By Marcus Richardson and Hannah Holst
Waiting for Samuel is a short narrative told via a collection of cinemagraphs. It tells the story of two siblings, George and Diantha, as they each prepare for a visit from their estranged father. Throughout their morning routines, Diantha exudes optimism, while George acts more cautious and somber. They travel together to the bus stop to wait. When he arrives, the siblings’ differing relationships with their father affect their perception of the same moment.
Waiting for Samuel is also a subtle social commentary on how emotional support is expected and given differently to children of different genders. George’s and Diantha’s story each represents their relationship with their father. We feel like this textless medium is ideal to comment on social issues because it lets the audience arrive at their own conclusions.
There are many existing high-quality cinemagraphs available for viewing on the internet. They mostly are found as stand-alone posts on social media or showcases consisting of well-edited but diverse cinemagraphs. They’re used in music videos sometimes, as well. Few tell a cohesive and connected story, as we chose to do. We purposely crafted our story to be enhanced thematically be the cinemagraphs. We feel like the “stillness” of cinemagraphs adds to the feeling of quiet contemplation. The repetitive loops give it an aura of a never-ending, never-changing situation.
To add further to the atmosphere, we included auto-playing original music on the web page. The musical track contains long looped ambient to evoke the feeling of endlessly waiting. A polyrhythmic motif on marimba played over the top gives it a sense of impatience, especially as it plays dissonant scale degrees with some of the chords underneath it.
We ran into several challenges throughout this project. We first had to learn how to create cinemagraphs, which was new territory for both of us. We used Premiere Pro to layer still images and looping film segments on top of each other. Our film shoot went well, though the weather was remarkably amiable, contrary to the dreary picture we had in our minds (some coloring in postproduction helped the outdoor scenes match the theme). After filming, we searched our material for moments that would work well as cinemagraphs. If cinemagraphs don’t loop well, they become disjointed or abrupt, which distracts from the content. To have them loop effectively, we had to search for beginning and ending frames that were similar enough to be connected. For several of them, we had one moment fade out and another fade in to create an illusion of a natural loop.
Embedding the cinemagraphs into a website also proved to be difficult. Having all of them play at the same time on the same webpage led to a long loading time. We considered having static images that morphed into cinemagraphs when hovered over, but we were not able to implement that with the resources available to us. After trying various plugins, we ended up separating them into different pages without the hover option.
If were were to pursue another project utilizing this medium, we would do a few things differently. For next time, it would be helpful to embed the cinemagraphs in a more conducive web page format. That may require programming a web page from scratch. We would also experiment with a wider variety of what loops and how in the individual cinemagraphs. There is a lot of potential for this distinct medium for storytelling.