Production Journal #6
The first thing any film student learns in school is that film runs in normal time at 24 frames per second. Usually, people take that as a simple matter of fact...that the human eye cannot detect any flash of an image that runs at less than 24 frames per second. This idea is even further neglected when entering the realm of digital where frames don't tangibly exist. Capturing someone on film is like seeing the world in slow motion. Every single twitch and movement is precisely documented on individual celluloid frames. All of these fleeting moments that not even the eye can detect are preserved. For example, to the human eye a blink lasts less than 1 second, it's fast and often missed. When we blink ourselves, our vision is virtually uninterrupted. We live on knowing that there is a small fraction of a second of obstructed vision, this lost time goes by and we barely miss it. But on film, the progression of the eyelids closing is caught in individuals frames, therefore elongating the process. Film has the ability to divide movement into this kind of progression, while we can only see action as a unified entity. These undetectable fractions of a second are frozen on film, making them visually available to us. The lost time is found in the film and it presents to the viewer a new and otherwise unnoticed way of seeing things. How great is it that film can uniquely present us with the ability to capture the world as we know it as well as the world as we've never seen it?
This idea of 24 frames per second became very real for me while putting together my last project. As described in my last post, I shot my project Panic on b&w 16mm. Inspired by the great Stan Brakhage, I decided to scratch onto my film to try and capture the emotion of panic. The scratches were to represent the evil negative energy of anxiety that wakes up my subject and drives her into a horrifying panic attack. The film follows the progression of this girl sensing a bad presence and eventually giving into hysteria; by the end of the short her mouth gapes open as she screams. The scratches pour out of her mouth and eventually take hold, overwhelming the frame and distorting her face. At the end shot, I scratched her entire face out; I wanted to show that the girl has completely lost herself in panic.
The process of scratching is where the whole 24 frames per second concept hit me. It wasn't until I began that I realized what I was in for. In order for anyone to see what I was scratching, I'd have to scratch it in 24 times for it to appear for just 1 second. Throughout the process, my comprehension of time was completely lost. As I edited the film ran according to the speed of my arm spinning the spool. There was no sense of minutes our hours, I worried that I was miscalculating everything and that I was spending all my time putting together something as short as a 1 minute film (which still meant 1,140 individual frames for me to scratch). All I had to comfort me was the solid and reassuring fact of 24 frames per second. In the end, everything worked out. My film was longer than 1 minute (ended up being around 2 minutes and 30 seconds = estimate of 3,600 individually scratched frames!!!), and it gave the emotional effect that I wanted; it succeeded in raising the heart rate of my classmates. Once I get my film processed and transferred digitally, I will post it online. Till then, stay tuned for news on my next experiment which is supposed to be a sound project (unchartered territory for me). Until next time!