THE PHANTOM PRODUCTION
Video Installation / 2014 -2016
Tanya St-Pierre & Philippe-Aubert Gauthier
Since mid 2014, we have initiated, as a duo, a new research and creation idea and a related project that are in the lineage of our project Something is Happening / Quelque chose se produit (2013) combined to the digitally-augmented notion of collage.
If, for Something is Happening / Quelque chose se produit we were interested by the idea of photorealism as a signifier of realism for emerging CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery), the actual realization of Something is Happening / Quelque chose se produit operated through CGI images of older technologies such as shooting studio and studio lamps. For The Phantom Production, the driving interest is based on similar notions of photorealism and visual objectivity, but the idea is to explore a different research question and investigate another type of image production and reception. The research question is still related to the idea of camera imitation in CGI technology, but with a clear focus on the imitation of real camera movements. Indeed, one of the key aspects of realism in current CGI is related to inlaying of CGI elements and VFX (Visual Effects) into actual video footage shot by a real camera, either in the studio or on site. This idea is seducing and intriguing as it also relates to the current culture status of digital images and objectivity. Indeed, in order to perform such a fusion of CGI and real footage a great deal of technological effort is invested in how to seamlessly achieve the moving fusion and equivalency of the real camera with the virtual camera used for CGI rendering.
For The Phantom Production, we first made video shootings of various outdoor sceneries in Newfoundland. The visual documentation included in this page provides examples of video stills with markers used for camera tracking. At a latter stage, we have been through the tedious task of tracking the markers in the video footage. Once this was completed, we use camera solving techniques to literally deduce, or extract, the real camera movement in 3D space. This is known as camera tracking. We worked 2 years on 3D models and rendering of banal VFXs that also replicate the camera movements captured from the camera tracking information. In a normal video workflow situation, the next step would of been to integrate, or more precisely inlay, the VFX in the original video footage using compositing methods. But in our case, we proceed differently in order to engage in a reflexion related to the notion of digital collage, more precisely the notion of integration of virtuality in supposedly actual reality.
For this new work our goal was to first create a diptych video piece using two 16:9 projection screens. On the left, one would see the original video footage without any alteration. On the right, the VFX on black background are presented (see schematic representation above). Interestingly, it is solely the similar camera movement (i.e. which is also the view point of the visitor) that is the common filmic characteristic of the two videos, perfectly synchronized. And here, at this specific aesthetic time of the interrupted production workflow, we reveal the unfinished making video workflow of current CGI cinema production of digital cinematographic images. This specific time is here used as a poetic instant. It is also greatly inspiring since one of the key element in current CGI realism is related to camera movement. There is a great difference between a CGI video made with idealistic purely digital camera movement, versus the same CGI object but rendered for a virtual camera that is based on actual camera movement extracted from camera tracking. This is a very concrete example of the extent to which camera-realism is deeply rooted in our contemporary visual culture as a marker of realism and, supposedly, visual verity.
Vidéo documentation during Espace Im Media, Sherbrooke 2016
Depending on the dimensions of the exhibition space, the equipment available and the budget, The Phantom Production can be presented in divers format and set-ups.
The project as been presented in: Paris and Berlin, during the Rencontres Internationales Paris Berlin festival, Marseille (FR), during the festival Les instants vidéo, Sherbrooke, Quebec, during Espace Im Media - Digital Arts Event and at the Cinesphere of Ontario Place in Toronto during InFuture Event, both in september 2016.
Burnett, R., How Images Think, 2004.
Grau, O. (Ed.), Imagery in the 21st Century, 2011.
Kittler, F.A., Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, 1999.
Manovich, L., Le langage des nouveaux médias, 2010.
Mitchell, W.J., The Reconfigured Eye – Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era, 1992.
Photo credits: T. St-Pierre & P.-A. Gauthier