Here's my latest video. It's entitled "Rip Dan Wrinkle" and it encompasses a little over 20 years:
This is the first aging video I created. It's entitled "Time of my Life". It was created about 4 years ago and encompasses approximately 16 years. It's a low resolution, non-dejittered, highly compressed version:
You can also download a copy of "Time of my Life" if you click
It's almost 20MB and so don't attempt this unless you have a hi-speed connection.
The following images are of the apparatus that I'm using to create a stop-motion animation
of myself getting older. Every day I position myself in the center of this ring
and take two simultaneous photos (180 degrees apart). The ring is marked off for the
365 days of the year and a pair of crosshairs (mounted on a sliding wooden fixture) are
incremented along the circumference of the ring to line up with these markings. I use
the crosshairs to position my head as nearly as possible in the center of the ring. So
far, I've accumulated almost 21 years worth of photos (the project was started on June 1st of 1991).
The foundation of the design is 2 wooden rings, each 4 feet in
diameter, 4 inches wide and 1/2 inch high. Each of these rings is
cut into 4 pieces. The rings themselves symbolize the year and the
4 pieces symbolize the 4 seasons. Each of the 2 rings lie on top of each
other and are bolted together. They are rotated relative to each other by
1/8. This rotation causes the 4 seasons of the lower ring to overlap the
4 seasons of the upper ring. Because of this I have determined that there
are really eight seasons: lower-seasons(Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall) &
upper-seasons(Allwin, Tersp, Ringsum, Merfa). The upper seasons overlap the
lower-seasons and are formed by taking the appropriate syllables. For example,
Tersp is the end of WinTER and the beginning of SPring.
Breaking the ring (year) up into 8 overlapping pieces allows me to pack it up
and take it with me when I travel. It also makes the ring very stable when
I have 2 cameras mounted to the ring opposite each other. When one camera is
looking at the front of my face the other camera is looking at the back of my head
The ring is marked off with 365 tic marks which represent the days of the year.
The tic marks cause me to look directly at one of the cameras at the Spring
and Fall Equinoxes and sideways to the cameras at the Winter and Summer Solstices.
Why did you decide to use a ring?
The ring made sense once I decided I wanted my head to rotate in sync with the Earth's orbit. I thought it would give a better sense of the aging process. The ability to view my expanding bald spot from behind, the sagging jowls and neck from the side, etc ...
It also seemed like a good way to visually indicate the passage of time - of the seasons and years. Synchronizing with the solstices and equinoxes was also appealing to me.
Finally, I was also attracted to the symbolic and poetic nature of the ring and of circles in general. Stonehenge, the circle/cycle of life, ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds (that are themselves symbols of passing time). The ouroboros (the snake which devours itself) is in the shape of a ring and alludes to nature devouring itself to sustain itself. There are children's songs: "Ring around the rosy..." and "Around and around we go, where we'll stop nobody knows." Each has overtones of the cyclic nature of life, aging and death.
What type of cameras are you using?
I'm still using the original 2 film cameras. Digital cameras weren't available back when I started. Eventually I'll move to digital. I did some research at the time and purchased two Ricoh cameras. They were cheap, simple and light. The flashes are the originals as well.
Why did it take you so long before posting a video?
I did place an early test on my website many years ago. It consisted of a year or two worth of photos. It wasn't on youtube and very few people downloaded it. About 2 years ago I finally had some free time and was able to begin scanning the 12,000 photos that I had accumulated. This took a while. It also took some time to figure out how to do the additional graphics and to make the actual video. I posted it as soon as I was done.
There's a section of the "Time of my Life" video where half of each photo is black - what's going on?
This was the result of switching from 100ASA to 200ASA film. When I halved the shutter speed to compensate the flash was unable to sync up. ND filters were the answer. The next version of the video will use this to my advantage.
How did you find the time?
I found the time by making the daily snapshots no more time consuming than brushing my teeth. It's become such a habit now that I hardly realize I'm doing it. It only takes about a minute each day.
What gave you the idea?
I remember seeing old time-lapse films of skyscrapers being constructed and of whole cities quickly evolving over a period of years. Also I saw my share of old films where a vampire ages rapidly and turns to dust. I'm not sure but I think the idea sprang from seeing those types of images.
Where did the music come from?
The music for "Time of my Life" was purchased from a royalty free buyout music company called Fresh Music. The track is called "Hiroshima" and is from their "Swing" CD.
The music for "Rip Dan Wrinkle" (as viewed on YouTube) is called "The Fisherman" and was licensed from Audio Network through SoundDogs.com.
The music for "Rip Dan Wrinkle" (as viewed on Vimeo) is called "The Score" by Hearts and Spades. It was licensed through the Vimeo website.
Where have you taken the ring?
The ring started out with me in Chatsworth, CA. I then took it to San Francisco for 10 years, Santa Barbara for 5 years and it now resides in Thousand Oaks, CA. During that time, the ring was packed up and taken to Amsterdam, London, Atlanta, New York and many other places.
Shouldn't the "Time of my Life" video be twice as long if you used 17 years worth of photos?
For this particular version I rendered out every other frame/day. If I had included all my photos the revolutions would have taken 12 seconds and I didn't think people could stand to stare at it for that long. Eventually I'll put the full 4 minute version up. However, it's my hope that at some point technology will allow me to encode it as a 60fps video so that I can maintain the same (shorter) duration and speed of revolution while including all the frames/days.
Sometimes your shoulders look contorted - what's going on?
I use crosshairs and a string to position my head in the center of the ring. Unfortunately, this does nothing to make sure that the orientation of my head is correct. This can result in my head tilting forward and back relative to my neck and shoulders. This is particulary the case when I'm traveling and I'm not able to hang the ring from the ceiling. That is, in the struggle to support the ring and position my head correctly, I would often find myself contorting my neck and shoulders.
There was also a period of a couple years where the cable release mechanism was broken and I would trigger the two cameras by hand. This meant that my head would turn to look at the crosshairs but my shoulders and arms needed to point towards the two camera.
What's that thing that can be seen sliding along the circumference of the ring?
That is what the crosshairs are mounted on. It slides 1/365th every day. I use the pair of crosshairs to align my head before taking the photo.
There is also a ball on a string mounted to this as well. The ball and string are used to make sure that my head is located the proper distance from the cameras. I hold the ball in my teeth and then release it just before I take the photos.
Have you been doing this type of thing the longest?
has been doing a daily photo project for about 4 years longer than me.
You can view his video
There are probably others as well that I don't know about yet.
Is the project done?
No. There are many improvements that I'd like to make and many more years (I hope) of living before the project is complete.
Because it's fun.
Because I'm curious about what it will look like as I get even older. In particular, I can't wait to see what it looks like after I'm dead.
Because I like the idea of making something positive out of growing old - building something up as the skin sloughs off my face.
Because maybe it will be of interest to others. The photos have already been used by a student in Belgium to help with facial recognition software, by a video artist in Virginia and by someone in LA to create a 3D computer model of the aging process. Perhaps someday it will be used to fuel inter-galactic spacecraft of some sort.
Because if it connects people with some of my other work (e.g. my fingernail clipping collection) then so much the better.
Because I like to think of this project being left behind after I die - much like a coral leaves behind its exoskeleton of calcium carbonate. If enough people leave behind similar projects then there'll be the equivalent of a coral reef of these things and maybe a bunch of fish will make their homes there.
Because if I didn't spend a minute a day working on this then I'd probably spend that same minute either scratching my head or picking at a scab.
Because life is very short and if I needed to come up with an infallible "why" for everything I do then I'd quickly become paralyzed into doing nothing.
Because it's a celebration of life and our connection to the Universe and because I've managed to single handedly keep my local film processing lab in business.
Because I love time-lapse (and slow-motion) projects. They open a window on time through which you can glimpse infinity - as long as there's not a tree in the way.
Problems with the current version of "Time of my Life" (and future plans):
Obviously the jitterness is an issue. The method of aligning my head in the ring is actually pretty accurate. The great bulk of the jitter is due to the photo lab's process of printing photos. They typically print a subset of the negative and this subset can vary substantially from photo to photo. Digital cameras would avoid this issue but I started my project before they existed. If you look on the right hand side of the photos (images) you can usually see a thin piece of vertical metal. These are the camera mounts and they are fixed solidly to the cameras. Any movement of these mounts from frame to frame is due to the photo lab's printing process. As you can see, they move around a lot.
I tried some de-jittering software but the particular nature of my images seems to confuse their algorithms. I could possibly scan in the negatives myself but I don't have (and can't afford) a quality negative scanner. What I will probably end up doing is sliding the images (by hand in photoshop) to align them with a template. This will undoubtedly take a while.
The video was downloaded to YouTube as a 640x480 Mpeg 4, 98MB file. YouTube subsequently creates a highly compressed version that is the one you ultimately see. They have a "view higher resolution" feature just below the lower right of their viewing window and this displays a superior (but still compressed) version. If you don't have enough bandwidth then the movie will stop and start creating a lousy viewing experience.
The sound track for "Time of my Life" was chosen because of the jittery nature of this initial version of the video. I thought the swing type music made the jitteryness less ojectionable and it almost seemed as though the two side-by-side images were dancing with each other.
Future version of the video will have different sound tracks as I play with different ideas.
It can be difficult to see the aging process when the video has been severely compressed (as it has on YouTube). They (YouTube) have a "view high resolution" feature below the lower right of their viewing window. If you have enough bandwidth then this will display a much better version of the video. However, you may find that the video starts and stops if the bandwidth isn't adequate.
Periodically one (or both) of the photos is missed for one of many reasons:
- Lens cap left on
- Flash failure
- Photo lab screwup
- Cable release failure
- Vacation (sometimes I take the ring with me and sometimes I don't)
- Admitted to hospital, etc ...
Typically these "blank" (or black) photos go by so fast that they aren't noticed at all. I decided a while back to view these blanks as opportunities and to create the equivalent of an "inner photo" (a hand drawn representation of my head) for those days.
I think/hope this will look pretty cool as these "inner photos" flash by subliminally.
Strange, Mysterious and Unsavory Comments:
There are several categories of these types of comments which have appeared on youtube. I created a composite comment to represent each category and have listed them here with my reply.
Ha,ha,ha! He's going bald! What a loser!
Yes, it's true. I'm a "loser" of hair. Here are a couple poems I wrote to console myself:
My scalp has been sagging
My follicles lagging
Hairs dropping like leaves in the Fall
But how I'd have hated
If my head animated
And nothing of me changed at all
"Ballad of a Balding Animator"
Balderdash! I am not bald!
It's just the top that's bare
And though that spot is spreading out
There's still some fuzz up there
Some lucky few, like plucky you
Have hair that's thick and swell
But when you die, you'll go bald too
And lose your skin as well
It's true I've lost a lot of hair
What's left is second rate
At least I've saved some hair on film
And made it animate
For those who doubt the veracity of this certificate I have included a second certificate which authenticates the first.
These types of projects are narcissistic.
You're crazy. But enough about you, let's talk about me.
He must have stayed in the same room for 17 years.
Well yes, if by "room" you mean "planet".
This is boring.
I'm sorry, I fell asleep. What were you saying?
He must be a lonely recluse living a miserable life.
Yes. I live in an Unabomber type shack in the deep Alaskan wilderness and I currently have a large flea-infested beard. I maintain a small colony of hamsters and am able to survive on hamster milk and hamster meat as well as fashioning my meager clothing from thousands of tiny hamster hides.
He will grow old and shriveled and nobody will want to have sex with him.
Unfortunately, my wife sort of agrees with this one.