Illustrating Affect with “Moving” Pictures

Animated films fascinate me. It doesn’t matter how simple, intricate, crude, beautiful, fictional, abstract, or downright horrifying your idea is; if you can think it and have access to the tools that will help it materialize, you can literally tell any story. That’s right: any story! The creators and storytellers are not restricted in regards to the content they can include and the context in which that content is presented. They can manipulate the visuals to their desire and go above and beyond the limitations that come with live-action filmmaking in an effort to make their work as engaging to audiences as possible.

Take the clip I included above. In Steven Cutts 2012 animated short titled “Man,” he illustrates how humans have exploited the natural world for our own selfish and unnecessary benefit, using extreme visuals like the man sticking his feet down the throats of snakes to make boots or taking an axe to the head of a bear so that it can be stuffed and hung above his fireplabearce. The man goes down such a damaging spiral that the world becomes a legitimate wasteland. The only relief we get is when watching a pair of aliens, who are so ashamed of the man, relentlessly beat him until his deformed body transforms into a welcome mat. It’s natural to reflect on the ending and think “well, this is what he deserves,” because we’re detached from the images we’re seeing on screen. These are just illustrations of exaggerated scenarios, not real people doing real things to real animals; his reality can’t be our reality…

This is why documentary filmmaking is so important. Yes, animation can highlight a message or push an agenda in blatantly sensational and absurd ways that make us feel uncomfortable, but documentaries allow viewers to make connections with images of people and places that exist outside of the film. Employing creative storytelling and editing techniques is vital for documentarians to combat the common thoughts that “documentaries are boring” or “I want to go to the movies to escape reality, not have it forcibly pushed in my face until I’m overcome with depression because the world’s going to hell.” After all, how much impact can a documentary have if no one sees it?

For me, Josh Fox’s 2010 film GasLand succeeds not necessarily in the content itself (a fair amount of Fox’s claims have been questioned in regards to their validity), but in the thoughtful way in which it was packaged. Fox’s editing choices are clearly deliberate in respect to his goal, which us to make us care about the issue of hydraulic fracturing by situating it within this dynamic of natural vs. unnatural, natural being the untouched earth, the nuclear family living off their land in the heart of America, the purity of a child growing up in the 70s, while unnatural is industrial machinery, corporate greed, and an overall disregard for the well being of others.

The affect in GasLand really comes through in the frantic style of the cinematography, highlighting the intensity in the stories that are being told, and the inclusion of sensational events, like well water literally catching fire as it empties out of a faucet. He also manages to capture some great soundbites from the individuals who’ve experienced the dangers of fracking head on, making the implications appear more dire than they would if expressed with facts alone.


What I like about Emma Charles’s Fragments on Machines is the real focus that it takes to understand the idea that she is trying to convey: how the internet, often thought of as an abstract entity, is grounded in its materiality; it’s the intersection between the physical and the virtual. Charles’s piece differs from Fox’s in that no one is outwardly telling the audience what the issues are that surround the topic being discussed. Fragments is not a piece for the passive viewer. Charles doesn’t interview anyone, so the audience can’t form a connection based on clever quips or sentimental stories.

The film is not void of any audio, though. On top of the uninhibited sounds of the city and the whirring of the machines, there’s a voiceover given by a deep-voiced individual, his tone adding a sophistication that doesn’t come across in Fox’s work. The words that the voice are speaking are poetic, and in tandem with Charles’s long pans through the rooms of the data centers, both audio and visuals work to demystify the illusion of the internet while adding a relatable softness and fragility to its mechanic nature.

“My muscle has been replaced by flex and copper, my brain a server, 1s and 0s my voice. I exist as a phantom under iridescent color. I speak in shimmering tones to the hidden construction of the form. I desire to become data and will be mobile, moving to provide. I will become the information flow. I am your personal relationship to the source… I collect, I discard, I seek positive results, then the purge at the end of the day. I refresh, renew, liquidate and realign my entire self.”

As I move forward with my ecology project, I want to take the successful audio/visual aspects of GasLand and Fragments and find a way to incorporate them into my own work. My topic is void of a concrete social and environmental issue like fracking, and it doesn’t illustrate something most of us interact with everyday, like the internet. What I have to then do is figure out the most captivating aspects of the Port Authority Bus Terminal (hard to believe that “captivating” and “PABT” are being used in the same sentence, I know) and highlight them in a thoughtful, sensible, and relatable way. Because the assignment doesn’t call for a five minute animation that amplifies the affect of PABT — not that I even have the ability to create such a thing — I have to rely on my footage, my moving pictures, to be just that: moving.


To view my video proposal, click here.

~ by knc238 on October 25, 2016.

8 Responses to “Illustrating Affect with “Moving” Pictures”

  1. Kristen, I really enjoyed your blog post. I think you’re probably the first that figured out you can change the color of the text within the body of the blog. I feel like your post was probably the best designed of the week because of the way that you integrated your GIFs, Images, and video. The media you’ve chosen to add to your blog, seems very well incorporated with your ideas. In particular, I really think that your decision to separate a quote and change the color of the text to blue made it stand out, more so than if you had included the quote directly into your text.

  2. “Most creative”:

    Hello Kristen. I really enjoyed your blog post, not least because of the creative use of color on the blog post itself. But I feel like your blog deserves the “most creative” award because its the first blog post I’ve seen in a while where the creative elements really mesh seamlessly with the academic elements in the blog itself.

    This is why I would like to nominate your blog post as the “most creative”.

  3. Hi Kristen,

    I want to nominate your blogpost as the best formatted post. I really appreciate the time you took out to include a relatable video, gif, and color quotes into your post. It also worked really well with the voice you carried in your writing; it was smooth and easy to understand. I like your comment on Emma Charles’s video. She definitely wanted to convey an affect through her short film, and she didn’t use any extra narratives other than the sounds of machines. I’ll definitely take that away as inspiration for my own video project. It was a great read!

    – Diana (Daeun) Park

  4. Best use of outside sources! I love that you brought in a whole new video to tie in to the concepts we discussed in class as well as the plans you have for your ecology! The video is a perfect choice for your blog post, I feel like it has a lot of similar elements to both Gasland and Food Inc. Really nice job going the extra mile and demonstrating your knowledge of the concepts we discussed last week!

  5. This is the most animated post!

    Aside from the fact that you mention animations, what makes your post animated is the colors you use and the moving images to draw in our attention, make conceptual ideas for visually easy to understand, and your connections with documentary filmmaking. This post also gives great insight and rhetoric on each filmmaker’s techniques, motives, and main ideas. Love it!

  6. This is the most visually pleasing post. The use of various colors and multiple media like image, gif and video make your post look structured and engaging. What’s a better way to talk about animation than showing animation itself, no! Also love your flexible application of what you’ve learned from animation on your project.

  7. Visually appealing:
    Kristen, your post is so fun to read! I really enjoyed the video (I’ve seen it before) and I thought it was a great segway into the use of animation as a means of documentary filmmaking. While your commentary on how animation can serve as a sort of satire on the human condition, it also makes me wonder how it could be incorporated into your ecology project. I know that learning to animate for the sole purpose of this project is asking quite a lot, but I think that it would be rather interesting to see how you could maybe mention it in passing or something similar.

  8. Your post is interesting and appealing to me. The video is well chosen and cause me thinking of how the animation different from documentary videos and how it can twist, shif the shapes and colors which make impossible things happen. The exaggeration of animation is unique. The techniques are definitely worth considering for our ecologies.

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