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…like 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’s perspective that his job has an element of manipulation. He uses filming and editing to tell his version of the “truth” 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’s true…there are definitely times I wish I could edit parts out, slow things down or fast forward. All in all…I have a whole new appreciation for films!

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 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.

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. 🙂 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.


This is Sammy Sparks reporting for WKLMTZ…

Recording my own voice…the thought terrifies me! So, when I saw the assignment to record myself pretending to be a newscaster, I got a little freaked out. I also realized that I would have to learn how to use yet another new tool, SoundCloud [since this is audio week, I’ll let you know that I let out a big sigh]. However, I found the activity fairly painless.

I began by setting up my SoundCloud account. I chose a name similar to my Blog to help users make a connection. Based on feedback from another classmate, having pictures helped provide a connection. Therefore, I decided to use a picture of me as my Avatar. However, since the site is a little funky and cool, I decided to use a funnier picture of me from when I completed the Warrior Dash.

Next, I had to find a funny article to record. I tried searching for articles using things like “ridiculous news stories” and “funny news stories” and didn’t really come up with anything appropriate. So, I used inspiration from one of my classmates and her use of an Onion article. I selected an Article on American Idol contestant Bo Bice and recent news that Alabama was going to cancel Bo Bice Day.  The article resonated with me because I am currently staffed on a project in Arkansas and have witnessed firsthand how southern states love their local celebrities.

Next, I searched on SoundCloud to find some appropriate news intro music. I was pretty excited with what I found. I then made my recording. It turned out ok…I was just happy that my dog didn’t start barking mid-recording. The intro music didn’t turn out all that well so I’ll learn in the future that I need to record differently. All in all…I was pretty pleased and didn’t totally cringe at my voice.

One of my all time favorites!

This week, for one of my design assignments, I opted to do the One Story/Four Icons assignment. I wanted to attempt to reduce a movie to four symbols. Although I am not a huge movie-goer, I realized that after completing the Five Card Flickr activity last week, I needed practice in brevity of storytelling.

My first quest was finding a movie that could be conveyed with icons BUT not easily distinguishable. I searched through my mental movie library of favorites. When I had one or two, I went off in search of icons. I found a bunch using the free icon finder. As I started to peruse, that’s where I found my inspiration to help me hone in on the story I wanted to portray (Clue # 1).

Since the movie is a more obscure choice from my childhood (Clue # 2), I opted to tell the story using icons that represented the pieces of the plot rather than characters (Clue # 3). I looked for symbols that would resonate as if I was playing a game of charades. I copied each of my icons from the site and pasted them into PowerPoint. I then top aligned them and horizontally distributed them across the page. I then put a black border around the pictures and turned it into a .jpg using a snipping tool. I just hope that I told the story as well as its award-winning director (Clue # 4).


You can find the answer here!

Look Up! But I Don’t See Anything?

When I was little, one of the commercials that ran locally featured Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas teaching kids about electricity safety. In the commercial, Thomas asked a little boy, “Look up.” To that, the little boy responded, “But I don’t see anything?” The commercial went on to discuss looking up for power lines. However, the exchange resonates with me this week as I thought through graphic design. I don’t claim or pretend to have an artistic eye. I tend to take things in the most literal sense. And, I frequently find myself engrossed in my iPhone reading through emails instead of observing what is happening around me.

At the beginning of Kelli Anderson’s TedTalk, she explains that she gets to tinker with the designs in every day lives. This week, I committed myself to “looking up” so I could take in the world around me so I could take in and think about design concepts and “tinker” with the things that I probably see every day but am too busy “looking down”.

As part of the design safari, I collected representative pictures. In full disclosure, I did not necessarily take all of the pictures featured. However, they were images from the past week that I either enjoyed “live” because I was there in person. Or, “admired and appreciated” because someone shared them with me.

Color: I love color! It helps convey mood and settings. When I’m feeling bright and happy, I’ll frequently put on a pair of red heels. My first car was bright yellow and strangers frequently stopped me and said, “Looking at your car just makes me feel good!” When my team was out visiting the local city square for lunch, we chanced upon an old Beetle car. Even though it was pretty rusty, the red paint still gave it a vibrant yet nostalgic feel. It was parked next to a Good Humor Truck with a red strawberry sundae bar and had a wagon on top (also two items that “tie” into the red theme and remind me of my childhood). All in all, I left the square with this image and couldn’t help but feel happy and reminiscent.    


Metaphors and Symbols: It’s been a long winter! When I was out walking with a friend at a nearby like, we came across a single dead leaf clinging to a tree. The bright blue of the lake provided a backdrop for the single leaf that, although still dead, symbolized that spring WILL come (eventually) and the leaf’s sheer determination to stay put instead of fall off…despite the horrible winter. This picture also struck me as something that could go under “Unity” as it does represent the connectedness of the branches and seasons (bright lake for summer vs. dead leaf for winter).


Balance and Symmetry: I am a perfectionist. So, I love straight lines, linear angles, etc. One of the photos I posted included dual rainbows that came after a huge thunderstorm passed through the area. I love the perfect matching arcs of the rainbows, particularly against the “quilt” of grass and trees below.


The other picture comes from a friend on vacation who was trying to make me jealous! The pool and sky appear almost as mirror images. Her legs follow the strips of the towel and buildings in the background. This photo also made me think of “Movement” since I can almost picture the person jumping into the water at any minute.


Rhythm: I never really thought much about a still photograph having rhythm. However, I changed my mind when we captured the sky after a series of storms passed through. The sky was beautiful and the clouds left such a pretty pattern and almost “parted” for the sun to make an appearance.


I also captured a photo of the Detroit skyline. The press is usually so negative about the city of Detroit. However, there really is a new rebirth going on. In looking at this photo, it reminded me of a heart beat pulse monitor. The skyline is Detroit’s new pulse. I know that this is definitely creative interpretation of the photo (and “rhythm”).


Proportion: Finally, we came across a bench in the forest. It seemed so small and simple compared to the large trees and bright sun. However, the tall trees made me feel like I would be safe and protected should I decide to sit and take a nap there.