What does the font say?

What is a story? How do you tell it in a logical, compelling way? What are the different components of it? How can audio and video add (or subtract from it)? These were all questions that I started to ponder when I joined DS106. I felt like I had a pretty good decent understanding of storytelling. I had a great storytelling role model in my dad so some may even say that I was pretty good at telling my own yarns. However, this class really pushed me to re-evaluate my definition of storytelling, the structure in which to tell a story and the technical vehicles I could use (most of which were totally foreign to me).

My inspiration for my final project came during Week 3 and 4. My final project is the coming of age short animated film about Calvin Font, a 12 (pt) year old who’s trying to find his place in the Word…I mean world. ūüôā¬†¬†In following the story spine,¬†Calvin needs to write a paper for school about who he’s most like. He approaches his mom who decides to enlist the help of other family members to help Calvin find out. Calvin then starts on a journey across the world to learn more about his family. Throughout these encounters, Calvin learns a little more about his family…and ends up learning a lot more about himself. In drafting the story, I tried to incorporate¬†some of the clues for a great for a story. I also developed based on one of my favorite books growing up, “Are you my mother?” And…since I was working on the project on Mother’s Day, I had to keep off of the moms top of mind. The title of the project came on a twist from the YouTube smash hit, “What does the fox say?” I thought the creative title would spark interest as suggested in DS106’s Blog like¬†a Champ.

In crafting the story, I opted to use an animated movie as my canvas since I had started my DS106 journey analyzing an animated Pixar flick so I thought it was only fitting to return to my roots. Although I appreciate the importance of layering audio, I opted for music only to give it more of a Charley Chaplin-style B&W film. Plus, since the movie is about FONTS, I wanted the audience to pay attention to the subtle nuances between the font types rather than other outside audio. If not, the differences between the characters is hard to understand. The song selected was Kalimba by Mr. Scruff. The movie is about the adventures of Calvin Font so I thought it was fitting with a kind of upbeat but determined sound. Character inspiration came from an article on font types¬†and what they say about you. In placing Calvin’s character, I always made sure he was looking to the right towards his new future with a better sense of belonging. Given some of the tool limitations, I was not able to explore more with the different axis or camera angles.

The short was pulled together using a web tool called Moovly. It is free software that allows users to create animated movies and presentations.¬†Since I¬†had pushed myself to use new tools throughout the semester, I¬†decided to continue the trend. I went to the Moovly website, created an account and downloaded the software. When I had decided to make an animated video, I started with using Crazy Talk Animator but I found the software challenging to use (Note: I’m not technically savvy). Creating¬†content with Moovly was very easy. They had¬†an in-tool tutorial as well as some¬†online videos¬†that I watched before getting started.¬†All of the¬†images and animation options came from the Moovly library and were pre-loaded.¬†They did have an option for me to import pictures but I elected not to. To create the video, I simply dragged and dropped the images. I¬†could then resize, format¬†and animate in a format very similar to working within PowerPoint. I could adjust the timing of the objects and animation very similar to working with Audacity. As the video grew in content, more and more frames with the images/animations were added in. All in all, I would DEFINITELY recommend the Moovly tool. It was really fun to create! Although this may not become an epic clip like Van Damme‚Äôs¬†Volvo commercial, I hope you enjoy!

 

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Satisfy the Senses

I selected the last scene from the Gangs of New York for my look, listen and analyze assignment. This is a movie that I remember watching when it first came out….although I couldn’t believe that it had been filmed 12 years ago! How time flies!¬†In watching the scene, I noticed different things when I isolated¬†my senses.

The movie is set in¬†1863, Amsterdam Vallon returns to the Five Points area of New York City seeking revenge against Bill the Butcher, his father’s killer. The section of the film that I analyzes was the closing sequence.

Visual: The scene opens with dead¬†bodies lining the street with candles glowing on their chests.¬†It¬†starts closer up and then gradually¬†pans backward and you see the glowing light as¬†far as¬†the eye can see. It is then you¬†understand the¬†magnitude¬†and death toll the gang¬†fights took.¬†Besides the dead gang members, somber solders are¬†predominately seen in the first¬†few screens and help to give the imagery of a grave situation. Without sound, you aren’t sure exactly what is going on. The clip then moves to see hands holding a trinket and then burying. The shot pans up to show¬†what one assumes to be a Potter’s Field cemetary¬†in Brooklyn.¬†The 1863 New York¬†City skyline is in the background with¬†large clouds of dark smoke¬†indicating¬†several large fires/bombs must have recently happened.¬†Vallon¬†limps over¬†to a female figure and the two turn and start walking towards the down left part of the screen.¬†Their images fade from the screen¬†and show new images of the¬†NYC skyline¬†free from smoke and with new buildings. The cemetary becomes in more and more disrepair.¬†Even without¬†sound, you can visually see that history¬†is¬†forgotten by the present.¬†¬†Overall, the film¬†has¬†a brown-tint to give it the look¬†and feel of an old movie.

Audio: When just listening to the audio, you realize that it is only Amsterdam Vallon speaking. His voice is slow, tired and with an Irish accent. He starts by recalling the gang fights. He then ties the recent trials and tribulations to something his father had¬†told him.¬†“My father told me we was all born of blood and tribulation, and so then too was our great city.”¬†Vallon, knowing that this is a pivotal point in the history of the city, then¬†takes on a¬†reflective tone in says, ”¬†But for those of us what lived and died in them furious days, it was like everything we knew was mightily swept away. And no matter what they did to build this city up again… for the rest of time… it would be like no one ever knew we was even here.”¬†He makes these comments¬†as haunting/powerful¬†music plays in the¬†background.

Tying it Together: When you tie the visual with the audio, it becomes a powerful¬†ending to an epic movie. As¬†Vallon¬†says the final spoken word of the film, “For the rest of time will be like no one would even know we were ever here…” his image fades from the screen to give way to progress and the new cityscape.

My biggest take away from the film is that a good scene combines great imagery with audio for a captivating moment of the film.

Lights! Camera! Action!

There is a saying that behind every good man is a good woman. This week, I learned that behind every good director is a good film editor. Truth be told, I had never really thought much of moving angles. This might be because my favorite films are rom coms. So, reading Roger Ebert’s How to Read a Movie was really eye-opening (no pun intended). In the article, Ebert explains about positive/negative sides and strong/weak axis. For example, a person located somewhat to the right of center appears ideally placed on the “strong axis”. To try it out, I did a search of famous movie scenes. It was a harder search than I thought to find movie titles/pictures. I did come across the epic film Casablanca. In analyzing the pictures included, I noticed the following:

Rick Blaine in his Cafe Americain nightclub playing chess by himself – Center placement, “postive side” facing the future…but…he’s looking down so it suggests that it might not be all rainbows and sunshine

Final farewell scene between trench-coated Rick and Ilsa on the rainy, foggy airstrip with “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid” – Ilsa is on the positive side but facing to the left which symbolizes the past. Rick is on the negative side. He’s looking at the future…even though he’s letting her go.

Now, let’s think about how film editing can play a part in these iconic scenes. As Hitchcock explains, simple editing can change the feeling and sentiment of a character/scene. In the scene where Rick says, “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”, imagine how the mood would change if editing flipped to Rick and he was wearing KISS make-up. Obviously this is a ridiculous example. BUT, I thought Hitchcock’s explanation of how just a simple change in a picture‚Ķlike swapping out a baby for a girl in a bikini changes the whole sentiment towards a character. We do that in real life also when we meet someone. We have an initial perception and then as we learn more, that perception changes. I find it interesting that directors/editors capitalize on that during movie making.

I found the history of film editing really interesting. I particularly appreciated the comments from Spielberg and his relationship with his film editor. Because he had spent so much time trying to film the shark, he wanted to include as much frames of it as possible. However, her vision of the film included a “less is scarier/more tense” approach. The end result was an award-winning film. But it reminded me that many times in my team’s presentation, because they fall in love with a particular slide, they fight to keep it in…even though it doesn’t add (or may subtract) from the overall presentation.

I also found it interesting when one of the film editors explained that their job is to take on the POV of the viewer. To make sure they do that effectively, they stay offset so they do not bring prior knowledge into the editing room. Since I develop training materials, I think that’s a good rule of thumb to bring to my development process. It was also amazing to me to see how far film taping/editing has evolved as I watched videos on special effects. But, even watching the basics on the 180 made me realize how much thought and attention to detail is put into film making that the audience just takes for granted.

Finally, I appreciated Ken Burns‚Äôs perspective that his job has an element of manipulation. He uses filming and editing to tell his version of the ‚Äútruth‚ÄĚ to make the audience react a certain way. This feeling was also supported during the film editing movie when one of the editors stated that everyone likes editing because they want to edit their own life. I think that‚Äôs true‚Ķthere are definitely times I wish I could edit parts out, slow things down or fast forward. All in all‚ĶI have a whole new appreciation for films!

Noise

I constantly feel like I’m being overwhelmed by noise that begins with my alarm clock (that goes off way too early in the morning) and ends with email alerts coming from my laptop (as my India team gets working as I’m heading to bed). This week, we learned all about sound and the profound impact it has on stories. It helps¬†set the tone and mood. Given how¬†hectic life is for me right now, I’m¬†not surprised that the “noise” in my life¬†feels overwhelming.

In addition¬†to always feeling like I’m being bombarded with noise,¬†I felt a little overwhelmed¬†using new tools like SoundCloud and Audacity. However, both of the tools were fairly easy to use once I got the hang of things. My first endeavor with the software was with my news broadcast. Recording a ridiculous story…while pretending¬†to be serious…was pretty fun and got me¬†away from worrying about how my voice sounds.

Next, I honed my sound mixing skills to create a tribute to my sister’s upcoming wedding. I¬†took a little creative liberty with¬†one of¬†the sound files to create a story that had a greater emotional impact on me…and something that I can share with her to help explain why I’m busy with school and not doing such a great job with being the maid of honor.

While reading my classmates’ blogs, I got the inspiration for my design assignment. Since we’re paying homage to sound and how it impacts¬†storytelling, I took the same Craig’s¬†List post and reinterpretted it with my recording. It was actually interesting to listen to my post and then relisten to hear’s.¬†While completing this activity, I¬†thought that this may be a good activity¬†for the class to do….to highlight how everyone interprets and uses sound differently.

I learned about the Foley Artist¬†and how awesome their role is! Since I can’t sing, dance or act…I used to always joke with my mom that a behind-the-scenes soundmaker may be my only shot at show business. After raading all the things the do, I think that’s even out now! I still need to create my Foley video.

Finally, I wrapped the week up with updating/enhancing an existing final project idea based on a suggestion by the professional!

All in all, I found a new appreciation for sound….the soundtrack for my life!

 

Missed Connections…A New Take

I got my inspiration for this week’s DS106 audio assignment by reading a follow classmate’s blog on Craig’s List’s Missed Connections. Truth be told…I’ve never been on Craig’s List. But, I read her “Missed Connections” interpretation and got inspired. Since this week is all about audio and using sounds and audio to tell a story, I decided to take the same words she recorded and interpret them myself. I wanted to see if we could create different stories based on tone, cadence, volumn and background noise. The Craigslist Missed Connection is:

I saw you this morning on the orange line metro (towards largo/new carrollton), you were beautiful. I got on at Dunn Loring and you were already on. You had red tinted hair and a tealish bag. You were short and fit.

I never do this and I’m sure you’ll never see this but I wish I had said something.

Tell me what stop you got off at if you see this.

The words are not particularly eloquent and I initially read them as if they were posted from a male. So, I decided to slow down the pace and add more angst into the delivery. I also added in female crying from Freesound.org. This gave the post a distinctive female feel. Then, to comply withe request from the activity, I dropped in a rap beat. It actually fit well into the recording and almost made the crying sound musical.

Final Project Idea: Self Help…for Fonts!

Last week, I proposed doing a final project on how the usage of fonts can create a mixed message.¬†The professor suggested creating a¬†self-help¬†group for misunderstood fonts. That got me thinking…could I create a story about a misunderstood font and his bad news bears¬†group of friends – other fonts with other notorious reputations.

Based on Pixar’s Storytelling Rules, everyone loves an underdog who they can resonate with…and who HASN’T been understood at some point in time? I was thinking that I could create a similar underdog story much like the commercial I reviewed a few weeks earlier.

I could leverage appropriate sounds to indicate the emotions and design similar to the commercial below. Through the “story”, the group could encounter different graphic designs that seem to “mock” the font. For example, whenever Comic Sans encounters a clown, it has a comic sans name tag. The more I think about this idea, the more I think it could be pretty fun to create…similar to this self help job ad.

 

Wedding Bells

My sister is getting married in about 6 weeks. So, wedding bells and relationships are hot topics within my family. One of the comments that everyone keeps telling my sister is how fast the wedding day actually will go. They then usually proceed to ask my sister when she’s planning on having kids! Talk about rushing things! I used this topic as a base for my sound story. I tried to create the boy meets girl story using sounds from Free Sound. I editted the story together using Audacity, a tool I have never used before.

The story starts off as most…in a bar with lots of noise. This is where the boy meets the girl…although that has to be inferred. The next sound is of a couple laughing…presumably in a date setting. The track then skips to a proposal, wedding bells, clinking glasses and then…a baby crying.

The story is a tribute to my sister and her fiance! The original Audacity files had romantic music in the background. I’m not sure what happened when I outputed it to an MP3 file. I left the file “as is” so the listening can use their imagination with what happens in the blank spot. ūüôā I will admit that I cheated a bit with one of my sound bites with the proposal but since it was just one piece of the story and came from an open source file, I took my chance.