Film Projects

Rolling-ball sculptures

January 16, 2021

Rob Moore has many talents – artistic, musical and practical. Over the last three years I’ve enjoyed making short and simple videos that showcase some of his amazing rolling-ball sculptures: that is, sightly whimsical, but endlessly fascinating, kinetic sculptures drawn in stainless-steel wire and given motion by balls raised mechanically and then descending under gravity. Rob’s most ambitious creation to date has been his ‘Kinetic Lungs’, but, in early 2021, he is just about to start on a far more complex sculpture still: the Brain.

There is a small number of like-minded individuals making these kinetic sculptures, spread across the world and linked mostly by the internet. Many of the videos posted showing these sculptures have soundtracks dominated by music, but, to me, the noise of a rolling-ball sculpture is a significant part of its character: the background rumble of the mechanism that lifts the balls up; the swish of the balls as they descend the tracks; the clunks and thuds as gates and switches move; and the frantic spinning of balls in cones. So my approach to the films has been to focus on the sound, tracking, as it were, an individual ball through the sculpture, in a slightly hyper-real way. In each case I recorded the mechanical lift system separately, then turned this off and recorded the progress of an individual ball close-up, section by section with a spaced pair of mics giving a rather exaggerated stereo sound, as if leaning in close to the sculpture. This was then pieced together, overlain with the mechanical rumbling track (with this turned down, to match more closely how you perceive the noise in the flesh) and (and this is the complex bit) multiplied and synchronized with the multiple balls in the video. The video itself in each case has the whole sculpture shown as a static reference shot, with a split-screen showing changing close-ups, but all synchronized: a complexity of audio and visual synchronization that gives a very simple-looking end result, which lets Rob’s rolling-ball sculptures do the talking.

With the upcoming Brain the filming requirements will be much more complex, with pieces to camera by Rob and behind the scenes filming of its making. I’ll post more about the filming and sound-recording aspects of what will be a long build: and Rob will doubtless post updates on his progress on his Facebook page.

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