Category: Thoughts and Ideas

December 10th, 2015 by admin

As part of our final exams here at DS106, one of our last entries as Digital Storytellers is supposed to be a behind-the-scenes featurette, regarding all of the things we made in order to make our respective stories stand out more. So, with that in mind, here are all of the tasks I had to complete, in order to make my Magic Kaito prequel, “Shot Through the Heart.”

We start with both the collages of the things on young Kaito’s mind at the time of the story and the interior of Inspector Nakamori’s bedroom. As a word of warning, when you read this, you have to remember that this takes place before Toichi Kuroba gets killed during one of his performances, so Kaito still has someone near and dear to him who can teach him magic. My opening collage of this project, a send-up of “Love at First Shot,” puts a strong focus on Kaito’s seven-year-old mind: He wants to learn stage magic from his father because he wants to be as successful a magician as he is when he grows up; he wants to travel around the world to show off his talents because, as young as he is, he already has the confidence to pull off his tricks in front of whoever happens to be in his audience at any given time; he wants to fall in love with a childhood friend because the ideals Kaito has in his youth never really went away after his dad’s death, to the point that several chapters of the manga have hinted that Aoko might be Kaito’s one true love, after all; and he wants to find a way to get over his deathly case of ichthyophobia – the fear of fish – because it seems to be one of Kaito’s more comedic character flaws, so much so that it also serves as the basis for a minor running gag in manga and anime appearances. The inspiration for this was the “Bucket List” challenge, worth three-and-a-half stars as of press time, and was the result of looking up various public-domain images of Kaito as a child and teenager, as well as his late father, Toichi, during one of his magic shows, to say nothing of the image of various oversized versions of world landmarks on an image of the world. These images were compiled during various searches on Google Images, Bing Images, and even Yahoo! Images, at one point. Uploading them onto the web site, BeFunky.com, allowed me to play with them until I got all the pictures centered, and the necessary words typed out; I saved my collage as soon as I was satisfied with the final product, before ultimately turning it in to Flickr.
VISUAL ASSIGNMENTS – INSPIRATION: 3.5 STARS; BASED-ON WORK: 3.0 STARS
This was a continuation of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?

The same website and based-on work carried over to my second collage, this one inspired by the “Room Tour” challenge, which allowed me to work on one shot in particular: the interior of Inspector Ginzo Nakamori’s bedroom, where Aoko finds the now-infamous revolver in my short story. For this one to work, I focused on an image of a Japanese master bedroom with a glass door, that I managed to find on the website, glubvon.com; intrigued with what I saw, I saved it onto my hard drive, uploaded it onto BeFunky.com’s collage maker, and went to work finding the right angles to highlight the necessary parts. To quote – with minor paraphrasing – the Flickr page where I posted this picture:

The [inspector’s bed]room was designed to hint at certain bits and pieces of Inspector Nakamori’s thoughts and actions throughout the events of the “Magic Kaito” franchise… The earthy tones (brown and green) shown throughout this part of the residence tie back to Ginzo’s love of his family – both those related to him by blood, like his daughter, Aoko, and those who he treats like family, like their next-door neighbors’ son, Kaito Kuroba. The alcoholic drinks tie back to the manga, specifically the “Crystal Mother” chapter, where Ginzo and his fellow officers have to drink several glasses of an expensive wine to find the titular gem before the Kaitou Kid can steal it. Naturally, the television serves as a reference to all of the hours Ginzo’s spent in front of the cameras, as the officer in charge of capturing the Kid. The widescreen format is a nod to the anime adaptation, “Magic Kaito 1412,” as well as the “Green Dream” chapter of the manga, which takes place in a theater during a performance of “Mars and Rosa,” itself a send-up of tragic romance stories such as “Tristan and Iseult” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

The glass door is a nod to both the Nakamori and Kuroba estates in the anime having glass doors, to provide further continuity between the manga and anime versions of the story. The rest of the place, including several wall paintings and an old-school telephone, flex and all, ties back to Ginzo being an old soul, with a “thrill of the hunt” mindset during cases, especially those where the Kid is the culprit. The reason why is featured in the Christmas episode of the anime, in which Ginzo pleads to Kid – unaware of the new face under the old monocle and top hat – not to leave him the way he did eight years ago, an event that happens to be foreshadowed in my story. Yes, the blood will be cleaned up afterwards, and yes, Ginzo still won’t change the design of the place; he’ll simply paint over the bloodstains and leave it at that. Familiarity may breed contempt, but then again, it’s the job of officers of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department to keep all those who hold such contempt from causing any damage, so the trade-off is rather fair to Inspector Nakamori.

Once again, I published everything on Flickr once everything was properly saved and uploaded in the usual manner.
VISUAL ASSIGNMENTS – INSPIRATION: 3.0 STARS; BASED-ON WORK: 3.0 STARS
This was a continuation of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?

This brings us to my entry in the Design category, a full-on return to one of my more interesting assignments, based on one of my favorite movies: “Designception.” For this one, I needed to recreate the image of the revolver, resting in a carrying case, on top of a dresser. After finding a public-domain picture of an Oriental dresser on the web site, Silk Road Collection, along with two more photos of an aluminum carrying case and a Type 26 revolver, I went to work sizing everything up, so that the final image was as exactly to scale as the situation called for, using Photoshop. After that, I saved the final image before, once again, uploading it all on Flickr.
DESIGN ASSIGNMENTS – INSPIRATION: 3.5 STARS; BASED-ON WORK: 3.5 STARS
This was a continuation of “In (Your) Dreams.”

Since we were also given permission to choose original assignments for our respective stories, mine was turning the exterior of the Nakamori estate into a legitimate crime scene, following the abrupt assassination attempt in this story. Finding a stock photo of a modern Japanese household was easy enough, once I found the right site, and with the minor edits I made in Photoshop, it honestly felt like the aftermath of an event that nearly resulted in the premature end of a young boy’s life. There was even a blood trail leading to the house, that Kaito left behind as he and the Nakamoris headed to the ambulance, next to a faded “chalk angel.” Couple that with some old-fashioned yellow police tape blocking the entranceway to the house, and we have a crime scene. As always, as soon as I was satisfied with this piece of the puzzle, I saved it on my hard drive, and uploaded it to my Flickr account.
ORIGINAL/DESIGN ASSIGNMENTS – INSPIRATION: 4.0 STARS; BASED-ON WORK: 4.0 STARS
This is a completely original work, done just for this assignment.

The audio and video assignments were actually the toughest ones of the bunch for me, primarily because of how tough it was to find the necessary footage for the video, while typing up the script for the audio. I pulled through on all three counts, however, as you’ll soon see, and hear. First up, we have “The Many (Poker) Faces of Kaito Kuroba,” in which the Kaitou Kid becomes Derek Zoolander for a moment, and shows us four(teen) versions of the Kuroba clan’s most famous look. Using various public-domain photos of the current Kaitou Kid, both in and out of his signature outfit, as well as in disguise in a few cases, I was able to use both VideoPad Video Editor and Windows Live Movie Maker to create a short montage of Kaito’s version of the “Poker Face” at work. Unlike the original Zoolander movie from 2001, which used names like Blue Steel, Ferrari, Le Tigre and Magnum, Kaito’s variations of the Poker Face were named after the members of the J.A.K.Q. team, from the 1977 tokusatsu series, J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai. I even sampled the members’ voices from an actual episode of the show to do the intro for each piece, as well as a live version of the show’s theme song, performed during the Super Sentai Spirits concert in 2006, to serve as background music. Suffice it to say, I needed to make a lot of visits to SaveClipBro.com, in order to find the necessary samples, before editing them down using Audacity. I also attempted to do a conversation with myself when doing this list, as I did an impression of former TV Burp host Harry Hill for the introductions, and described each look with my normal voice. Suffice it to say, a lot of effort went into making this particular video, as it serves as a representation of Kaito practicing his “Poker Face” before he has to use it, for the first time, later on in the story. After another round of editing and uploading, I turned my final product in on YouTube.
VIDEO ASSIGNMENTS – INSPIRATION: 3.5 STARS; BASED-ON WORK: 5.0 STARS
This was a continuation of a combination of previous tasks, including “Rewrite This Story,” for 4.5 stars; “‘Cut,’ Print…Moving On,” for 5.0 stars; “On the ‘Road’ Again,” for 4.5 stars; and “Time for Something Biblical;” for 5.0 stars. These scores averaged out to 4.75 stars, which would translate to 4.5 stars in the Assignment Bank, but I’m rounding up the scores, just to be sure.

My second video was a reenactment of the exact moment when Kaito jumps in front of Aoko’s bullet, taking the hit in Ginzo’s place. Since there are very few bits of footage that could fit the bill exactly, and since Magic Kaito was as much about the comedy as it was about the drama, I decided to go for a spoof reenactment. Using SaveClipBro to download a YouTube video, in which someone jumps in front of “several” bullets, I then turned to VideoPad Video Editor to play the footage in full for the first take, before I slowed down the second, making an “instant replay” of the moment that the stand-in for Kaito was shot. After the editing was complete, I saved the final product, and uploaded it all on my YouTube channel.
VIDEO ASSIGNMENTS – INSPIRATION: 4.0 STARS; BASED-ON WORK; 4.5 WORKS
This was a continuation of “Ten-Second Cinema.”

Finally, there was the audio, and I knew that if there was going to be a murder attempt at the Nakamori house, then someone was going to have to call the hospital for an ambulance; since Ginzo was the only one in that building over the age of eight at the time, let alone eighteen, that meant he was the only one who was able to contact local emergency services in time. This final assignment was a send-up of the “One-Man Play” I did in the earlier weeks of this semester, as now I was attempting to play a female receptionist, in the same vein as Janine Melnitz from Ghostbusters, while also attempting to put on a husky voice, to play Inspector Nakamori, as he makes the call. This assignment was actually based on a task where someone had to call the police for something, but since Ginzo already works for the police, he has to call “119” for an ambulance, instead of “110” for his own men. That’s because I used the Japanese numbers for emergency services in the script for this audio, adding to the story’s authenticity; the archipelago of Japan is a nation that has next to no gun-related murders nowadays, and thus, an assassination attempt, especially one of a known celebrity’s child, would cause quite an uproar the next morning. As for the script itself, I decided to do what I did in the original “One-Man Play,” and follow another one I found on the Internet, which is similar to the type that’s printed on pieces of paper small children are handed during classes, so they get to know how to call such services responsibly. The moment I was satisfied with what I had – primarily after editing the addresses and phone number to keep to the Japanese aesthetic – I recorded both halves of my performance using Audacity, before editing it all down to sound like a legitimate “911” call; the English language in a Japanese setting makes sense, once you realize that in several branches of Tokyo, authorities are recommended to speak several other languages outside of their native tongue, with English chief among them. After everything was completed, and I was satisfied with what I heard, I saved the final product, turning it in using my SoundCloud account.
AUDIO ASSIGNMENTS – INSPIRATION: 4.0 STARS; BASED-ON WORK: 3.5 STARS
This was a continuation of “The Show Must Go On.”

Overall, these challenges make for a great prologue for the events of the Magic Kaito franchise, and with a grand total of 25.5 stars in the “Inspiration” category, and between 26 and 26.5 stars when ranking all of the past works that went into this project – depending on the ranking system for these kinds of final exams – I can safely say that this project passes its inspection with flying colors. The comedy and drama meld together in a way that doesn’t overpower the influences of one genre or another; the situation is, sadly, relatable to anyone who’s at least heard of a gun-toting maniac in a news story recently, while still being handled with a deft touch; and it all builds up to Toichi’s death, and the start of the series proper, while keeping spoilers for future events to a minimum. Suffice it to say, you’ll have to read the manga, watch the anime, or both, if you want to find out where all of this is heading. Well, there’s still one final entry left for me to publish here at #DS106, and it’s the big one – my end-of-semester wrap-up. I’ll see you there, once I get all of my packing done.

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with: ,

November 29th, 2015 by admin

Instead of writing up an explanation of what you learned, instead formulate your own understanding about remix and mash-up, and record a video or audio of you explaining it to someone who is not familiar; this could be a family member, friend, neighbor, random stranger. The point is to capture a recording of your explanation and make sure we hear the other person, perhaps asking a question. If you show them any examples, do it before you record – we do not need to hear them again. Write up a blog post that includes this recording and anything else you want to share to show your understanding of remix, and explaining how the examples you watched demonstrated the form. Put some thought on whether this is a creative act and as well explore what it means for the entities that retain copyright over the media forms that are remixed. Include links and/or embeds of all media you reference.

While this wasn’t featured in the final transmission, I can confess that mash-ups and remixes are very creative acts. It takes a lot of effort to make something new out of something we’ve seen and heard countless times, and it shows that art is the ultimate form of subjectivity. Anything and everything can be seen as art when taken from the right angle, the right perspective, and the right mindset. Those that hold the rights to the original work, however, just can’t be framed as villains here, for I simply refuse to believe that businesses and corporations continue to worry over what is essentially free publicity for their products. If anything, they’re more afraid that someone could accidentally paint their product in a negative light with these remixes and mash-ups, and don’t want to risk spending any amount of time in the local courtroom that they feel will hurt them even more in the court of public opinion.

REFERENCES
Everything is a Remix Part 1: The Song Remains the Same, by Kirby Ferguson
The Original Scary ‘Mary Poppins’ Recut Trailer, by Christopher Rule
YouTube Duet: Miles Davis Improvising on LCD Soundsystem, by Alessandro Grespan
Brows Held High: The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Kyle Kallgren
A Fair(y) Use Tale, by Eric Faden

vimeo.com/14912890
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T5_0AGdFic
www.youtube.com/watch?v=huEtJw7pfLk
www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_-_koBPRgk
www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJn_jC4FNDo

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with:

October 31st, 2015 by admin

We conclude the week’s events with a series of blog posts regarding my fellow students, and what they’ve done over the past seven days.

From Stephanie King’s Analyze Movies, You Will
You kept your findings straightforward throughout, and showed me what to look for should I end up watching “The Empire Strikes Back.” This is one of the more honest “checklist” reviews I’ve seen so far. #talkingpolack106

From Tori Lear’s Guess That Fingerspelling!
It really is nice to see a student take the time to incorporate the things they love into their work. I especially enjoy how you also added a bit of Halloween spirit into the mix; Roald Dahl would be proud, if you know what I mean. This is one of the best projects to come out of these weekly assignments I’ve seen in quite a while. #talkingpolack106

From Emma Sax’s Backwards Shapes
This is one of those games that just as tough, as it is simple. I would definitely approve of it appearing on the shelves of a local Toys “R” Us sometime soon. A very creative effort leads to one of your stronger works to date. #talkingpolack106

From Miranda Skinner’s Character Description: Gru
This is one of those short films that everyone, who has yet to see the “Despicable Me” films, needs to see if they’ve been turned off by the overexposure of the Minions. This is one of your better works, by far, in terms of cross-promotion material. #talkingpolack106

From Amanda Wassenberg’s Punkin Adventures – October 30, 2015
The self-portrait story presented here definitely provides the “Wish You Were Here” feeling that such forms of storytelling provide their viewers. From my perspective, it’s one of the better attempts to tie Halloween to a project in some time. #talkingpolack106

I’m Mitchell Eubank, saying, “The only reason I didn’t bring up the topic of WITCHES is because I did so earlier this semester.”

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with:

October 31st, 2015 by admin

My final task of the week involves watching a famous movie clip three different ways, and seeing how everything fits together; since today is all about tricks and treats for freaks and geeks, I figured I’d celebrate the festival formerly known as Samhain like everyone else, and watch a movie that fits the theme. There can be only one scene for me to review here, which begs the question…

LOOK AT THIS!
This clip, from American Psycho, starts off with a high-angle shot, of a man having one too many shots of his own, sitting in a chair, slightly focused left-of-center. We smash cut to a close-up of the album cover for Fore! by Huey Lewis & The News, as the drunken man seems to shrug off his friend’s query; once again, we have a high-angle shot, to emphasize that this first man is the pawn of the piece.

The next shot we have is a long take of another man – a medium-range shot, from the waist up – with the camera panning and scanning from right to left, following this man as he walks, while also telling the audience that things are already falling out of favor. The first shot of the two men together shows the second man walking past the first, to his bathroom, both right-of-center, hinting that this second man is the voice of reason in this scene.

We cut to the interior of the bathroom, as the second man walks into another close-up shot – a POV shot, specifically – while he puts on a raincoat, over his three-piece suit, while continuing to speak, uninterrupted. We smash cut to an extreme close-up of a pill bottle on the bathroom sink, identifying this second man as “Patrick Bateman.”

When we return to the POV shot from before, a match cut ensues, as Bateman takes a drink of water from the glass on the sink, showing fluid continuity between shots, and providing the illusion of everything occurring in real time. The look on Patrick’s face takes on a more serious tone, as he leaves the bathroom, picking up his axe along the way.

Another medium-long shot of the living room follows, as Pat briefly “moonwalks” across the floor, to keep the axe hidden from his friend’s view until necessary. His friend is too drunk to notice what’s going on, even as Pat temporarily makes him the voice of reason, by placing his axe left-of-center, near the kitchen door.

After a close-up of the axe, we cut to a medium shot of Pat’s drunken friend, as he tries to get Pat’s attention; the next shot, the first of two medium shots of the first man with his back turned, has the first man try to carry on the conversation, despite his current state. All Pat can do, in the next shot, a brief POV close-up shot, is smile at him.

The next shot shows the first man pointing out the raincoat Pat’s now wearing, with Pat continuing to smile as he admits to this new addition to his outfit. As for the camerawork, Pat’s friend’s head is shown in the foreground, disoriented as he is, as Pat himself comes up from the background, to put the final pieces in place.

This leads to another medium shot of Pat, turning on the radio; the following medium shot makes Pat the voice of reason again, as he walks off, right to left, adding to the feeling that a bad decision’s about to be made. What follows is a low-angle, medium close-up shot of Pat holding onto his axe, providing one last visual clue of who’s really in charge here, before jump-cutting to a close-up of Pat’s friend, the second shot with his back turned, turning around a little too late.

Everything takes a turn for the worse from this point on, as Pat rushes in on his friend for the first chop from his axe, leading into another close-up shot, emphasizing Pat’s implied anger at him, which is also the third consecutive solo shot of Pat’s with a left-of-center focus, essentially hinting at Pat’s lack of sanity. A quick close-up of blood being spilt on the floor of the house is shown, before returning to a POV shot of Pat, in a full-blown state of rage; the close-up is now fully centered, objectifying Pat’s bloodied face as an example of sweet revenge.

This POV shot is also a long take, as the camera pans and scans from left to right as Pat walks over to his couch, basically telling the viewing audience that things are returning to normal, and you won’t have to worry about any lapses in Pat’s psyche for now. The scene ends as Pat starts smoking cigars over the corpse of the second man, with a slight right-of-center focus on Pat, implying that Pat got what he wanted, as the second man is gone from his life.

It should be noted that, throughout the entirety of this scene, everything is shot in high-quality light, giving Pat’s house the feel of a sterile environment, further suggesting that the assault was pre-meditated.

LISTEN TO THIS!
The audio portion of this review starts with the sound of someone rummaging through their CD collection, before casually asking if someone else likes Huey Lewis and the News; a second voice quickly responds to this, despite sounding ill, by saying that “they’re okay.” The first man walks through the house, while speaking his opinion of the band’s history to that point, with the enthusiasm of an expert in popular music; there are a few pauses from time to time, for the first man to catch his breath, and allow him to maintain composure throughout the scene, even when he inevitably snaps.

When he steps into the bedroom, the foley artist is getting the point across that the first man’s clearly putting on another layer of clothing, over his current outfit, and taking a drink, while continuing his speech, with more enthusiasm than before. Once the first man walks out of the bathroom, he continues building up to his big pay-off by placing something close by him, out of the second man’s line of sight; while the first man does this, his enthusiasm continues to increase, exponentially.

Speaking of which, the second man, now called “Allen,” quickly tries to speak up, but his apparent illness has left him slurring his speech like a drunk man. The quick response time between the two gives off the illusion that these two men were life-long friends, and knew each other perfectly; the pacing of each other’s lines adds to the lighthearted whimsy of the illusion, playing up the laughter while preparing for the imminent tragedy.

The second man may be sick, but he isn’t stupid: He quickly notices the “Style” section of several unidentified newspapers laid out on the floor, in immaculate fashion, and that the first man is now wearing a raincoat. The rest of the audio juggles the remaining dialogue with the opening verses of the Huey Lewis and the News hit, “Hip to Be Square,” and does it well; this is also where the first man goes into a level of hysterics not heard since Joan Crawford discovered wire hangers in her daughter’s closet.

In one final act of subtlety, after the first man walks over to his murder weapon, you can barely hear the sound of him picking it up, over the sound of “Hip to Be Square” blaring throughout the house. One thing you can hear, however, is the first man screaming bloody murder at the second man, who he now calls “Paul,” as he violently clubs him to death, with very few clicks and pops after the first man apparently walks away from the crime scene, as “Hip to Be Square” continues to play, full-blast and uninterrupted.

ANALYZE THIS!
The final draft of this scene starts with a drunken man trying to keep himself awake, while his friend talks to start a conversation with him about Huey Lewis and the News; the first man, despite being too drunk to speak, tells his friend that the band is “okay,” albeit with a look of indifference. The second man starts providing a lecture to him about the band’s history, walking throughout the room in a calm demeanor, before entering the bathroom to prepare himself for what’s to come.

After a water break, the second man, Patrick Bateman, sets the final preparations for his revenge into motion by placing an axe by the kitchen door; from there, the drunken man, who Pat calls “Allen,” starts to point out the newspapers lining the floor, and the raincoat that Pat’s wearing now. It’s a classic case of “too little, too late,” though, as “Hip to Be Square” starts to play, Pat says Allen’s real name – Paul – and starts hacking away in a blood-curdling frenzy, thankful that the music’s just loud enough to cover up the murder, thus keeping the neighbors from calling the police on Pat, for the death of his friend.

It is this scene, combining the audio and visual aesthetics that were previously displayed here, that more than lives up to the name, American Psycho; for starters, the combination of the sterile environment and extremely loud music does feel like something a serial killer, like Patrick Bateman, would use to his advantage, to set up any of his potential victims for their downfall, much less one like Allen/Paul. On the other hand, the friendly movements and dialogue the two gentlemen shared before things really got gruesome, as well as the fact that the song in question – “Hip to Be Square” – is as upbeat as they come, only adds to the irony; what originally appeared to be a conversation between friends, over drinks and pop rock music, would degenerate into a massacre, all because Pat couldn’t keep everything together for long.

The end result is a prime example – from my perspective, at least – of the whole being better than the sum of the parts; from the subtle build-up orchestrated by Pat and Allen/Paul, to Pat’s big breakdown and subsequent recovery, all while treating everything that happens as if it’s a normal, fact-of-life occurrence, the murder of Allen/Paul in American Psycho is a master class in making movies, both in, and of, itself. This is the type of footage modern directors need to see, in order to know how to tell a proper story with their camerawork, as well as something modern film critics need to see, in order to know how much effort really goes into the flicks they only think are flops.

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with:

October 31st, 2015 by admin

Another week passes, and another famous dead person’s advice is put under the proverbial microscope. In this case, it’s Roger Ebert, the late, great film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, who redefined the profession as one-half of both Siskel & Ebert for three decades, and Ebert & Roeper for a fourth; suffice it to say, he knew what made a good movie great, and a bad movie worse.

In 2008, two years after leaving the balcony for the final time for thyroid cancer treatment, Ebert wrote the essay, “How to Read a Movie,” on his website. The selling point of the article was a brief backstory to Ebert’s reviewing style, primarily how a fellow critic of Roger’s, named John West, told him of a method to reviewing movies, similar to how high school football coaches review plays: “Just pause the film, and think about what you see.”

This style, later dubbed “democracy in the dark,” and eventually, “Cinema Interruptus,” by Conference on World Affairs founder Howard Higman, is what this class is going to do to classic films, past and present, as a key part of this week’s checklist, but before I do that, I must first understand what Mr. Ebert was looking for, when he used it to dissect his era’s big pictures.

For starters, we learn about the “Rule of Thirds,” also known as the “Golden Ratio;” Ebert said this rule implies that the further to the right of an ideal center a character is placed on film, the more “positive” they look, and the further to the left they are, the more “negative” they look, with the center frame providing proper objectification, similar in vein to a criminal’s mug shot. It basically means that in what is referred to as a “two-shot,” or a shot with two people involved, the man furthest to the right of the camera’s range will play the more dominant role, regardless of how the scene, itself, is shot.

This does make sense, given the proper context; in talk show interviews, the focus is always going to be on the person furthest to the right, either because the interviewer’s a trusted name, or their guest’s a foremost expert on certain topics. In several scenes from television episodes that I remember viewing over the years, it’s the character that’s furthest to the right, at least among those actually speaking, that tends to have the voice of reason, while everyone else takes the situations thrown at them to their most logical extremes.

This is probably why Ebert sums up the “Golden Ratio” as the future living on the right, and the past, on the left; the more idealistic, and optimistic, the argument is, the farther to the right of the screen the character representing it should be shown, while the more realistic, and often, fatalistic, the argument is, the farther to the left its representative should be. Again, this is all from Mr. Ebert’s perspective, not my own; according to him, these opinions are intrinsic, and not absolute.

Reading further into the essay, Ebert also said that “movement is dominant over things that are still,” suggesting that any form of body language, no matter how little of it there is, can still tell a better story than someone who strikes a pose for a lengthy amount of time. This is self-explanatory, as a man running for his life from a nearby threat is going to conjure up more emotion than someone standing in the middle of the road, in total indifference to the car coming his way, almost as if he wants to die.

Plus, the foreground – the characters and their dialogue – is more important than the background – the location of the conversation proper; in other words, regardless of the scene, the scenery’s expendable, and all of the focus falls on the people on screen to move the plot forward, and not Chekhov’s gun. Again, this sort of thing works the best if the characters have the chemistry to make the conversation they have feel believable, even if the situation it’s based on isn’t relatable to the general audience; the best possible way this can fail is if the key actors, in essence, break the suspension of disbelief by phoning in their lines, showing the paying public how little they care about their scenes, in general, much less the movie, as a whole.

Another piece of advice, which states that “a POV [shot] above a character’s eyeline reduces him,” but “below the eyeline, enhances him,” means that the cameraman, if close-up shots are necessary, must let the character’s facial expressions speak for them, when body language will not. This can work if someone is as good at facial expressions as Charlie Chaplin, but in recent years, as more and more actors are preparing for roles where they portray no emotions outside of obligatory reaction shots, it seems like this is fast becoming a lost art form.

Finally, the claim that “extreme high angle shots make characters into pawns,” while “low angles make them into gods,” shows the audience that positions of authority are in play during a scene, or a feeling of sympathy is in order, should the “lesser beings” fail an increasingly-impossible quest; this is something hinted at, all too well, in the music video for the XTC song, “Dear God,” which opens and closes on those extreme angles, with the same intentions in mind. A gimmick like this can work when the situation portrayed in the scene is within striking distance of the point of no return, and every last alternative has been tried; it can only fail if the shot is done solely to look the part, without any reason, whatsoever, for it to be there at all.

As part of the writing process for this entry, I’ve also taken the time to watch three separate YouTube clips, regarding specific elements of filmmaking. The first leg of our triple-feature is Videomaker’s “Camera Angles and Techniques,” which mainly focuses on camera placement and a technique called the “Zolly,” two things used in action films to great effect, especially during the buildup to the scenes every paying theater patron watches them for. Camera placement is a matter of creativity, as the drama of a film increases whenever the necessary shots and angles are used, to justify the feeling of dread; the “Zolly,” on the other hand, has two things occur at the same time, and at the same speed, to, also, increase the tension on screen; “by zooming out with the camera while using a dolly to move in, the subject stands out, as separated from the background, and looks as if they were floating toward the camera,” according to the video.

Another video that helps justify the filming of a movie as “a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional world” is Oscar Feiven’s list of the “Top 20 Amazing Cinematic Techniques,” which digs a little deeper into what kinds of angles make for more memorable imagery; the very first clip on that list, from Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, gets everyone’s attention immediately, as the merging of “Doggicam” and long takes lets you feel all the people’s emotions at once, while the angry mob pelts their caravan, leaving the audience to better understand the cause of the main cast’s woes. This further proves the earlier quote about movement selling the story more than standing still, as having the focus on one person driving a car, while the sounds of panicking passengers are heard en masse, only tells part of the story, and doesn’t even do a good-enough job with that; even the following entry, also from Children of Men, replaces “Doggicam” with a tracking shot, to add to the realism of the piece by giving the audience the illusion of running alongside someone for cover from tank fire!

The final screening for this evening goes to Joe Boyd’s infamous match cut example, from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; for those of you that don’t know, a match cut is when two things in separate scenes graphically match, like a dinosaur bone and the exterior of a space shuttle, in order to provide scene-to-scene continuity, as well as a metaphorical link between the two acts, like one representing man’s evolution from beating each other senseless with whatever weapons we could find, to building ships capable of exploring new worlds. This clip sums up everything an aspiring movie expert needs to know about 2001, as it visually reveals to the audience that everything that ever happened in the past, present and future all stems from the exact same point, with someone entering unknown territory, and coming out better for having done so.

The entire process of making this post made me realize how much time and effort goes into making any movie, of any kind, and that for all of the negativity that goes into calling something a cutthroat industry, that phrase may actually be the one that makes the most sense, when it comes to describing how movies are made. While I may stick to my personal preferences and comfort zones, from time to time, I now know how far I must go to make my future projects better than what the blueprints suggest, and I don’t think I’m going to let any of these cinematic titans down any time soon.

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with:

October 25th, 2015 by admin

As part of this week’s festivities, we’re listening to our podcasts, as well as critiquing them, to see what works and what doesn’t. For the second half, we listen in on the podcast my team made, and in this case, it’s Wacky History.

Quality of audio sound -e.g. Is the volume appropriate? Are the levels even? Is the sound clear, and free of noises not needed (e.g. mouse clicks, background noise)?
The audio quality is a classic case of “second verse, same as the first.” Someone sounds like they’re speaking too close to the microphone one minute, and the next, countless click-cuts are heard, amongst sudden stops, deep breaths where there shouldn’t be any, and sound effects that just feel jarring, more often than not. I got rid of the background noise, entirely, on one of the takes I sent in, and they still went with an older one at first, letting the background music die out partway through, before that sudden strum kicked in, to really snap me out of the out-of-order experience.

Quality of audio editing – use of effects, transitions, are the edits clean?
Everything was fine, for the most part, during the wedding rings segment, although the one on dentures, which I was a part of, gave it a rocky start, of sorts. My teammates definitely found it hard to figure out how voice editing works, as they were, once again, either too loud, or too soft, for the audience to hear. The “sudden stops,” microphone pops, and unnecessary “deep breath” – from Rachel, this time – make more guest appearances, though, again, most of us recorded everything on campus, while I stuck to recording everything at home, with a higher success rate against the constant click-cuts. The repetitive humming noise during Chantel and Rachel’s portion was hard to identify, and harder to forgive for its sudden placement, as the music was still playing throughout all of our segments. We didn’t even have a bumper to warm up to our half of the project, and dived right in. By the time my portion of the segment kicked in, Rachel and Chantel didn’t talk at all about George Washington’s dentures, as they implied they would in our e-mails to each other, rendering my “follow-up” warning as pointless as a golf tournament; once I brought up what caused his tooth loss in the first place, a guitar strummed in the background, for no reason at all.

Use of sound effects- how are they used? Is it effective?
While the sound effects do get people out of the slumbering stupor that most history lectures put the unwilling audience through, they didn’t have to! Even now, I still don’t know why anyone thought an acoustic guitar strumming was the best way to break up a segment that was already booked at the local trauma ward, it was suffering from a lack of build-up. The sudden stops were bad enough, but the sudden strum just feels more out of place. It’s effective in keeping the audience’s attention, but it still confuses me.

Use of music- how is it used? Is it effective or distracting?
Immediately, we open the show with the riff from Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” allowing people to get interested in what the show has to offer, before entering whiplash territory with generic background music for the dentures segment, which I was a part of. This distraction continues throughout the entirety of the segment, although it is effective in keeping the attention of the audience throughout, so I can’t really complain.

Does the show have a structure? Is it cohesive or does it feel stitched together?
The segment on wedding rings was actually more cohesive than The Verge was, if you could believe it, so I won’t find any flack with it, outside of Ben Brady’s spit-takes into the microphone. Our first segment, on dentures, was not as lucky, due to the out-of-order editing, while the one on wedding rings essentially ended on a cliffhanger. That isn’t saying much, since all of the mid-term podcasts turned in this week suffered from similar flaws, and some had it worse than others. While I can’t say whether or not we caused the least amount of auditory damage, there were more things that could’ve been cut out, if only to provide much less of a feeling that no one on the team knew how to do the things they were supposed to do, much less what they were doing, instead. See the aforementioned “sudden strum” incident for a key example.

Does it tell a story effectively? Is there a sense of drama, unknown? Does it draw you in to listen?
Again, our podcast did the job right, teaching lessons that wouldn’t be given in a normal history class. However, I think that Benjamin Brady, our sound editor, might have been playing favorites with the “wedding rings” segment that he was a part of, since that segment was cohesive, straightforward, and left the audience wanting to know more about the bizarre backstories of household items like wedding rings and dentures. I say this, in comparison to our segment, which is buried under a complete lack of cohesion, drawing people in for all of the wrong reasons. From Rachel mispronouncing “deteriorated,” to the “sudden strum,” it seemed that the only real lesson anyone took from this is that Murphy’s Law is real, and it is, in fact, in effect; anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I’ll give Ben credit for the decision to include a “celebrity fun facts” epilogue for the end of our segment, however, just to keep things lighthearted, heading into the second segment.

If you would rate this radio show, how many stars out of five would you give to the show?
Despite the fact that I essentially read the Riot Act to both this, and another podcast, I still think this did better than I expected it to. While the intent was perfectly clear that what we got could’ve been far worse, in the long run, for the moment, I can let go of all of the botched affairs, knowing first-hand how my teammates feel when I essentially created “mixing signals for comedic effect,” because I don’t know how everything works, as well as I thought I did. Suffice it to say, this is, was, and always will be a learning experience, and sometimes, you have to let everything fail, in order to learn how to succeed. With that in mind, I would say this mid-term podcast project led to a five-star performance for this team. It’s better than what I thought it would be, and it still has the potential to be greater, regardless of its flaws.

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with:

October 25th, 2015 by admin

As part of this week’s festivities, we’re listening to our podcasts, as well as critiquing them, to see what works and what doesn’t. For the first half, we listen in on another podcast, and in my case, it’s The Verge.

Quality of audio sound -e.g. Is the volume appropriate? Are the levels even? Is the sound clear, and free of noises not needed (e.g. mouse clicks, background noise)?
This portion of the program passes its test with flying colors – for the most part. While the volume could be turned down a bit at times for the voices of the experts, the sound had no real offending noises to speak of.

Quality of audio editing – use of effects, transitions, are the edits clean?
The edits I did pick up aren’t entirely clean, as the skips in what seems to be the theme song near the end of the Alzheimer’s segment, along with other sudden stops in the recording process – I did hear someone suffering from the sniffles at 1:51 and 2:34, for example – could’ve been edited out better by cutting the unnecessary footage from the feed, and in the case of the music, trying to re-edit it to run more smoothly. The near-lack of effects in the actual episode bothers me after a while; without anything to balance the, admittedly, unenthusiastic script reading, not to mention stop one bumper from having the music drown out the dialogue, The Verge makes me feel like this is another podcast that everyone treated like a visit to the In-N-Out Burger. The transitions are seamless, though, and I have no problem with them in the slightest.

Use of sound effects- how are they used? Is it effective?
The sound effects I did hear got the point across – knowing you forgot something is an act of recognizing one’s stupidity, and people will do anything to prove that they’re always in the right, regardless of the consequence. The minimal use of sound effects makes me wonder if they were trying to be like This American Life, however, which only magnifies the editing issue further, as some sound effects sound louder than others, like in another bumper where they lined up a series of sound effects, one at a time, with the first one providing a big booming sound when I first heard it, and the other two sounding much quieter by comparison.

Use of music- how is it used? Is it effective or distracting?
The immediate use of the theme from Bill Nye the Science Guy, in the first bumper alone, does give me a feeling of familiarity, implying that an educational feel, albeit with a twist, will be brought to this show. The use of background music during key segments set the tone for a conversation between friends, and the violin playing during the “one in two people, in our generation, will get Alzheimer’s” part of the episode provides a moment of perspective for the listener. This does add to the realization of the risks that come with the reward of being born in the first place; it’s a cruel and unusual punishment, for the crime we’ve committed all our lives – living.

Does the show have a structure? Is it cohesive or does it feel stitched together?
While it is trying to be the former, the early mistakes – as honest as they were – quickly pushed The Verge into the latter territory, and forced it to stay there. While human health is a serious issue for people of all ages to talk about, the lack of editing in several scenes makes it sound like the team behind this episode were talking too loud for their audience to take it as seriously as they should, and that’s where this project suffers its biggest failing of all.

Does it tell a story effectively? Is there a sense of drama, unknown? Does it draw you in to listen?
Once you get past the poor editing, The Verge manages to tell it like it is, especially during their opening segment on Alzheimer’s, a disease my grandfather died from. While it doesn’t focus on drama, it does tell the story of real life – “actual reality,” according to the cast of Rent – hitting hard, and often, with the stone-cold truth of the world around us. It does have a lot of editing hiccups to work on, but it does what it needs to do, not what it wants to, drawing people in with the Bill Nye sample, and keeping it glued to its station with the facts of life, and then some. With that in mind, I give the cast and crew of The Verge the benefit of the doubt.

If you would rate this radio show, how many stars out of five would you give to the show?
I can only give it a flat three out of five stars, due to its willingness to go after controversial topics from time to time, almost like a real newscast, even as it suffers from poor editing, and a lack of enthusiasm from the experts, almost as if they were doing a book report, more than a radio series on the importance of human health.

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with:

October 2nd, 2015 by admin

To reinforce your understanding, you need to undertake a “Design Blitz.” Carry your camera with you this week and take photos of objects, ads, signs, etc. that illustrate at least four of the ten concepts listed below (one photo per concept). The concepts are discussed in length above but here is a list of the concepts.
•Color
•typography
•metaphors/symbols
•minimalism & use of space
•form/function/message
•balance
•rhythm
•proportion
•dominance
•unity
•Share all your photos on Flickr and tag them designblitz; also make sure you write up a blog post sharing what you found and tag it “designblitz”.
•When you have completed your Blitz, write a blog post that includes (THAT MEANS EMBED!) the photos and your analysis of the design elements and what makes them effective or not. (You should do this in one single post.)
•PRO TIP: Sometimes we can learn just as much from badly designed things as we can from well-designed things!

Design Blitz!

My first photo, of a handicapped parking space, represents the tenets of form, function, and message, as the sign itself warns those who see it that certain spots on parking lots are reserved for handicapped people, who have become too injured to properly function for the time being. Those who refuse to take heed of this lone warning will be penalized accordingly.

Design Blitz!

The second exhibit in our gallery, a Fred Bus sign, recognizes minimalism in its design, as it literally does more with less, by showing incoming passengers where they’re headed once their bus comes along. As for the “Fred” logo itself, it would make sense for a town with such a vaunted historical background as Fredericksburg, Virginia, to have a font providing just enough of a hint of Colonial times, to give a bit of interest to those of us willing to see it in modern times.

Design Blitz!

With my third selection, the logo for Bob’s Pools and Spas, I decided to give a nod to the concept of metaphors and symbols in Digital Storytelling, as the swimmer logo immediately gets the attention of passers-by, since a store that primarily sells swimming pools and spas would naturally be geared towards the aquatically gifted among us. Between the simple choice of unofficial mascots; the use of different shades of blue – the archetypal color of water – for both font and mascot; and the fonts themselves providing a feeling of a long-running family operation, to say nothing of the bits of silvery gray peeking out from behind the main logo, to provide a three-dimensional illusion to a two-dimensional image, the completed logo is a sight to see, in itself. If nothing else, it really feels like you’re seeing someone compete in a swimming relay.

Design Blitz!

The last picture in this collection, a “No Skateboards or Bicycles Allowed” sign, provides the right amount of balance to me, as the lettering is symmetrical from a vertical perspective, while still keeping its message straightforward.

Design Blitz!

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with: ,

October 1st, 2015 by admin

Massimo Vignelli’s contributions to design and architecture were revolutionary for their time; it was his work in graphic design, however, that served as a vital component to the development of Digital Storytelling, as we know it today. After all, this is the man responsible for the creation of four different typefaces – Century Expanded, Garamond No. 3, Helvetica, and Bodoni – in his lifetime.

For this part of our weekly checklist, we read the e-book, The Vignelli Canon, and tried to comprehend what we were reading and, for the most part, seeing. This book is light on text, and heavy on visuals, for any potential readers out there, and considering the message Vignelli wanted to get across, I think this works to his advantage.

In the same vein as previous reflections done earlier this semester, Massimo feels like we have untapped potential within us, as designers, and aren’t using it to the best of our abilities. One of the key reasons behind this deficiency is because we just don’t know how many details go into this profession.

Vignelli shows us what the missing pieces are, and where they’re supposed to fit, from the very first chapter, as he states that, quote, “I have always said that there are three aspects in Design that are important to me: Semantic, Syntactic and Pragmatic.” What he means by these three things are “the search of the meaning of whatever we have to design;” “the discipline that controls the proper use of grammar in the construction of phrases and the articulation of a language, (such as) Design;” and the belief that “whatever we do, if not understood (by someone), fails to communicate and is wasted effort,” respectively.

These descriptions help readers see how much heart Massimo had in his lifetime, with regards to why he did what he did, for as long as he did; it seems that the point of graphic design, of Digital Storytelling, and of art, in all of its forms, is so others can use our creations to remember us, long after we’re gone. Our short-term mission is to pass another class on the road to graduation, but when it comes to DS106, the long-term goal is to allow those, who see these projects for the first time, to form their own opinions about what they’re seeing, what they’re hearing, and what they’re feeling, and not just agree with what the creators, themselves, think. Just like the entertainers of old, you don’t have to get your audience on your side all the time, to make sure that they go home happy.

This leads me to suspect that, at least in Massimo’s eyes, art is not only, to paraphrase Pablo Picasso, “the lie that tells the truth,” but the word that speaks in silence, as well. Proof of this theory is strewn throughout the pages of this book; Vignelli speaks his honest opinions on what makes graphic design great on one page, and we see a visual example of said opinions, in the form of one of the many things he helped create over the years, such as the lettering system for New York subways, the next.

It shows how much Vignelli cares about art when he’s willing to show his works in such an intimate manner as this, even as he tells us all about them, like its your typical grand tour of his estate. On top of that, the lessons he provides stretch out to all forms of creation, as art is, basically, an extension of personal vices, virtues, and life experiences in the past, present, and future; there’s a reason we keep hearing about “life imitating art,” or vice versa, to this day.

In closing, I wholeheartedly agree with Massimo, when he says that, “As designers, we have three levels of responsibility: One – to ourselves, the integrity of the project and all its components. Two – to the Client, to solve the problem in a way that is economically sound and efficient. Three – to the public at large, the consumer, the user of the final design.” If that doesn’t sum up the ramifications of Digital Storytelling in our day-to-day lives, I don’t want to know what does.

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with: ,

September 27th, 2015 by admin

Here is what to do for the blitz!
1.Your first photo is of something that shows the current time! Document when you started the blitz.
2.In the next 20 minutes, try to capture as many of the following photos as you can:
•Make an ordinary object look more interesting, almost supernatural.
•Take a photo that makes use of converging lines.
•Take a photo dominated by a single color
•Take a photo of something at an unusual angle
•Take a photo of two things that do not belong together.
•Take a photo that represents the idea of “openness”
•Take a photo that expresses a human emotion
•Take a photo that emphasizes mostly dark tones or mostly light ones.
•Make a photo that is abstract, that would make someone ask, “Is that a photograph?”
•Take a photo of an interesting shadow.
•Take a photo that represents a metaphor for complexity.
•Take a photo of someone else’s hand (or paw)
3.Take another photo of a timepiece that shows the time you stopped. It should be twenty minutes since step 1, right?
4.Upload your five best photos to flickr, and tag them “ds106photoblitz”
5.Write a blog post about your experience. Describe the place you chose to do this, and why you chose it. What was the experience like? What photos worked for you best? Give feedback/suggestions via comments for at least 3 other persons photos (you can find all the ones with this tag at photoblitz URL. What were the best ones you saw in the pool of photos? Why?

PHOTOBLITZ!

This assignment took place at my Grandma Fella and Granddaddy Pop’s house, during their 57th wedding anniversary today, between 5:37 pm, and 5:57 pm. There are lots of interesting things to take pictures of there, and considering how special today’s occasion was, I couldn’t help but have some volunteers on hand during the proceedings. By walking around to take these pictures, I was able to take notice of things that I wasn’t able to during my previous visits. Among the photographs that worked out the best for me were the angel statuette, for using mostly dark tones to provide a supernatural twist on a being normally associated with light; the “inside-looking-out” fence shot, for showcasing the possibilities that come with the potential for “openness” alone; the zombie cat’s eyes, for providing a paranormal example of an abstract photo, just in time for the start of Halloween shopping season; this other shot of the porch, for being a case study in converging lines; and this self-portrait, for providing a proper representation of the human emotion of optimism.

PHOTOBLITZ!
PHOTOBLITZ!
PHOTOBLITZ!
PHOTOBLITZ!
PHOTOBLITZ!

As an added bonus, before I go, here are some extra comments, regarding “Outdoors In,” by Tori Lear; “Peachy-Keen,” by Ashlyn Runk; and “Photoblitzing,” by Adam Hoff. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the pictures I took provided a necessary perspective for a cinematic production; Hoff learned this lesson well when he made “Photoblitzing,” as the curtain’s reflection of the sun’s light made the soda can look like it was hiding in the shadows, radiating an orange aura as it did so. I also brought up the need to know which lighting opportunities can be used to your advantage, and which ones can’t, when making these photographs; “Peachy-Keen” does this by having Runk shine the necessary light on a peach on a table, thus putting further focus on the child’s-eye view that this photo stems from, as if someone was about to have one last snack before leaving for school. Finally, you have to take the time to choose which things go in the foreground of a photo, and which go in the background, making sure there’s equal emphasis on both; this is perfected in “Outdoors In” when Lear uses the white floor, and red, white and green holiday wreath, to make a blue video game controller stand out more than it usually tends to do every December.

Outdoors In
Peachy-Keen
Photoblitzing

Posted in Digital Storytelling (#ds106), Thoughts and Ideas Tagged with: ,

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