Murmuration: When Content Overrides Aesthetic Quality – PART I

By Shea Lord | Tags: , , , ,
November 25th, 2012

Murmuration: When Content Overrides Aesthetic Quality – PART I

By Shea Lord | Tags: , , , ,
November 25th, 2012

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/31158841 w=500&h=400]

I saw this video when it was Vimeo’s staff pick a while ago, and my jaw dropped. What struck me most, after the beauty of the starlings, was the fact that this pixelated, blurry, shaky video could have such a profound emotional pull on me. (Yes, profound– maybe I overreacted, but I can’t be the only one.)

I’m still in film school (barf). Aesthetic quality and story structure are supreme concerns around here. Then this? Would this moment really be better had it been (miraculously) captured on a RED, color graded, and ADR’d? In the case of Murmuration in particular, I would say No. It’s beauty is serendipity and authenticity. The wind blowing out the audio, gasps of surprise, the waves of starlings escaping the small frame– too big to take in all at once. If this were a scene in a narrative feature or another Planet Earth, I might think “pretty” rather than “profound.” So, I propose that handheld, “low quality” video is just as capable of eliciting emotion from an audience as something that has been staged and shot in a studio or set– if it is capturing high quality content.

Maybe this is obvious to you. For instance, documentaries frequently transcend quality standards. It’s true; however, they typically still maintain a documentary standard of sorts. For example The Cove isn’t exactly 4K, but hidden HD handicams best the murmuration video (which also falls under the doc category) for sure. It was a successful doc because of the story it told as a whole.

Did Murmation have a story structure? Yes. First they are trying to just get out to the island. Characters are established. Suddenly a swarm of starlings create an amazing site. In the end, we see the look on the rower’s face and know we have shared a beautiful moment with her and everyone else who has seen the video. Connections are made. A story has been told. Even if it encompasses just a single moment, there is a beginning, middle, and end.

Part II will be a deeper analysis of the aesthetic ingredient in film and the importance it plays in storytelling. Film is a visual medium, but perhaps we spend too much time stressing over resolution when we should be worried about showing the appropriate visual for the particular story.

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