Practice as Research Portfolio 2: High Resolution Motion Imaging and the Iconic Image

TR Flaxton

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact


‘High Resolution Motion Imaging and the Iconic Image’ was the second ‘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 five artefacts including the installation, ‘In Re Ansel Adams’ which has been accepted into the permanent collection of the Harris Museum In Preston and is currently on view in one of the galleries there. This and other artefacts have been exhibited
as far afield as Italy, America, Switzerland and China to 6000+ people and investigated the relationship between moving-image resolution and audience engagement.

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 2nd PARP looked at the external world revisiting iconic places to see how if resolution deepened engagement when reproduced in high resolutions and built upon the research undertaken in PARP 1 (‘High Definition Video and Experiences of Immediacy and the Environment’) which examined how images of our immediate environment when projected back on to the objects photographed at differing resolutions increased audience engagement, whereas the 3rd PARP (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.

In this second PARP I tried to explore the world that is seen as iconic as opposed to ubiquitous (as explored in PARP 1). Many years ago whilst directing on a BBC2 TV series I had been given the subject that all other producers and directors were avoiding: Richard Rogers Lloyds Building. This iconic subject was being avoided specifically through its iconic nature in that everyone had felt that it had been too photographed to be able to say something relevant about it. Years later when considering the subject areas for the AHRC fellowship, I realised that if people were afraid of an area through its very iconic qualities, this would be fertile ground for research.

I went to Yosemite Valley in California to re-mediate Ansel Adams famous Tunnel View photograph in moving image form - at the time Adams shot this it was in very high photographic resolution. My version required cinematographic response which currently has far less resolution in each frame. My strategy required a fully zoomed in shot (with breath held so that neither breath nor heartbeat did not transfer through the camera structure) knowing that in post I would further digitally zoom in 1000% to reveal just what the pixels would render as detail. In post I then zoomed back digitally over 30 seconds and when meeting the shot which had been held on location - I then physically zoomed back to reveal the width of Adams iconic photograph. When the shot was fully zoomed out at a distance of six miles, I drained the colour to Black and White to reveal what Ansel Adams had revealed.

I then carried on to photograph further iconic images with a sense of inivative interpretation in relation to higher resolutions. For instance how should I photograph Venice in a new way which revealed the impact of increased resolution. This eventuated in the installation ‘Un Tempo Una Volta’.

The following Artefacts were initially created to explore the iconic imaging aspects of the research question
In Re Ansel Adams, High Resolution Digital Installation, Various (1st Exhibition, Bristol), 2008.
Un Tempo Una Volta, High Resolution Digital Installation, Various (1st Exhibition, Venice), 2008.

Later I created three further artifacts to further explore the question with regard to the consumer experience of High Definition
2010 Three Unavoidable Moving Image Works Created on Consumer HD Cameras, Digital Single Screen Artwork, Various (1st Exhibition, Salisbury)
2010 Six Moving Image Works to Investigate Ideas of ‘Place and Space’, High Resolution Digital Installation, Various (1st Exhibition, London)

These were then exhibited at the following locations and comments books were kept to record audience response at seeing higher resolution images, which were not then available:

2010 International Exhibitions (France, USA, Japan), Museum of Modern Art Strasbourg, Yokohama Creativity City Center, New York Center, Millennium Magazine
2010 One Person Show of research works from AHRC Fellowship, Salisbury Arts Center, 01/10/10-31/10/08, 2010.
2010 Time and Resolution: Experiments with High Resolution Imaging, P3 Gallery, London (University of Westminster), 07/12/10-21/12/10.

2009 Imaginists - 2 small exhibitions of work from Venice, Gallery 204, Bristol, The Phoenix Arts Center Glastonbury, 2009.
2009 Screening of Research work, Bergen Elektronisk Kunst Senter, Norway
2009 Two Italian Exhibitions: Rome Film Festival and Milan InVideo Festival, Rome & Milan
2008 A series of 4 HD installations over four days, Wickham Theatre, 22/09/08-26/09/08
2008, A series of 4 HD installations over three days, 18/09/08-20/09/08
2008 In Re Ansel Adams, Gallery 204, Bristol, 26/09/08-27/09/08
2008 Ritratti di Cannaregio (Portraits of Cannaregio) & Un Tempo Una Volta (Once Upon a Time), Scarabocchio Studio Grafico, Cannaregio, Ponte degli Ormensini, Venice, 12/09/08

The effect of the creation and exhibition of the artefacts was discussed in the following article:

‘The Technologies, Aesthetics, Philosophy and Politics of High Definition Video’, Millennium Film Journal, No 52, (pp. 44-55), 2009.

These fuelled further reflection which I then presented in the following Conference Papers:

'The mimetic and the diegetic in the creation of Art', Athens, 8th International Conference on Communication and Mass Media, 2011.

In Re Ansel Adams and Un Tempo Una Volta were 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 some of the exhibition locations mentioned there have been discussions between audience, institutional representatives and Flaxton (when in attendance) with academics from local institutions attending. In some of the locations Flaxton has given a talk to research communities (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.

Sources to corroborate the impact:

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 2: High Resolution Motion Imaging and the Iconic Image
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVarious
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

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


  • Practice as Research Protfolio


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