Image

Even Grass Grows in the Cracks of the Sidewalk

Even Grass Grows in the Cracks of the Sidewalk

Background

I originally chose the windowfarms website as one of my second storification assignment https://cookiesuponwhichtomunch.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/week-2-storified-and-non-storified-content-part-deux/. Upon visiting the website, I was happy to see that the window farming project had grown and matured to the point where they had a wall of links to online reviews, had formalized their design, and formed strategic partnerships with nurseries to feed into a more “businessy” operating model.  That said, I was also bit irked (though I understood the drivers) by story told by the website www.windowfarms.com.  From my three-years-later perspective, the story, as experienced through the website, read more like “Look how cool this thing is, here’s what people are saying, and here’s how you can BUY one yourself.” The message used to end with “and here’s how you BUILD one yourself.”

Production Process

I used the story spine framework to create a rough outline of what each part of the story was going to embody.  I expanded the story spine framework to allocate audio/visual components to that particular part of the story.  I used that story spine frame work to speak and record the narrative.  This recording would serve as the foundation for the flow of the story.  I laid out the images and video to the beat of my voice, so to speak.

Bits and Bobs

I roamed the city over the weekend, taking video and pictures of concrete, metal, asphalt and many, many fire escapes.  Something about fire escapes in this town fascinated me, especially the way the shadows and colors play against the backdrop of brick.  Ultimately, I  decided to not have a human character, rather, I went the route of the images of a 3D rendered man I found online.  That became “Bob,” my central character who would live the story of the audience excluded by the $179 price tag. I collected random images from the web and blended them along with some of the imagery and video that I took around town.

Everyone Loves Music

I decided to pull some mood into the story using a few hip hop tracks that tied to two sections of the story.  The first half of the story outlined the background and the challenge Bob faced. For this, I chose Tribe Called Quest’s “Everything is Fair (when you’re living in the city)” both for the meaning embedded in the chorus as well as the repetitive nature of the sound in the background.  In my ears, this set a tone of concrete monotony, mixed with struggle and resignation.  In the context of Vonnegut’s story shape, the car screech sound marked the low-point for the character, after which there was nothing but a positive trajectory for Bob.  Bob then continues down a path of realization and empowerment all to the backdrop of Nujabes’ “Feather,” a song that uses a feather as a metaphor for upward and positive trajectory, fluid in roll of a gentle hip hop beat.  Both songs worked well, playing in the background to the narrative and the imagery.

Storifying Blender

I blended the audio and visual content in the storifying blender that is VideoPad Video Editor.  I made use of the Fade in/Fade out features of the music tracks along with the Split tool to splice the sound bites.  This tool was also useful for cutting out miscues on my narrative recording. I used the Crossfade feature to create the transition between slides.  I used the Insert Text feature to create the opening title as well as the closing credits.  I made sure the first closing credit pointed the users to the actual windowfarms.com website.

Story Spine & (Rough) Media Mapping

DIY Window Farming Story Spine

DIY Window Farming Story Spine

Media References

Lucky Number Sleven…

I’m not talking about the movie, but rather the merger of weeks 6 & 7 that seem to have gotten the best of me in a good and less-then-good way.  I didn’t underestimate the time it would take to edit a movie, I had done so years back with Windows Movie Maker (in the XP world) back in the day, albeit super simple stuff.  What I DID underestimate, was amount of thought (and time) it took to make awesome work.  The bit with the coffee, “Coffee is, My” inspired me to dig deep and look for something I could own.  Little did I know, it would own me…perhaps the creative outlet I was bursting to find and once I opened that spigot, I couldn’t close it…


 

Over the past couple week’s we explored ways to read movies and learned about different techniques used to guide and position the audience to a particular position or feeling.  We started off learning about the 180-degree rule and I chose to review articles on camera angles, Kubrick’s One-Point Perspective, and the Top-20 Cinematic Techniques.  In my post, I compared takeaways from these techniques to some of the key points Ebert made about the foreground/background relationship, the interpretation of Left vs. Right, as well as the effect of center-focus & symmetry on the audience.  One particular technique that stood out for me, that had fasicnated me for the longest time, was the Zolly technique.  I went ahead and created  short clip and posted it as a demonstration both of my grasp of the concept and also to flex my Vimeo account.

Having familiarized myself with some fundamental techniques available to both read and guide a story, I looked through the collection of classic movie clips provided to the class.  I chose to look at the Harvard bar scene from “Goodwill  Hunting” where Matt Damon and crew stand up to the Harvard Michael Bolton while trying to pick up on some ladies at the bar.  The exercise was interesting  because we decomposed the complete experience in to video first and then audio, both in isolation.  Doing this prior to watching the entire experience kept honest as I used my new found analytical skills to focus in on the use of tempo, spacing, the 180-degree rules, center-focus, and zoom.  Analyzing the video as a whole helped me appreciate how audio and video, together, provide a more complete story that a viewer would have to otherwise “fill in the blanks” with their own assumptions and knowledge.

After walking through the analytically process on both the video and audio dimensions, I moved onto demonstrate my video/audio editing skills using material from our Foley assignment on Charlie Chaplin and the Lion.  I used VideoPad Video Editor to pull together the video from YouTube, select clips from SoundCloud, royalty-free vintage silent film music from Incompetech.com, and a pull from the Lion King as a addition to the middle of the story.  This exercise allowed me to get more comfortable with splitting audio and video clips, transforming/splicing YouTube clips (downloaded using http://en.savefrom.net/), and creating opening and closing titles.

Next, I moved onto the first of two video assignments.  For the first assignment, I decided to continue along the pattern of taking other people’s work and mashing it together.  I decided to go after another Guy Richie movie, “Snatch” and mix it with something funny.  There were definitely a lot of serious scenes to pick from in this movie.  For the comedy movie, I decided to go with a “Funniest Lines” type YouTube.  My logic being, “if someone’s already gone through the trouble to collect the work, why reinvent the wheel?”  In hindsight, it might have been better to pick any scene with the picky (Brad Pitt’s character) since his mouth moves so fast, I could have dubbed anything over his lip movement.

For my second assignment, I got really carried away, in a good and less-than-good way.  First, I grabbed on to an idea/issue/occurrence that was relatively fresh in my head and ran with it.  I was inspired by a combination of personal experience, black & white introspection of “Coffee is, My”, a collection of songs that Spotify randomly played for me on the metro.  I actually conceive the idea prior to even looking at the options laid out on this weeks’ assignment page.  I searched for this video assignment because I had already set my mind on the story.  Many hours later, and with the hand of a helpful friend, I had the footage.  When all was said and done, I had a halfway decent story without dialog and a whole bunch of footage left over.  I was happy with the result, but also out of time into the final stretch.

 

 

Lock, Stock, And some Ron Burgundy

For this Video Assignment, I decided to go with Why So Serious and bring back an old favorite of mine, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking barrels and dub over words from Ron Burgundy.  I chose this scene because its a pretty serious scene about bluffing a Desert Eagle with replica guns.  I chose Ron Burgundy because a lot (if not all) the statements in that movie make no sense and are all the more funny for it.  The storyline for the scene is simple, the gang comes in, expecting to hold up the one man for something they thing he possesses using nothing but ski masks and fake guns.  The soon find out that the man isn’t buying their bluff and slowly escape with their lives.  If you were to mute the film completely, the video would suggest this based on the body language and facial expression, however, with the new dialogue, it makes less sense, though at some parts, the Ron Burgundy dialogue actually fits.

To create this film, I used http://en.savefrom.net/ to pull down the YouTube videos, one in MP4 form (Lock, Stock, and two smoking barrels) and another in Audio MP4 form (Ron Burgundy) since I was only planning to dub the audio into the video.  I could have use VideoPad Video Editor to extract the audio, however, I chose this approach instead.  Next, I want through the entire Ron Burgundy Audio clip and split it into segments for each phrase used in the YouTube clip.  I detached the audio from the Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels clip so that I could still use some of the original clip sounds (music, footsteps, glass setting on a table, etc).  All together, the audio dubs over fairly decently.  The darkness in the video clip make the mouth movements less distinct, which allows more flexibility around the mouth shape and the actual words being dubbed over.  With other videos, the character’s mouth movement was prominent, that some words wouldn’t fit the motion of the mouth on the screen.

screen_Lock-Stock-Burgundy

 


 

UPDATE:  This scene was actually taken from “Snatch” and equally awesome movie!

 

It’s Not You, It’s Me…

For one of this week’s Video Assignments, I chose to Tell a Story without Dialogue.  The title of the story is “It’s not you, it’s me” named after the dreaded line that any guy or gal loathes to hear on the other end of a phone line or an awkward coffee table.  A more recent encounter with this phrase inspired the video and the story is about a person who starts off his day like normal, assuming all is well and normal until he checks his mail and receives “the line.”  The world turns to grey and through body gestures, pauses, perspective, he comes to a realization that he shouldn’t dwell and that there are others around to support him.  He loosens the constraints of his work attire, representing the confines of emotion and self to which he has resigned himself and finds new friends in strangers in the park who support him on a slack line, a metaphor for balancing life and how we can’t do it alone.

I used the B/W and “Happy” (color) settings on my Panasonic DMC-TS20 to record the video.  I used a tripod to take the shots in my apartment and recruited a friend to take footage of my walk through “days” (title of the song playing during the black & white footage). When I read Ebert’s points on reading movies, what stood out to me was the notion that a rightward direction represented the future, so most of the footage of me walking is forward and to the right, to represent forward motion, versus the helplessness, sadness, and resignation that Ebert associated with tilting the left.  The idea of the upward angle to the right with most of the the initial walking was to suggest moving forward, moving on.  Coincidentally, the two scenes entering the park showed a upward, but leftward approach to the park, which also timed well with a lull, almost resigned, tempo on the song.  This was temporary as the tempo picked up heading to the transition to color.

The color scheme was pretty simple.  Whenever Coldplay’s “Life in Technicolor” played, there was color, life, and joy, be it in the daily process or the ending scenes.  When the character receives the note, he enters into a black and white world where the joy of color is almost removed by a shift in mood. Throughout the video, split segments into pieces deleting every other slice to create a jumping effect which I smoothed with crossfade transitions.  This served the purpose of trimming down total time of footage, but also created the effect of time passing as the subject remained still while people and things around him moved.  At one point near the end, I slowed down the video as the character paused to look at roses.  This effect was to provide a hint to the viewer as to what might be going on in the character’s mind.  All these effects, coupled with the tempo, tone, and message of the song played well together.

One other aspect of the film that I tried to include was that you couldn’t see the character’s face for most of the video until the 2nd half when he comes to his realization and sees the color in the world around him.  The intent was to allow the audience to try and guess what was on his mind based on everything else BUT his face.  Him scratching his head, pausing for the roses, putting his hands in his pockets, looking down to the ground…what does these things say about his thoughts and his feelings.  Towards the end, we see him on the park bench, arms open, comfortable and happy in the sun and around people.  An unintentional aspect of the ending of the Coldplay song, he sings “…no my feet won’t touch the ground…” which matched up with the character slack-lining above the ground with help from a new friend.

screen_itsnotyouitsme

Simba’s Dream

For this assignment, we went brought back the Foley assignment for a 2nd round, taking the clips that the class created and pulling it into the Chaplin video as an exercise of our video editing skills.  Additionally, we took time to create introduction, layer on a new soundtrack, and modify the middle of the story.

For this assignment, I used the a collection of clips pulled from our class SoundCloud collection to create the core dialog.  I download the original Chaplin clip and a Lion King clip from YouTube using http://en.savefrom.net/.  I used incompetech.com to find a lively silent film score that I used as the background music.  Initially, the sound was quite loud and overpowering so I used the functionality available on VideoPad Video Editor to pull the volume down 50% for the soundtrack.  I used the insert Text feature to create the opening, scrolling credits and then use the same texts to create the closing story line, credits for media sources, and the final THE END.

Below is a screenshot of my VideoPad Video Editor interface.

screen_videoediting

When picking the SoundCloud pieces, I tried to chose the sound clips with the lowest background noise (lowest median wave height in the SoundCloud interface).  I was surprised at how well they fit together.  When I was determining how I wanted to edit the middle of the story, my reasoning (and Google key word search) was “Lion Dreaming,” literally.  After a brief view of the video clips that came up with the search, I came across the scene from the Lion King where Mufasa and Simba are frolicking through the open spaces of their kingdom.  I thought to myself, “what else would a sleeping lion in captivity be dreaming of?”  So I decided to include that clip in the middle of the Chaplin clip, right before Charlie wakes the lion.  Aside from the slightly awkward transition between the clips, the story line actually works, adding a dimension as to why the lion is mad.  Simba was dreaming of a better life, free with his father, and then “BOOM” he is awakened by a human with a funny  hat.  After shaking off the grogginess from his nap, the anger boils over and he lashes out at Charlie, who scrambles away in fright.

Instead of adding a simple “The End” to the story, I decided to add the closure that some movies use to tell the story of certain characters in the movie.  For this particular clip, Charlie and his girlfriend, Spot (the dog), and Simba are the characters who get closure slides before the final curtain (The End).

 

That Rug Really Tied the Room Together…

For this week’s exercise, “Look, Listen, Analyze” I looked at the the “Good Will Hunting (Bar Scene).

Camera Work Analysis (no sound)

  • The beginning of the scene has the Ben Afleck, Matt Damon and crew entering the bar in the background, with the bar and other people in the foreground.  Ebert’s acknowledgement that the background can become dominant over the foreground plays true here as the audience appreciates the context that the foreground provides (they are entering a bar), but focuses on the characters stumbling through the door in the background.
  • As Ben Afleck’s character is sharing his remarks about the bar and ordering a round for his friends, the camera view switches back and forth between different angles.  This effect allows the audience to understand the depth of the environment.  As mentioned in Camera Angles & Techniques, the different angles give the audience a 3D feel for the space, using a 2D medium.
  • When Afleck and Damon are having their standoff with the Harvard Michael Bolton, the 180-degree rule is maintained as the camera angle stays on the same side as the bar and the girls.  As the camera switch’s from speaker to speaker, the listener is kept on the edge of the frame to confirm to the audience that the speaker is speaking to the other character, and not them.
  • At certain points, the center-point perspective is used when different speakers are talking, almost as if to emphasize to the viewer, “You should listen even closer…..now.”
  • A zoom-in effect is used to emphasize a point Matt Damon is making.  Similarly, a zoom-out effect is used to re-include the people standing around Matt Damon, presumably after he’s finished making his point.
  • As the Harvard Michael Bolton walks away into the background, the background blurs and once again the foreground, and focus on the girls (obviously impressed) dominates the view.

Audio Track Analysis (no video)

minimizing the browser window, I listened to the sound for tempo, timing, foley effects, etc.  I found that most of the sound I heard was centered on the dialogue, however, I had a few observations.

  • The background music provided context, muddled in indistinguishable, but present.  A subtle indicator that they were in a bar.
  • The sound of the music faded between Afleck’s opening remarks and when he started speaking to the girls.  This indicated that the jukebox was on the further part of the bar and that the focus was no on the conversation between Afleck and the girls.  Afleck’s opening remarks were more of a monologue placed in the context of the bar music, which would make sense of the music being louder.
  • Slight Foley effects were apparent, mainly in the sound of other incoherent bystander conversations at the bar, shuffling of chairs, or placement of pint glasses and pitchers.  Afleck’s crew makes a few distant, wise remarks to remind the listener that they are there, but set back from the two speakers.

Tying the room together

After looking at the video again, what I found was that despite the scene mainly being focused on dialogue, there as definitely timing that unified the audio and video in the scene.  An example would be the change in the depth of the sound aligned with Afleck walking down to the other side of the bar.  Another, tied the Foley sound effects (pint glasses, chairs shifting) with the movement of the other friends into the background of the scene.

Thoughts…

This is one of my favorite movie scenes because of how it demonstrates a man’s worth is not defined by what he knows but how he uses it and with what intent.  Having spent time in grad school, I ran into my fair share of Harvard Michael Bolton’s, who would read the latest Economist or listen to the latest NPR article only to turn it around and take a position above others.  There’s nothing wrong with seeking and possessing the knowledge, but more important than anything is how you use it and to what degree does that knowledge and intent define you as a person.  To Damon’s point, we should all try to be “Original.”

 

Back, Back, Forth, and Forth…

For this week’s activity, Reading Movies, I looked at the Ebert’s perspecitve on on “How to Read a Movie.“. Ebert’s methods aligned with several concepts that I was aware of consciously and unconsciously. A few of them actually contradicted ideas that were presented in the other videos, not to mention insights recently shared with me by some female friends.

First, on the idea that movement from left to right represented positive direction and the future, we read from left to right (with the exception of Japanese) so it make sense that we might associate movement to the right with the future. Subconsiously, we’ve almost literally hang on each word, in a right-ward direction. In terms of Ebert’s methods that highlighted in my unconscious awareness was the concept that diagonal equated to being “out of balance.” Moreover, the idea that diagonal to the right implied a perilous fall into the future. Its interesting concept and brought back memories of Ice Tunnel ride at Universal Studios where the background was rotating in such a way that it made me feel like the cart was tilting.  I recall leaning over to stay upright, only to realize we hadn’t tilted at all.

After watching several of the videos, I found that the Kubrick, One-point perspective, provided interesting insight to the use of symmetry and actually contradicted Ebert’s point that Symmetry implied being at rest. In he Kubrick montage, the different scenes seemed to suggest everything else but rest and added a layer of uneasy feeling because it was not as easy to anticpate, to Ebert’s earlier point, if the scene was moving to the future or to the past, in a positive direction, or in a negative direction. I definitely think that there is power in symmetry, in choosng that one point of perspective because it positions the audience into a suspensful state, waiting, anticipating a transition.

Another Ebert method that stood out for me was the the interplay between foreground and background. Watching the video on Camera Angles and Techniques, I was fascinated by the “Zolly” technique because it was something that always struck me in movies and added so much impact to characters’ “ah ha!” moments. The video reminded of the fact that video is a two-dimensional portrayal of a three dimensional space, which I found compelling. The use of camera angles provide a reminder that the space is indeed three dimensional. Morever, the effects that Ebert desribes with the different angle positions impacts the viewer experience, depending on the dominant angle. Something to keep in mind as in my video work.


UPDATE:  First Attempt at executing the Zolly technique