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Recognize These Digitally-Exploded Movie Scenes?

Charles Sainty uses 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'Blade Runner,' and more to examine memory and the tools we use to record.

by Beckett Mufson
Aug 15 2016, 5:45pm

The Big Lebowski (1994) reimagined in Charles Sainty's 'LAX.' Screencaps via

Two of cinema's most iconic dream sequences bookend an out-of-body experience that questions how we watch at movies. Beginning with the yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz and The Big Lebowski's bowling fantasy, multimedia artist Charles Sainty's experimental short film LAX uses photogrammetry to show how incomplete even the greatest films can be.

Photogrammetry is the process of building a 3D world from a large number of 2D images. Using only free software Blender and 123D Catch, Sainty rips apart films like The Lion King, The Matrix, and Touch of Evil, reassembling each frame of certain tracking shots into topographical map-like landscapes. While exploring them, the gaps and glitches at the edges are even more compelling than the films themselves, recalling the edges where reality begins to break down in old video games. When Sainty shifts the camera just a few degrees, all that's left is blank white space. He tells The Creators Project, "From one perspective, these virtual objects represent intimate memories of the pop cultural canon, rich with history and meaning; from another, they are abstractions of form and color, signifying nothing."

The Matrix (1999)

This isn't a dig at any one filmmaker—no one is contesting the brilliance of Touch of Evil's iconic opening shot, to be clear. Iinstead, Sainty is responding to film as a medium. The artist, nearing the end of a two-year residency at NEW INC, asks similar questions to 3D space benders Rachel Rossin and Clement Valla. What do we actually see when we look at a screen? How much of our knowledge is built on imperfect media? 

LAX was Sainty's thesis project at SVA, where he graduated with an M.F.A in Photography, Video, and Related Media in 2014. He's since turned his attention to war footage and online videos of car accidents, but LAX is like a long train of thought concluding that even the most vividly-imagined and well-produced worlds are imperfect fictions. That's not a bad thing, Sainty explains. "These fragments of culture, created by processing famous tracking shots into 3D models using photogrammetry software, evoke not just the artifice of film, but the need for artifice itself," he says. "I'm fighting assumption that there's knowledge to be had."

Touch of Evil (1958)

The Lion King (1994)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Die Hard (1988)

Blade Runner (1982)

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The full list of movies in LAX includes: The Wizard of Oz, The Lion King, Jurassic Park, Titanic, Touch of Evil, The Matrix, Taxi Driver, Die Hard, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, Blade Runner, Singing in the Rain, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and The Big Lebowski. See more of Charles Sainty's work on his website.

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