| Sometimes known as "the mother of
all programmers," Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace,
wrote what is now known as the first computer language and
predicted its use in music, poetry and art. Born a female
original thinker in the Victorian era, Ada's passions and
perversions forced her to live a double life. The duality
of her existence as mother/visionary, lover/fiercely independent
thinker, wife/schemer is acknowledged in the film by weaving
a narrative that references the dual strands of the DNA
Conceiving Ada is structured around
the idea of a double helix. Cryptically embedded into
the story is how DNA strands cause genetic memory to weave
through four generations. Each scene was structured and
shot using a DNA image as a model.
Because Ada Byron King, Countess of
Lovelace, created the first computer language, it seemed
fitting that digital processes be used to tell her story.
Virtual sets and digital sound became the vehicle through
which her story could be told. They provided environments
in which she moves freely through time, becomes liberated
and, ultimately, moves into visibility.
For Conceiving Ada, I designed a new
technical process that allowed still photographic images
taken from Victorian Bed and Breakfast Inns in the Bay
Area to be dynamically placed into live video. Prior to
shooting, the still images were digitized, altered in
Photoshop to take out any reference to contemporary life,
On the set, these images were manipulated
in several computers where matts were added and images
were put into perspective or enlarged. The images were
then laid onto digital videotape, live, in real time,
while the actors were performing. Actors could reference
their location, dynamically, through a monitor that showed
them their "virtual" environment.
This technique had never before been
used as a significant component in a feature film. In
the past, creating such effects was a laborious process
reserved for post production. Our process allowed actors
the luxury of responding to their surroundings real or
virtual as the film was shot. The immediacy of shooting
live action while simultaneously manipulating digitized
backgrounds in real time was, remarkably, exhilarating.
The actors' reactions became more spontaneous, and their
relationship to the otherwise totally blue environment
much more interactive.