Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My latest videos

I suppose it's a good thing that practically no one reads this blog, since I've been terribly remiss in not posting more often to it. I'm preoccupied by financial crises most of the time and rarely have the time or the concentration to post.

Nevertheless, since my last post, I have managed to create some new videos. My latest blockbuster is another video on Montmartre. However, unlike my first video on the neighborhood, which emphasized the touristy areas of the Montmartre Butte, this video looks at all the other areas, the places where tourists are far less common (although no part of Montmartre is totally free of tourists, of course). It also sets a new record for length for my videos, at just over 37 minutes. Even so, it's just a brief overview of the area, because you can't capture the charm of Montmartre in just half an hour.

My goal was to show some of the extremely charming areas of Montmartre that are not on the standard tourist routes. There are many such areas. The parts of the butte to the west of Sacré-Cœur Basilica are beautiful, and they are exceptional in comparison with other parts of Paris in several ways. For one, the streets tend to be twisty and small—Baron Haussmann never bulldozed any broad avenues through this area. None of the streets is useful for through traffic, so traffic on the butte is light, which in turn means that it's very quiet much of the time (with the near-silence occasionally being shattered by a passing vehicle). Another nice thing about the butte is that the architecture is very heterogeneous and pleasant … each house is different from all the others, and they are virtually all in a charming 19th-century style. No Jean Nouvel eyesores here, thank goodness!

Because the streets are so twisty, it was difficult to tour the area in a coherent way, so I was forced to switch from one street to another, hopefully with sufficient care that things don't become too confusing. There's also a brief interlude showing the two major cemeteries in the area, the Montmartre Cemetery, which is very well known, and the tiny Saint Vincent cemetery, which is scarcely known at all. I cover the major streets—Lepic, Junot, Caulaincourt, Lamarck—plus many small streets, plus the area on the north and south slopes of the butte. I didn't really venture east because things deteriorate rapidly as you move east of Sacré-Cœur, unfortunately.

This long video was quite time-consuming to make, although it was interesting.

I've also made a few short videos. A video on the Marché du Saint Honoré shows the incongruous shiny glass building that now stands where the open Marché du Saint Honoré once stood. It's a well hidden spot among tiny streets only a few steps away from the big avenue de l'Opéra and rue de Rivoli. Most tourists don't know it exists, but it has some charming restaurants around the perimeter of the square. The large glass building looks very much out of place, but at least it's not too ugly (perhaps because Jean Nouvel had nothing to do with it). The glass building is mostly offices and some chichi retail stores. The video is only a few minutes long.

Another video shows traffic in Paris around the Opéra at rush hour. I shot this as a kind of experiment, just to show the hustle and bustle of a busy area of Paris during the busiest part of the day. It was inspired by a recording I made of traffic noises in the intersection. It's also interesting in that it shows how real-world Parisians dress, and proves that Parisians do not dress like supermodels every time they step out of the house. They dress perhaps better than people do in many American cities, but that's not saying much. Several people have written to me to say how beautiful they find Parisian women after seeing the video. I've lived in Paris for ages so I suppose I've become spoiled, but I'm happy to report that Parisian women really are a cut above the norm worldwide, and pretty women in Paris are legion.

Still another short video I've prepared features the Viviani Square in the Latin Quarter. It's a tiny park with a great view of Notre-Dame and the city's oldest tree, planted in 1602. And another shows the remains of the Bastille. Yes, it was torn down at the time of the French Revolution, but a few parts under street level survived, which you can still see, and the shape of the fortress is still outlined on the pavement around the place de la Bastille … if you know where to look.

But wait, there's more! I uploaded a video of the largest May Day parade in Paris, mainly because I wanted to practice editing. It turned out okay. It shows all the various groups that demonstrate during such a parade, which was more politicized than usual because it preceded the second round of the French presidential elections by only a few days. The largest parade leaned a bit to the left politically, although that was irrelevant to me. I was only assaulted a few times, by groups that felt that I had to completely move out of their way as they advanced. I left footage of those groups on the cutting-room floor, as there's no way that I'm going to give free publicity to losers who break the law.

The most frustrating part of making these videos so far is the time required to render and upload them. A two-minute video takes 20 minutes to render, and 1 hour and 40 minutes to upload. You can imagine how long a half-hour video takes!