The Are You Happy? Project

Are you happy?

April 5th 2020

An experiment in montage

During the course of the year I’ve been developing Stage 2 of the project. I’ve been experimenting with combining the videos that you can see in the gallery with social media content – images from Flickr ( Creative Commons licensed) and live comments from twitter. I’m working with a version of the open-source Popcorn Maker authoring tool that’s been customised for me. This is what my authoring environment look like.

Working with a simple timeline, I define moments to call up flickr images as this screen grab shows. The challenge is that now we have created a customised interface I can’t immediately see what will result from these combinations. To do that I deliver a script to the developer and he has to code that script onto the interface he has made me. It’s rather a primitive working method, and  it’s meant that things have moved slower than I’d hoped. But it’s proving interesting to be experimenting in a very new territory.

Twitter as live documentary content

Before the advent of HTML5 – the latest version of the web coding language – video sat on the web in a player separate from other web data. It was  rather like a TV screen in the corner that isn’t hooked up to the broadband. In HTML5 video in now encoded into the page – so you can make links between a point on a video timeline or a place within a frame in the same way that a hyperlink allows a connection between a word and another place on the web.

Web video can then now be ‘mashed-up’ with other web content. My project looks at how I can use flickr and twitter content as documentary material, and how I can effectively combine that live content with video in a new kind of montage. There are lots of challenges. How do you need to frame things to be sure that the content that appears tomorrow or next year will continue to make sense? How do you work with or around the random and X-rated elements that are bound to appear. (Re random, I’m thinking I can signpost the search terms I am using. Re X-rated; I might just have to give a warning. )

You can see in this still of Mongolia footage how montage here is a spatial rather than a temporal device. The montage is also live rather than fixed. At the same time I’m trying to figure out how to edit the original videos leaving space so that they will make sense once combined with these others elements. There is a lot going on, and it’s tricky to hold the different aspects in mind simultaneously.

In a way the method, though painstaking, seems apt. As I experiment with the basic building blocks of cinema, I’m reminded of an earlier era of film-making – when you had to draw visual effects onto film with a chinagraph pen, and then wait to see what they would look like when they came back from being developed at the lab. I’m hoping the results, once I get there, will be fruitful.

Meanwhile, I would like to note my apologies to the film-makers who have sent me material for the long wait. I do hope they will feel it was worth it.



Comments are closed.

The Project

Read more

Fifty years ago, Marceline Loridan and Nadine Baillot asked people on the streets of Paris,  Are you happy? in a documentary experiment by filmmaker anthropologist Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin. Half a century later, The Are you happy? project … Continue reading

Take Part

Read more

Filmmakers around the world have been contributing to the project, asking people; Are you happy?

We are looking for people to get involved – re-staging or re-interpreting the 1960 interviews in their own neighbourhood today.