Friday, April 5, 2013

Harmonium Love

Why turning parts of a modern movie into a silent movie? I wondered while reading about this ds106  video assignment. I had no idea but was just intrigued by the idea to do so.

I did some research on how to change a movie into a silent film and found that mostly the advice was to imitate the style completely, including original music for silent movies and taking care that in the clip you can't see any modern props, like modern cars.
I thought about this and decided to just use the elements but not to try imitating an entire film from the silent era. This way I changed the color into black and white and made it run faster, I added some noise and rustling to audio and video and I added a music track.
Which I did not is choosing clips, that don't contain modern issues like modern cars, and I don't choose any old music but modern compositions.

Some time ago I got introduced to the movie Punch-Drunk Love (2002), which tells a story about a growing couple, in particular about the male part. He is depicted as passionate and even violent and it is not for certain if the reason is that he lives under the pressure of keeping up his business. Another reason may be that he is controlled by his sisters and feels helpless towards their interferences in his life. However, my clip doesn't contain any of this, but I concentrated on a little story within the story, where a harmonium is found by the protagonist and finally carried to his girl friend.

The clips doesn't contain much dialogue and speak for themselves, so I thought this might be great for the silent style. In addition, although the film is in color, the tones are rich in contrast which I thought important concerning the change to black and white. Finally the running scenes of the movie remind me on running scenes of silent movies, which always appear funny, for the silent movies are running faster. I wanted them appear funny or at least emphasize them to show that it is a kind of crazy in a lovely way to carry a harmonium around. I myself wouldn't be able to do so, for "stupid" embarrassment, which is why I like watching it in a film. I also felt the faster move of the scene associates tension within the story, which is desired.
For the choice of the audio I myself wonder about it. It is true that the title "Music For a Found Harmonium" was great to match my little clip composition, but does also not really emphasize the visual part, but is rather treated on an equal bases with the video, which might be OK anyway. It also is very different from any silent movie music. I even added to the start of the clip some digital music. Together with the visual style of the very first films it appears surreal and adds to the surreality of someone throws a harmonium out of a car and then it is carried around like a new found treasure.

I edited the clips with premiere elements, which is a bit complicated, compared to more expensive editing software, but it is possible to get good results, especially because the effects come out very nicely, they are not just numerous but well thought through concerning aesthetic and quality. This way I add a filter who makes the film look old (in German "Alter Film"). That it was, except from making adjustments to the filter and speeding the clip up.
It is difficult with sound, when you want to reduce its quality, because almost any effect is designed to improve the audio. I had to edit the sound in audacity to add noise and rustling, mostly by hand using the pencil tool.
To put in the title cards I had to create a black area, which I did not manage in premiere elements. I had to design it in gimp and to import this as media. Then I added the title with the text tool. I could have cut the clips and add text between the clips, still, I needed to have the possibility to change the position of the cards for the right moment of appearance.
All the same with the opening title sequence and closing credits.

I like the result very much, but I already have received a message by Youtube about using material which may be copyrighted. I hope they'll not remove this nice piece of art, which I did not produce to harm any rights but to enrich the world of art, movie, music.


  1. This is fantastic editing work, the flashing that the filter provides really makes for the flickering feel of old film as does the speeding up of the clips, especially for the frenetic feel of him running with the boxes.

    Even the part of the clip where the couple is conversing in the car is interesting, because we can pretty much understand the dialogue just based on their face expressions.

    I like a movie where Adam Sandler is silent!

  2. Thanks, and I've liked Adam Sandler silent, too.