During our autumnal equinox I captured time-lapse video of the sky with a modest pocket camera. I was absorbed with cloud formations which suggested to me an ethereal world where angels gather. I imagined that I was beamed up to this heavenly plane for a candid view and found myself observing a band of angels practicing their music near a pond composed of waves of grace. While the Archangel Gabriel calls his fellow angels with his ethereal horn, they respond with a chorus of harps and voices. As dusk approaches the angels welcome the cosmos with their music and for their protection Michael the Archangel is standing guard nearby with his mighty sword.
While I was five years old two summers before my grandfather John Louis Loarie passed away I recall him napping in our back yard until I unintentionally woke him up. I asked him what he was dreaming of and he kindly told me he was in the clouds sledding with angels. That image of him sliding down a cloud is forever in my mind. I always think of him in that way having a great time as he had a very rough start and a harsh childhood. Thank you Granddad Loarie !
Since the images were cut first, the workflow demanded that the music be constructed to follow the visuals. My compositional form begins with the traditional ‘call and response’ which develops into an exaggerated extension. The overall scheme is somewhat like a nocturne although some scholars might find this description a bit of a stretch. Much of my inspiration for this piece comes from the following sources: Early Gregorian Chant, Claude Debussy’s Nocturnes for orchestra 3rd movement “Sirènes”, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Toward the Unknown Region” as well as his “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”, Philip Glass’s “North Star”, and Mark Snow’s “The X-Files” theme music.
The instrumentation was carefully constructed by electronic means using a Yamaha S08 Synthesizer and a Zoom G2.1u effects pedal. Harps, Voices, French Horn, and Strings were all modified to offer attributes not normally associated with their natural acoustic versions.
Biblical scholars indicate that the angels were created before our universe, so with that in mind, I could easily imagine that Gabriel fostered a grand collection of trumpets by including an ethereal French Horn. However, my artistic license may still be pending approval by the DMV (Department of Musical Vices).
“Angel Pond” is a surreal wide angle kaleidoscopic view of clouds drifting across the sky in time-lapse motion. The action ranges from ½ to 8 times faster than normal speed. The entire video was shot near the autumnal equinox of 2011 and on location at Ferry Point, Richmond, California which is coincidentally within eye shot of Angel Island.
While “Angel Pond” is a continuation of my interest in the kinetic nature of clouds it is also my first attempt at a more intensive use of compositing images with extensive mirroring and altered motion. Perhaps I made one too many snow angels while growing up?
All of the cinematic magic here is aimed at illustrating how clouds suggest heavenly forms such as angels, albeit in this piece some of these angels may be interpreted as fallen angels, centaurs, demons, dragons, fairies, gargoyles, goblins, griffins, or other mythical creatures, possibly Godzilla or your Aunt Trudy as may be conjured up by your imagination.
(Nephelococcygia pronounced ne-fê-lê-kak-'si-jee-yê is a term used when people find familiar objects within the shape of a cloud. source: everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=423940)
Since this past August I have been almost entirely obsessed with anything cloud related from low level marine layer fog to stratus. What fascinates me so much is that everything about a cloud is changing although this might not be always evident until the event is sped up to see these changes. Very few things change shape, size, color, density, brightness, and contrast with so much diversity in such little time as the way clouds do, which makes clouds an astonishing significant subject for cinematography.
Granted, if we were able to alter the time domain of the universe then almost everything from mountains to galaxies would appear to be dramatically changing. While it has been stated that motion is the defining characteristic of life then the motion of change is certainly the defining characteristic of a life well spent.
With my head in the clouds armed with smoke and mirrors it appears to me that ‘the sky's the limit’.
I sincerely hope you enjoy my humble offering of “Angel Pond” as much as I enjoyed making it.
February 16th, 2012
The entire video was shot with a modest pocket camera on a very old Bogen 3046 tripod which was heavy enough to keep things steady under a good wind.
My biggest challenge in postproduction was ‘de-birding’. Anytime you shoot the sky you are bound to get birds but with time-lapse they can look like nasty blips. I removed the worst offenders as outtakes but if you look carefully you can surely find a couple of birds looking like quick gnats. Anyone out there with a time-lapse camera that has a De-bird feature?
Most images were shot with 1920 x 1080 at 15 fps, and further sped to 8x in postproduction. Only one clip is at ½ normal speed (at 01:09) which was shot at 720p at 60 fps. While the Nikon S9100 does not have manual exposure controls like a DSLR, it does have the ability to increase or decrease the overall exposure by + or – 2 stops. I found that setting this offset to -.07 allowed for a steady exposure and better overall balance of a partly cloudy sky.
All the images have some sort of mirroring effect added in postproduction whether it is a slight cookie cutter slice or a more complicated 4 way mirror. These images at times are also echoed in compositing the same shot but with cropping or zoomed crops or with reversed sides. There were over 35 visual elements compiled in the edit. Other effects included slight sharpening, optimizing contrast and brightness, key framed cookie cutters, key framed spherical distortion (titles), and key framed de-saturation and saturation.
I had some “resource” issues in the rendering. I learned that my computer could not handle more than ½ of the video with effects at one time. I had to break it in half and render each section separately. I then brought them together in a merged version which I used for creating the music tracks as well. Technically it was only rendered once as the merge version was a simple matter and did not need to be re-sampled.
Camera: Nikon Coolpix S9100 (pocket camera)
Editing suite: Sony Vegas Pro 10(d)
Original Music for “Angel Pond” was composed and performed by Phil Loarie using a Yamaha S08 synthesizer through a Zoom G2.1u effects processor and recorded directly to the Vegas timeline. Effects included Hall Reverb, Dynamic Flanger, and Multi Tap Delay. As many as 18 stereo tracks were created to make this final version.
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