parallel versions of images and sounds that portray one place. The work is not about literal portrayal, however, it is about meaning and gesture: a reflection of a sense of Jones Street. And this street, so ordinary and undistinguished, is rich enough to stand as a model of life’s experience. There is structure, sanctuary, mystery, decay, and artifice. All given in darkness and color and light and music.
1 Some text in this and the subsequent section first appeared in a companion paper, “Composing with the soundscape of Jones Street,” Organised Sound, Vol. 7, No. 1, April 2002, pages 65-72, 2002 Cambridge University Press.