A virus, transferred by touch, changes humans into Transhumans. The final outcome of the virus is not yet known but humans, spurred on by media propaganda, perceive Transhumans as zombies (mindless, cannibalistic, undead).
Singularity is one Transhuman’s rhetorical device, which asks humans to consider the suffering caused by their assumptions. The film uses a mix of photographs – still and moving – shot with analogue and digital cameras, to build a story of intertwining images and text-based narration. Sound is used sparingly to create an experience of tension and relief. The film is a quiet, non-judgmental reflection on the projection of alterity.
Since the film’s proposal (see About page), the film’s aesthetic has changed a great deal. Originally cinematic in the traditional sense, I realised the film didn’t quite work. I reflected on my interest in graphic novels, particularly the work of David Mack, and I allowed myself to be re-inspired by La Jettée. I decided to create a different look for each ‘chapter’, starting with a six hundred per cent zoom in on a still of a six hundred per cent zoom in of moving image, allowing a slow zoom out; this allows a sense of curiosity to build in the viewer as the abstract becomes figurative.
Text-based narration, rather than voice over, was another aesthetic decision that felt important to me, particularly because of the graphic novel look I was going for. From the beginning I knew I wanted to included some text from Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body (1993) and, after obtaining her permission to do so, I played around with fonts and with writing the text and photographing it. In the end I decided to used Helvetica for the title and end credits, and Times New Roman for the narrator’s story; both these fonts are standard and almost transparent these days. Most of all, I wanted to use text because it gives the viewer the authority to place inflection where they feel it goes and there is less distraction (resistance?) from the sound of the voice narrating.
Sound was going to be foley that matched the action on the screen but towards the end of the editing process I realised that sound was not strictly necessary. I worked with Ben Hall, a first year sound student, to create a high pitched tone. This has been placed into three chapters in the film, with the tone growing louder each time. It is uncomfortable to hear and a relief when it stops.
I’m using a mix of serif and sans serif fonts – Times New Roman and Helvetica. It was pointed out to me that most artists prefer to use sans serif fonts and, indeed, I have made use of Helvetica in my films. Helvetica has clean lines and is less intrusive than serif fonts, which have embellishments on the tails and feet of the letters. I decided to use Helvetica for the Title and End Credits in Singularity. For the story, told in text, I have used Times New Roman.
There is some confusion as to the origin of the Times New Roman font; it was created for The Times in 1932 but the confusion centres around who originally created the font. The well rehearsed version of the story is that the font was created by Stanley Morison, who “criticised The Times for its typeface in 1929″¹ and was invited to create a more fitting font for the newspaper. Morison presented The Times with Times New Roman in 1932 and the paper adopted it.
William Starling Burgess was a polymath who was interested in “wind and water”² – he built aircraft for the Wright Brothers and yachts that raced in the America’s Cup – but in 1904 he created a font that he abandoned when he became interested in aircraft. The font was Times New Roman, except it wasn’t called that then. It is supposed that Morison came across Burgess’ design and used it for Times New Roman.
Times New Roman, for me, is connected to reading books; it has more of an authoritative feel to it than a sans serif font. I decided to use both fonts to draw attention to the differences between them. The Times used the font to tell stories that its Editor decided was news; I imagine The Times was less sensational than, say, the Daily Mail is now, but still, it was a newspaper and, even though there may have been a thirst for truth in the 1930s, the bottom line was to sell newspapers and line the pockets of the newspaper’s owners. I’m using the font to tell a story but the Narrator in my story is interested in selling the idea that Transhumans are not dangerous to the humans she is broadcasting the film to and, ultimately, to persuade humans to stop killing Transhumans, as much for the humans sake as the Transhumans.
¹Alas, Joel. “The history of the Times New Roman typeface” in FT.com. London: The Financial Times Limited, 2009. Web. [accessed 28.05.15: http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.brighton.ac.uk/docview/229277134?accountid=9727]
The silent version:
The sound version:
I watched both this morning and decided I prefer the sound version because of the intensity of experience created by the increase and then sudden dropping away of the high pitched sound in it. I will test them in the gallery space before making a final decision.
This is an edit of Singularity in preparation for a tutorial:
My tutor advised he felt moved by it and that the silence works (sound is coming but I didn’t have anything ready to show him with regard to that at this point). He suggested changing the end credits so they’re not moving as this is the end of the film and although they are in line with the feel of the film, perhaps it might be better to let people come out of the film. I think is is a good idea; end credits give a few moments between the end of the film and leaving the cinema/gallery to collect your thoughts or ‘come back to reality’. With regard to whether it is a silent film or not, I’m going to continue working with Ben on the sound and then decide.
A shortened edit of Singularity for my tutorial. This version has voice over. My tutor liked the voice over, especially combined with the wind sound picked up by the microphone when I recorded the voice over under my dining room table, which I draped with quilts to try to deaden the sound (see photo below; I later tried recording in my wardrobe). I felt embarrassed hearing my voice and I think this has something to do with me never intending the text to be read aloud (I don’t usually feel embarrassed at the sound of my voice). From the beginning I liked the idea of text that you read because each person will read it in their own way (unless blind, in which case someone will read aloud to them) and the inflections of words will be where they want them to be rather than inflicted on them by an ‘authority’. Also, the film was originally planned to be screened on outside building walls so silence kind of works for it, unless a guerilla sound system is linked to the projection.
This is a shortened version of Singularity edited in preparation for a tutorial, taking into account yesterday’s tutorials and comments I’ve reflected on. My tutor thought the text should be voice over and offered to do colour grading with me. I’m not sure it needs colour grading. I quite like the changes that highlight different cameras have been used. They add another dimension of observing the different tools used in filmmaking.
I’ve been editing and editing and editing some more, taking away about half the narrator’s text after my tutorials yesterday.