The many qualities of quality…

I’m finishing up my film on concert pianist Mira Gill who lives, performs, and teaches in New York City. The film is a little bio/profile of a wonderfully gifted artist with an equally strong artistic spirit. Material for this film has come from a variety of sources; family photos, scrapbook items from Mira’s youth, footage I shot in NYC and Maine, archival footage in the public domain, and finally some low quality footage shot of Mira performing with the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra at age 15.

The footage in the clip below barely approaches VHS quality, (and that’s being kind), and to make matters worse, perhaps in extended play mode which would give it that worst possible quality look that we all love of course. A cave painting shot filmed through a fish bowl – you get the idea. It was a wide shot so Mira, occupies just a small section in the frame. At first, I thought, no way – the footage looks really crappy – it’s going to look even worse surrounded by the HD footage I shot for the film. I can’t use it, can I? Then I played it a couple of more times. Again, the footage was so poor you can just make out that it might be Mira – or not! (trust me, I have a signed affadavit!).

I kept replaying the clip, and each time I looked at it I liked it more. It finally dawned on me that this is the real power of art: that as bad as the picture quality was, the performer and the orchestra surrounding her broke through the quality barrier…to freedom! Once I knew I’d be using it, I blew up the frame in several places, pushing the quality lower and the impact higher. I did this so that I’d be able to punctuate the performance with a couple of cuts. The one at the crescendo of the piece is perfect – the cut from the super close-up of Mira, in all her pixellated glory, to the wide shot as the music finishes. I think it works really well – judge for yourself.

Throughout the editing of this film, I found myself getting caught up in the performance each time I passed it in the film. In fact it became more thrilling each time I played it…the performance of this 15 year old phenomenon and the the community orchestra that rose to the occasion and played for all they were worth. They were like a freight train barreling down the tracks. For me the clip I’d like to share below is one of my all-time favorites in my own mental cinematic archives, …and I’m thrilled to be using it in my film.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *