vc014: Bamboleo Rayado (Bokeh Projection)

“Bamboleo Rayado” is, roughly, “Striped Wobbles” in Spanish. It’s Spanish just because I speak, I like it, and I think “bamboleo” sounds cooler than “wobbles”.

#14 of my #100videoclips project started out as something quite different, but grew into what you see here: Spots of flowing and bouncing bokeh light projected on to a dancer (me).

The Inspiration

I know I’m being self-referential here, but after I did the drone light trails for vc006 (Self-Portrait with Drone and Sheep Skull), I wondered what it would be like to do a similar effect on a flashlight that was tossed into the air and generally thrown around.

What I Did

So, I got a flashlight and threw it around.

First I waited until dark, then wrapped our trusty (well, not so trusty — it’s very cheap) flashlight with some bubble wrap to cushion it in case I didn’t catch it after throwing it into the air.

I also thought the bubble wrap might produce a lantern effect that would look cool.

I was hoping to get footage of the light being tossed up in nice, graceful arcs, to which I would apply the Echo effect in PremierePro.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I had imagined.

My first attempts were too close to the camera, so you couldn’t see the flashlight at all after I threw it in the air.

Also, the flashlight was harder to catch (it was dark, after all) and hit the ground harder (despite the bubble wrap) than I expected. The flashlight never broke, but it made such a crunching sound that I was concerned.

Then I backed up a ways, but given the space I was in, I couldn’t really back up far enough to show a good throw. Also, being further back meant the light from my cheap little flashlight was just an unimpressive point of light. The bubble wrap didn’t help the light visibility at all.

Change of Plans

I reviewed the footage after each take, and none of them seemed to hold much promise. I decided to try something else — opening the aperture all the way and focusing as near as possible so I would get nice wide bokeh (fuzzy spots of light) from my flashlight.

Then I just held the flashlight and waved it around in various ways as I walked/danced from one side of the field of camera vision to the other side.

Post-Production, & Back To Production

In PremierePro, I played around with the bokeh spots, including applying Echo trails of various lengths, from 2 echos (which gave a nice playful effect to some of the shots) to 30 (giving a long snaking trail, which was closer to my original idea).

I decided these were kind of fun, but they needed something more.

  • I colored the spots a variety of colors using the Change to Color effect. (They were originally a dirty brownish-white.)
  • I added some stripes in the background by first creating a mask in Photoshop with lots of small columns of white separated by columns of black that were twice as wide. (The procedure for creating the columns was very similar to what I described in detail in my post about vc007: Copley Square Panned and Meshed.)
  • To animate the stripes, I just added one frame of the mask to the timeline in PremierePro, then added the next frame of the same image but shifted one column to the right, then a third frame shifted two columns to the right. Then I copied and pasted that trio of frames over and over again, and it produced the illusion of marching columns.
  • I also experimented with various blend modes between the bokeh clips and the animated stripes which gave the stripes a grungier, less precise look which I liked.

At some point, I decided it would be fun to make these into a movie that would then be projected on a screen with me dancing in front of it, to be filmed a second time. So that’s what I did.

I matched the different sections of the video to a musical piece that I had composed a couple of years ago for another experimental video.

Bokeh Projection Filming

With my camera on a tripod and the short 1-minute movie set to loop repeatedly, I started filming.

I wanted to film multiple times, with me in a different position for each section of the song/video each time the song/video repeated.

That would allow me to edit it in such a way that my position would keep jumping all over the place (jump cuts) even though the projected bokeh would proceed smoothly without interruption. That’s what I achieved in the final edit.

Basically, I would assume a pose, freeze for a few counts, then move to a different position, freeze, and keep doing that until the song was over, then do it all over again the next time around, with the intent to be in different positions for each loop.

I ended up filming the same sequence 12 times.

Back to Editing

I split up the 12 different sequences (since they were all part of one take), then put them on separate video tracks and synchronized them all so the bokeh and song were all at the same point for each of the tracks, even though I was in a different position at any given point in each track.

Then it was a lot of slicing and dicing among the 12 tracks to decide which clip I wanted where.

What I Learned

In summary: Sometimes what you think is a good idea that turns out to be a bad idea can still turn into a different good idea.

  • I was completely unimpressed with the results of my original idea of flashlight tossing, but I really like the way this turned out in the end.
  • In terms of projecting an image onto a person: The darkest images at the end looked fine and interesting in the original video, but they weren’t very successful lighting me in the recording of the projected video.
    • If you’re going to do something like this — projecting a video onto another scene that you will record again — make sure your original video is plenty bright, unless you really want obscurity.
    • I originally thought of the marching white stripes as just an interesting visual, but they added a lot more to the final piece by providing so much brightness to the re-recorded scene.