Big Screens - Week 2: 3min Test Clip

Creating a visual storyboard that focuses on addressing a particular line of inquiry, draws context from specific source material, and takes into consideration narrative structure and timing.

Along with practicing the process of storyboarding, constructing a narrative, and playing with timing, we wanted to take the opportunity to test some visual content while visiting the IAC building this week.  Although we haven't yet decided on a theme, developed a narrative, or decided on what we want the structure of our piece to be, we have a good idea of the aesthetic we want to achieve.  As such, we used this improv-storyboarding exercise as a chance to view material with the same visual qualities we plan on incorporating. We began the process by putting together a collection of video clips from sites like Vimeo and YouTube.  We identified a few themes that we felt were present in the majority of the clips and used these to develop a line of inquiry.  This is what we came up with:

Line of Inquiry:
If a machine had the ability to think, and dream, how would it feel just before it died?

Source Material:
Artificial Intelligence / Robots

Narrative Structure:
Sequential (ABCDEF)

Timing Structure:

When we were analyising the clips, most of which have computer-generated content, we agreed that they all had a slightly dream-like quality.  The recent advances in Artificial Intelligence, along with the emergence of Google's deep-dreaming experiment, helped guide us towards the question of what might an artificially intelligent "being" dream about.  Of course we're not implying that we're the first people to ask such questions, considering Philip K. Dick wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep as far back as 1968, however we were intrigued by the idea of artificial consciousness and what really separates us from the machines.  Well, for one thing, we live and then we die.  We can't backup our consciousness (well at least not yet anyone), so in that sense one might argue that a machine could live forever.  Artificial intelligence is one thing, but what about emotion.  If a machine became sentient, would it fear its own death? The idea of one's life flashing before one's eyes at the moment before death is an intriguing concept.  Would an artificially and emotionally intelligent machine experience a similar phenomenon?

The first thirty seconds of the clip aim to establish a narrative context.  The viewer is taken on a journey showing the evolution of the personal computer, using a a sequence of still images. Short video clips, with quick cuts between them, establish the ascendence of the humanoid robot. A pause lasting several seconds provides the viewer with a brief moment to reflect on what they've seen, before they're introduced to the protagonist.  A humanoid robot is shown in a futuristic laboratory setting with a human doctor.  The two interact with one another, both showing a great deal of emotion.  The human doctor is evidently anguished by the robotic character's situation.  The human doctor takes the hand of the robot and squeezes it gently, a sign of affection reminiscent of scenes in hospital between two human characters.  At the end of the scene, the robotic character appears to have died, with its eyes closing, before fading to black.

Playing on the metaphor of the eyes being the window to the soul, the viewer is drawn into the being's final moments of life.  The remainder of the film is a series of abstract images and visualisations, many of which resemble the firing of neurons or electrochemical processes that take place in the human brain.  The final two scenes represent the beings subjective view of it's own existence, representing itself in human form, both breaking apart and rebuilding the world in which it finds meaning.