John Smith – Video Artist

27 09 2008

John Smith’s work is always a treat. He effortlessly mixes innovative use of moving image, often playing with the way that the soundtrack and images combine. His work is very strong conceptually, and contains a lot of passion. His sense of humour and personality is always present as well, and the often simple strength of his ideas make me want to see more from him. Unfortunately his work has not been released on DVD to my knowledge, but I’ve included some links to some small, short video clips which give a little indication to what he does.

The first piece that I saw of his was ‘Blight’. This was a collaborative piece for a experimental BBC commission. I think it was called ‘Sound on Screen’, but it paired up composers and filmmakers to explore the relationship on screen between sound and image. They created a strong piece about the M11 link road, which at the time was being built straight through old east end housing, and people who had lived there all their lives were forced to move out. Protesters were very active in stopping the destruction of the communities for a while, but eventually the road was built.

This film interviewed the residents before they moved out, and built a strong message about the destruction of their communities, by showing the physical destruction of their properties. The clip available below shows the beginning of the film. It starts off in a very abstract way, the properties feeling like they are pulling themselves apart. The voices from the community are abstracted, at times you are not sure what they are saying, the voices used like instruments. But someone says “Kill the spiders”. This is a metaphor which is repeated throughout the piece, seemingly abstract until a strong image at the end (not in this clip) gives the audience it’s real and powerful meaning.

I can’t recommend this enough, and although I taped it at the time of broadcast, the tape has unfortunately been lost. If someone does have it, then please let me know. While this clip is great, it only shows a small part of the piece, which keeps on adding new and exciting ideas throughout its duration.

”A stunning montage depicts the destruction of a London street to make way for new roads. The rhythmic, emotive soundtrack is partly musical and partly a collage of the residents’ voices. Shots and sounds echo and cross-link in the film’s 14 minutes to reinvent a radical documentary tradition.” A.L. Rees A History of Experimental Film and Video 1999, British Film Institute.

”In the first few minutes of his film Blight, derelict houses appear to be dismembering themselves. Bricks rattle, mortar falls, and wooden beams are dislodged, seemingly by poltergeist activity (a feeling reinforced by a poster for the film The Exorcist, on a bedroom wall that has become newly exposed to daylight). The claw of a bulldozer is filmed, ominously caressing a chimney stack it is about to tear down. But the shot stops short, and the inevitable destruction happens in our heads, not on the screen. The restraint of John’s editing beautifully undercuts the emotive quality of the music (composed by his collaborator Jocelyn Pook), and the music in turn replaces the drama that hits the cutting room floor.” Cornelia Parker ‘John Smith’s Body’ in John Smith: Film and Video Works 1972-2002.


Another piece of his is ‘The girl chewing gum’. Absolutely brilliant in its simplicity, a voice over dictates actions to a street full of people. I won’t say any more as the piece really speaks for itself. It’s also very funny.

There are plenty more films of his for you. Good places to look are

Luxonline – a great resource for researching British film and video artists

CanyonCinema have a list of his films

An interview with the artist can be found here


Update – more links, and also see comments below.$pkgdetail?JOHNSMITHP_002$tapedetail?BLIGHT


6pli – Experimental visualisation of bookmarks.

21 09 2008

I know, It sounds rubbish. But I’ve been investigating the 6pli visualisation tool for delicious bookmarks. A bit geeky maybe. But it does look great and it’s really useful for working your way around hundreds or thousands of bookmarks – which I have. I’m looking at using it when building my new creativevideomovingimage weblink archive for students, so this is a test run. 

The only problem I’ve found is that it seems to start you off on a random page. In order to get home, and to a nice starting point I suggest clicking on the CLICK ON THIS IF YOU’RE LOST AND WANT TO GO HOME link that should be on most pages – if not then try clicking on a few things, especially the floating tag categories and it’ll soon appear.


Every time you click on something the whole thing animates and reveals new links and tags. If you want, you can spin around by this 3d visualisation clicking and dragging the mouse in an empty piece of space. 

I’m not sure really how useful it will prove to be, but please try it anyway. Especially as there’s a lot of really useful links out there. The direct link to the page is

UK Creative Film and Moving Image Festivals

21 09 2008

Festivals are an essential part of the calendar and I have decided to pull together some of the most relevant (and local) festivals that students should attend / enter. You will be amongst people who share your interests and passion, and who would make great contacts / collaborators. You will be inspired to push your work further – by being astounded by something’s brilliance (or even by its mediocrity – thinking I can do better than that). These films will be something that you are unlikely to see on TV or the internet, and are often surrounded by talks, workshops and seminars. 

So go see some work – Raise your game – Enter some festivals – Meet some contacts – Win some awards.

This is a work in progress and if you have any more finds then please let me know. I’m mainly concentrating on UK Festivals / Conferences etc primarily concerned with Creative Video & Moving Image, but will occasionally drop in an international festival if I’m hoping to go to it or to take my students.


22-23 Oct 08- Power to the pixel. – London

“Power to the Pixel brings together the leading innovators, filmmakers and entrepreneurs who are changing the way independent film and media is financed, created and reaches audiences.” Looks very interesting for digital pioneers and runs alongside the London Film Festival. Has also run in Feb

All Month – Noise Festival – Online

“NOISE is not your typical arts festival. It has no physical location; the central hub of activity takes place on the NOISE website and across the media – print, television, radio and online – making it the first ‘virtual’ festival of its kind in Europe. NOISE exhibits the very best in creative talent from people 25 and under – any creative work that can be presented digitally (on screen or on air) including across fashion, film, music, design, architecture, written word, graphic design, fine art and illustration.”


12 – 16 Nov 08 – Aurora – Norwich

“AURORA is an annual festival in Norwich, UK which focuses on the manipulated moving image. A uniquely multidisciplinary, progressive event, it fuses artist retrospectives and thematic film programmes with discussion events, live performance and installations, alongside the very best new work from across the world for space and screen.”

12 – 15 Nov 08 – Bradford Animation Festival

“Bradford Animation Festival (BAF), the UK’s biggest and longest-running annual animation festival, is a project of the National Media Museum. Host to masterclasses, seminars, workshops, screenings and special events led by some of the animation industry’s top names, the festival’s high point is the annual BAF Awards, which celebrate the very best in new animation from around the world.”

18 – 23 Nov 08 – Encounters Short Film Festival  Bristol

“screening the very very best short films from around the universe!” ‘The big thinking short film festival’ the Guardian. Encounters offers an important platform for both new and established filmmakers to showcase their work and is the place to be inspired, to talk technology, share ideas and make new connections.  6 days of screenings, special events, workshops and masterclasses and those all important networking opportunities: the parties!”

29 – 30 Nov 08 – Bang Film Festival  Nottingham

“Bang! is a non-competitive festival of short films hosted and supported by the Broadway Cinema, Nottingham, UK, and mixes local, national and international films to create an original and exciting programme. Without filmmakers or an audience we would not exist, so we do it for them. Bang! looks at all short films, and has no genre restrictions whatsoever.”


29 Nov – 6 Dec 08 – Camerimage – Lodz, Poland

“The International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography PLUS CAMERIMAGE is the greatest and most recognized festival dedicated to the art of cinematography and its creators – cinematographers. It is held annually in Lodz, the second biggest city in Poland, the capital of the Polish cinema. PLUS CAMERIMAGE contributes to the growth of cinematographers’ prestige. The unconventional format of the Festival, which awards films according to their visual, aesthetic and technical values, has turned out to be an alternative for traditional film festivals. As all our guests emphasize – PLUS CAMERIMAGE is unique. The Festival proves to be a great forum not only for presentation but also for further development of international moviemaking. PLUS CAMERIMAGE helps young filmmakers and integrates the community of those already recognized, allowing them to explore new artistic areas ”



TBC – Flatpack Festival – Birmingham

“The festival remains fiendishly difficult to summarise, but intrepid punters can expect to find shorts, animation, music documentaries, independent features, live soundtracks, discussion events, web oddities, installations, parties and plenty more besides – with a general focus on people using limited resources in imaginative ways. ”



TBC – Cambridge International Super 8 Film Festival. UK

“The Super 8 format has undergone a creative renaissance in the last few years due to the digital revolution. Our competition and panorama programmes will show the best films originated on the brilliant Super 8 format. In 2008, the second Cambridge International Super 8 Film Festival was a successful event with more than 88 short films shown in three days! More than 20 filmmakers from all around Europe joined the festival for a great three days of networking and films. All genres were represented (animation, fiction, documentaries and experimental film), showing the  diversity of our selection.”

TBC – Moves 09 – Manchester

“moves08!  focused on the interaction of sound and movement in film through screenings, debates and hands-on creative events. most films shown at moves and in fact most experimental film work, do not have dialogues, which gives a prominent role to sound in the pieces. moves’ remit is to present work with a strong take on movement and moves08 explore the connection between these two elements. 

24 – 30 April 09 – Sensoria – Sheffield

“The UK’s Festival of Music and Film: Sensoria 2008 saw a heady mix of films, music, exhibitions and fun. Jarvis came along and introduced his art school films, Richard Hawley kicked off the proceedings on the opening night, Reverend and the Makers joined in the industry day fun, Richard H Kirk gave an av installation in the surreal location of the Grosvenor Hotel and ITN gave a stunning soundtrack performance in the atmospheric surroundings of the cathedral.”


TBC – Lovebytes – Sheffield

“Lovebytes invites you to experience challenging and experimental new art and design at the wave-front of digital culture. Everything is free and open to everyone, welcoming both newcomers and seasoned festival goers alike.” – Last year this festival was scaled down considerably from previous years, but also made free. Some you win, some you lose.

13 – 16 May 09 – Futuresonic – Manchester

Futuresonic Urban Festival of Art, Music and Ideas 

Futuresonic is an international festival now in its 13th year occupying the orbits of both digital culture and music.  Futuresonic has 4 main strands: Art, Music, Ideas and EVNTS. At its heart is the Futuresonic Conference: The Social Technologies Summit.  Futuresonic 2008 featured 5 days and nights of live music, art premieres, exhibitions, club nights and events featuring a world-class programme of over 350 artists attended by 50,000 people in 30 venues and spaces across the city centre. Click here to visit the Futuresonic 2008 website.


TBC – B.Tween – Sheffield

“b.TWEEN events have networking, business and inspiration at their core. Our events provide a level playing field where creative innovators can meet potential collaborators and big industry clients“[b.TWEEN] creates unique opportunities for practitioners from the independent digital creative and content sectors to interact with broadcasters, commissioning bodies and brands””

Jul Aug Sept


International Festivals



Gremlins fan film by Sacha Feiner

5 09 2008

Wow, now here’s a great little piece of film. Make sure you watch it in Higher Definition version if possible by opening it up in youtube.


Sacha Feiner has created a spectacular sequence using found footage, brilliant models and compositing skills, along with a great sense of humour. I really love this as he has avoided the “let’s do it all in CG” route that many of people would have taken. There’s a common misconception that you should do everything in a 3D package, but I find the result of doing this is often images that lack the life that only reality can bring.

But instead, Sacha has taken the best things that can be achieved from the puppets as used in the original films, and used computer compositing to put different shots together to build complex movements. This I like as it’s getting the best out of both worlds.

The making of video is extremely interesting, well worth a look as well. It gives you an idea of the dedication, passion and innovation that he has. 

I hope that this guy gets a job out of this. He certainly deserves it. 

There’s an interesting history of fan films, which I hope to write more about when I get some time. But you should certainly check out Troops, a parody of the TV show cops and Star Wars.

Nikon D90 – Video Possibilities

4 09 2008

Nikon have recently announced their new mid-level Digital SLR camera. I was looking at buying the previous model, the D80, so when I heard about this I thought I’d wait a bit until it was out. 

It’s out now and seems to be getting a lot of interest. But most of this seems to be around the fact that it will be able to record in 720P High Definition video.

Now this is a first for a DSLR and it is this that’s getting people excited. A DSLR uses a sensor which is much bigger than a standard video camera. This, combined with an interchangeable lens and high ISO sensitivity could mean some interesting footage coming out of this camera. 

It should work better in low light & produce warmer pictures than a standard video camera, and get a more cinematic shallow depth of field.

In Nikon’s press release and website they have some interesting details about it. 

Click on the above picture and get to the Nikon website. 

Now In theory this sounds great, and it is probably a very significant advance for moving image. The use of equipment like this is more like very expensive pro digital film cameras costing extreme amounts of money. It heralds the start of very pro features like big interchangeable lenses and big sensors being available at a fraction of the current price. 

But – and there’s always a but. This is the first of its kind and there’s plenty of problems with it. The Nikon website videos have been compressed for the web and do not give an accurate picture of what the results will be like. They cover up a few problems, but the main one is the awful exposure adjustments while filming – an attempt to mimic the auto exposure on a video camera, but it gives an awful jump as it chases from one exposure to another. It looks like this is a teething problem and hopefully a firmware upgrade for the camera will fix this.

Click on the above image to download a raw version of the skater footage to see what I mean. Not sure who to thank for the source material, but thanks anyway.

The D90_orig.avi file is the original footage of the skater

The file is from a Red camera which the author compressed to the same rates as the D90 for comparison. If you don’t know what a Red camera is then get onto google.

There’s more raw footage from the camera, along with some examples of photos (what, it takes photos!?) at this site

On the many blogs about this people have noticed the antialiasing on the pebbles in the duck video. I say who wants to film pebbles anyway? I think the quality is good but not great – but this is an SLR first.

I’m still seriously thinking of buying one, but I’m waiting a month or so to see if they fix the dodgy exposure problem.

Fingers crossed.