One Hour of San Diego Surfing Time Collapsed: San Diego Study #4

“The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.” Joseph Conrad

One Hour of San Diego Surfing Time Collapsed: San Diego Study #4 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

When I was 17 I got lost on Mount Moffett on the island of Adak in the Aleutian chain. Adak is where I went to high school and my friends and I had great adventures snowboarding there at a time when the sport was brand new. No one knew how anything worked, we were just figuring it out from pictures we saw in magazines. When I was 17 I got lost alone late in the day during a white out. I slipped off a ridge and during the slide dropped my board, which I never saw again. A half hour later, lost and blind in the storm, I had became a committed, practicing, believing animist as I begged the clouds and the mountain to let me out before the sun went down - and they did. The only time in my life since when I’ve felt similar and even greater fear of the environment is while surfing. Cold mountains can be incredibly frightening but big surf is, for me, even heavier: cold mountains that move.

I shot this swell twice. First on a holiday and again on a weekday and the level of surfing was much higher on the weekday presumably because the regulars were in the water. To them - hats off. There are a lot of good surfers on this break and I was especially impressed by the stand up paddle board riders. If you look closely you’ll see the same rider two or three different waves owning this spot. Here he is right behind himself:

There are no CG elements in the video. It’s all documentary footage arranged and collapsed together with After Effects. Compositing water is difficult. The basic strategy I worked out is to have the clips roll behind one another with the leading edge of the hind wave fitted frame by frame to the contour of the wave in front of it. The compositing was done using masks in After effects, which are key frame animated. Here’s a peak at the process:

Making Of: Surf Time Collapse AE Edit from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

And a sample of the raw footage:

Raw Footage San Diego Study #4 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

I call this idea of removing the time between events without altering the speed of the subject(s) a Time Collapse video. Many people were calling the earlier videos in the series time lapse, which is similar but not totally accurate. Hopefully time collapse will make sense to others.

Making these videos has given me a hint at what animators do and the extraordinary discipline it takes. During the process of assembling this one a new thought began to occur to me about perception and how quickly it breaks down. I got some great insights from a fellow video artist/filmmaker working in Berlin named Gabriel Shalom (@gabrielshalom) that got me thinking about contemporary art’s connections to cubism and the deconstruction of imagery but the place my mind really went to was Dali and surrealism. This was a surprise to me because I was never very attracted to that movement. Somehow I associated it with psychedelia and Dali’s anteater walking made me tick him off the list of possible role models. Now older and wiser, I spent some time reading about the movement and looking more seriously at what Dali and his contemporaries did and found it deeply resonant. The piece that really blew me away is Dali’s Crusifixtion (Corpus Hypercubus)

With it he transforms a motif that’s been repeated endlessly by pressing a new dimension into the composition and the result is an incredible combination of old nd new. By this time in his life he’d become interested in math and science and I feel like he would be fascinated by the code art that’s emergent now. More personally, I feel like I’ve begun to understand what the surrealists were aiming at for the first time, which is the fragility of human perception and the proximity of dreams and…not-dreams.

This project is supported by MOPA San Diego and The San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Fund: Individual Artist Fellowship Program. If you don’t know MOPA be sure to check them out on Facebook + Twitter and more importantly stop by the space in Balboa Park. Something I didn’t know until I started my residence with MOPA is that they have an incredible library of photo related books and journals that you can easily access by appointment, here’s the link.

Big thanks for the valuable feedback from Danie Darisay, Bear Guerra, Pablo West and Freerk Boedeltje.

Shot on a Canon C100 + Atomos Ninja in CLog, with a Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5 L lens at 24p. The post work was done in After Effects. I don’t usually hype gear since that conversation is so dominant already but I have to say the C100+Ninja is remarkable.

Update Sat May 24th:

The Youtube version is up:

The rest of the series:

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.

Departures from San Diego Int Airport Dec 27, 2012 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.