Behind the scenes Collections Long read Series

Imaging takes an Isolated View (Part 4): ‘Visually Manipulating Rylands Treasures’

During my 13 or so years at the Rylands, I’ve had the chance to see truly mind blowing things across our entire collections.

As well as being a photographer at the Rylands, I have been creating visual art for a number of years. I started IMPATV with my partner and we’ve been making videos, streaming events and creating interactive installations for about 5 years. 

The IMPATV studio at Islington Mill in Salford

During this time of lockdown, we’ve been looking at how the images we take at the Rylands can be used in different ways.  For my ‘Isolated View’ I thought I’d experiment with using some of the more graphic images from the collections and my own visual equipment. We’re lucky enough to live in the amazing Islington Mill studios just over the river in Salford, and we also have our studio here.

During my 13 or so years at  the Rylands, I’ve had the chance to see truly mind blowing things across our entire collections. One of my favourite manuscripts is Latin MS 8, ‘Beatus Super Apocalypsim’, a stunning 12th Century manuscript with a number of incredibly well presented illuminations. The manuscript has been digitised in full, and you can see it in Manchester Digital Collections here.

Bird Killing A Serpent (JRL1316338) Latin MS 8 f14r

I chose ‘Bird Killing a Serpent’ (JRL1316338) for the tests, as it had the most negative space around the illumination, and great detail in the bird and serpent. The negative space meant there was lots of room to cut the background of the page out to generate more patterns.

There’s no audio on this video, but play it along with whatever music you feel like and see if it will fit as a visual.

To create the effects, the only piece of software that was used is Resolume Arena, which we use for live projection, video processing and video mapping. The laptop running this is then plugged into our video hardware with HDMI, and the older equipment with composite connections (the yellow plug older cameras use).

I’ve made a short video to try to explain what I’m doing to make the effects, it’s a video feedback loop that is created by a camera filming a monitor, that is showing what the camera sees. It’s the same effect as holding up 2 mirrors and seeing an endless reflection, only this is in video. The Rylands image has a digital effect added to create movement, then this effects the video loop by being played on the monitor.

You may be familiar with this type of technique from the early Dr. Who intro scenes from the 60’s, with music arranged by Delia Desrbysire, whose amazing archive we now hold in The Rylands. There’s a really great article here that talks about the titles over the years. (original feedback loop ones are the best of course)

A feedback loop can be as big as you can make it, it depends on how big your screen is. So if you have a projector, you can create some rather large results as shown in this video using a dancer to create the effects.

You can even try this at home, by simply plugging a camera into a tv and pointing the lens at the screen.

Using these old mixers all linked up together can create some really incredible results. The video here really is only the tip of the iceberg, and I’ll often find myself in the studio after long periods not knowing how I’ve got to an effect that’s being generated, and returning to the equipment after it’s been turned off can give you something  entirely different. It’s a real rabbit hole. 

1 comment on “Imaging takes an Isolated View (Part 4): ‘Visually Manipulating Rylands Treasures’

  1. stellahalkyardoutlookcom

    Wow! A polychromatic excursion through thrillsville!

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