Desktop Documentary ‘Transformers: The Premake’ Uses Global Footage While Staying Home
This is quite amazing. Kevin B. Lee, just gave a lot of visibility to a new form of filmmaking: Desktop Documentary by releasing a 25 minute behind the scenes of yet-to-be-released Transformers 4 made thanks to Internet footage. Yes, you read well.
As its name indicates, Desktop Documentary “treats the computer screen as both a camera lens and a canvas, tapping into its potential as an artistic medium. If the documentary genre is meant to capture life’s reality, then desktop recording acknowledges that computer screens and the internet are now a primary experience of our daily lives, as well as a primary repository of information. Desktop documentary seeks to both depict and question the ways we explore the world through the computer screen.”
Lee, along with faculty artists such as Nick Briz, Jon Satrom and Jon Cates, and students Yuan Zheng and Blair Bogin have been developing this narrative technique at the School of Art Institute of Chicago.
This is not the per time that the computer screen is used as both a camera and the canvas to display a story, you might remember the short film Noah, that went viral few months ago, and that used this same desktop technique to enter the life of a teenage boy during 17 minutes. Interestingly enough, the short is no longer available, due to infringement issue, and that might be where the desktop filmmaking technique hits its limitations.The future of Transformers: The Premake will tell us .
But whatever happens to this particular video, it is absolutely fascinating to see how much information Lee gathered thanks to what he collected on the Internet. As I watched the desktop documentary, an excitement built up as the possibilities this technique offers started becoming clear, in terms of storytelling for both narrative and marketing purposes. Here is what Lee says on his website:
“The preponderance of over 300 YouTube videos documenting the production around the world marks a new development in the role of fans and everyday people as viral publicists for the movie. The making of Transformers 4 becomes a public publicity vehicle that generates viral fan footage that helps to promote the film. This raises new questions about how the creative energies that people expend for casual leisure and entertainment, from posting YouTube videos to posting Facebook and Twitter updates, are feeding into a new economy that turns our play into a new kind of unpaid work.“
The beauty of it is that not only it is a great behind-the-scene video (if you’ve ever wondered how blockbusters were filming action scenes in cities, blocking out streets, fragmenting shots over separates days and locations, here is your chance to find out), but that it transcends making-ofs as we know them.
By going global and giving insights about people reaction’s on social media, by branching out to bigger topics such as the debate over ‘free labor’, by showing the local impact in China and how the filming was reported by journalists there, by sharing footage shot by dozens of people in different formats and resolutions, Transformers: The Prequel creates a surreal feeling as it shows how global our world truly has become, and destroys the myth of the single story. Transformers might become a finished movie, but attached to it are hundreds of stories that will feed its life, reception, and maybe, most importantly, the way it will be remembered by people who crossed path with it, and by us, watching Lee’s desktop documentary.
A must watch:
To conclude, desktop documentary certainly seems like a great tool for the indie filmmaker with time but not money on her/his hands. How do you feel about it? Do you see it as a short-term gimmick or a new narrative tool worth exploring?
One thing is sure, the amount of work behind this video is astonishing. Massive kudos to Kevin B. Lee, check his website to learn more about the making of Transformers: The Premake.
More worked from Kevin B. Lee:
- Paul Thomas Anderson’s Work Through 5 Steadicam Shots
- Watch “Magic and Light”, the work of Steven Spielberg Dissected
check the archives for a taste of it.