Archive for the ‘Lost in Light’ category

Searching Images: A Follow-up to my Creative Commons Experience

March 20, 2007

I recently posted about the Lost in Light project and how they transferred my family’s 8mm movies to DVD. I agreed to the CC license but I also want to make the films useful so I have been going through them and describing the scenes. For those who get past this paragraph, I will bore you with more details about the home movies. Right now I would like to discuss how I am approaching this project and the resources I am using. This sort of analysis is a good demonstration of the power of the Internet. Consider also that I am working with 50+ year old films and trying identify locations, events, and people. So far, I have spent quite a few hours on the first 18 minutes of one DVD. I now have a much greater appreciation of the photo analysis work done by our intelligence agencies. I don’t see how the sort of work I’m doing could be accomplished without the Internet.

Web resources I’m using

  • Google Web Search. Doing a web search generally leads me first to Wikipedia but I also locate other sites; most of which are travel related.
  • Wikipedia. A lot of the film is from Africa and many of the place names have changed. Wikipedia has been a great source for cross referencing old to new place names.
  • Google Image Search. This has been really helpful when I am trying to nail a specific location. It is also helping me develop skill in analyzing images. The scene in a photograph and the same scene in the film are more often than not seen from a different orientation, angle, and perspective. It is challenging to find out a common element. What I find on the Internet is considerably more recent than the movies and imagination is needed to compensate for the changes in building, vegetation, etc.
  • WikiMapia. I may use Google Earth later. Wikimapia didn’t require installing anything on the computer. My father shot some of the film from an aircraft and I’ve had a difficult time locating aerial shots on the Internet. One recent segment I was working with was taken from the air, over a city, in what looked like an approach to an airport. There were two features that stand out and I want to know what they are. More about this below.
  • YouTube. I haven’t actually used this resource yet but plan to. I am also thinking of posting some film segments on YouTube to see if anyone can assist with identification.

In addition to the web resources, I have my father’s flight records so I know where the plane was and when.
Here is an example of how I used some of the resources I described above. There is a segment of film where the aircraft is flying above a city and passing over what appears to be a park of some sort and a large geometric feature covering a lot of ground that I couldn’t immediately figure out. Following this segment, the scene shifted to the ground in Madrid, Spain. I used Google web search to look for parks in Madrid and was pretty sure I had found the Estanque del Retiro (an artificial boating lake) in the Parque del Retiro but all the views were ground level. I assumed that the scenes from the air were taken when the plane was on approach to the airport so I went to WikiMedia and searched Madrid Spain. The Parque del Retiro is in about the center of town and as I zoomed in, there it was. I had the DVD in the player and WikiMedia on the laptop and I was able to trace the flight path as they flew over the park. Obviously geographic features changed but many of the buildings had the same shape and it wasn’t difficult to orient. Assuming that the aircraft wasn’t going to make any sudden turns, I advanced the DVD and WikiMedia and quickly found the second feature which is the largest cemetery in Europe, Cementerio de la Almudena. Here are comparison shots from the DVD and WikiMapia

Cementerio de la Almudena from DVD

La Almudena from the air, 1953

Cementerio de la Almudena from Wikimapia

La Amundena from Wikimapia

Estanque del Retiro from DVD
Estanque del Retiro, 1953

Estanque del Retiro fromWikimapia

Estanque del Retiro, 1953

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Creative Commons — My First Experience as a Contributor

March 2, 2007

I was visiting my parents in Florida over Christmas break and helped my mother clean out a closet of photographs, slides, and 8mm movies. The 8 mm movies posed an interesting challenge. The oldest were made between 1952 and 1956 when we were stationed in Pretoria, South Africa (my father was a crewman on the American Embassy’s C-47). I was wondering what to do with the 8mm movies when our Media Center director mentioned Lost in Light as a possible solution. I looked them up and found a really nifty project that satisfies my needs on several levels. First of all, here is what they say about Lost in Light:

This is a project about the 8mm film format. But 8mm is dead, you say? On the contrary! Not only is the format alive with innovation by filmmakers around the world, but hours and hours of Super 8 and regular 8mm film exist in attics and basements the world over—as home movies, educational films, works of art—that is slowly fading from the historical record.

We’re here to preserve that record before these films are lost, and to make those films available for viewing by the public and for use by artists seeking new, compelling footage. Lost in Light is a project devoted to preserving, showcasing, and celebrating films created on the small-gauge 8mm film format.

To that end, we provide free Super 8 and 8mm to video transfers to anyone who asks, in exchange for posting their video to the Lost in Light site and on the Internet Archive with their choice of Creative Commons licenses. In addition, Lost in Light includes articles and features by members of the filmmaking and film preservation communities, video tutorials for making 8mm films, as well as creative work, all with the goal of preserving and championing this important film format.

Note the bit where all they ask is permission to post the transfers on the Lost in Light site and on Internet Archives with some level of Creative Commons license. These are the CC licenses if you are interested. I sent Aaron and Jennifer an inquiry email and when they indicated interest, I boxed up the movies and sent them off.

You might be thinking, You mean anyone can see these movies and film makers could use segments in their own works? Why would you want that? Three reasons, really. First, I get a DVD of these movies, some of which haven’t been seen for 50 years. Ok, the world might get to see me and my brother as goofy kids. So what? I’m pretty sure there are none of me running around naked or eating boogers. Second, it is a kind of immortality. Something my father did will live on. Third, maybe the videos will help a young film maker. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen done by W&M students in the short time that our Media Center has been in operation and I think that a project like Lost in Light and a willingness to share using the Creative Commons licenses are important for the creative process.

I got an email earlier that the film transfers are complete. You can see a bit on their home page, Lost in Light. The African dance sequence was filmed at the mine dances near Pretoria. I’m still researching it, but as I recall, the mine workers would put on these dances on a day off from work.

Aaron and Jennifer are doing cool and good things. Check it out.