Issue 84 / November - December 2011
It was 3 o'clock in the morning. The rain outside beat on the windows and the loud thunder ripped through the night. A loud knock on the door startled the boy. All alone in the mansion, he was not really expecting anyone this late. But the stranger insistently knocked on the door. The boy got up hesitantly and grabbed the doorknob with shaking hands... Flash forward. He woke up with a scream, drenched in a pool of sweat. "Thank God, it was all a dream."
I turned off the TV, feeling a mix of boredom and hunger gnawing hunger at the pit of my stomach. I headed down to the kitchen to grab a bite.
The world is full of wonders. We are amazed at how fish swim or how birds fly; by imitating their systems, we attempt to swim or fly. One of our most precious attributes is curiosity. Once I attended an exhibition associated with a popular movie. I was amazed at the power of human imagination and the dreams it can conjure, turning them into reality. The props and costumes used in this movie were displayed lavishly for the curious eyes of the fans and the flash of the cameras. We, as human beings, were being entertained with the products of the human imagination. Even the flow of events that happened at the exhibition, the flashing cameras, the d├ęcor and costumes, which seemed so important at that time, were all a design of the human imagination; they were not real. As the actors and actresses took on the personalities of their characters, they not only assumed the role of a movie character, but also became a player in a man-made dream world. We followed the entertainment with curiosity and interest. The characters, the story, the costumes, the light, and sound: all this captivated our attention. As the glow of the entertainment slowly faded off, I began to feel that this popular movie and even the exhibition itself existed within another movie... a more real movie in which we all played our roles.
My favorite pieces in the exhibition were the "magically alive" animated portraits. I couldn't help but smile when I saw the people in the portraits applauding us, as if we had accomplished some feat. I liked the idea of animated portraits and photos. A picture is ultimately just a 2D image, but an animated image encompasses a third dimension: time. A movie's ability to capture the charm of time is what appeals to us and captivates our attention.
Early in the morning, I glanced out my window and noticed the autumn leaves falling from the tree in my back yard. About two or three weeks ago they were all green, but now the scene had completely changed. Tinted with different shades of orange, yellow, red and purple, the leaves ruffled on their branches with the whoosh of the light breeze.
I imagined that my window was an animated picture inside my home. There was someone insistently striking His brush against my easel, coloring this picture day by day, moment by moment, and giving it motion for me, making me feel the changes He brought about. Filled with these wondrous thoughts, words fell out of my mouth: "He is truly a magnificent artist." At the moment, I recalled what the lead character in a movie had said as he looked, bewildered at the harmony of colors in the sky during sunset: "God must have been an artist."
In order to make an animated picture or create a video sequence, the consecutive pictures or "frames" of a scene must be joined together. If the difference between the capture times of two consecutive frames is too long, the video will not run smoothly, stuttering like an old silent film, with intermittent flickers. Modern day movies use a larger number of frames per unit of time. The greater the number of frames, the smoother the images will appear. When I focused my attention on this outside "movie," a movie in which I was an actress along with the rest of humanity, I couldn't help but wonder what the number of frames was. Since we are living in a "perfect" movie, the movie of our world that we see through our eyes everyday must have an infinite number of frames. I contently followed the descent of a snowflake onto my hand. It made me admit once again that we're part of a great cinematography and screenplay. The producer is not only an artist who covertly paints the pictures with His gentle brush strokes, but is also someone who strings an infinite number of picture frames with great skill and attention to detail, creating the perfect animation of "life."
Imagine the animation of a falling bird feather; one would need to perform an enormous number of calculations between the sequences of frames. It would be necessary to run many computers in parallel to be able to process such animation in real time. Then I used this same information and applied it to the scene of the falling snowflake. Contemplating the details of each moment within that scenario and considering each moment to be a single frame helps you appreciate the complicated task of stringing these frames together in real time.
When you see a man inscribing circles with a light source you actually see a circle of a light. In fact, you perceive it as a circle because of the speed and the continuity of the motion. Life is analogous to that imaginary circle; it exists because of the continuity of the artist's efforts. Yes, life as a "perfect" movie is similar to the continuity of this circle of light, because the artist's magnificent skills continuously color and illuminate each picture frame, stringing them together in a perfect fashion.
Wait, wait, it doesn't end here. I close my eyes; it is easy for me to see things that happened years ago in all their details. The time I dropped my ice cream on my favorite shirt when I was five, the gift that my brother gave me on my thirteenth birthday, the day I graduated from college... like a movie, I can watch all these whenever I like. This illustrates another issue in video processing, storing the videos, in other words, the frames, in an efficient way so that they can be accessed promptly when needed. I already have a good technique to store the story of my life in my memories. Moreover, in order to remember any sequence, all I need to do is just remember a small detail of the time, an event, or a memento. This is the fastest content-based image retrieval system I have ever seen! No moment of life is wasted and all is saved somewhere, providing relief for the human heart, which is helplessly attracted to eternity. Any art necessitates an exhibition and an audience. Then there must be a place and a time in which the whole movie will be watched again by the audience.
My brain not only stores my memories as videos, but also creates videos as I dream. These are mostly movies in the making; because I can do everything in my dreams, they do not need to be logical. I heard the phrase "Dream Theater" and I smiled. What else can one call a dream other than a grand theater full of surprises? Moreover, although the length of time that a dream takes up is not that long, it still contains a sizeable story that takes up days of real life. It's one rabbit warren inside another.
As the rain hits the Boston ground, I look outside my window at my moving picture. Through this open window, I also hear the pitter-patter of the falling rain. The smell of wet soil seeps into my room. I shut my eyes and I can repaint the entire picture, using nothing but sounds and smell. What kind of magic is this? I cannot stop myself as I think about Him, the Producer of the real movie of my very existence. After all, I know that He loves me. No matter how busy I am watching man-made movies inside the real movie, I feel the presence of the true artist always with me and the imprint of His ever-lasting art in every moment of my life.