thinking with pictures

experimenting with virtual presence

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Smell, taste, and touch (temperature, texture, humidity) exceed the technology for now, but there are a few ways to add the immediacy and vividness of audio to one’s still image or by use of a video snapshot to cause a viewer to feel momentarily transported to the place and time of capture. The Web project from the early 2000s by Aaron Ximm in the San Francisco Bay Area, “One Minute Vacations” demonstrates the power of audio to take you to a specific time and place,

Here are some combinations to try with a view to discovering best workflow and user experience.

  1. Panorama: Stitch a set of 4 to 6 vertical (portrait orientation) frames to form a panorama with added “head room.” Then capture the location sound (field recording with audio gear and fancy mic, or use the camera’s own video capture and later use computer to extract the audio track from the clip). Display the resulting “portrait of place” by using Quicktime PRO (or iMovie with MOV output) so that the full sized image plus sound track can be contained in a single file for playback. Second best solution, use the free Microsoft PhotoStory3 to add audio to the image, but since frame display is not full-size, but rather 640×480 pixels, then use the pan tool to move the view across the scene (so-called Ken Burns effect, which iMovie or at least FinalCutPro and other full feature video editors include). Third best solution would be to shrink panorama into a PowerPoint slide and add the audio track; a similar process might work with MS-Word (embedding the audio for the person to click for playback manually). Likewise the full-feature (not free) version of PDF editor, Adobe Acrobat, allows audio files to embed with the page file for manual playback, too.
  2. Video snapshot: use tripod or fixed anchor point (wall or furniture surface for instance; in a pinch create tripod from your body: left foot, right foot, rear-end seated or back leaned on solid surface) then frame and focus the scene and press the video record button for a short period of 10-30 seconds, for example. It is most effective when the scene is mostly static but then one or more elements move or emit sound. Caution for conditions with noise or wind that causes mic to pick up distracting audio. When done well for an interesting subject or context, the viewer has the sensation of being there, looking on and being surrounded by the sound (even silent places have a signature sound). However, unlike the stitched panorama the field of view is not a facsimile to human eyesight, so the leap of imagination to transport oneself to the site of capture is a bigger effort than when both visual cues and audio cues lead to the feeling of being there.
  3. Moving video: use bicycle, wheelchair or dolly to move the recording through the subject scene/landscape to give viewer a borrowed feeling of flying along. Again the use of location sound is what makes the experience living rather than canned. High definition audio and video increase the effectiveness of the sensations and cues to the viewers’ minds.

Author: gpwitteveen

Better Outreach is my aim. See to know more.

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