Just Because: Tricycle Calligraphy

By Jonah Kessel

As a video journalist I’m frequently approached by people asking me to come film — whatever it is they have that’s going on. A Chinese rock band, a new brand or some really exciting business conference are the usual suspects. These people often think their event would be so fun to film, that I would love to do it — for free.

Sadly these people are mistaken and generally speaking whatever guest speaker is at the “Annual Chinese Conference of Bilateral Business” is not actually that interesting.

However, last week while at a small bar in Beijing, a Québécoise approached me and told me he had built a device out of a tricycle that could paint Chinese characters on the ground with water droplets as it was peddled. I stopped for a second and thought about it and my first question was — why?

And his answer was … “because!”

Meet French Canadian Media Artist Nicholas Hanna. This guy decided to build a device for no reason, that doesn’t really serve a clear purpose. So, I decided, this would also be a good time to create a video just “because.”

I wanted to keep it short, sweet and corky. An afternoon filming, a weird soundtrack with an upright bass and a didgeridoo and some editing and we had this fun device on film.

Just Because: Tricycle Calligraphy 水书法器 from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.

Jonah Kessel Filming on a tricycle

Ironically, I found the best way to film this strange contraption — was on another tricycle, peddled by the days assistant Annie Sallaberry. Now picture both of these tricycles peddling through the old streets of Beijing and you can imagine we were quite the spectacle. As we filmed, people would actually just start following us down the street as if we were the Pied Piper of Chinese people.

As working visual journalists I think its a really great exercise do go out and shoot stuff for fun. Its really easy to get in the habit of only shooting when working. But this two day project was a lot of fun and helped me get back to my roots a bit. It reminded me why we do this in the first place — because its fun.

So — for no reason at all, enjoy.

Kit List for this Project:

Jonah M. Kessel is a Beijing-based freelance visual journalist working with photography, video, print and web design. Follow Jonah on Twitter here and see his web site here.


Posted on September 25th, 2011 by Jonah Kessel | Category: Canon Eos5DmkII, Canon Eos60D |

4 responses to "Just Because: Tricycle Calligraphy"

  1. jrh454s Says:
    September 26th, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Hide the mic cord!

  2. Tim Says:
    September 29th, 2011 at 2:38 am

    Nice piece, great edit. Love the story and really enjoyed the very impressive opening titles. Just one thing apart from the comment above. IMHO,
    I really wanted to see more close-ups of the machine writing the calligraphy. We see one shot quickly at 0.24 secs and at 1’34″ you hold it long enough but I was left wanting to see more. The calligraphy made by human hand seem to be quite different to the more digital look of the calligraphy made by the machine. I wanted a shot to hold long enough to see the difference. One writing next to the other for example. You’ve got an impressive list of gear – maybe add a Manfrotto magic arm attached to the cart so we can see a low sidewalk closeup? Dare I say slow motion of the drops as they hit the pavement. Don’t take this the wrong way. A story can be shot and edited in a million different ways and you I believe have done a stellar job!

  3. Jonah Kessel Says:
    September 29th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Tim – Love the ideas. Slow motion water hitting ground would be very cool and would love to try out a Magic Arm.

    And jrh454s – Yes, indeed. Mic cord should have been hidden. Specially given his white shirt.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Thanks for checking out the video.

  4. jrh454s Says:
    October 1st, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I should add to my comment, aside from the cord it was very good. What a fun story and a great story about finding this story. Goes to show you, everywhere you look is something worth showing

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