Monday, November 23, 2009

What it's like to go Backwards

It was the title of a video compilation I put together a year or two ago, where I ran a bunch of scene backwards (with backwards sound as well).

But it's something I've found elsewhere as well. The first time I ever saw the backwards effect was in a music video by (of course) Madness. "Yesterday's Men." Each of the band is introduced in their own scene with their name in a credit, as they appear out of somewhere or do something backwards. The effect is funny. Woody (the drummer) is introduced as "D.M. Woodgate," as he (backwards) emerges out of a trash can. Mark "Bedders" Bedford (bassist) comes out of a "Washeteria" as "M.W. Bedford" reading a magazine, and as the cars whiz by in reverse, he suddenly thrust-pockets the paper perfectly, (as if he took it out, with relish). That isn't possible. The whole thing looks impossible. Because it was put in reverse.

I talk about all this because recently I've come to witness some other odd videos that use this method. Other than mine (My Video of Transitions uses the backwards technique, when I go through a door and it "opens" for me) my cousin Tom showed me this Coldplay video on Sunday night where a man walks in reverse throughout the entire video all the way back to a traffic accident that killed his girlfriend. The singer had to learn how to sing backwards during filming.

There's many other versions of this type of thing. I've seen commercials that use it. It's a cool technique. I like to think that Madness was the first to use it in music videos, because the Wikipedia article on the Coldplay video states that the first music video to use the backwards effect was in 1989. Four years after Madness did it. They did it in 1985.

But then, it's kind of a different technique I guess. In the Yesterday's Men video, the band is doing something backwards but actually acting as if they were moving forward. Nobody is doing anything backwards in the video - actually, they're doing everything forwards while the environment around them is going backward. It creates an illusion. Like the impossible newspaper-shove-perfectly-into-pocket trick. What Mark Bedford actually did was, while walking backwards, took the newspaper out of his pocket, fast and with great relish, as if he was really interested in what was in it. Then they rolled the tape backwards to create the illusion. Woody skillfully got into the trash can backwards, and they put it in reverse. This illusion enables them to do anything that's not physically possible in the video. Like Suggs putting the coat on the ground, which perfectly folds into a stand-up position. The coat was like that at first, then Suggs reversed by and picked it up.
I used the same technique in my video, walking backward through the door and then rewinding it. This is different than the Coldplay video, or any of the others, because they are actually going in proper reverse, with no illusion effects. The only thing the singer does forward is sing, which he had to learn to do backwards to create the illusion in the video.

All in all it's a pretty cool, ingenious video technique. It's always cool to see things in reverse, and it's also cool to see illusions created with those effects, as what Madness originally did. It catches the eye and makes the viewer wonder what just happened or how they did that. It made me do that.

For good measure, I'll embed that "Yesterday's Men" video here. The backwards illusion effect, however, only happens during the introductions of each band member. From then on the video goes in forward motion:

That still shot above is actually of one of the introductions - Chris Foreman is emerging out of a hole in the ground (backwards, which they reversed to make it look like he did it forwards).
All to eye-catching creativity, huh?

-Justin C.

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