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Greek Mysteries

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UMD Film and Digital Decoding

Still shot from film

Ryan Holmquist, a senior in the Department of Art and Design, has an extremely visual undergraduate research project. He is using digital compositing to help create a bonus features film, which spotlights the ancient Greek Eleusinian Mysteries.

Joellyn Rock, assistant professor in the Department of Art and Design, and Holmquist’s UROP advisor, travelled to Greece this fall doing research for the film project. She brought back dynamic images but many need Holmquist’s help.

The overall project is quirky. It isn’t exactly a film within a film but rather a film outside a film. It is modeled after the mockumentary style using fragments of cinematic evidence: video clips, location stills, design sketches, storyboards, and more. Rock’s goal is to create a spoof of a bonus DVD for a film that has never been made. The bonus features include several sections: The History of the Mysteries — complete with scholarly interviews, pre-production and post-production interviews, on-location footage and interviews, and the director’s journal

Because they are inventing a special feature reel without a full-length film, Holmquist and Rock use a green screen, models, actors and digital imaging software. “It’s a good opportunity to practice my video and editing skills,” said Holmquist.

Seveal hours of filming can make dozens of hours of image compositing for Holmquist. He primarily works with the backgrounds; sometimes merging the footage shot in Greece and in Duluth and other times building more detailed images from still photography or original footage. "I've been able to research various architecture styles and ornamental elements in order to create a more realistic set," he said. His work with the green screen brings him into contact with another area of film: posing actors in a scene that will best work with the script of the film.

Both Greece and Duluth feature prominently in the project. “What’s really neat is we can take pictures of places around Duluth and use them to build our settings.” said Rock. “Strangely enough there are plenty of locations that provide similar geographical structures.” Duluth footage comes from familiar places Chester Creek, Park Point and the waterfalls of Tischer Creek.

The Mysteries project expected completion date is in 2013. In the meantime, the pseudo-documentary is giving UMD students like Holmquist the opportunity to act in the film and work on the product. Watch for it to go viral.

Written by Jessica Coffin and Cheryl Reitan, December 2011

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