Me, Myself and MRI

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The video portraits for the exhibition were created in three stages.

Stage One

The first stage consisted of recording an interview with the subject.  Five of the subjects were interviewed in a recording studio at the University of York.  The sixth subject, Christine Talbot, was recorded in the Calendar studio in Leeds.  Each interview produced between 45 and 75 minutes of video footage.

The video was recorded as a single locked-off shot - meaning that the camera was in a fixed position throughout the recording.  A standard interview composition was chosen:  the head and shoulders of the subject offset within the frame, with the subject looking at the interviewer, and not at the camera.  There were no cutaways to the interviewer, they are not seen at all in any of the interviews.  This set-up was generally maintained throughout the interview.  At the end of each interview, the subject was asked to look directly into the camera whilst trying to recall what they had been thinking about when they had been in the MRI scanner.

From the outset of the creative process it was clear that there would be no synchronisation between the video and the audio in the final exhibition - we decided at an early point in the design of the exhibition that the video and the audio portraits should be treated as separate elements that each revealed something different about the subject.  The video therefore had to present a view of the subject that was independent of both the audio and the answers that were given during the interview.

Stage Two

The second stage consisted of editing the interview footage.  This involved selecting those moments where the subject was not speaking but was instead listening to the questions and thinking about the answer they were going to give.  This editing process produced a sequence of scenes for each subject that lasted between 3 and 5 minutes.  The selected scenes were chosen because they illustrated particular aspects of the individual - that is they gave information that would allow the observer to form a narrative about the subject.

Stage Three

The third and final stage of creating the exhibition videos consisted of taking the edited footage for each subject and re-recording it in a different but relevant context.  This was inspired by feedback from the pupils we were working with on the project, who wanted the video portraits to somehow link in to the areas in which our subjects work. Thus the footage of Tony was projected in his gymnasium.  The video camera was placed so that it could record the projection and the context of the gymnasium in a single locked-off shot.  This principle was applied to each subject: 
  • the footage of Dean was projected on to the whiteboard in his classroom; 
  • footage of Christine was played through multiple television sets in a showroom, to reflect the fact that she is seen on countless televisions each evening when she presents the news;
  • footage of Taj was played over the BBC Big Screen in Centenary Square in Bradford (courtesy of the BBC);
  • footage of Seonaid was played back in a surgery waiting room;
  • the footage of Richard was projected in his church, St Paul's Holgate. 
The footage that was captured in these recording sessions was not re-edited, but was used as the final video portrait in the exhibition.

Next section: Creating your own video portrait