2003 Rockefeller New Media Foundation Proposal
McCoy, Jennifer & Kevin
Soft Rains is a robotic installation that miniaturizes and automates the entire film production process to produce a stylish film-noir tale. We will use custom computer software to control small moving cameras, moving set elements, and recorded dialog so that a short narrative can be projected in front of the viewer as they watch. The small, dollhouse scale set allows the viewer to spatially explore what they experience temporally through the video projection. We are interested in using computer technology to investigate what is called "film magic"- the propensity of even the most sophisticated viewer to understand and, at the same time, be drawn in by illusionistic cinematic effects. Soft Rains will create and reveal these effects simultaneously with their product. Newer media is often used to understand the cultural conventions of older forms. The history of industrialization and mechanization has often succeeded in miniaturizing, streamlining, and automating complex processes. We are interested in both the mythology of progress this presents and in the inherent pathos of its inhumanity. The title, Soft Rains, is taken from a Ray Bradbury story about an automated house that goes through the motions of serving its family, unaware that a nuclear apocalypse has destroyed its inhabitants. Like Bradbury's house, our robotic set creates its story absent of filmmakers and actors, creating narrative without human presence. Our script is also centered upon a search for human presence in an automated environment. Flashbacks and hallucinogenic imaginings are intercut with this simple narrative gesture. Shadowy interiors and tracking camera movements work together to create a noir-like, expressionistic atmosphere. The robotic set will create classic effects'of the genre like the chase sequence, suspenseful cross-cutting between locations, and point-of-view camera shots.