For a lot of businesses, setting aside time for research and innovation can be a challenge. We find that innovation means having to park the need for results while you let experimentation take the lead.
As digital media producers, experimentation is an important part of what we do. Sometimes it happens quietly in the background, sometimes we set aside blocks of time to workshop intensively. Either way, experimentation is important because it gives us energy and lets us feed new ideas back into our work. It keeps us fresh. So we plan for it. We build innovation into our practice by setting aside time to experiment. It’s one of the most valuable things we can do.
Recently I started playing with stop frame animations, something I haven’t done for years. Instead of my old Super 8 camera, I’m now using an iPhone. Well, two iPhones actually; an old 4S I’d given up for dead a few years ago and a new 6. The 6 is the controller and the 4S is the camera. For my test shoot I set up the 4S in the garden and used the 6 to set the ISO, zoom, focus and aperture. I shot the pumpkin leaves rising and falling with the passing of the clouds. When the heat of the day had passed I shot the chard coming back from a dead wilt, miraculously. Just like my old iPhone.
The thing I love about stop motion is that it shows you things that are happening, that you can’t always see. By compressing time and movement, you get to see a different what is. Possibilities open up. Imagination takes its place at the centre of things.
Of course things wilt in the heat and then recover, but have I ever watched it happen from start to finish? No. Have I ever noticed that some plants wilt and recover dozens of times a day? No. Like us, plants never stop moving, not even on a still day.
So I’ve come away from this simple experiment with two precious things.
Firstly I’ve re-discovered a photographic process to bring to our work; a technique we can use as a cutaway or a background image to suggest movement and time passing. It’s an oldie but a goodie.
Secondly, I’ve latched on to an idea that just keeps on giving. It’s the idea of rejuvenation. Understanding rejuvenation has reminded me of the incredible regenerative powers of nature, like forest regrowth after fire or east coast beaches coming back after a cyclone. It reminds me of the cyclic nature of our lives, of our work, of business cycles. It’s reassuring. Don’t worry on the downturn, look forward to the new spaces that will open up in place of the old. For me, that’s the real gift of experimentation; the things you discover can lead to other discoveries and then other discoveries and so on, creating a kind of feedback loop where you are always ‘on’, always alert to new possibilities and new ways of doing things.