Survey 001

Survey 001

Interaction Design • Animation • Video • Sound Design • Photography

Death Valley is often cited as one of the most alien places on Earth. The feeling of ancient geological strangeness emanates from the valleys, dry lakes, rocks, scarce plants, and enclosing mountains.

I wanted to explore this idea of encountering an alien planet within our own planet as a parallel for encountering the strange and dark regions of our own selves. What kind of survey would that be?

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I decided on a Mars Rover-esque approach of showing a limited field of vision. To achieve this, I used my Android smartphone with a small detached telescope to emulate a mechanical point-of-view. This resulted in a field of vision reminiscent of a diving bell — apt for an environment so hostile to water-based life.

I restricted myself to using the smartphone for the entire project: its low-resolution and often glitchy output was the most appropriate to add to the sense of transmitting far-away information.

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The project was compiled in Adobe's Edge Animate by combining HTML/JavaScript based animation and navigation with the extensive footage collected from Death Valley. I made video and photographs of the landscape, rocks, plants, and the movements of the sun.

The sound is designed to fit the movements of the camera, and the various attributes and feelings of the landscape. I edited/mixed samples of music, ambient sound and FX using audio editing software — opting out of DAW software like ProTools — to create an adhoc, low-fi and improvised soundscape. The process lead to a sonar-like modulation in a sealed — almost womblike — mechanical vehicle combined with tones of threat, mystery and discovery. The final end result became a mysterious website where the user is on a journey to interact with the material in different ways.

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To create a sense of loose hierarchy and architecture, I centered the website to three geographical locations within Death Valley. A more detailed representation was made of minerals/rocks and fauna/plants.

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