Like vinyl records, 16mm film has experienced a resurgence of popularity, especially among experimental cinematographers such as Ben Popp, who received a Media Arts Fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission. Popp, age 34, is pushing the boundaries of filmmaking into new territory. With his latest project, “Hear NW,” he will shoot nature scenes at the Oregon Coast, using Super 16mm film, which allows the images to be captured in the soundtrack area of each frame. He will then edit both the sound and image of each frame, a process that he knows well because of his work in animation on celluloid film
According to Popp, this process is a strange mashup of analog technology and film. It has a wonderful sense of real physicality that appeals to him more than the purely digitalized numbers and codes, which most cinematographers use today.
After shooting the scenes, Popp will transfer the footage to the computer. He can then watch and hear the images. “It’s like I’m getting my notes,” remarked Popp. “I can play around with things and compose. The first part might be trees, then ocean. Then I might mix them together: tree, tree, ocean, pebble, tree, fog. Next, I might play with the sound wave, and then I might place multiple images inside of one image. That involves using matting or multiple exposures so that the notes-images are squished together on top of each other. A pebble might be on top of a fog.”
Popp expects to shape all of the imagery and sound into a film that will be eight minutes long. It will be shown locally at the Experimental Film Festival, which Popp co-directs, and he intends to submit it to many national and international festivals.
There is no category for the type of film that Popp is making, and he sees it as a new adventure. “The beautiful thing about it is that this film is an experiment,” said Popp. “It’s an unknown.”