straight up
"When I first learned about Ada Byron King, I knew instantly I had to make a film about her. Though relatively invisible until recently, this daring and brilliant woman of the Victorian Era has dynamically influenced not only my own life, but the direction of the 20th century."
Ada holding the dove in Conceiving Ada .

previous next

Click to play video Documentary of Conceiving Ada

Conceiving Ada <1997>
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 molecule.

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, and colorized.

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.