The office photocopier sees much more than we can imagine. In the darkness of the copy room anything can happen.
A photocopy print is black and white, strong contrasts cutting light through. When the subject is close, edges are razor sharp, blurring rapidly as the actor moves further. It takes about 3 seconds to make a frame. During this period, the subject can move a bit, making beautiful wavy shapes depending on speed and motion, escaping their original forms. If subjects move rapidly, their pictures turn into abstract, just like in futurism.
The Copyist is a multi award-winning experimental short film about a sexual intercourse happening on the glass of a photocopier, entirely recorded with the machine itself. This enables to make an animation with three dimensional objects and even real actors, using a quite strange way of recording. The Copyist is a postmodern fusion of graphic art and the early moving silent film.
Testing ideas and making concepts took more than two years. We experimented with different kind of scanners and photocopiers, frame sizes and recording speeds. We also recorded different movements in every dimensions, using people or other objects. All this knowledge had to be narrowed down to very few actual ideas which could be inserted into the narrative.
The Copyist rose from a fairly simple story, which is necessary, as the storytelling element is rather limited. The photocopier viewpont, which is the film’s most important aspect strictly narrowed down what can and what can not happen in the scenes. Writing was a difficult project as we had to concentrate on events taking place right on, or above the glass itself. Everything else can only be present via sound.
Rebeka Valu and Attila Simon played the two roles in The Copyist. Shooting made their talents to the test, as it requires great amount of patience and commitment. Certain pictures had to be achieved in rather different ways than it seems on the scanner, so they both gained experience in strange and uncomfortable positions.
The Copyist was made with a Xerox 7232 photocopier, in A3 size. Another key point is the sensor, as the depth of field is one of the most important factors while scanning real life 3D objects. Our monstrous machine's CCD sensor was up the task with full manual, special scanning settings. As the photocopier is not designed to hold actors lying on its glass, special structural reinforcements were made.
The scene was brightly lit by 9 150W 5500K light bulbs inside 4 studio softboxes, set up as close as possible to the actors. Depending on the lighting angle, the machine enables a recording field from 0 to 60 centimeters above the scanner. Actors had to bend over or lie down to the glass and stay there for 1 or 2 minutes. During this time, 8 to 10 scans were made and transferred to a computer for viewing.
In the film, sound design plays a great part in the general understanding of the narrative. Sound gives the audience much needed information about the story, as the images can be distorted, or hardly recognizeable. Huge material was recorded with actual photocopiers and other office apparatus, which were later distorted and edited.
The desired emotional effect could not be achieved with simple machinery sounds, so we had to move to the territory of scoring. However, as we wanted the film to be as purely "photocier-ic" as possible, the underlying score was strictly electronic, without any recognizeably instruments, bending in seamlessly with the sounds. It is really difficult to even notice it.