This was shot on June 28, 2015 in an area of San Diego County called the Tijuana Slough. It is the most southwestern corner of the continental U.S. where the U.S. meets Baja Mexico. The landmass in the bottom left of the frame is a neighborhood of Tijuana called Playas de Tijuana and just before that is the international border. The area is historically rich and politically complex. During the 80s and 90s the border exchanges, of Mexican workers, drugs and sewage became central topics in heated local and national debates that continue today. In the national dialog the border is always depicted as a simple binary system but this is not at all the case. The exchange between the environments, the communities and economies has always been nuanced. Any dialog that reduces the relationship to simple “us and them” is very suspect.
Is this a metaphor about the complexity of the border? No. I’m just trying to make something I’ve never seen before that says something about the region. I injured my shoulder last summer and couldn’t surf or swim all year so I started flying kites at the beach for fun, that’s the source of the idea. In the previous videos I looked for large scale events but for this one I was curious to see what could emerge from something really simple. We shot at the border because it has predictable wind and the area doesn’t attract crowds, so it’s serendipity that I made a video about hidden complexity in a place with an enormous amount of hidden complexity.
A note on the gray sky, these weather conditions are called June gloom by Californians. Throughout late spring, low altitude stratus clouds are produced over the ocean and brought inland, usually late at night, by prevailing winds. For people from more intense climates, these weather conditions are very mild but for many southern Californians it’s like deep winter and there’s an art to complaining about it. The clouds are a sign that our waters are cool, not warm like much of the east coast. The cool waters make it impossible for hurricanes to reach us and produce an incredibly stable climate, for now.
Tech notes, the video was shot on a BMCC camera in 2.5k RAW with an 80mm full frame lens and cut in After Effects. The kite separations were done with a combination of the Luma Key, key framed masks and the Soft Matte effect to clean up the edges. The most difficult tech problem was finding the right shutter angle to balance strobing and motion blur. For this particular kite speed we found a shutter angle of 72 degrees at 24fps worked best. In the near future, you will be able to make a video like this with computer vision. You’ll just tell the computer to separate the red kite while you eat a sandwich. If I were you, I would wait till then to make one cause they take forever my way.
If you'd like to know more about the post process, here's a making-of video: vimeo.com/135602152
A film by Cy Kuckenbaker
Camera by Alex Graham
The San Diego Studies is a series of short videos that collapse time to reveal otherwise unobservable rhythms and movement in the city. There are no CG elements, these are all real kites that have been separated from their original shots and compiled together.
The rest of the San Diego Studies videos are here:
San Diego Study #1 vimeo.com/54658957
San Diego Study #2: vimeo.com/58240175
San Diego Study #3: vimeo.com/82038912
San Diego Study #4: vimeo.com/95867186
San Diego Study #5: vimeo.com/originals/lumia/101557016
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Connect with me: cysfilm.com, @cysfilm on twitter and instagram
copyright © 2015 Cy Kuckenbaker
To see some amazing flocking videos take a look at Dennis Hlynsky’s work, it’ll blow your mind: vimeo.com/102399221