We think of movies as linear progressions. It’s generally a story with a beginning, middle, and end—and it’s always something we consume from start to finish.
Timo Arnall of Berg shows us all just how dated this view of video has become. In a project for Bonnier and Mag+, which I’ve dubbed "cinema glass," he turns a movie into a swipeable, interactive entity on a tablet. And I don’t just mean that you can pause it or fast forward in some clever way. I mean, 2-D frames combine to become something that feels different than anything we’ve seen before. Just watch:
Interestingly enough, the technique itself isn’t really all that complicated to create. "In the examples in the film we shot a range of objects in HD video while we moved the camera, changed the focus or rotated objects in front of the camera," Arnall tells Co.Design. "These sequences are then converted to work on an iPad, where the 'speed’ or framerate is controlled by swipes or taps on the screen, and they behave with a certain amount of 'friction’, inertia, and physics."
The effect is entirely different from a 3-D render. Most notably, there’s a level of texture that you just don’t get in computer-based images—the most subtle plays of light on the surface of an object. In motion, these minutiae distinguishing high-end photography from decent 3-D models are additive, making the corporeal effect of cinema glass all the more apparent.
"There is something beautiful about the analogue, optical qualities of lenses, cameras, and moving images that don’t exist in 3-D, and this is not about simply rotating objects, it is about getting our hands 'dirty’ in the medium of cinema," Arnall tells Co.Design. "So for instance we can handle, use, or smash the objects, document the movement in slow motion, change lighting, do contra-zooms, shoot through glass, or change exposure and then let people explore that motion."
In other words, Berg is just scratching the surface of this new medium with their above experiments in threads and Rolexes. In the future, as both HD cameras and tablets are only growing more popular, it’s not hard to imagine richer, more interactive video content than simple, linear stories—and Berg realizes that.
"There is an opportunity to tell stories or explore documentary themes through swipe-able sequences that allow people to explore objects at different timescales and to repeat things while observing different details," writes Arnall. "I also hope that the experiment encourages others to re-imagine media navigation, which is languishing under decades of legacy 'play/pause’ metaphors and fiddly scrollbars."
We’re all a bit obsessed with 3-D at the moment. From our silly shutter glasses to rereleasing films like Titanic, it’s become a corporate-driven societal obsession. For lack of a better term, it’s reassuring that simple 2-D photography isn’t leaving without a fight. Of course, if Berg shot the same thing with a dual-lens camera, and the iPad had a 3-D display, how insanely strange and beautiful could cinema glass be then?