The Hills (Film-Poem)

<a href="https://vimeo.com/86206272">Click here to watch the video</a>

Text of the Poem

The Hills

It is
too late
in the year
for such weeping,
I tell you, be still,
the winds of our sighing
have left the hills in disarray
and it is late, now, for us
to be singing like this,
undressed, together,
speaking quietly,
as if to forget
just how late.
It is just.
How late?
As if to forget
speaking quietly,
undressed together,
to be sighing like this.
And it is late, now, for us,
to have left the hills in disarray,
the winds of our singing.
I tell you, be still
for such weeping.
In the year
too late.
It is.
Too late
in the year.
For such weeping,
I tell you, be still.
The winds of our sighing
have left the hills. In disarray,
and it is late. Now, for us
to be singing like this,
undressed, together,
speaking quietly.
As if. To forget.
Just. How late
it is.

Process Notes

The impetus for this film-poem came in the same way as Shell of the World began — Valerie noticed a mesmerising pattern of shadows on a wall and filmed it with her iPhone. We decided to use the text of “The Hills”, which we felt would allow for more musical dialogue with the piano than a narrative or highly imagistic piece might. To keep in harmony with this interplay of the music and words, I composited natural images together, using the shadow footage to combine them into organic textures.

Technical Notes

I used ffmpeg to deconstruct the iPhone footage of shadows into still frames. I then panned over nature texture images from openfootage.net in iMovie, and deconstructed these videos as well. I then used the ImageMagick convert command to create a shell script that loops through each still, compositing images together using the corresponding shadow still’s black and white values as an alpha transparency mask. I did this in two passes:

  • Source 1

    Courtesy openfootage.net

  • Source 2

    Courtesy openfootage.net

  • Mask

    Filmed by Valerie

  • Output 1

    Intermediary composite

  • Output 1

    Intermediary composite

  • Source 3

    Pure black

  • Mask

    Filmed by Valerie

  • Output 2

    Final Composite

I then re-composed the 3600 resulting stills @ 29.97fps back into a movie using Quicktime 7. Finally, I made transitions between different-coloured versions of the resulting footage in iMovie to complete the effect.