WA 1991-

Back to WA in UbuWeb Film Koyaanisqatsi through the eyes of an N-Dimensional Being (2021)

9 minutes, Digital Video made in ffmpeg and python

Playing with seeing videos in a different dimension, I wanted to see how videos looked if they were warped so that a 2D frame was made into some kind of one-dimensional frame.

If you take the video frame and rearrange it so that each row of pixels simply sits side by side, you'd end up with a very abrupt change in colour as you go along the row, making it very obvious what the rearrangement was, and it is too similar to the source material to be fun.

I used a hilbert-curve to rearrange the pixels in a way that meant pixels that were close to each other in the video stay close in the rearrangement, the curve snakes along up-right-left-down over each frame. That means the row of pixels have a more organic transition of colours, as well as bringing more depth to the output.

When these 1D frames are put on top of each other, you get a 2D representation of the whole video at once. Each column of pixels represents the same pixel in the video over time, each row represents a single frame in the video.

After playing around with short videos to just get the technique down (cough a Tim & Eric ASGB episode cough) I looked for source material that would work interestingly with this technique.

I settled on Koyaanisqatsi, the 1982 film directed by Godfrey Reggio, cinematographied [sic] by Robert Fricke and a soundtrack by Philip Glass.

It was hard for me to think of a film more better suited, an 86 minute experimental film, a hypnotic montage of primitive nature, post-war industrial expanse, urban sprawl and human life exploding in the late 20th century. The mixture of static, moving and timelapse shots, the rich colours, the soundtrack in perfect sync with the feeling and rhythm of each frame.

When I stacked the film up into a single image I could see the film itself objectively rearranged, but I couldn't help but notice the feeling of descending through layers of sediment, rock and magma. Expansive silicon chips and electronic circuits. DNA sequences and binary codes. Rorsarch blobs. Funky tie-die patterns. Everything I saw (except the last one) seemed to resonate with the film's gaze; the primal earth, the anthropocene cutting its machinery and visions into the land, the electronic lines of information taking root, the speed and noise of accelerating humanity.

It's hard not to be mesmerised, to see the sum of humanity contained within a single stream of imagery. To gaze upon it all at once like an astronaut. To see it for what it is without judgement for a little while.

The image that was created from the film was massive and unwieldy, so I thought a video format would be an easier way to represent things. I scroll the image at around 10x the speed of the original film.

I decided to fill the bottom half of the video with the row of pixels stretched. So it sort of created a loom weaving the images scrolling up from it.

This sort of added to the feeling of the industrial loom which started the industrial revolution and the seeds of acceleration. As well as almost a visual nod to Philip Glass' keyboard playing along to the film.

For the audio I had to do something because it sounded very obviously sped-up, so I wanted to soften this by using some reverb. I used the reverb profile from a church to go with the instrumentation Glass and his ensemble used (organs, choral singers etc).

In the end I think it adds up into quite a trip.