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Spotlight #10
Proof by Jonathan Green

This time we are sharing an extraordinary project created by professor Jonathan Green. “Proof” is a meditation on humans existence. Don’t miss that!


And what’s your latest project? Share your interesting stories in the next spotlight.

Patryk Kizny: Jonathan, could you describe the main aspects that were contemplated in this project?


Jonathan Green: This film is, I hope, a meditation on human and natural continuity: change, aging, death, and regeneration. It is an intimate portrait for me as I concentrate on myself and my own sons and granddaughters, but I hope it has more universal resonance.


PK: Could you tell us a little bit about the genesis of the project?


JG: The germ of the film began in a series of short 3-minute videos of dense material from nature that I have been shooting for several years. I was fascinated by the complexity and density of thickets, brush, bramble, and briars. At that time I had no notion of how these short takes would become part of a larger project. But I eventually placed myself in front of the camera rather than just shooting out into the natural world and suddenly understood one potential linkage.

PK: What do you consider as a Proof in relation to this project?
JG: By presenting my family and the thickets, one-by-one without altering tone or expression I hoped they would be perceived as indisputable occurrences, as events, as facts: a Proof.


PK: What did you want to emphasize by showing all the characters in such stagnation?


JG: While I delight in good narrative, story films and screen them every weekend at the Culver Center I wanted to go beyond the narrative and the dramatic to present pure unvarnished fact.
I hoped the meaning would be contained in the slices of the natural world and in the each person’s uninflected presence.
I wanted the human presences to be as nondramatic, non-narrative as possible: each person’s presence is absolutely, even agonizingly, factual: they are presented in sequence as just another natural fact.


Because the essential subject of the mediation is people and nature within time—or perhaps even time itself—the use of both the 24 frames per second of the video and the slow persistent movement of the slider were essential elements in my concept of portraying and emphasizing movement and change through time. This motion is further emphasized by Arvo Pärt’s hypnotic, deeply moving, yet simple march in Tabula Rasa: Part II, Silentium: Senza moto. The rising and falling scales in the violins, as the portraits themselves and the slices from the natural world, simultaneously move forward but are also endlessly repeating.


PK: Is there a particular reason for capturing your family members in this project? Are you content with the results?


JG: My family lives in different cities and states. So when we all came together recently, I suggested I take some footage of my granddaughters, who are both 11 years old, in such a way that they could play them back, years hence, to help them recollect their own 11 year old presence and possibly allow their own children and grandchildren to reconstruct their mother’s or grandmother’s appearance. I suggested they not perform for the camera but merely follow the lens closely as it moved down the track. (This of course is not easy for 11 year old girls, so I have lots of unused footage of laughing, funny faces, smirks, grimaces, and grins. Perhaps another film?) I followed these shots with similar sliding portraits of my sons. I then intercut these portraits with the material from nature.


The natural slices contained many instances of the constant cycle and the endless permutation of the natural world: seasons of prosperity, growth, renewal, death, decay, and revitalization. I saw simple analogies between the dense thatch and my sons’ stubble beards, the beauty of new growth and my granddaughters’ appearance. Other metaphors and analogies are of course more complex and deep, and undoubtedly will be read differently by each viewer.


In the end I was very pleased that the technology allowed for an admirable pairing of machinery and metaphor: high definition rendering of the details of skin and thicket; and with the slider, a slow ceaseless progression across time and space. I think this allowed the thickets and the portraits to be as present and intense as possible.


PK: Could you tell us more about the equipment and programs used in this project? Would you like to share your experience acquired during the production?


JG: All the portraits and much of the natural world was shot with a Panasonic GH2 hacked with the FlowMotion V2.02 patch. This patch produces a smooth, reliable 85 Mbps with maximum bit rate of 100 MBps peak performance with a fast Class 10 SD card. The Panasonic is a joy to use: easy to set up with a great ergonomic interface. (I understand this all the better now as I am experimenting with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF that produces an amazingly smooth image and astounding dynamic range, but is difficult to manage with few ergonomic assets or functional controls.) A few of the less sharp natural interludes in Proof were shot with the Canon 5D Mark II. The GH2 footage was all shot with the kit lens: the Panasonic Lumix 14-42.


Every bit of footage was shot using a slider. The earlier Canon footage came from a home-built Igus slider what worked fairly well when pulled by a thick rubber band. But its limitations made me wish for motor driven slider I could accurately control and that led me to the DitoGear™ OmniSlider. Besides smooth yet variable motion though an easy to use controller, the slider also can be used for stop motion, slow motion, timelapse, and motion recording and repeatability. I have the 1.5 m version with the servo motor and have been delighted with its performance. In the field, and for all the shots in Proof, I set up the slider on two Slik 700DX tripods with round quick-release drop-in plates. The round drop-in plates make it easy to attach the slider to the tripod pointing in any direction without having to align the slider to a squared receiver on the tripod head. This is especially important when you are out in the landscape and the ground is uneven.
I used a small Manfrotto 501 HDV video head on the OmniSlider and on some of the natural shots I move the head in counter-motion to the direction of the slider to evoke more of a sense of space.


For the portraits the subject sat on a stool about 75 centimeters from the camera. For these shots the slider was set to a relatively slow motion and the camera was allowed to travel about 1.2 m.


All the footage was assembled in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 on a Mac. It was graded using Magic Bullet Colorista. Some shots were slowed down even further using Twixtor. Of course, the timing of the shots is built on the architecture of the sections of Arvo Part’s Silentium: the music was laid down first and then the film was cut to the structure of the score.


PK: Jonathan, thank you for taking the time for us. I hope to see more projects from you in the future!


Interested in OmniSlider?


Check DitoGear™ OmniSlider


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