Big Picture: Time rolls on

Photo and words by artists Denis Connolly and Anne Cleary. ‘Big picture’ ideas? [email protected]

About a year ago, Dr Patrick Cavanagh, a professor in Paris at the Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, suggested that we explore something called ‘shutter-plane photography’ and try to adapt the technique to digital video for one of our ‘mirror’ installations. He challenged us to produce an installation that would work with a four-second delay between the bottom and the top of the image.

We were used to working with video where the time dimension is expanded (slowed down) or compressed (speeded up). This work is about slicing through the dimension with a digital knife. Normally, to watch video, we pass through consecutive frames at the same speed and direction at which they were recorded to simulate realtime. But think of a video as frames stacked up like plates: a cubic volume. The idea of ‘Real Time Rolling Shutter’ is to cut through the stack diagonally (from bottom to top in this case). If the video is a pre-recorded clip, none of this would be difficult or groundbreaking: we would be simply assembling an image using the first line of pixels from the first image, the second line of pixels from the second, and so on. The process gets interesting – not to mention difficult – if we apply it to live video. We are no longer talking about a stack of plates but a stream of plates continuously flowing forward towards the present moment – which of course is constantly on the move!

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