Johnston’s video, which can be viewed in full below, features footage of ballet dancer Rachel Bodger presenting a live interpretation of the album in dance. But the magic comes from his use of a technique called ‘slit scan photography’, which turns Bodger’s movement into fractured, abstracted forms.
“It’s a digital version of an analogue technique called slit scan photography,” says Johnston. “Cameras use a circular aperture but with the use of a slit you can focus light into a line instead. Then you drag the film across at the right speed to expose the image correctly. The results are long thin photographs that document any changes the camera can ‘see’ through the gap.
“Essentially I replaced the slit with it’s closest digital equivalent: a single line of pixels. I shot the video as one continuous take and converted the footage into a digital slitscan. Eventually after 92 hours of number-crunching, Ambient Zone 2 had landed on my poor computer’s desktop.”
Johnston encouraged Bodger to create her own choreography to the music. “Encouraging Rachel to interpret the song herself was an important conceptual element to the project,” he says. “I described how the effect worked and asked her to fill in the gaps between some precisely positioned pauses. I’m glad Rachel had the patience to fully understand a routine which she was unable to see or visualise at the time.”
“It would have been very difficult to choreograph and memorise an hour long piece of movement, and so the final performance was improvised,” says Bodger. “Richie was keen for it to be my own interpretation of the music, which lends itself to slow, controlled movement; exactly what suited the stretch effect of the video! While this wasn’t strictly a ballet dance, I feel that my history of ballet training helped create the fluid movement seen in the video.
“Filming a one hour video in a disused fire station at night was somewhat of a challenge,” she continues. “We had to restart after 30 minutes because there was a mistake in the staging, and as it got later the temperature dropped somewhat, but we managed to get the full hour on the second take, which was a relief!”
The making-of film below offers a few more insights into how it was done: