Systematic overthrow of the underclass. Hollywood conjures images of the past… It’s just that I’ve seen the future and, boy, it’s rough
Remix Video Frame Size and Resolution
Choosing appropriate frame size and aspect ratio for your remix video project can be a tricky complicated business. Since most video remixers are making their work to display primarily on the web here are a few things to consider:
1) The dimensions of the original media sources
Many remixers find themselves using footage from a wide variety of available sources including DVD rips, Blu-Ray rips, downloaded iTunes or Amazon files, downloaded AVI or MKV files, downloaded YouTube or Vimeo files and homemade screen captured video. Because all these video formats will likely have various frame sizes and aspect ratios its important to take a look for the lowest common denominator. If you are working with only one media source or if all your footage is HD via downloads or Blu-Ray rips then your remix project can easily match the source footage at 1280x720 (720p) or 1920x1080 (1080p). If you are working with ripped US DVDs in your project its a little more complicated. Your project should probably be closer to 480p and match the DVD frame size - most likely you want 854x480 (anamorphic widescreen) and 720x400* or 640x360 (widescreen) and 640x480 (fullscreen). However (since video does not typically upscale well without significant pixelation) if you are incorporating a bunch of lower resolution YouTube or web video clips into your remix you might pick smaller overall frame size to work in like 640x360 or 320x180 (windscreen) and 480x360 (fullscreen). YouTube also has some very basic suggested frame sizes.
2) Cropping the original footage to isolate a character or event
Remixers may also choose to work in a frame size significantly smaller than the majority of their original source media so as to have the option for footage cropping or zooming. This process works best with 1080p or 720p HD footage which can then be cropped down to 480p or 360p in order to focus on or isolate various elements and characters within the frame (without loosing video quality) in the final remix.
Below is an example from my current Batman Reimagined remix project where I want to focus on Batman’s words and remove the Joker from the scene entirely.
Original 1080p footage:
Cropping down to isolate Batman:
Resulting 720x400 crop:
*Technically the math for 720px DVD 16:9 windscreen works out to a height of 405 which then has to be changed to an even number (either 404 or 406 depending on who you ask) BUT most video codex work best with multiples of 8 or 16 so 720x400 seems to be best for web video even if the aspect ratio is off by a few pixels.
Jim Carrey tends to portray characters, in both dramas and comedies, who have been wronged, exploited or dis-empowered by the powerful. He is great at embodying the classic underdog figure. Its for this reason The Riddler (as re-imaged through Carrey’s extended filmography) makes the ideal remixed hero for this project. In fact the actor’s “everyman” characters have a lot in common with Donald Duck from the classic Disney cartoons.
Batman: The Ultimate Plutocratic Hero
One of the inspirations for this remix project was an excellent article I read back in January 2011 on Tor.com written by comic book editor Steven Padnick entitled Batman Plutocrat. In the post he argues that Bruce Wayne as Batman is essentially an aristocratic class warrior fighting on behalf of the wealthy (or at least on behalf of the system which upholds their power - and by extension his own power).
Here are a few choice excerpts that, as a lifelong Batman fan, rang extra true:
"By their nature as vigilantes, acting outside or above the law, most superheroes have a troubling undercurrent of aristocratic, undemocratic, authoritarian values. Only the hero, not the police, judges, lawmakers, and average citizen, can effectively protect and improve the city they patrol, and god help anyone who gets in their way. No one exemplifies these tendencies more than Batman, the ultimate aristocratic hero."
Padnick goes on to point out that Bruce Wayne sits at the very top of the socioeconomic food chain:
"Batman isn’t just “the man,” Bruce Wayne is also The Man. He’s a rich, white, handsome man who comes from an old money family and is the main employer in Gotham. He owns half the property in the city. In a very real sense, Gotham belongs to him, and he inherited all of it.”
This next paragraph also got me thinking about what Gotham City would look like if the villain/hero roles were reversed in the narrative which is what I’m attempting to do with my remixed film:
"Just look at who he fights. Superman (for example) fights intergalactic dictators, evil monopolists, angry generals, and dark gods, i.e. symbols of abusive authority. Batman fights psychotics, anarchists, mob bosses, the mentally ill, and environmentalists, i.e. those who would overthrow the status quo. Superman fights those who would impose their version of order on the world. Batman fights those who would unbalance the order Batman himself imposes on Gotham.”
Make sure to read the full article for more detailed insights from Padnick on Batman and class. I was a little dismayed at the comment section of the article which was filled with fans defending the Batman myth by using the fictional situations as justification for the fictional character’s actions.
Here is my response to that line of reasoning in the comments:
"It always amazes me when I see people try use fictional contexts and fictional events inside of fictional worlds in order to try to rationalize or excuse the actions of fictional characters. Batman does not exist, we all know this, he is a construct. He is made up by the same people that make up everything that happens to him. He is written by writers making certain choices and as such they could, if they wanted to, make different choices. The writers create the narratives and in those narratives they make the hero an aristocratic, undemocratic, authoritarian, violent vigilantly. The writers also create the entire world Batman inhabits, create every single situation, as well as create all the "villains" he interacts with - all of it is specifically designed to justify Batman’s actions. Because the stories are meant to justify Batman’s actions those stories, of course, have an internal logic to them. Outside of Batman’s world however (the place all of us actually live) his actions can not be easily justified and are, more often than not, deeply problematic on a number of levels including class - as Steven’s article points out so well."
Batman is both fictional and impossible. He is a fantasy. As such it is important to ask exactly who’s fantasy? And what ideological frameworks does that fantasy serve? My remix project will attempt to deconstruct that fantasy and create a Batman “anti-fantasy”.
[Above image of Bruce Wayne is from Batman issue #1 of the New 52]
You’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us
Gotham City is really not a very good place to be a woman. Gothamites who happen to be female have very few options beyond being a damsel in distress, a sex object and/or dead. With the possible exception of Batgirl and officer Anna Ramirez all the women on this list fit into one (or more) of these narrow categories. Plus, of course, Ramirez ends up as a traitor whose life is only spared via a random coin toss.
There are a few other women who briefly appear in the Batman movies (including the five unnamed women who hang on Bruce Wayne’s arms in the Nolan films) however since their roles are so minor and unimportant to the plot I’ve elected not to included them on this chart.
As Elisa Kreisinger recently pointed out on her blog the stereotypical Hollywood roles for women coupled with the male gaze behind the camera poses a big problem for video remixers wishing to create alternative visual stories. Because there is so little to work with in the original source its extremely difficult to re-imagine stronger or more complete female characters in a Batman Universe remix. That said I’m carefully searching the filmographies of both Uma Thurman and Michelle Pfeiffer looking for creative ways to include them in this project without all the sexist tropes.
There are seven core villains who appear in the Burton/Schumacher Batman films. While I’m working to include cameos for them all in this project I do need to settle on a few main characters for the remixed narrative to follow. As I’ve discussed in a previous post remixers must, to some extent, let the available source material dictate their storylines. So for this project I’m pulling from the extended filmography of each actor to determine who I can best flip and re-imagine as a hero. Actor Tommy Lee Jones (Two Face in Batman Forever) also happens to play several characters in other films who lead criminal investigations or manhunts - thus making Harvey Dent a compelling pick for one of the major characters in this remix. Stay tuned for more!
GothamCop is one of many Batman themed fan accounts floating around the twitterverse. Even Gotham Cities police foot-soldiers understand the symbolic significance of rain in the Batman Universe. Rain, snow and storms (especially at nighttime) are also critical elements throughout the film-noir genre. Needless to say there will be plenty of rain in my remixed film.