Greg Lindsay 1 Jan 2003

The Korsakow System

Res Magazine Review

Experiments in multiple-image films and nonlinear plots have slowed, and although the rush to make movies on the desktop has picked up speed, the urge to watch them there has dissipated.


The Korsakov System -

It's a poor craftsman who blames his tools, but here, he or she would have a case. Classic but dense authoring programs like Macromedia Director have only grown thicker around the middle over time. But light and nimble programs meant for heavy experimentation with story structure and screen design have begun to surface.

The Korsakow System is one of them – a one-trick pony sure, but a neat one (and a free one). After you assemble a few folders' worth of Quicktime clips, the program asks you to assign keywords to each, so that during playback it knows when and where it should make a probable guess regarding which clip it should play back (or let viewers click to). In other words, it builds a new, random movie from your pieces every time you use it. Just how random is up to you – add enough links and it can loop endlessly in arcane combinations.

Korsakow's handling of metadata is its strength – multiple keywords can be attached at different points in a given clip's timeline; clips can disappear from the finished film after a certain number of playbacks and odds that one film might be chosen by a link as opposed to another can be weighted by hand. There's also a top-level overview of a project's complete Web of links, although it quickly turns impenetrable and useless in any complex project.

As a quick and dirty primer on nonlinear narrative, it's great – the perfect toy for fooling around with a very different kind of movie. But it falls down in both presentation and documentation (you get what you pay for). While you can choose the finished film's screen size, you're stuck with a black background and the peculiar sight of thumbnails blinking near the bottom when links appear in each clip.

It might be more polished soon, now that the software is in the hands of the Berlin based Korsakow Foundation (it was originally written by art school students). Semi regular updates have begun to appear, and tutorial workshops are spreading in Europe. The instructors' sample film? Rashomon.Download the software and take your own movies for a Memento-like spin.

Greg Lindsay, RES Magazine, Los Angeles, United States, July/August 2003 p. 80