True Fictions Trailer - European Premier

True Fictions: New Adventures in Folklore

An audio visual exploration of truth and myth through the voices and musical collaborations of New Yorkers.

This audio visual spectacle fuses documentary film making, music, animation and motion graphics with cutting edge digital performance tools.

“True Fictions” is the result of a year long digital art project produced and directed by Christopher Thomas Allen, commissioned by The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Centre, Troy, New York.

THURSDAY OCTOBER 11TH 2007 - 21:00 - 23:00 - THE GREAT HALL
European premiere. Manchester Urban Screens 07.

This performance will take place in the spectacular surroundings of The Great Hall, a lofty Victorian-Gothic salon within Manchester Town Hall.

Limited public tickets available, cost for non delegates £5 (£4 concs.)
from the Cornerhouse Box Office on 0161 200 1500

Free for Conference delegates.

Link to Event:

World Premier

EMPAC, The Armory, Troy, New York
- 14.09.2007


Produced & Directed by Christopher Thomas Allen

Assistant Production by Annie Kwan

NYC Production Co-ordination by Sarah Pace

Research Producer Helen Omand

Cinematography by Chris Allen & Robert Pyecroft-Rainbow

Photography by Chris Allen, Robert Pyecroft-Rainbow & Helen Omand

Edited by Chris Allen, James Price & Tim Cowie

Animation by Martin Banks, Tim Cowie & Blinkinlab

Field Recordings and Audio Interviews by Chris Allen,
Robert Pyecroft-Rainbow & Jo Williamson

Studio Sound Recording & Initial Arrangements by Ben Allen

Music Production & Arrangements by Tim Cowie

Addition Audio Production by Malcom Litson & Jude Greenaway

Drums & Percussion:

Scotty "Imp" Lehman – Drums
Brian Fishler – Drums
Pat Rock – Drums
Isabel Pupo Walker - Percussion
Rev Mofo – Drums & Percussion
Valerie Opielski - Percussion
Sean McCall - Vibraphone

String Instuments:

Robbie Seahag – Bass & Electric Guitar
Jason Deiso – Bass Guitar
Valerie Opielski - Electric Guitar
Laurent Medelgi – Guitar
Jo Williamson – Acoustic Guitar
Luke Cissell – Fiddle
Tom Mayer – Double Bass
Brent Arnold - Cello
Mavrothi Kontanis – Oud
Chris Chalfant – Grand Piano


Jo Williamson
Chanda Rule
Marrie Mascari
Adrienne Hecker
Melanie Moser
Kendra Flowers



Wind instruments:

Joseph Jarman – Flute & Saxophone
Martha Hyde – Soprano Saxophone
Welf Dorr – Tenor Saxophone

Special Thanks to:

The Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, Salamanca, NY
The Ronathahonni Cultural Center, Cornwall Island, Ontario
Nichols Meat Processing, Altamont, NY

Kathleen Forde, Jason Steven Murphy
and all the staff at EMPAC

David Lublin & Ray Cutler at VIDVOX

An EMPAC Commission supported by The Jaffe Fund
for Experimental Media and Performing Arts


Technical set up

As we got nearer to our first performance on the September 14th we had to lock down the technical aspect of the show. I knew that I wanted to stick with the multi screen set up we had developed in our previous shows, APB - All Points Between and The Z-Axis.

These performances used multiple projection onto a large gauze screen at the front of the stage and a screen at the back. Originally I was planning on back projecting two side by side video projections at the back of the stage and front projecting one over the gauze as we had done things with the Z-Axis performance. EMPAC had arranged for us to use a small rehearsal space for three days before the show which proved to be invaluable.

After these rehearsals I noticed that some of the narrative elements were getting lost in the layering of the projections. I decided to flip the projection layout back round to how we did the APB show, two video projections onto the gauze screen and one at the back. As the Troy premier was in a huge sports hall we had plenty of space behind the stage to back project this screen.

(don't try this at home)

The complicated bit was working out the play back of our material. We wanted to mix material that was edited across all three screens and in sync with the audio with improvised cuts and scratches from a set of Pioneer DVJ turntables. In this way we could get a balance between edited sequences and live improvisation. This required us to scan-convert the three outputs from Tim's laptop that was running Vidvox VDMX 5 and a Matrox Tripplehead VGA card.

Each of these synced outputs where then passed through a Edirol V4 mixer which had some other sources connected to it, a DVJ, another laptop running VDMX and some live camera feeds. The V4 was then midi controlled from a Pioneer DJM800 mixer so that we could cut audio visual samples in over the three screen backing track.

We had three people operating the sub mixes on each screen and decided to use Appleton Live to run the audio and used a midi controller to trigger the three screen compositions in VDMX. This allowed us to compensate of any lost frames that would occur with the scan conversion and long video cable runs to the projectors.

In addition to the video projections we had two side projections that had a sequence of slide that followed the narrative themes in the show. They were back projected through the gauze screen and controlled with a rather old school dissolve system which we modified to fade to black after each set of two.

The artists performing the Troy Premier were:

Christopher Thomas Allen - AV
Robert Pyecroft-Rainbow
- AV
Ben Allen - AV
Tim Cowie - AV
Jo Williamson - Vocals & Rob's Guitar

We had a great technical support guy, Burle Avant the video engineer at EMPAC, who was super helpful and we had a great time working with him.

For anyone thats a real geek, here's the tech rider for this show:

1 x Stage - 5m L x 3m D x 0.5m H approx
3 x Steel Deck Table - 3m L x 1m D x 1m H
2 x Steel Deck projector Stands – 1m L x 1m D x 2m H
1 x 10m Truss
5 x Profile spots
1 x 16 Channel Line mixer
2 x Mic Stands
3 x Mic's
5 x Audio monitor wedges
3 x DLP Video Projectors
1 x Rear Projection Screen
1 x Hanging Video cradle
3 x 9” Preview Monitor
3 x 13" Preview Monitors
1 x Rack of 4 TFT Preview Monitors
2 x Zenonon Slide Projectors + Lens
2 x Datatron Slide Control + G3 Laptop
2 x Adjustable Projector Stands
6 x LED Spots
1 x DMX Lighting Control
3 x Roland V4 Video Mixers
3 x DVJ-1000 DVD Decks
2 x DJM800 mixer
3 x External Hard Drives
1 x Matrox 3way splitter
3 x VGA>Video Scan Convertors
3 x Midi Control
3 x Apple Laptop running VD-MX 5
1 x Guitar & Delay Box

Cables & Power

Sound System

Technical Crew & Riggers
Audio technician

Tea & Cutters Choice

Phase Four

Post Production

First step in the post production process was to capture all the footage that had been shot during our two trips to the states. This came to a approximate total of forty five tapes, 15 hours of DV footage and 22 hours of HDV footage. After we had logged and captured the best bit of this huge archive we would begin the painful task of re-syncing all the audio we had recorded with the video from the music sessions.

Tim Cowie took on the task of re-syncing the video with the audio that we had recorded in Logic, as he made his way through the tapes he began to familiarised himself with the recording with an eye and an ear to re-working the arrangements in Logic once we had the project matched up in Final Cut Pro.

I began editing work on the narrative material, capturing the various documentary footage we'd shot and listening through hours of recorded audio interviews and chopping them slowly into statements and themes. This was a good three weeks work before we got into the arrangement stage.

We started to create the music compositions by opening the arrangements that my brother Ben had created during the recording sessions and selecting the best takes. Slowly we started to get a picture of the different tracks and Tim began to refine the arrangements and write new elements to these tracks. I continued to edit the narrative while listen to the tracks coming together. Working with the narrative and the music at the same time we were able to allow each to influence the other. As i got sections for story edited we would try playing them with different tracks. We soon had a rough sketch of all the tracks and their themes, we then began to focus on the musical arrangements in Logic and translate them into video sequences in Final Cut Pro.

As we got these sequences together it back clear that we had lots of work cut out for ourselves over the summer. It had always been my intention to get different artists to remix the audio compositions and I got in touch with a handful of producers that i wanted to get involved in the project. Me and Tim decided which tracks would work best with which producer.

After failing to pin down several music producers including Patrick of DJ Food fame, we opted to stick a bit closer to home. We began work with
Malcolm "Blip Vert" Litson (who had been helping us with Logic) and
Scanone, AKA Mr Jude Greenaway. Jude has been a integral part of The Light Surgeons AV performance work from day one. I really wanted his skills on the audio and his involvement in the performances, but due to his limited availability and my slim budget he only ended up writing one of the tracks in the final show.

We had to start thinking about how we were going to present the final piece as this had various ramifications on how we went forward with the editing and audio production. At times the complex layers of chicken and egg situations got the better of us but we continued to march on at a fair pace.

The narrative edits were sketched out and coming together, we had to do a fair bit of bouncing tracks between the two programs, re-arranging the audio to work with the narrative and visa-versa.

I knew there was one or two pieces that I wanted to use a more animation
approach with, so we enlisted the help of some friends, Martin Banks came on board for a week and worked on a 2D typographical sequence in Aftereffects that illustrated word for word a battle between two poets about 911.

Towards the end of our post we commissioned two animators, Tom Wall and Luis De Jorge Ladrero from BlinkinLab, to create a more complex 3D animated sequence to the final track that Jude had created with the MC's we'd recorded. This sequence was created using Maya, I providing the vector artwork in a sequence
that corresponded to the MC's lyrics and they set about creating these graphic files into a landscape of logos which rush past with track.

During the post production phase we had several deadlines where we had to up load work in progress to an FTP site for EMPAC to see how things were coming on and they could give us some feed back. They were more than happy with what we were making and didn't meddle with anything, which was great, the only issue for them was the title: New Adventures in Folklore, which they felt wasn't exciting enough (!?) so i began a painful process of finding an alternative.

Its hard to have any sort of objective view on something like this when your right in the middle of it all and I hate having to come up with titles under pressure at the best of times. Titles can be a really tricky thing and i don't think you can find them when you most need them, they tend to find you in my experience. After going round in several big circles, digging through piles of notes and going generally blind to the whole thing, Helen came up with some good surgestions and we decided to go with one of hers: True Fictions.