When Something Doesn’t Exist, Build, Build Away.

During film school a student watches 1.7 million films (Hyperbole).  Of these, the average filmmaker will remember less then five (Also hyperbole).  One of the five I remember is titled Koyaanisqatsi. No, I don’t just remember it because it has the most bizarre name ever penned, I remember it for two simple reasons: It’s visual style is amazing and it’s the most boring movie I’ve ever watched.  So, let’s focus on the positive. 

The images in Koyaanisqatsi are intense.  Most of them involve time-lapse, speed ramping and double/triple exposures.  All of those styles existed before the film’s 1982 release, but the Director of Photography, Ron Fricke, took everything to the next level.

The most notable example of his innovation was a moving time-lapse shot.  Fricke got down and dirty with some solder, a hobby motor and an intervalometer to create a device that would capture moving time-lapse shots unlike something anyone had ever seen before.  Today you can buy a premade time-lapse slider, but if it wasn’t for Fricke’s ingenuity you would be out of luck…Or you’d have to use your own brainpower to create something new.

Even though I strongly dislike Koyannisqatsi as a film, Fricke’s story has motivated me to this day.  I love that he had a need, a commercial product couldn’t fill the need, so he created his own solution.  He invented something that is now widely used by hobbyists and professionals alike.

Using Fricke as inspiration I’ve created many failed video Frankensteins, but I’ve also had one or two successes.  The most recent working monster is an electric lazy susan with an adjustable speed motor that we now use on product shoots.

Even if you aren’t creating something new, remember that you can make a lot of what you buy, especially in the film industry.  Often we get caught up in having the “right” equipment, when all we really need is something that will hold a light, or move a camera.

Build, fail, succeed and then build again.