I’ll be watching you – Technology as the Uncanny.
SDGM-719 @ SCAD
Media Theory and Application (Prof. Jacques Khouri)
August 18, 2017
Designed and Directed by Mustafa Ozcicek
Song: The Police – Every Breath You Take
This video has been created for educational purposes.
To learn more about the video and the theory, keep reading.
BENCHMARK 01: PINCH
Technology leads a lot of new circumstances with which people are not familiar. The uncanny is mentioned by Freud as ‘novel and unfamiliar’ things that have the potential to be uncanny (Freud 620). This project will be the a visual demonstration of my thesis that is proposed in Project A. While, in project A, one of the episodes of the TV show Black Mirror, is going to be reviewed in terms of the relation between the uncanny and how the presence and future of technology contribute to the plot in order to make it more frightening, project B aims at creating a frightening video clip by using a combination of a popular rock-new wave song and technological devices that are able to speak such as the iPhone (Siri). In this project, a ready-made song, The Police – Every Breath You Take, is used. Background music is a karaoke version of the song. In fact, the song is sung by the voice of Siri, and the other known artificial speakers. In the video, while music is played, devices appear as active singers by showing by participating the scene with their responses to the background music.
BENCHMARK 02: STORYBOARD
01: The video starts with a close shot showing a desk and studying person. 02: The phone reveals the time, it is 03:00AM. 03: A distant shot showing the surface of the desk. 04: The person turns the lights off, goes to bed. 05: Darkness. 06: The phone turns the music on. 07: A close shot showing the details about what is playing. 08: Lyrics coming to screen while the music goes on. 09: Music continues.
BENCHMARK 03: ANIMATIC
I created the fist draft video based on story board. The first task was to be able to use Siri’s voice in the song. I used an iPhone in order to have Siri read the lyrics. Since Siri says the words in one phase, in Adobe Audition, I split every word and stretch them in order to create a natural voiceover.
After creating the song, I designed a similar interface including an audio spectrum that appears on iOS devices.
Filming the Room
The room is originally my living room, and I used Canon EOS X5 to film it. To film the desk from bird’s view was very challenging for me. Since the ceiling was to high I could not attach the camera to the ceiling. Yet, I used some random objects to get the angle that I depicted on the storyboard.
Animatic version of the project is to test whether the song, audio visualizer and the camera angle works well. However, in this version especially close shot to the phone was not enought to create a sense of reality, instead it was obvious that the video is an production not reality, which makes the audience not recognize the uncanny. I also get feedbacks from the professor, classmates, and my friends. These feedbacks helped me understand what to do as the second step of the project.
BENCHMARK 04: PAPER
‘I’ll Be Watching You’ Technology as the Uncanny For Project B, I proposed a short video that utilizes technology as the uncanny by means of the act of being watched by AI devices. To manage this, I have used a song, The Police- Every Breath You Take, sung by an artificial intelligence agent created by Apple, called ‘Siri’. The video aims at articulating the abilities of machine learning from our experiences and dystopian destiny of humankind by presenting technology and AI as an unfriendly and sinister existence, which creates the uncanny.
The video consists of two parts: the first part that is a real shot from reality and the second part creating an abstract story telling and shifting the audience’s reality. In the first part, using a long shot, reduced quality, and bad editing creates the illusion for the viewers to consider the video as not a professional production, but a tool delivering the moments of a real event, which also contributes to increase eerie feelings in the audience. In the second part, phones create a representation of an eye turning into a camera lens symbolizing and supporting the act of watching. Furthermore, according to Freud, ‘uncertainty, living inanimate objects, and repression’ can have profound roles to lead us to experience the uncanny. (Freud, Sigmund. The Uncanny, (New York: Penguin Classics, 2003) In the project, these aspects are carefully included in the scenario.
The video starts from bird’s-eye view by showing a study desk on which a smartphone, laptop, and some books are located, and suddenly it shows the persons face through the computer’s camera in an unnatural way. Since the audience see the user interface of the computer at the same time, it creates a new level disconnecting with our reality and shifting the digital world. He turns off the desk lamp, and walks to his room in the darkness. By the time he disappears, the phone turns its screen on, and Siri starts singing the song. Because of the lyrics, the song becomes more meaningful than before since the song is about watching/stalking, which perfectly matches with the concept. Since Siri sings the song, the viewers cannot relate what they hear and see easily. For another aspect, even though Siri does not appear in human form, the ability of artificial learning still incorporates the same feelings as an inanimate living thing, or a voice of an android. By containing uncomfortable messages being conveyed by a digital voice, familiar software, Siri, that has become part of most of our lives, appears to behave in an unexpected, threatening way. Along with the song, different shots from real life are shown in the video through the iPad screen. For instance, a toddler is interacting with a smartphone, the other is taking selfie, and so on.
After showing twelve videos on the iPad screen, the second part starts with and white fading transition effect along with the music. This part is more abstract and contains symbols about the subject matter. Numbers of phones enters into the scene facing back to the audience. It is apparently seen that these phones are not randomly facing back to the audience after they start turning around and showing videos from people’s lives. In fact, the camera zooms out from the composition, and reveals a representation of an eye created by the phones. At this point, the uncanny is expected to be in the highest degree. By using glitch effects, the eye switches to the real eye and then switches to an artificial eye: a camera lens. The second part ends by using the camera lens as an anchor point and revealing different kinds of devices used in our daily life and interacting with us. Finally, a well-know computer phrase ‘loading’ is referred in the scene. Moreover, it appears as three different phrases, ‘watching, learning, and coming’ to summarize the whole concept. In the short video, the audience witnesses a fictional, scifi themed occurrence with specific video techniques that aims at increasing the feeling of reality, such as continuity of shot, and intrusive camera work and editing. The uncanny, in addition, emerges in the form of uncertainty by creating an ambiguity between real and fictional the form of consciousness by illustrating the ability of machine learning, and the form of repressions regarding technological take over and the absolute demise of humanity.
BENCHMARK 05: ROUGH CUT
Before rough cut version, I re-evaluate my sketches and ideas since I had not managed to a satisfactory point. I decided to create a new part and shorten the first part which was too long. Improvements; The general light of the scene is lowered to emphasize the time. The person is shown through computer’s camera.
An iPad added to the scene, and the computer and the iPad also involved in the song. While the computer’s logo glows in a rhythmic way, iPad shows real life experiences from different people. In the second part, numbers of phones enter into the scene, facing back to the audience. the camera zooms out and reveals that every phone is a part of an eye that refers to the fact that AI is watching us. Finally, a well-know computer phrase ‘loading’ is referred in the scene. It appears as three different phrases, ‘watching, learning, and coming’ to summarize the whole concept.
BENCHMARK 05: FINAL CUT
After sharing the rough cut version of the video with the professor, I got very positive feedback. The video successfully fulfils its goal. Additionally, there were still some improvements that needed to be done.
- Darkness lengthened, and foot step and closing-door sound effects added,
- The camera slowly moves in to the iPad, creates more dynamic and appealing scene.
- Pad videos included,
- The eye scene is longer,
- Different devices were added to the end.
A glitch effect added before the song starts.
The videos that are utilized on the iPad screen are collected from creative common sources and my personal video archive.
In the last scene, I used the camera as anchor point that stays at the same point while devices change along with the music. These are silhouettes of desktop, laptop, and tablet devices; and smartphone .
In the last scene, the typography becomes responsive to the music; changes its brightness along with the music.
This video is created by deriving ideas from Freud’s Uncanny. Machine learning-artificial intelligence is used as a tool that evokes eerie feelings. The audience witnesses a fictional, sci-fi themed occurrence with specific video techniques that aim at increasing the feeling of reality, such as continuity of shot, and intrusive camera work and editing. The uncanny, in addition, emerges in the form of uncertainty by creating an ambiguity between real and fictional the form of consciousness by illustrating the ability of machine learning, and the form of repressions regarding technological take over and the absolute demise of humanity.
Coburn, Melissa. The Uncanny from Freud to Flaiano: A Reprise. Italica Volume 92. Issue 4 (2015): 874.
Freud, Sigmund. The Uncanny, (New York: Penguin Classics, 2003).