Practice as Research Portfolio 1: High Definition Video and Experiences of Immediacy and the Environment

TR Flaxton

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact


‘High Definition Video and Experiences of Immediacy and the Environment’ was the first ‘Practice As Research Portfolio’ (PARP), produced as part of an AHRC Creative Research Fellowship awarded to cinematographer Terry Flaxton entitled ‘High Definition Imaging: An Investigation into the Actual, the Virtual and the Hyper Real’.

This PARP contained the installation ‘In Other People’s Skins’, which was exhibited as far afield as Sweden, Italy, America and China to 300,000+ people and investigated the relationship between moving-image resolution and audience engagement.

This project was used by the AHRC for 5 years as its own case study for Creative Research Fellowships.

This research has prompted partnerships between Faculty of Engineering & Experimental Psychology at Bristol plus collaboration with BBC R&D to explore advanced properties of digital image-making in relation to immersion and has lead to EPSRC funding.

This was the first practitioner-lead investigation of High Definition Imagining worldwide. The aim of the research was to investigate how increases in image resolution is affecting the nature of art and entertainment from the point of view of both practitioners and audiences. The core research question to be investigated was:

‘In what ways will the advent of high resolution imaging change the work produced in the convergence of art and visual technologies and consequently, our experience of that work?’

To address this a series of 4 PARP’s was created comprised of this methodology:

i) one or more ‘artefacts’ were created to respond to some aspect of the research question, (in many cases an installation)
ii) these were exhibited to audiences, where engagement time was monitored to evaluate if they increased as resolution increases in succeeding exhibitions
iii) peer reviewed articles critically reflected on the process
iv) research was presented at conferences

It was proposed from the beginning that each new artefact would be a building block in the research as a whole, so each work was developed with an additive proposition. For instance this first PARP researched the effects of projection of images on familiar objects domestically close to us, PARP 2 (High Resolution Motion Images and the Iconic Image) looked at the external world revisiting iconic places to see how if resolution deepened engagement when reproduced in high resolutions. PARP 3 (Images of High Resolution Portraiture) examined increase of resolution and engagement times with life sized portraiture (9 projects and 237 subjects on three different continents).

PARP 4 (The Verbatim History of the Aesthetics, Technologies, and Techniques of Digital Cinematography) differs from the above as it is intended as a research resource of online verbatim interviews accompanied by online text based resources.
This 1st PARP, ‘High Definition Video and Experiences of Immediacy and the Environment’ contained several artefacts including the installation ‘In Other People’s Skins’, which was exhibited as far afield as Sweden, Italy, America and China to 300,000+ people. This specific project was used by the AHRC for 5 years as its own case study for Creative Research Fellowships.

The following Artefacts were created to explore the research question:

Dance Floor, 2008
In Other People's Skins
The Dinner Party, 2008
Water Table, 2008
The Sum of Hands, High Resolution Digital Installation, Various, 2009.

As an example of the process, ‘In Other People’s Skins’ (IOPS) is a life-sized projection of a series of dinner parties onto a table with white-plates to display the virtual food and 12 chairs placed around the table for the audience to sit upon – IOPS invited audience interaction as a part of its r’aison d’etre and was funded by a £25,000 Arts Council England award.

Hindu, Chinese, Asian and Nigerian communities were approached in Bristol. Ethnic restaurants were approached to provide food. Having gained the confidence of the communities and their elders, each group was invited to the University’s Drama Studio. An HD camera was rigged above a table around which the community performers sat. One week was spent filming the five meals (the 5th being a 1st century reconstruction). 60 community performers took part accompanied by 60 relatives. 15 University staff and students were involved in the production. A 60 minute video-loop was created of the meals for projection.

Wells, Gloucester, Winchester, Southwark, Bristol and Worcester Cathedrals, & Bath Abbey were approached to exhibit the installation successively in a 15 week tour. This built momentum and amortized advertising costs. Cathedral records recorded around 250,000 audience came and observation visits allowed the projection that 125,000 took part. Engagement times were recoded over various visits to each location.

Information boards described the research to enable the audience to approach the work with a reflexive attitude and discussed around the table issues could be heard about suspension of dis-belief, whilst people imitated the gestures of the virtual guests. On leaving, people were invited to comment on their experience:

The engagement with local communities to create the work and the exhibition of the work in locations where audiences who would not normally see such work, increased impact. Plus in all ecumenical locations, educational visits were organised with local schools.

In total the artefacts were exhibited in 18 exhibitions to over 300000 people at the following locations and as mentioned above comment books were kept to record audience response to see if they corroborated the relationship between engagement and resolution.

136307 In Other People's Skins, The Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York, 07/06/10-07/11/10, 2010.
136298 In Other People's Skins, Vasteras Cathedral, Sweden, 19/02/10-06/04/10, 2010. 136316 In Other People's Skins, Walcott Gallery, Bath, 12/11/10-14/11/10, 2010.
136302 In Other People's Skins, Xi'an Academy of FIne Art, 01/07/10-31/07/10, 2010.
136333 Time and Resolution: Experiments with High Resolution Imaging, P3 Gallery, London (University of Westminster), 07/12/10-21/12/10, 2010.
136301 In Other People's Skins, Fabricca del Vappore, Milan, 22/04/09-27/04/09, 2009.
136297 In Other People's Skins, Southwell Minster, 14/04/09-08/05/09, 2009.
136411 In Other People's Skins, The Phoenix Arts Center, Galstonbury, 2009.
136339 A series of 4 HD installations over four days, Wickham Theatre, 22/09/08-26/09/08, 2008.
136338 A series of 4 HD installations over three days, 18/09/08-20/09/08, 2008.
136295 In Other People's Skins, 6 Cathedrals & Bath Abbey, 07/02/08-16/05/08, 2008.
136300 In Other People's Skins, St James Cavalier Center for the Arts, Malta, 01/10/08-31/10/08, 2008.
136407 The Dinner Party, Phoenix Arts Centre, Glastonbury, 17/10/08-20/10/08, 2008.

About 40,000 people engaged with the installation during the exhibitions in the Cathedral of Vasteras in Sweden (8 weeks) Southwell Minster (4 weeks), St James Chevalier in Malta, (4 weeks), Fabricca del Vappore, Milan, (1 week), Xi’an Academy of Fine Art China (4 weeks). The Xi’an Daily reported the exhibition at the Academy of Art on its front page, (circulation of 6 Million) and Chinese TV reported too.

When the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York took the installation for 5 months at the end of 2010 a throughput of 300,000 was recorded with 150,000 engaging with the installation.

The effect of the creation and exhibition of the artefact was discussed in an article for the Journal of Media Practice: ‘Time and Resolution, Experiments in High Definition Image Making’:

A professional article was published: 'Feeding the World', Showreel Magazine, 2008.

‘High Definition Aesthetics’, University of Cardiff, Newport (published online at

There were invites to talk to research communities about the research:
'High Definition Technologies and Aesthetics', Bergen Institute of Fine Art 2009.
'Myth and Meaning in the Digital Age', ETH Zurich, 2010.

IOPS was also shown in collaboration with University of Westminster at the end of 2010. Academics were approached to discuss issues around the methodology of practice as research and these are available online totalling 4 hours:

This then lead to an AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship and one exchange developed with Prof Tom Troscianko (Experimental Psychology, Bristol) and Prof Dave Bull (Engineering, Bristol) which then resulted in further collaboration with BBC Research and Development, to test propositions of immersion as being quantum and not incremental. In November 2012 we created the first tests worldwide, of the combination of Higher Resolution, Higher Frame Rate and Higher Resolutions to investigate how to calibrate these factors to deliver the greatest level of immersion in the audience.

In December 2012 / January 2013 an immersion test centre will be built to examine the immersivity of these enhanced images. Throughout 2013 we are partnering with Aardman, Quantel, Dolby and Arriflex GMBH who recognise the impact this research will have on the way moving image capture and display develops. The EPSRC has also highlighted this area for calls for funding.

It is important however that this is not viewed as scientific research (though this research has been developed within Engineering and Experimental Psychology). The original research was concerned with the aesthetics of images that might be produced. This meant creating a series of artefacts where the results were encoded in each new artefact. This empirical knowledge does not detract from the art produced, but emphasises that the clarity of an image was a key immersion point. One outcome is that the Harris Museum in Preston has taken in one of the artefacts created for PARP2 into its permanent collection and IOPS is in a permanent collection in Milan.

This is not a complete but an open-ended process. Its ramifications feed through to other PARP’s plus other initiatives that I am now working on for future research. Though presented in a linear fashion, the research work is in fact a continuum of behavior which is intended to lead toward answering my core research question so the emerging and developing ideas for calibrating exposure of future work for higher immersion and impact were further discussed in the following Internet Publications:

'High Definition and High Resolution Motion Imaging', Blog 75,000 words,

'Understanding Digital Cinematography', Online resource around 75,000 words & I further refined my thinking and presented more emerging ideas in the following invited talks to Research Communities: 'Myth and Meaning in the Digital Age', Invited paper to research community ETH Zurich, 2010. 'High Definition Technologies and Aesthetics', Bergen Institute of Fine Art (Invited Paper to Research Community), 2009.

References to the research

1. At all of the exhibition locations mentioned there have been discussions between audience, institutional representatives (usually Dean of the Cathedral) and Flaxton with academics from local institutions attending. In many of the locations (for instance of one of the two exhibitions in Milan, Flaxton gave a research talk at Milan University).

2. Research Grants: Knowledge Transfer Partnership between University of Bristol, Watershed and South West Screen (now Creative England) funded by the AHRC (AH/H038116/1). Total project cost £288.000. The project lasted for two years and finished in November 2012. Terry Flaxton (UoB) was the Lead Academic and Marc Cosgrove was the lead for the Watershed.

3. invited paper to research community to Bergen Elektronisk Kunst Senter plus Bergen Academy of Arts, Norway, 2009

4. invited paper to research community, November 2010 Die Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zürich

5. Flaxton, TR. 'Time and Resolution: Experiments in High Definition Image Making', The Journal of Media Practice, 10.2 & 10.3, (pp. 123-147), 2009.

6. Flaxton, TR. 'New Understandings of the Mimetic and Diegetic in the Creation of Art', Xi'an Academy of Fine Art, 2010.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Cathedral Tour in UK, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, Nicholas Bury (plus the Deans of any of the cathedrals mentioned above).

The 20 week run in New York, Canon Tom Miller, Cathedral of St John the Divine:

Vasteras Cathedral, Lena Lindholm-Sköld :

St James Chevalier Art Center, Malta: Chris Gatt:

Exhibition and talk, Fabricca del Vappore, Romano Fattorossi :

Invited Talk to Milan University: Professor Sandra Lischi

Xi’an Exhibition and presentation, Art Clay:

Invited Research talk to Bergen Elektronisk Kunst Senter plus Bergen Academy of Arts, Norway, 2009, Trond Lossius Professor Jeremy Welsh

Invited Research talk to Die Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zürich, Professor Juerg Gutknecht, Professor of Computer Science at ETH Zurich:

Translated title of the contributionPractice as Research Portfolio 1: Experiences of Immediacy and the Environment
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputVideo
SizeMany and various
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

Medium: PARP with artefacts, exhibitions, journal articles,& Conference Papers (and additional Invited Talks to Research Communities)


  • Practice as Research Portfolio


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