Wandering Sounds and Images

In 2023/2024 I participated in a seminar hosted by MIRE motion picture lab in Nantes, France. Wandering Sounds and Images is a research and creative seminar surrounding portable technologies of analog film projection, sound diffusion and motion picture processing. We convened in France 3 times to develop open-source tools for film-making and expanded cinema performance with a special focus on off-grid nomadic production. The results will be handed over to other artists during residencies at MIRE and shared with artist-run motion picture labs in the SPECTRAL network and around the world.

The other participants: Estelle Chaigne, Karan Talwar, Alex MacKenzie, Marc Simonart, Loïc Verdillon, Marjorie Leberre, Guillermo Tellechea, Stefan Voglsinger, Luci Schneider, Pierre Signolat, Antoine Capet, and MIRE coordinators Aurélie Percevault, Mariane Moula, and Élodie Ferré.

Spectral Wandering Sounds & Images Wiki

The wiki is the main documentation from the project. We are sharing our knowledge so you can build and extend our designs.

Journal: Phase 1 (February 2023)

I’m amazed by the breadth and depth of the participants’ knowledge. We presented our research at the beginning of the seminar, and did informal screenings and performances throughout the week. We have veterans of artist-run film labs, still photographers with an interest in bringing darkroom processes into the public light, electro-acoustic composers, and tinkerers from around the world. It feels like an expanded cinema “dream team”. At the end of the week we traveled to St Nazaire to participate in a Nomos Nomade mobile performance event. The main goal of the session was to experiment with already-available tools and compile a “wish-list” of achievable goals. We split into 3 informal teams:

  • Nomadic 16mm Projection Team
    We want to modify existing projectors to liberate them from the projection booth and take them outside to the streets: Reduce the weight, replace the lamp with an LED, replace the motor with a low-voltage option. Make it vari-speed, dimmable, and battery powered. So many possibilities! We can’t build the projector from scratch, so we’re developing modification kits to fit popular Eiki projectors and older silent projectors (like the Eumig P26 which is already very lightweight).
  • Mobile Tools For Light Team
    We are interested in building a contemporary magic lantern with a mixture of modern and turn-of-the-century features and materials. The form factor was decided upon to be somewhere around 20-30 cm square—small but still functional. We mocked up for a multifunctional lantern device that can do opaque projections, as well as single and double exposure of slides or transparencies (exact size to be determined), and a work area light table for live modifications/actions. There is a half-silvered mirror that hinges at the top to flip up and out of the way for transparency or opaque projection solo, or flips down 45 degrees for either live mod projection or double exposure of both the transparency and the live mod.
  • Multi-Channel Sound Team
    The goal is to manufacture a multi-channel sound system for autonomous sound and image performances that can be transported on foot. As much as possible, create interconnectable “bricks” to be able to evolve the system according to means and needs. The objective is to have 8 channels on 8 loudspeakers which can be used as an acousmonium, in a fixed position, or independently, not synchronized, with for example a multimedia player per loudspeaker. We want to be able to walk with a kit: HP + speaker cable + amplifier + battery, in a backpack, all controlled by an 8×8 routing matrix and a spatialization mixer.

(all images by Wandering Sounds and Images participants)

Journal: Phase 2 (July 2023)

Our second meeting was in Rochefort-sur-Loire, in the beautiful countryside of the Loire river valley. The 16mm projector team, magic lantern team, and sound team worked for 10 days, culminating in an outdoor performance at the studio of our host. Later, some of us returned to Nantes to explore Blockhaus DY10, a former WWII bunker turned music/sound headquarters.

  • The mobile lab team shot a roll of B&W negative with the wind-up Kransogorsk K3 and processed in a soup made from local stinging nettles and ashes. It was fixed in saltwater and projected back into the landscape using our portable Eiki projector.
  • The 16mm projection team transformed an Eiki and a Eumig projector into battery-powered performance machines with dimmable LED lamps and variable speed playback. (The shutters were removed and the LEDs are blinked in sync with each frame.) We added variable shutter angle and selectable shutter blades (from 0 to 3) so we can really play with the persistence of vision during playback.
  • The magic lantern team created a modular projection system that supports slides, overhead projection (including liquids!) and opaque projection.
  • The sound team started construction on an 8×8 matrix mixer with custom PCB layout for opamp input/output buffers. They also recycled Li-Ion batteries to find matched cells to power their portable amps, and did speaker comparisons to help decide on the final hardware for the portable sound system.

(all images by Wandering Sounds and Images participants)

Journal: Phase 3 (February 2024)

Our final meeting was at MIRE HQ in Nantes. We began with a performance at Blockhaus DY10, a WWII bunker converted into a noise dungeon / time machine where the party never stops. Bernard Rasinger (BR Laser) played a set and joined us for a few days as an honorary member of the SPECTRAL team. It was a sleepless start to a week of discoveries. We got down to business refining and re-inventing the machines we started in July, striving for reliability and ease-of-use (for the resident artists who will arrive this summer). The week culminated in another sleepless night: a projector disco with wall-to-wall film loops and multi-channel sound performances among extended DJ sets. It was a cathartic end to a productive and challenging week.

  • The sound team wrangled the massive 8×8 matrix mixer into useful shape, taming the beasts of self-oscillation, broken potentiometers, and other invisible electro-demons. They packaged the portable amps with matching Li-Ion batteries and chargers, ready to power 8 speakers in the field.
  • The magic lantern team redesigned their projector into a clever trio, linked with threaded rods and shrouded in black cloth. The 3 units can be used together or separately, and can project slides, liquids, and 3D objects through a mirror periscope. They even prepared masks, extra lenses, and filters. It’s like having 3 overhead projectors but it fits in a backpack!
  • The 16mm team finished 2 Eumig P26 and 1 Eiki projectors, including the “stretch goal” of restoring the Eiki’s optical sound playback with an LED exciter lamp to replace the discontinued original. All the projectors are self-contained and run for hours on their internal batteries. They have full lamp dimming and variable speeds in forward and reverse, including still frame. The P26 projectors are supplied with a shoulder harness for no-hands mobile projection! On the Eiki we added full control over shutter blades and angle, and an optional “safe mode” to prevent film burns at slow speeds. So many knobs!
  • Maxime brought his expertise and wonderful photo booth to guide the documentation, which is taking shape over here on the wiki: Magic Lantern16mm ProjectorsMultichannel Sound System
  • Last but not least, the chef team kept us fat and happy, and always looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch.

(all images by Wandering Sounds and Images participants)