Saturday, February 21, 2009

Francis Thompson, NY, NY: A Day in New York (1957)

Francis Thompson made this jewel of a film in 1957. He was a painter and art teacher before discovering filmmaking. Inspired by cubism and futurism, this film is a uniquely cinematic celebration of the spectacle of New York City. It is a city symphony unlike any other as it is simultaneously abstract and figurative. Every shot is altered by anamorphic mirrors or prisms that he assembled and manipulated himself. He  turns the city into an optical ballet. He worked alone, almost in secret. He described his production process for a screening of the film on Reel New York. “ was a magic, secret process of bending, twisting, and turning inside out. It was a self funded project that involved my roaming about New York City with a camera over my shoulder”.

He went on to make many more films including the Oscar winning “To Be Alive”, a three screen celebration of life made for the 1964 World’s Fair. He died in 2003 at the age of 95, after returning to painting in his later years in his East 51st Street apartment.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

These photographs were taken recently with a Pentax Optio 750z using the built in 3-d feature.  And I have to say, this is one of the most wonderful cameras I've ever used. It can make "free-viewing" stereo photographs, cross you eyes style. In the side by side images below, left and right eye views are reversed so that crossing your eyes will reverse them back.  With crossed eyes, you see the image double, overlapping in the center. The center, merged image when focused on will appear in 3-d. The images are taken one at a time and  converted into a single jpeg by the camera. It's called the "cha-cha" method, because of the little step you make to the side for the second picture. The advantage of this method is that you can control the distance between the two exposures as well as the angle. This allows you to increase the depth of the image by increasing the distance between the two exposures - you have the stereo effect of seeing as if your eyes where anything from a few feet to miles apart. The disadvantage of this method is that anything that moves between the exposures will not merge when viewed. In each of the photographs I took below, there is a kind of subtle stereoscopic reward at the moment the 3d is achieved.  

Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn. A classic stereo composition with a path leading the eye to the horizon. 
A very red door in Chelsea.
The soon to be extinct television antenna spotted in Brooklyn Heights.
 Orange boots waiting to cross  Atlantic Avenue.
 Parking lot in mid-town Manhattan - focus on the car in the foreground.
Brooklyn Bridge from Dumbo on a foggy winter morning.
 A very telephoto stereo image. The depth of field compression is rather surreal.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

To View these images in stereo you must cross your eyes. Don't worry, it's a natural thing your eyes do all day as you look at anything close up. When your eyes are crossed you should see three images. The one in the center should be the right and left images merged. They should be in stereo or 3-d. The effect is dramatic when it happens, but you may need  to work a little to get it. Sometimes you may need to rotate your head a little to align the images.