I don't know why, but Photo Messaging was a bit of a surprise to me when it came out. Up until this point, I had never connected the idea of virtual camera -- where multiple cameras are set up in a row and shutters opened at various intervals to create frozen moments -- with Chris Cunningham. I had always associated the technique strictly with Michel Gondry, who helped innovate and popularize virtual camera with his promo for Like a Rolling Stone, and other works.

Photo Messaging was created with the help of Timetrack, who do this sort of thing. If you take a look at Timetrack's sample work, you'll see they have made some really rich, creative, thoroughly modern pieces. Photo Messaging, released January 2003 in Europe, shows how clean the technique can be accomplished today.

The 40-second clip is a how-to of photography. As a bouncy track by Add N to (x) hops us along, a woman narrates instructively the "simple rules" necessary to create beautiful photographs. As she narrates, the virtual camera sweeps through six darkly lit, nighttime scenes whose subjects are spotlit, creating a ghostly effect as they travel through space. Explains Timetrack on their website, "Shot mostly at night in London, in this spot we used timed exposures of up to 30 seconds to create an effect where various subjects travel through time and space producing 3D trace images and motion blur. The 160 lens Timetrack camera's 160 shutters all opened simultaneously and remained open while the subjects, mostly people, moved in front of the camera. At the end of the event all of the shutters closed simultaneously."

The visual effect is painterly, as many of the people's heads and bodies stream and conjoin through three-dimensional space. Each scene has its own unique soundprint as well, an echoing and distorted surround that creates an environment tinctured with memory, and a bit hallucinogenic.

When taking a photograph, make sure your subject is ready.
And that they're arranged in a suitable formal manner.
This can be difficult with members of the animal kingdom.
Avoid blurring by keeping movement to a minimum.
Follow these simple rules, and you'll end up with a photograph you'll treasure for a lifetime.
Go on. Muck about with free photo messaging for all Orange customers.

2003 The Creative Circle: Silver, Best special effects/computer graphics