Friday, 15 September 2017


Aside from the loss of Yuan's talent and personality from the production team as she leaves us for the bright lights and shimmering pavements of the Sorbonne just before lunch, it means that our Intangibles unit - the team researching light and sound for the forthcoming shoot - is mostly male. We have Queissner, of course, but she's currently hunting ambiences off-site, leaving just Leray and myself to spend the day trying to improve our hologram set-up. 

The main issue is that the ideas that go into our shambolic form of mediation should be - however shambolic - not just derived from a couple of blokes; our vision of a future virtual reality interface and environment requires greater diversity of thought, feeling and representation (cf). However, Yuan lives on in the project through the ideas she provided in our early experiments (when it was just her and me), and through the cardboard cut-out we made at the time and are using as our stand-in dummy for holographic projection tests today. Indeed, she now exists twice on set, simultaneously as cardboard and as light. Perhaps big businesses that are trying to increase workplace diversity could take a leaf out of our book: with carefully placed mirrors and projections it's possible to multiply the female presence in the office.

Still, Aleksandra Niemczyk makes not infrequent visits to ours, the altar end of the Chapel, to variously provide better ideas/improve our existing ideas/articulate our developing ideas more quickly and succinctly than we boys are able. We spend some time trying to reconstruct the set-up we had the other day, which was around 60% as effective as what we're looking for, but even that proves difficult. 

Matters are complicated by the peculiar light politics of the studio, a combination of electro-shuttered windows, analogue barn doors, an enormous multiple automated light rig overhead that functions via a haunted control panel, and some traditional floor-bound fresnels and what-have-you; not to mention the projector and various laptop displays, iPhone screens and the occasional flash of a camera. Delphine Robin-Tyrek, project assistant by name (but we need to find a job title that more fully represents her enormous and varied contribution), whispers with the haunted control panel and with the Tangibles (the team building our sets and scenery, who thus also need light), and eventually we have a functioning democracy of light in which we are able to reliably create our hologram effect.

Top: cloudy tissues. Bottom: Mondial Tissus. Later: We all fall down.

The problem now is finding the right fabric to use as a screen, so as not to draw too much attention to the machinery of the hologram (although a little clunkiness is desirable) but to make it clear enough to show up on Super 8 next to the real (meaty) actors. We have a few scraps and shapes to try, including a mosquito net that acts like a kind of column of tulle. It seems to have the best level of transparency, but while it's great for human figures it's a bit too specific for the scene in which two holographic saints stand alongside a holographic tombstone. We decide instead to try to make a screen of the material, which means a trip to 'Mondial Tissus' with our resident fabrics expert Decerle, to invest almost as much in soft netting as we spent on the entire production of A Flea Orchestra In Your Ear. Still, as I assure the team, if we can get this effect right then we will probably be head-hunted as a unit to create Star Wars X.

Pride before fall.

Back to the Chapel, and I hang the curtains with Leray. We fire the whole thing up, and it looks kind of good, but too faint, somehow. Have I blown a Flea Orchestra sized wad of Euros (around twenty-five of them) on the wrong material? The size we got is also too awkward to start tripling it up (it's already folded over double) if we want it to fill the whole screen in a wide-shot. But anyway, frustrated, I walk over to give it a try. My foot gets tangled in the low-hanging cable of the projector and the stupid thing falls off its perch, instantly breaking.

Tripped by the light, my pride hurt, the clock ticking, we decide it's best to spend the last few minutes of the day 'clearing up'. What's most frustrating is that today was the day when I'd resolved to start being a bit neater about our experiments - to slow down and consider and also to be tidy and elegant. But I considered not the low-hanging cable.

In the evening, back at the house where Leray now rooms with us, the cable of another guest's computer is strung across from the kitchen counter to the work table. Leaving the kitchen, I manage to catch my foot on it and stumble, if no damage is done to the machine (thanks, for the millionth and first time, to Apple for their quick-release magnetic power sockets). I apologize to Leray, assuming it's his computer; he tells me it's not, and he had tripped on it himself only minutes previously. Filled with pride, I repair to my room: we may not have solved the hologram issue today, I may face hundreds of Euros worth of repair bills, but it is heartening to see our young apprentice learning from my clumsy example.

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