The tutorial with Gemma (as always) was fun and informative. The breadth of knowledge packed into this cheery tutor cannot be underestimated. As we reviewed my attempted fusion of La Jetee’s stills, Rudyard Kipling’s poem, read by Batman film actor Michael Caine and music from the Batman movie, I wondered whether there were too many ingredients in my appropriation video bake off. After all Kipling makes good cakes but I’m not sure about videos.
My feeling that this was a mixed bag of elements that sort of fitted together couldn’t be shaken which told me in no uncertain terms the item was not finished. My problem was where to take this next.
I presented this feeling to Gemma and after watching it she agreed. The blend of still images and the poem goes well, we agreed there. The music helps the piece with the atmosphere and Caine’s voice is perfect for the poem. His connection to the music through his portrayal of the Dark Knight’s butler Alfred links the two elements well. The music and the still images was where we felt the piece didn’t fit as well and that this was the part of the appropriation that needed attention. Linking Batman to La Jetee visually was going to be a challenge but once again Gemma came up with a suggestion and an artist to look at. (Where does she find these artists as she rarely uses broad google searches.)
Nick Buxton’s work is pop art in design. His blend of photography and line drawing is similar to comic books but a technique of master chef proportions. Trying to copy his process was not going to be easy as the recipe was not described on his web page.
(Character in the middle and lower left panels looks strangely familiar…..)
A search on the internet revealed one artist who was willing to share a photo to comic book pre programmed ‘Photoshop’ action.
Experiments with this action revealed a close approximation of what we had agreed I was going to do however the lack of resolution on my ‘video’ images caused a few problems once the action had been applied. This mainly occurred as the image’s blurred edges, once processed, created wide black lines out of proportion especially if the image was dark. The solution was to re make all the video frames as JPGs and then alter the contrast and sharpness in Photo Shop.
To make the frames I found the best solution was to play the video and pause at each image. Then using the computer screen dump button, the ‘screen’ would be copied onto the clipboard. Loading that directly into Photo Shop allowed me to first increase the resolution from 72 DPI to 200 DPI, to resize the frame to approximately 16 cm x 9 cm and then to make adjustments to the brightness, sharpness and any other tweaks the image required.
The result was a sharp, balanced still black and white image ready for processing through the comic book ‘action’.
Taking each frame in turn the images were ‘comic booked’ using the action, but I soon noticed that some of the images still came out dark. Further adjustments to each image had to be made to desaturate and in some cases increase the brightness.
I experimented with hand colouring the frames but with 38 to do and the hand in deadline approaching I decided to keep the frames black and white.
Sample hand coloured frame
With all 38 still frames now processed I wanted to add another ‘comic book’ twist. To add drama and flow to a comic book the artists creatively frame each drawing and to capture this effect meant inserting each of my ‘drawings’ into dramatic shaped frames. I took inspiration for this from actual pages from Batman comic books.
Using the select tool in Photo Shop I drew around the frame shape in several Batman comics. Next I created a new layer and using the stroke tool created a black frame shape. Painting outside of the black frame ‘box’ with white and inserting my ‘drawing’ on a layer underneath allowed me to easily re position my image within the comic panel frame. Using the re size tool the frame layer could be adjusted to fit the dimensions of the image.
The last feature I wanted to add to my comic book video was lettering. An obvious type face was Comic Sans as it was a close copy of the actual lettering used in the Batman comics. Adding white lettering boxes using a new layer and the box selection tool and then positioning them in similar positions to those seen in the comics gave the final impression of a comic book.
As drawing frames differed in size in a real comic book depending on their importance, I wanted to try and portray this even though all my frames would be 16 cm x 9 cm, the video frame dimension. My solution to give this close up / far away impression was to vary the size of the lettering, thus large lettering in a frame means its a small frame seen close up and small lettering when several frames were seen together, thus the book was seen further away.
Assembling all the finished frames and loading them into the video was the next stage.
Thanks to the excellent reading of the poem by Sir Michael Caine, positioning the frames and clipping them to fit the length of time the line took to say became a fairly simple task. I tried cutting each clip (no transition between each frame) but as the ‘flow’ of the poem was continuous, a fade / dissolve transition between each frame appeared to work better initially but with the addition of a front cover (see below) I went back to clipped frames (no fade). The main reason was it felt more like reading a comic book. Only with the last frame, I left the fade transition in as it symbolised the emergence of man from the shadows.
The only aspect I didn’t like in the finished film was the first frame which included the title. My solution was to create a full page front cover, offering you a view of a finished ‘IF’ comic. I based this around two ideas. Firstly to have a few frames from the finished ‘comic’ such as the example below, but most of the front covers I looked at didn’t follow this style.
Instead most covers used just one picture and were normally drawn in a more realistic style. I looked for a Batman cover that closely resembled a frame from La Jetee, and the nearest match I found was this one.
Using this cover as a guide I created my own cover using a new still not used for the video so far. I also used a slightly different art filter in Photo Shop to create the image thus following the trend of using a different technique for the cover to the rest of the comic book.
I then altered the DC comics logo and created my own GM Comics logo. Adding a bar code panel and an edition number and price helped the illusion of a real comic. I also decided to change the font for the title to something more dramatic and in several ‘real’ monotone comics pure white lettering on a black background appeared to work best. The real comic front covers also carried one last thing. The surnames of all the participants, i.e. writer, artist, producer. I felt it only fair to do the same so I added, KIPLING, CAINE and MATTHEWS to represent, the writer of the poem, the reader of the poem and Batman actor and myself.
I then experimented with distorting the shape to give the impression in the first frame of the video that you were looking down on a real comic. I tried this version in the video and I felt it over complicated things, so I used a standard portrait view of the front cover.
Finished IF cover