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The Rapid Eye

Experimental short film

The Rapid Eye is a short experimental art & fashion film brought to us by Amsterdam based directorial duo Floris+Menno.  The project is born from their desire to experiment with a fragmented way of storytelling and intuitive workflow. By initially shooting a variety of scenes based on their aesthetic appeal it was possible to join the dots into a more coherent narrative.

Whilst a short film in it’s own right, The Rapid Eye was also featured as the opening titles for the 2013 Playgrounds motion festival in Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Tilburg. BXFTYS had the pleasure of attending the festival, meeting the team and experiencing the film in a theatre setting.

It was clear from the start of production that the film existed in a predominantly surreal and dream like world. The protagonist awakens in a disorientated, narcotic state and embarks upon a journey of self discovery.  We explored the idea of the music reflecting an ethereal environment vocally without implying an overly deistic influence. We were lucky to source Scandanavian Yojk singer, Juhán Niila Stålka, who happened to live in the vicinity of our Stockholm studio. Yojk singing is a traditional form of music heralding from the indigenous Saami community of Northern Scandinavia. The style we recorded with Juhan exhibits prolonged, meditative tones that appear to compliment the subconscious viewpoint of the film and it was interesting to witness how he effortlessly combined a time-honoured singing style with modern electro-acoustic music production.

In order to incorporate a little pace and dynamic to the music, we increasingly layered in rhythmic elements as the film progresses. In particular we used a repetitive yet evolving synth bass line, courtesy of the Moog Taurus, that drives the piece in key moments, filtering in and out for effect. A blend of traditional and cinematic percussion bridges the gap between the old and the new, adding impact where appropriate and a sense of urgency as the woman struggles with her predicament.

The majority of the sound design centres around the use of tortured metallic sound effects. This choice was made in order to accentuate the distressing and overcast tone of the film, as well as a generally organic approach to the soundtrack. Our metal sounds were created by recording with contact microphones; microphones that capture sound via physical contact with vibrating objects (much like a stethoscope). The beauty of these microphones is that you never know what something will sound like until you try it, presenting a whole hidden world of sound. As well as recordings of service elevators, cages, fans, and metal doors, we took a field trip to the now permanently moored HMS Belfast in London, a WWII Royal Navy light cruiser that features as part of the Imperial War Museum. We were able to capture sounds of hatch doors, footsteps, wind and creaking that reverberate through the hull of the ship and provide the perfect soundscape for the opening of the film.

Another valuable contact mic sound source was that of a piano. Various hits and scrapes of the strings, soundboard and inner workings provided yet more claustrophobic samples to work with.

The final production stage was an arduous one in that we were well aware of the theatre presentation at the Playgrounds festival. With an abundance of organic sound coupled with a bass line, didgeridoo and a kick drum there was a real danger of the piece becoming overly muddy and incoherent. We paid special attention to the low frequencies and structure, ensuring that sound design and music worked harmoniously whilst adhering to the narrative. A final pass through analogue modules such as the Shadow Hills Dual Vandergraph compressor provided an overall warmth as we sought to avoid a harsh digital sound.

Rapid Eye
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