School of English, Film, Theatre, and Media Studies, 2017
What do 3D cinema, virtual reality, and time travelling cats have in common? Dr Miriam Ross, senior lecturer in Film, is an expert in these topics and more.
She completed her PhD in Scotland on Latin American cinema before relocating to New Zealand. Among other English speaking countries including the US and Australia, our politics are the least dirty.
Before coming here, she hadn’t even heard of the 48 Hour Film Festival. Now she has two entries under her belt with production company Vertical Cinema Productions.
Currently, she’s working on a virtual reality project with staff from across the University: the first time she’s found a 50/50 balance of theory and creativity.
Much of Miriam’s current research revolves around stereoscopic media. In 2011 she founded a research blog with Dr Gurevitch from the School of Design. The website is “dedicated to academic research on all forms of stereoscopic media”.
So what exactly is this futuristic sounding discipline?
In stereoscopic film, two different images are shown on each half of a screen. Each eye processes an image, then the brain puts them together to create the one 3D picture you see.
Those 3D glasses do have a purpose other than making you look ridiculous: to keep the vision fields for each eye separate.
If you don’t have binocular vision (two eyes working together), don’t worry. There are many other ways of simulating 3D visuals.
As well as this blog, Miriam has recently published a book 3D Cinema: Optical Illusions and Tactile Experiences. “3D has actually been around since the very beginning of cinema,” explains Miriam, but since 2009’s Avatar, it’s become the next big thing for Hollywood blockbusters.
Her book explores new frameworks for understanding 3D cinema and how its medium is unique.
Different frameworks for 3D are part of a typical day for Miriam. Together with Paul Wolffram and her Honours students, she’s created a DIY 3D camera rig. The short they filmed showed at the LA 3D film festival this month.
Rigging a 3D camera may seem complicated, but it’s the combination of grassroots film movements like these alongside the bigger industry that makes Wellington’s film scene unique. Similarly, while the film school is small, its community is anything but.
Along with Neil Dodgson, Miriam is establishing a University-wide VR (virtual reality) network. With the new technology gaining traction, staff across the Uni are collaborating on virtual reality projects.
Miriam and design lecturer Raqi Syed are currently working on a 360 degree VR exhibition, proving that, “it’s not just white men leading development”.
Theatre lecturer James McKinnon stars in several of Miriam’s short films, produced under “Vertical Cinema Productions”. Originally created in response to a YouTube clip, they have since made two videos for the 48 Hour Film competition, and a satirical “vertical cinema manifesto”.
“It's time for the end of the patriarchal horizontal regime” - women, let’s stand up for ourselves and create a new image for our bodies.
The chance to be a film maker for a weekend is challenging but can pay off. Miriam is lucky enough to be protected by her salary, and conducts experiments on the side that might seem … less than academic.
How do you explain vertical cats? “Critical theory informs everything I do,” she explains. “With something like vertical cats, who gets to say what is or isn’t allowed in a space?”
“It's time for a new vertical revolution.”