Movie Cards – digital editing to touch

When Kyoko and I went to the Japan Media Arts Festival opening a little while ago, we inevitably met a bunch of interesting people. Amongst them some familiar PingPeople such as Novmichi from Maywa Denki, who was acting as one of the board members, and +cruz who got awarded for his directing skills for the Hifana music videos.

written by Uleshka

Amongst all those people, the Japanese media artist couple Mika Miyabara and Tatsuo Sugimoto caught my attention with a new concept for movie editing called Movie Cards. Obviously, the old days of physical, tactile film editing – cutting and gluing, touching of the actual film material – are long gone, but it still seems hard for many to grasp the actual process of editing which has become too abstract since losing the actual film itself.

a new concept for editing using paper cards

I know! With software like iMovie movie editing really couldn’t be easier: totally self-explanatory, easy to grasp… but let’s not trick ourselves! I’ve spent ages in front of a computer already, plus I took courses in Final Cut and all that…. so things like timelines, movie clips, library etc. seem completely natural to me. On top of that, I still remember the days of tangible film, whereas the kids of today won’t. So how do they know what happens to the film, once you’ve pressed the record button? How do you actually get those movie clips? And how can you change the order of sequences?

Apple overview visual for iMovie

Now, those are the problems kids might face nowadays, but all I need to do is look at my poor dad! He spent all my childhood filming with his Super 8 camera and then spent even more time hiding in a dark room to edit perfect little movies. Every time I watch them – and I still do – I am amazed by the editing skills of those days, and it really hurts me to see that my dad simply gave up because his new digital camera doesn’t let him touch the film anymore.

Mika Miyabara and Tatsuo Sugimoto got a grant from the Japanese government to research into this very problem. The outcome is called Movie Cards and basically turns your digital, abstract film material back into something to touch: paper cards!

Movie Cards

Let me explain how their concept works:

  1. Film your favorite story with a digital camera.
  2. Connect your camera to a computer with Movie Cards software installed.
  3. Movie Cards software will then print out the actual movie cards (so you need a printer connected to your machine). These movie cards are small cards showing the first image of each sequence taken from your camera.

printing movie cards

scanning movie cards in the right order
  1. You can now lay your cards on the table and freely arrange them in which ever order you want them to be.
  2. Each card has a little QR-code or bar-code, so oyu can use a scanner or bar-code reader to beep-in your movie cards in the order you decided.
  3. Preview on your monitor! Done (….or re-arrange)!
chart explaining how to edit with movie cards

Now that does sound fun, but the whole thing is still a bit wobbly, I think.

I very much like the fact that you end up having those cards to play with and I can see that working (shifting things around, touching, changing…) but the whole process still doesn’t sound easy enough for me. Besides that, you need quite a lot of equipment (camera plus printer plus the right paper plus ink plus the right scanner plus a computer).

lots of equipment…

I suppose this concept really helps kids to understand the process of re-arranging movie clips and experiencing how a different order of sequences affects the final story.

kid playing around with a different order of cards

However, I don’t think it would work as an alternative way to really edit films. All that this introduced Movie Cards concept allows you to do is to change the order of things, but not where to cut the actual movie clips, not to actually edit the movie.

This is where their second version comes in. The advanced concept of Movie Cards, enables you to print out each frame of your movie clips (I don’t know exactly how many frames they actually print out, but certainly enough to see what is going on).

What is the use of that? First of all it looks very close to actually holding a film in your hand.

movie cards advanced version

Since every frame has an individual bar-code printed next to the image you can edit the length of the clip simply by scanning the start and end frame of your sequence instead of cutting the film.

Now that sounds better to me in terms of getting closer to an actual editing process, but I am quite worried about a waste of material (large amounts of paper ending in the garbage).

cutting up different frames

Besides – it looks like they suggest to cut all of your desired frames and create a little flip-book. That much work for a little preview? Well, I think again this will be great practice for kids to understand how film works, but is not really a solution to help people edit things in the long run.

movie cards frame flip-book

Mika Miyabara and Tatsuo Sugimoto have been given creative editing workshops throughout Japan and I think that the concept for Movie Cards really makes kids understand what happens to the material you just filmed, what frames are, and how you can arrange and edit them. I would have loved to learn it this way as a kid.

kids busy with paper card editing

However, it made me think about the whole problem of digital devices often mutating to such abstract forms and so far away from the original, that inevitably an understanding of where things come from gets lost.

I believe that the gap between digital-techy-people (who seem to be born with an abstract understanding of digital – imaginatory substance) and analog-tactile-people (who need to touch and hold something first in order to understand, that it is actually there and cannot understand where something goes unless they see it) keeps growing – and I don’t think that it is just a generation-gap!

I’m not going as far as to say: “This will split mankind in two, one day!”, but I truly wish that there could be more attention for those people who prefer to learn with their senses and their body, using their hands to move things around.

If more people were to focus on inventions bridging the gap which digital products create and, for example, show people how to edit digitally by allowing them to use their hands more – then maybe even my dad might pick up his camera again with delight!

  • tim t.

    interesting idea – wish i had the time and money… keep it up.

  • Claytonain

    this would make a great school project

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  • Sandy McBride

    Yes, those would be fun to make flip books from film like that. I’ve seen some flip books at that look really cool. They have a neat gallery too at Fun stuff.

  • Sandy McBride

    Yes, those would be fun to make flip books from film like that. I’ve seen some flip books at that look really cool. They have a neat gallery too at Fun stuff.

  • Jeff Kay

    Thanks for noticing our flip books Sandy.

  • jeff

    check out these

  • kurye

    Kurye Moto Kurye thanks

  • Pingback: Interview with Mika Miyabara & Tatsuo Sugimoto: Bouncing Pixels and Images | Personal Cyber Botanica

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