Post-production: Iceland & Australia

Angst is guaranteed when trying to marry the brief of your project with your artistic vision at the same time as working with technical and installation constraints.

Having spent as much time as possible over the past two months in Iceland gathering content, feeling I hadn’t been as productive here in terms of minutes of video and sound as I had in Australia (largely due to the weather), I finally reached a point of having to lock myself inside to get on with editing.

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The countdown is almost on for the final show, but it’s important to have mini-deadlines before then to get critical feedback and to push through when the problems arise. In my seventh week at Nes Artist Residency, I had an opportunity to show a rough cut of one of the five videos I’m working on (with sound) to my fellow artists. I worked for a solid two days, including hours of downtime rendering, to meet the deadline, but it was a turning point for me creatively. As a result, I now have a clear vision of how to proceed with the rest of the post-production phase.

One of the creative issues I’ve had with Eye of the Corvus is wanting to be too literal with the brief: presenting the landscape from the perspective of corvids. When you spend more than a year studying the birds in detail and work with scientists in the field to gain a greater understanding of how they function and move, to then inform how to shoot and record the landscape, I think I started to feel like I was creating a David Attenborough documentary…and I’m not! As someone who loves the freedom of manipulating imagery and sound, tapping into the real to explore the possibilities of the abstract, I don’t know why I even arrived at this point. Not having my usual sounding boards around me to bounce ideas is probably partly the reason — I’ve been feeling very artistically isolated. Thank goodness for short-stay digital media residents Alia and Noah for the conversations and critique in their time at Nes. Just what I needed, when I needed it.

Technical problems also come in all forms in ‘post’ – slow data transfer, a lagging computer, files that won’t import, footage that just doesn’t work for one reason or another, sound files that are contaminated by too much ‘noise’, effects protocols that require double and even triple handling of some clips, transitions that don’t work, and then there are rendering times. All of these are exacerbated when you’re shooting and editing in 4K with the expectation of exporting and showing your work in 4K. Spoiler alert: I was told earlier in the week of my test screening at the residency that the work won’t be projected in 4K.

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At the same time, the presentation of the work is in the back of my mind, even more so now that I now the final presentation will only be in 1080, requiring a different treatment to achieve the same final effect. Everything has to be imagined as room-sized even though I’m working on a 15″ screen. Sound has to be imagined as working in surround, with pans, subtle atmos tracks, volumes that don’t annoy or feel invasive, while testing through computer speakers, headphones (two different types for good measure) and finally on a lousy stereo speaker setup in the studio — none of these being like what the final work will be played back on.

At the final open studio event, the four projection videos will be screened side by side (smaller than the final output), but the first time all four will be seen together. They’re close. Really close. I’m still seeing small things that need ‘fixing’, but the work now has a completeness about it after two days of being snowbound in the house.

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Interestingly, a touch of homesickness over the past few weeks had me unable to work on the Australian footage. I’ve had a video of a Dubbo dust storm almost finished for months now that has been re-edited. The closer I get to going home the easier the footage is to work on – there’s an impetus to push through the night when I’d normally be getting ready for bed. The final round of feedback from the open studio event will play into the final edits when I get home.

In between agonising over creative direction and the inability to work on my computer during renders, I’ve been writing my catalogue essay, coordinating other bits and pieces for the exhibition and working on projects for 2020. There’s still the motion sensor sound pieces and the VR to focus on, so plenty left to do.

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