July

To Be Watched While Eating an Orange

To Be Watched While Eating an Orange

To Be Watched While Eating an Orange

Movement in portrait: Dr Chris Lewis-Smith reflects on the creative possibilities of MediaWall's vertical format

In my role teaching screendance at Bath Spa University, I notice an increasing number of student video submissions presented in the portrait format. To date, examples of practice that have been screened in lectures have been in landscape. Students have access to, and training in, filmmaking equipment and editing software that is entirely orientated towards the landscape format. DSLR Canon cameras and Sony dedicated video cameras all favour filming in landscape from the placing of controls, menu text in the viewfinder screen, and the ergonomics of the devices.

Tripods are almost exclusively designed to support cameras in a landscape position, and other camera supports like shoulder mounts and steadycams are similar in this respect. Editing software, which is used on landscape orientated computers, is designed for landscape work, and projector screens that are used for teaching and screening are the same, as are viewing platforms such as Vimeo and YouTube. I am stating the obvious here, but I wish to build a picture that emphasises the alienation of the portrait format in mechanisms of conventional filmmaking and viewing.

Enter the mobile phone. Messaging, voice calls, still photograph and video recording can easily be done with one hand, so long as the phone is held in portrait. Additionally, most apps are designed to work best in this orientation. As phones become increasingly sophisticated as filmmaking devices, it’s hardly surprising that students work in this format.

The portrait format is moving in and looking for places to go. Video adverts in places like airports and the underground are now frequently in portrait. Instagram favours portrait video that fills the whole screen, rather than portrait fitted into a landscape orientation, and the BBC phone news app screens 'Videos of the Day' in portrait, besides, the most ‘anytime accessible’ space for watching video is surely the mobile phone.

I sense that there’s a wealth of creative opportunities and commercial applications in the form and the Bath Spa MediaWall is a wonderful site in this respect.

To Be Watched While Eating an Orange (2018), a collaboration between dancer Cathy Nicoli from Rhode Island, Musician Jeff Boehm from Bath and myself as screendance maker, is a Media Wall work that explored the portrait format as a space for screendance narrative. The wall promotes new ways of making and watching film, and I believe that it offers unique possibilities as a space for teaching and learning in both screendance and filmmaking in general.

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.

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