Week 5 – Summary

This week we dove in to the world of sound storytelling.  We explored different audio storytelling tools like SoundCloud.com, Audacity.com, and various sound banks and conversions tools to make different sound stories work and flow seamlessly together.

I started off by connecting my love of Baseball by trying my hand at reenacting an entertaining and age-old Abbott and Costello skit about members of a baseball team and their current position on the diamond.  This gave me a chance to get my feet wet with the SoundCloud sound record feature.  It also allowed me to realize how much my theatrical voice skills need to improve before I become a stage or radio performer.

We moved on to get familiar with the FREE Audacity sound editing software by creating out own sound stories.  I created a sound story that told the story of my trip to visit a happy 5 month old for Easter mass and a nature walk, only to leave a sad baby as I stepped towards the bus and back to DC. I was only supposed to use 4 sound bites of my own for this story, but ended up using about 80% of my own sound bites due to the fact that I was recording all along the way, and found little need for other sounds.  This exercise helped me appreciate the time-consuming nature of audio editing as I tried to splice, fade-in/out, and de-amplify sound bites into a solid story line.  The shape of the story was fairly sinusoidal, rising up with a happy baby along a complete story spine, only to come back to the origin, which was me boarding bus, leaving behind a less-than-happy baby.

Being born in December, I drew the six slot on creating my own sounds for demonstrating the Foley Technique to compliment segment of the Charlie Chaplin silent film, The Lion’s Cage.  I found this exercise time consuming as well, more due to logistics as a struggled to toggle between the applications (YouTube & Audacity) and start them simultaneously.  Mapping against the seconds of the clip and the sound bites I chose to create was pretty straightforward.  I tried to take an extra step and get both the sound clip and the YouTube clip to start simultaneously for the viewer, but I couldn’t get YouTube to cooperate.

For my Audio Assignment, I chose to go with the Dialogue Mashup and to “Mashup” cute with crude, by combining Rory Breaker’s censored rant about killing Nick the Greek (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) with replies and reactions from a few Pokemon (Pokemon, the Movie).  It was an interesting exercise and what helped the integration of the two, was that Rory’s script was mainly a monologue making it easier to insert cute, contrasting replies and reactions from the Pokemon.

Continuing along the lines of storified content, I stumbled across an NPR article, which itself was looking at a story being told by a broader McDonald’s campaign.  The series of video ads from the 90s followed a complete arch, essentially showing a young man named Calvin getting off the streets, getting a job at McDonald’s, cleaning up his life, helping the community, and making it to Manager.  Though the article focused more on the social and political significance of the ads, I looked at one in particular and identified the step-wise, positive direction of the story shape, with slight down steps of reality, overshadowed by a happily ever after type sense of optimism as Calvin shoots along the path of “Makin it,” the “moral of the story” theme to McDonald’s advertisements from the 70’s through the 90’s.  The article points out how the modern version of these ads is now all about “Lovin’ it” which is an interesting signal of how the company has shifted its focus from individual accomplishment, to perhaps one of indulgence…but that’s another conversation well out of scope for this post.



Golden Arches, What stories lie beneath

I saw an article on NPR’s website that looked at the history of McDonald’s commercials targeting black American and the shift from “Makin’ it” to “Lovin’ it” over the past few decades.  Within the article, there are several video clips that encompass an entire narrative arc for a character named “Calvin.”  The ads span from 1990 to 1992 and trace Calvin’s career starting at McDonald’s to making Manager, all within the theme of “Makin it.”

Continuing along the line of looking for storified content, I was tempted to look at the collective set of Calvin commercials because they exhibit the “Creation Story” shape portrayed by Maya Eilam’s info-graphic as Calvin essentially rises through the ranks.  But I looking at the last installment titled “The Grapevine.”  The video starts off Calvin letting his mom know that he’s part of the management team, which leads to a series of news exchanges between loved ones and friends.  With each exchange, Calvin’s accomplishment grows from afternoon management team, to manager, to owning a franchise.  The add ends with the “drop” in the story line when Calvin admits to not “owning” McDonald’s but signals the potential upswing with an optimistic “Not Yet.”

It’s a simple story and filled with optimism despite more immediate reality, though there is little down-stepping in the story shape.  I think this is inline with the theme that goes back to the NPR article, which highlighted the “Makin it” theme of the 70’s through the 90’s and how the target audience was “black folk.”  Regardless of the political and social interpretations and significance of the advertisement targeting, The story is pretty clear and straight forward.  



Lock Stock and Two Smoking Pokemons

This Audio Assignment focuses on creating a mashup of two films.  I took the films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and mixed it up with clips from the Pokemon Movie.  I inserted replies from the Pokemon to Rory Breaker’s rant where he goes on a rant about various scenarios where he will kill Nick (the Greek).  

I thought this would be a pretty funny mix.  Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is one of my favorite movies and definitely not without its share of swear words, so I was surprised that this Rory Breaker rant only had one swear word (which I carefully edited out).  I thought that a dialogue mashup with the a cute G-rated movie would create an stark contrast between the image of cute and cuddly, cold and threatening.  The most difficult thing about this assignment was finding an appropriate dialogue.  Since Rory Breaker’s scene is really a monologue (because Nick the Greek is too scared to speak back), it was perfect for inserting Pokemon sound bites as rebuttal and concerned reactions.

In the process of creating this mashup, I had difficulty download straight clips from these movies.  As a work around, I ended up using my sound recorder to record the sound bites straight off the speakers of my computer.  Once I captured the sound bites, I simple cut and paste the different segments within different Audacity tracks.  The Rory Breaker track was one continuous sound bite, which I cut up into pieces to fit in the Pokemon sound bites.

Lions and Tigers and…well…just a Lion, Oh My! (Chaplin-Foley)

Audio tracks starts at 2:31 in the YouTube clip

For this exercise, we looked at the Foley technique and used what we learned in the previous assignment, building on our skill with audio editing to sync with video.  Based on our birth month, we divided up a Charlie Chaplin clip and generated our own sounds and dialogue to accompany the silent film.

This assignment was a little trickier because I had to toggle back and forth between the YouTube video and the Audacity software to start the tracks at the same time.  I would start the YouTube video at an earlier start time and then quickly swap to the Audacity project and start the audio there.  Pretty interesting bringing the silent film to life with some audio, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 style.

In order to prepare for this exercise, I first charted out the clip time (The true time in the Chaplin clip) and the Index time (the actual time on the Audacity project time scale).  I then watched the clip several times to capture the necessary sound effect in the “Sound Effect” column.  Once I determined that the sound effects were mapped out adequately, I proceeded to take my sound recorder to capture the sounds:

  • a paper bag = to create the rustling sound
  • shoes pounding on a doormat for the footstep sounds
  • my bathroom doorknob for the opening door sounds
  • my voice for the woman, man, and lion sounds

I spliced and copied the footsteps to reuse the sounds.  I also used the “Amplify” function to tone down the sound since my recorder seems to be extremely sensitive.  I had to trim some of the dialog sound bits to fit in the time slot, so that the audio track could stay in sync with the video.  I also tried getting both the embedded YouTube and SoundCloud clips to start simultaneously, but couldn’t figure out how to get the YouTube to autostart, though I did get it to start at the 2:31 mark.

Index Time Clip Time Sound Effect
:00 2:31 Rustle & Footsteps running
:01 2:32
:02 2:33 Are you Ok?
:03 2:34 Just Dandy!
:04 2:35
:05 2:36
:06 2:37
:07 2:38 Footsteps running
:08 2:39
:09 2:40 Door open
:10 2:41
:11 2:42 Aren’t you scared of being in there with the lion?
:12 2:43 Scared of the lion? He’s not too bad.
:13 2:44 When are you planning to come out?
:14 2:45 Why? Look, he’s adoooorable! One second…
:15 2:46
:16 2:47
:17 2:48
:18 2:49
:19 2:50
:20 2:51
:21 2:52 Hey kitty kitty!
:23 2:54 Footsteps running
:24 2:55

Hello, Goodbye Gus-topher Robin (Sound Effect Story)

Screenshot of my first Audacity creation

Screenshot of my first Audacity creation

This exercise focused on building my familiarity with the sound recording, audio editing/mixing using Audacity to pull together a story (using previous course concepts), and finally upload the story to my newly created SoundCloud account.  The goal of this exercise was to take a collection of my own clips, along with clips available online (I used Freesounds), and merge them into a sound effect story.

This weekend I took a trip down to Durham, North Carolina to visit my 5 month old nephew and my sister.  We planned to enjoy the spring time weather and go to Easter Mass.  I decided that this would be the perfect story to capture with sound and captured sound bits as the weekend went along.  The shape of the story was fairly symmetrical with my boarding a bus, arriving to Gus’ baby talk, attending mass, walking in the park, and then leaving to board the bus back to DC (with Gus’ upset cries in the background).

I used my iPhone and my old Sony IC Recorder ICD-UX71 to collect sounds over the weekend.  Unfortunately, Audacity didn’t take the .mp4 files straight off my iPhone so I had to use an online converter to convert those files into .WAV files ready for editing.  I started by laying out the different parts of the story spine and filled them in with sound bits as I captured them:

  • The Beginning (bus, door, coins, vroom)
  • The Event (Door, Steps, Baby laugh, Mass)
  • The Middle (walking on park gravel, sound of birds, sound of a creek, Gus gurgling in the background)
  • The Climax (My footsteps, door opening, street sounds, Gus whimpering)
  • The End (Boarding the bus, engine idle, vroom)

Tis the Season…Where Baseball meets the (Sound)Cloud

This week’s activities kick off with (re)creating my presence in the SoundCloud. I had an account once-upon-a-time, but I was mostly a taker and not a giver. This week I will be trying my hand at using Audacity and some sound bits captured over Easter weekend to manipulate, cut, and piece together stories. I’ve always been a baseball fan and found the Abbott and Costello skit pretty hilarious. Posted here was my attempt at a monologue covering the skit. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it past first base without losing it. Funny how I struggled with the two distinct characters and voices. A friend of mine just went on the road this year, performing her MFA production, “Meena’s Dream” where she plays ALL the characters of the piece. New found appreciation and admiration? Check, check.

Week 4 – Summary

This week we wrapped up our week on visual story telling by looking at visual design, paying close attention to various design elements, cataloging instances of these elements in our daily life, throughout the past week.  We looked to explore the meaning of designs through a design safari and design assignments from the Assignment Bank.  I took less concentrated (read “last minute”) approach to the exercises this week and spread out the design exercises and design safari throughout the week so I could think about the concepts and let them sink in, marinate.  

For the design exercises, I chose to design a Children’s Computer Book and took a swing at turning one of my favorite movies in to 4 icons.  Using constructive feedback, I made some adjustments to my initial drafts to arrive at more-perfect artifacts, using Pixlr.com to make some minor, yet “non-powerpoint” edits.  Living in the consulting world, I realized that I have become too reliant on jerry-rigging powerpoint to be more than it probably should be.

For the Design safari, I found myself taking pictures that would have been great for last week’s exercise and had to remind myself I had specific design elements to pursue:  Color, Typography, and Metaphor.  Again, I found myself gravitating to DuPont Circle, but managed to leave NW and snap a shot down in SouthWest at Navy Yard during a weekend trip to the park.  Using Pixlr.com, I added a little “flavor” to the pictures before providing the background and specifics on what stood out for me in these images.

And finally, we continued in our pursuit of storied and non-storified media.  I reached back to an NPR article that struck me as an “interesting” (read: laughable, meme-able) story about Senator Mitch McConnell.  I looked at a seemingly arbitrarily formed mash-up of “Mitch serving Kentuckians”  and identified the core message Team Mitch wanted to relay to the audience, however, I saw opportunity to improve the message by adding distinct “events” in the story that could lead to the definitive end, which would be “Mitch serving Kentuckians by having done X, Y, and Z.”  I also suggested that some strategic video editing goes a long way to engaging the audience…using a somewhat relevant example, of matching video clip transitions to the music transitions.