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The Lowliest Medium: A Film Festival Threatens to Send the City into a Rage with a Movie Made on Google Glass 

Wednesday, Mar 19 2014
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The introduction of Google Glass in 2012 sparked a controversy over how "plugged in" is too plugged in. This controversy has heightened recently as more and more people have started wearing the device in public, culminating in a recent spate of Glass bans in bars around San Francisco. Despite this ongoing debate, Google Glass has also inspired, more or less inevitably, some inventive works of art.

"Catch," a stop-motion short film of more than a thousand stills shot entirely with Google Glass, depicts a phone number written on a Glass-user's hand moving and changing as the user tries to recover it. "Catch" is one of more than 2,000 submissions that filmmakers from all over the world sent to the seventh annual Disposable Film Festival, which shows only films made on non-professional video-recording devices. In the early days after the festival debuted in 2007, many of the films were made on one-time-use digital cameras. They were typically more experimental than narrative, says executive director and co-founder Carlton Evans. "We were getting a lot of films that were more kinetic, but had very little substance in the way of stories," he says. "People were doing things like sending [the disposable camera] up in the air in hot air balloons and trying to retrieve it. Videos like that are cool, but they don't tell a story."

With the introduction of new media, like the GoPro camera and social media platforms Vine and Instagram, the submissions the DFF have received have become more complex. "Over the past couple of years we have seen people incorporating storytelling techniques [into their films]," says Evans. "The stories are better constructed and we are seeing new characters coming through."

One of the submissions from 2011, "Global Street View Adventure," used only footage from Google Street View to show locations across the world. One of the films that will be shown this year, "Vine Dance Compilation," features clips from several viral Vine videos of people dancing, which were animated to appear cartoonish and colorful.

Despite the controversy surrounding Google Glass and other new technologies, Evans says that the recent innovations have "leveled the playing field" for filmmaking. "What really distinguishes us from other film festivals is that we continue to show highly innovative filmmaking techniques," he says. "They're not films you would see a film student making. The filmmakers don't have a lot of training; they just notice the different things they can do with their phone or other device."

As with with Vine and GoPro, it's becoming more common to use Google Glass to create works of art (and to appreciate it: Artist David Datuna has a piece in the Smithsonian that can only properly be viewed with Glass). Still, "Catch" was the only Glass video submitted to the festival this year. "'Catch' was really unusual," says Evans. "It's the only Google Glass video I've ever seen."

Next year, there may be more. Bar fights could be a popular theme.

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Jessica Nemire

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