Time Arts Final Project: Trapped
Finally! The last project of the semester! Like most final projects in art classes, this one was extremely broad in criteria. We could do anything we wanted from earlier in the semester, or even do our own thing. I’d had a lot of fun with the sound project, and I’d had an interesting conversation with our prof about the nature of sound, so I decided I’d go that route again. Only this time, with visuals!
My roommates had been playing a lot of Amnesia: The Dark Descent in the weeks leading up to this assignment. In case I haven’t mentioned it, I absolutely love video games, especially from an art/mechanics standpoint. I could write a whole post expanding on that, but suffice to say, Amnesia is a damn good blend of art and mechanics. The gameplay, more than anything, is designed to exploit our fear of the unknown. Much of the game world is shrouded in darkness, and while you can bring light into it, you can’t do so indefinitely, and are at many points forced to press onward in pitch blackness. You have to rely on your sense of hearing, and that’s when the terror really starts. You hear a snarl in the distance, and you know what it is - a disgusting half-human monster that wants to kill you - but you have no idea how far away it is, or if it can hear you. For all you know, it could be right around the corner, and if that’s the case, all you can do is run and hope the door at the end of the hall isn’t locked. Your “sanity” begins to fade, and colors invert, sounds distort, and movement becomes difficult. Your fear grows with the fear of your avatar, whether you want it to or not. It’s an incredibly visceral experience, completely unlike other shock and gore horror games I’ve seen. So I decided to make it my model.
I shot the footage first, hunting around campus for claustrophobic, dusty, forgotten places. The basements and attics of the oldest buildings provided excellent settings, as well as some of the concrete access tunnels between buildings. I played with the focus as I shot, trying to create a sense of unreliable first-person vision. I then strung together the best of these shots and began to craft a soundscape underneath it. I reused a lot of found audio from my previous assignment to create environmental noise, while layering vocal tracks from an online database over it for flavor. I also included a track of myself breathing at varying rates, to match the virtual “heartbeat” that plays throughout. All of these things were done to place the viewer within the video, to make the experience of the apparent protagonist of the film as internalized as possible. I wanted viewers to feel like they were in this confusing, dreamlike world of darkness and sound, pursued by an unseen entity who meditative drone is enough to strike paralyzing terror into its pray. That way, the viewer feels their grip on reality slipping as each vignette becomes more and more abstract and unsettling, until jarring disruptions in their sight and hearing make them unsure of their safety. When finally given a chance to escape, there is hope that the nightmare will end. But the drone proves to be an undefeatable force, and eventually the viewer succumbs to its roar as their vision fades and their bodies are no longer within their own control.
Your own experience may vary, but this was the experience I set out to create, and I believe that it works fairly well. I mean, I made the damn thing, and I still jump at parts. The depth of the audio didn’t translate very well to Youtube compression, but if you wear headphones, you ought to get the idea. Enjoy!