Video by Dennis Hlynsky
Recorded early November in Lawrence, MA at the beginning of the winter crow roost season. In this video American Crows and Fish Crows fly from a staging area in the the south to the Merrimack river’s edge to spend the night.
Professor and Dept Head of the Film/Animation/video Department at the Rhode Island School of Design. Dennis is an early adopter of electronic imaging. Beginning in 1972 with early forms of video signal processing he has focused his artistic research on instances of group activity. These instances range from human celebration to animal gatherings. Dennis was a co-founder of Electron Movers.
Below is an excerpt from an online article at www.wired.com posted in March 2014:
Dennis discovered his ability to collapse and condense time in 2006, outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Hlynsky had been driving in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, when he noticed a flock of starlings above the donut shop performing one of their arresting group ballets. He pulled over, propped his Flip video camera against a rock, and filmed the entire show.
When he got home, he did what came naturally and loaded the footage into After Effects. Hlynsky, 61, has been manipulating video footage since the 1970s, when he was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. Today, he heads the school’s Film, Animation and Video Department.
Even with the ability to scrub back and forth through the action, Hlynsky found it difficult to track how the murmuration, as starling flocks are called, was moving. So he started experimenting. By layering frames atop each other, he discovered that he could see not just where the birds were at a given moment but also where they had been moments before. “I found if I could extend time without slowing it down, I could see more clearly what was going on in the flock,” he says. Now, there’s a chance his mesmerizing technique could help scientists in their decades-long quest to understand how and why birds fly as they do.
Hlynsky–pronounced Ha-lynn-skee, like “Lewinksy,” not Hel-sink-ee, like the Finnish capital, though that didn’t keep it from becoming his seventh-grade nickname–has spent the past several years tweaking his time-extruding technique. Early on, he focused on single bird studies, conducting experiments in his backyard with homemade green-screen feeders. He’s since adapted the technique to visualize the movements of ants, carp, seagulls and ducks. Lately, Hlynsky’s returned to filming flocks.
The results are striking. In each case, the processed clips amplify the birds’ mesmerizing movements. In the best examples, the sweeping formations are closer to art than nature, like watching a great thumb make charcoal smudges in the sky. In some instances, viewed in momentary superposition, the black flocks take on a sinister quality, like you’re trapped inside The Birds on a potent dose of LSD.As he perfected the artistic process, Hlynsky found himself more interested in figuring out what exactly he was documenting. The closer he examined his footage, the more it surprised him.
“I saw none of the organization I expected,” he says. Instead of flying like a disciplined formation of fighter jets, it seemed more like the flocks were operating as a single entity, linked extrasensorially into some strange supercreature. One second, Hlynsky says, a group of birds could just be standing around being birds, and suddenly “they’d all take off and kind of surrender their individuality en masse–sort of like a change of state.”