stories in stone ... Ramayana I, 45

Loaded 20 February 2012.

stories in stone - a new series of short videos

After a whirlwind trip to Vietnam and Cambodia in which I got introduced to the art and architecture of the Khmer empire, a new fun video series suggested itself - STORIES IN STONE.

It is such an obvious theme with so much great art and culture captured in the architecture, decorations and devotions of past cultures.

... And this tale from the Ramayana and Mahabharata , and other texts, has obviously inspired past generations of humans as it inspired me here - a very different creation story portrayed in the most stunning detail over some 120 square metres of man-made stone canvas and straining larger-than-life rock titans at the city entrances.

So I hope you like this first "Story in Stone" - Chapter 45 from book 1 of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Other stories are planned but have to take a back seat to MESSIAH - and I suspect no other Cambodia 'Stories in Stone" will be as powerful as this tale and its rendering.

Serendipity again

Once more, everything about this idea and project is serendipitous ...

  • It was pure serendipity that we were on this trip at all, having been invited at the last minute so I could keep the one other bloke company.
  • My old camera serendipitously died in Hue, Vietnam. I took a photo. I went to take another. The camera was dead! As it turns out the new camera is much better with spectacular resolution that allows the really deep pull backs and extreme close ups used in this clip.
  • I knew nothing of Cambodia, Angkor or the Hindu epic heritage and so was able to be blown away by the discovery.
  • The soundtrack music had been buzzing in my head for months, begging for something to attach itself to after I discovered it recently in the 1985 Peter Weir film , "Witness" , to which I had been directed by some texts on storytelling.
  • And lastly, the story literally fell into the music as if they were made for each other.

Behind the scenes

Almost all the machinery used to produce this (apart from the new camera) is unchanged, but I have had the chance to use other features, hone existing skills and get smarter about elements of the (simple) animations used here. I did learn some interesting facts after much buggerising around, such as 21,600 pixels is the largest dimension much digital image software is comfy with. Thanks NASA, I should have paid attention to your release notes.

But most interesting to me is how few images were needed in order to construct something I find quite spectacular.

The fly-in fly-out space sequences are largely two images from Earth Observatory Next Generation Blue Marble  ;a whole-of-earth map (21,600 pixels wide! Surprise!) and image D1 from the highest resolution 8-tiles-for-all-earth set (each tile 21,600 pixels square); plus an all-of-sky image of the Milky Way (of which only a portion is visible in this clip). EO state the hi-res earth map is a resolution of 500m per pixel. I have to admit I struggle to see that but could certainly believe 1000m per pixel. For the flyout, these have been supplemented for brief moments with several even more high-res images of Angkor and Tonle Sap  (the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia) from space - with a lot of colour massaging needed to get something roughly congruent.

The Ramayana sequences and Angkor history sequences are from less than 20 pictures between them, including the multiple pictures that make the pan of the Elephant Terrace, only a small part of which is used. Quite amazing to me how much could be "constructed" from so little. And maybe it is as well I had no idea I would be doing this project when I was there because otherwise I would probably be paralysed under a mountain of pictures.

Technical snippets

Not a lot for this project thank goodness. A lot of time wasted trying to build then use images bigger than 21,600 pixels a side. I now know better. A little over a week from starting the first draft of the script to upload, including mountains of obsessive re-working to get ... well everything ... "just so!".

"Marble" fly-ins and -outs done on a sphere in Carrara  against a (Carrara) "backdrop" of the Milky Way with Magellenic Clouds and a moving camera. Angkor fly-outs also done in Carrara as images on planes with a fixed camera using telephoto lensing. This was much more controlable, and better quality than using the pan-and-zoom feature in Edit Studio. Likewise almost all panning sequences were re-worked in Carrara with fixed lensing and a moving camera because the in-built pan feature in Edit Studio degraded image quality too much for comfort.

Enjoy!

Angkor Wat is part of the UNESCO Angkor World Heritage Site.

The Earthmaps used for the fly-in / fly-out sequences can be found at Visible earth  specifically Blue Marble  along with a whole lot of other goodies.

Click into Gallery SIS-1 to see the images used in the video in a new tab.