Spoon Fed

Wow.  What a ride the past 8 weeks have been.  And all that hard work has culminated here, in the DS 106 Final Project.  It took me a long time to decide on my project idea.  It’s funny – each idea I had I tried to frame it in terms of the weekly topics of the course.  I first thought about the story spine structure.  Who was my character? What happened to them? And then what? And then finally…..   Then I would think about the different media I could use to tell the story, and how I would use it.  This exercise was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but probably because I have a tendency to over-think things.  Once I made my decision – I ran with it, using the frameworks we built over the last few weeks and I think the overall result is pretty decent!

As you can probably tell from some of my previous posts, I’m staying busy these days juggling work, school, and a sweet baby girl.  Like most new parents, I’m having an absolute blast watching my child learn and grow.  Also, like most new parents, I constantly worry that I’m doing the right things; providing my child with adequate stimulation, helping her get the sleep she needs, and feeding her the right foods.  That last part gives me the most concern.  I guess everyone has their thing and this one’s mine.  I’m always doing research about what I should be feeding my child, and how much, and when.  The first few months are easy; breast milk or formula every couple of hours – check! But once your child starts sitting up and moving around, they’re ready to practice eating real foods and need a more nutrients in their diet. When I spoke with my pediatrician at my daughter’s four month appointment she quickly told me that I could start my daughter on solid foods and handed me a piece of paper.  The piece of paper had a table on it with information about what foods to try each month.  It had 2-3 tips about introducing solids, 2-3 foods to try each month and that was it.  I left the office feeling a little lost – like, that’s it?  Something as big as nutrition and all I have to guide me is a one pager?  It simply wasn’t enough.  I think that this information could be better dispensed using an interactive website/tool, built on a foundation of stories of what babies do at different stages.

Here’s the story of how this tool could be used:

A new parent has spent every day of the last 4-6 months feeding their child breast milk or baby formula.  Seemingly overnight, their child starts to show signs that they might be ready to eat solid foods (interest in foods, grabbing at food, sitting up, etc.)   Their baby appears to be more dexterous, is rolling over, and seems to be thinking about moving more. Finally, they head to the pediatrician for a check-up and advice.  In the office they’ll see a poster on the wall, directing them to the site which we’ll call Food 101 for the purposes of this project.  The Food 101 site lets parents choose the baby story that best matches their own baby at that particular moment.  For example, if the parent has a baby that’s rolling over, they would choose “The Roller”.  They could then watch a video about what the child is doing at the point in their development and then they can access information about what foods they need to eat, how much, and when.

So basically, I have several stories taking place here – there’s the parent who can benefit from the Food 101 site, and then all the stories of the babies at different developmental stages on the website.  For this project, I decided to focus on just one of the baby stories, to show you a sample of what would be on the Food 101 site. This video highlights how the information is enhanced by a storified approach.

***Disclaimer****

The information shown in the video and on my webpage is NOT actual recommendations for babies.  I’m not a pediatrician and I don’t even play one on TV! This is a sample, with very general, placeholder information.

I created my poster first.  It pretty well frames up the information that would be available for parents through Food 101.  Next, I created the Food 101 page as a page on my blog.  I repurposed a lot of the images for consistency and I linked my YouTube video to the “crawler” icon.  If nothing else, I think all the peices of my final project have a pretty good flow.

Next I got to work on my video element.  As you may have noticed, I can’t operate without a list and a plan.  So, I created a storyboard of the shots I wanted to include and the script.  Here’s a sample of my storyboard:

Shot Shot Notes Audio script
“The Crawler” Write in details about crawler “The Crawler”Babies typically start crawling around 7 or 8 months.The crawler’s world is getting bigger by the day! She loves to grab things, move her body, and experiment with making sounds!
Baby crawling, rolling over, playing, etc.  3-4 shots cut together. Crawling towards cameraRolling over, shot looking down.Playing with toys – shot at eye level. 
Baby reaching for food Dad holding baby, she reaches for his food. (2) She’s already started solid foods by eating simple, pureed grains, but recently, her appetite has increased as has her interest in foods.
Baby eating solid food In high chair, food all over faceAlso eating rice crackers.
Shot of bottles At this age, most of The Crawler’s nutrition still comes from mother’s milk or formula. She drinks that first, before filling up on solid foods.
Serving amounts Display information about serving sizes and frequency of feedings She eats 2-3 tbsp. Of solids, three times per day.
Food schedule Display a schedule on the screenHighlight the solid food feedings.Image of  a clock in the background? Here’s her feeding schedule:One serving of food after her morning feeding,Another serving after her afternoon feeding and a third serving around dinner time.
Foods to try AvocadosBananasSweet potatoesRice crackers (add images of these foods.) The crawler is an adventurous eater! She eats avocados, bananas, apples, pears, sweet potatoes and more.  For a full menu of the foods she’s trying, see the Food 101 site.
Baby holding dad’s hands and trying to walk Shot at baby eye level. Because of her healthy and wholesome nutrition, the crawler is well fed and happy.  Before you know you’ll be visiting the next chapter “The Walker”.

I got most of the shots I wanted, but I stuck to the script and that seemed to help.

Once I had my storyboard together, I made a list of the shots I needed to take.  Working with inexperienced talent meant that I needed to be very organized and able to work quickly.  I made the decision to take all the shots of my daughter without showing her face.  I chose to do this because I’d like the viewer (the parent) to be able to identify with the story of the baby and picture their own child doing the things highlighted in the video.  I wanted it to have a bit of an ‘any baby’ sort of feel.

So I wanted to use iMovie to create my video since I finally figured it out but in a near 11th hour panic, my videos would not upload to my mac because I’m out of memory! Thank goodness for my work laptop and the old Google.  I found an easy to use site called WeVideo.  Turns out most video editing software works on the same principles so it was really easy to figure out.  Here’s a screen shot of my WeVideo editor:

WeVideo Screen Capture

WeVideo doesn’t have an internal recording option so I recorded my audio on SoundCloud, downloaded it to my machine, uploaded it to WeVideo and dropped it into my video. Oh but wait — WeVideo only allows for one audio track and I needed music too! Here’s where it got really interesting.  I uploaded the WeVideo to YouTube, downloaded it to my mac, added audio found from, and re-uploaded it to YouTube. Did you catch all that? Take notes.  I found some audio I liked on Incompetech called “Montauk Point” and it seemed pretty appropriate for my simple little video.  There was a whole ‘nother upload-download scenario which I won’t describe but ultimately my work made it to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.  I did find two glaring mistakes in the midst of that process but with all those steps I couldn’t bring myself to go back and fix them. (Ugh!) I don’t want to call myself out, but don’t try to go to the website listed at the end of the video.  And, here it is:

So there you have it! The DS 106 story is coming to a close and it’s really sad!  I’ve enjoyed this course not just for it’s content but also it’s method.  Like I titled my post, I feel like over the last 8 weeks we’ve been spoon fed the information and tools that we need to be able to tell a story, digitally.  This skill is going to be SO useful in so many aspects of my career and life.  I plan to use the concepts learned here when I create Web-based training and I also plan on using it to create some better-than-average home movies that will last a lifetime.  I hope you’ll enjoy my work as much as I enjoyed creating it!

Idea Poaching

Nawwwww, I’m not going to steal anyone’s work.  However, I hope that my perusal of other student’s work will help me to zero in on my final project idea.  We are an ambitious bunch! A lot of our ideas are over the top – tackling large, complex topics.  I suppose that’s a function of being a consultant and doing the work that we do on a day-to-day basis.  We deal with complex issues all the time – we really aren’t afraid to tackle anything.

I encouraged one classmate to take a certain angle on their project that focused on the story of one individual.  Another classmate was ready to take on something huge, so I tried to help them whittle their story down to one phase of a larger process. It seems like this is advice I need to take myself!  Especially after seeing everyone’s video submissions this week, I’m really excited to see what everyone comes up with for their final projects.

Weeks 6 and 7 Summary

When I started this week’s content and assignments for DS106, while I really enjoyed the content, it was overshadowed by the fact that I was really nervous about having to edit video.  It seems like such a daunting, overwhelming task that requires a high attention to detail – not always my strong suit. I’d never used the software on my computer and I was really concerned that my Mac was going to quit on me.  It’s seen better days and I’ve really pushed to to it’s limits uploading enormous photo files from my DSLR camera.  It might be time to start storing my media in the cloud (anyone have suggestions?)

In the beginning of the week we spent time learning and thinking about the techniques of film making that impact film stories.  I dissected two film clips by “reading” them in the way that Roger Ebert describes.  This helped me better understand that the craft of film making is really incredibly purposeful and the tiniest of angles can have a big impact on a scene.

Next, I did the “Look, Listen, Analyze” assignment using a Dumb and Dumber clip.  I never knew Dumb and Dumber was so smart!  I analyzed the scene and audio techniques used in the film.  Separating the audio and the visual made me realize how critical it was to put the two together to make the comedy work.

Up next, the real deal of editing audio and video.  I locked myself in the home office for a few hours, watched a bunch of YouTube tutorials and was able to come up with a decent product for the Foley assignment.

Once I was in the groove of iMovie, the next two assignments were a snap. (Well, that’s an exaggeration, but they sure went a lot more smoothly.)  I chose to do the video assignments, “The Music-less Music Video” and “Play by Play“.   You can view my music-less music video here (although, fair warning, I couldn’t help adding some music back in.) And for the Play by Play video, you’ll get to see some sweet baby cute-ness here.

Whew! It was a whirlwind!  I learned a lot and now feel prepared to create my final project.  I’ve now got some techniques and tools up my sleeve that will help me tell the story of — well, I’ve got to figure that part out.

No Bellas (aka The Post I Forgot to Name)

This week I chose to do the video assignment called the Music-less Music video.  The goal: to remove the music in a music video and replace it with other sounds.  I’m totally obsessed with the movie Pitch Perfect so I decided to take the finale scene from the film as my music video.  Here’s the original clip:

This is where the Barden Bellas totally crush it to win the Aca-pella (sp?) finals.  If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s pretty awesome.  That’s besides the point.

I downloaded the clip to my machine and loaded it to iMovie.  I trimmed the clip to end at the part where Anna Kendrick’s character raises her arm in the air.  It was a nearly four minute clip so I thought I’d spare my audience a little time.  I then spent about 30 min. playing around with the sounds that are pre-loaded into iMovie.  They have a lot of sounds you can add to projects; songs, booms, foley sounds, digital ‘noises’ — all kinds of things. And, as I’ve mentioned before, iMovie is easy to use, just drag and drop and slide.  I found some sounds that match well with the video, and I found others that had more of a funny effect.  For example, at about 31 sec. I added some digital sounds to the part where one of the girls is beat boxing.  Another example is at about 1:21 I added footsteps to the section where the girls are all stepping in motion.  It was kind of funny here to add foley sounds where foley sounds shouldn’t be.  In the film you’re supposed to be focused on the singing, so any ordinary sounds are completely cancelled out.  Adding those sounds back in felt really wrong.  There are a few other places where I had some fun but I’ll leave it to you to figure out the rest! (Oh and sorry – I couldn’t help myself.  I had to add some music.)

Here’s a screen shot of my work:

Screen shot 2014-05-04 at 10.16.42 PM

And here’s the finished product:

Before You Can Walk

You have to crawl.  My daughter is learning to crawl and her daddy is away on military leave so I’ve been trying my best to capture the moment when she really gets it.  I’ve got tons of film of her almost crawling so I decided to put a little bit of it to good use for my DS 106 visual assignment, Play by Play.

Relative to the Foley assignment, this was a snap. I used iMovie again.  I uploaded my video clip and removed the original audio (which included lots of “you can do it”s).  I then used the in-program recording option to record my commentary.  I tried to keep the commentary light, but with a jokingly serious tone so it would come across as silly.  After all, learning to crawl is just sorta silly.  Luckily my subject doesn’t move too fast so I was able to keep up with the footage and record the audio in one take.  Then I went to the web to find some background audio that was light and fun to add to the clip.  “Somewhere Sunny (ver 2)” fit the bill so I dragged it into my clip.  I added an intro credit and an end credit using the in-program options.  iMovie was really easy to use!  I’d give more tips if I had them but I really just did a lot of dragging and dropping! The one key was, of course, to remove the original audio.  I did that by separating, then deleting it.  Here’s a shot of my work in progress:

Screen shot 2014-05-04 at 9.02.09 PM

So here you have it folks, never-before-seen footage of the 2014 Baby Crawl Championships.

 

It Was Only Just a Dream

So this week’s assignment was a doozey! Good thing I had a Saturday night free and a good glass of wine!  I won’t belabor the technical/computer issues I encountered because they are completely my own fault but I will give you the high-level overview of how this all went down and all the tools and media I used to complete the assignment.

First, I downloaded the Charlie Chaplin clip.

Next, I perused the foley samples of other DS106ers.  I have to say, my method was give a quick listen and practically choose at random.  My thought: Make the video/audio and decide what the story is when it’s done.

Here are the clips I chose:

Next – putting it all together.  Once my iMovie completed it’s 1hr. of updates (since I never use it) I was ready to go. Well, once I was able to swallow that small lump of panic in my throat that arose when I realized I had NO idea what I was doing.  Thank goodness for YouTube and  other tutorials!  Once I inserted the audio tracks I gave a listen from start to finish.  Not too shabby!  There’s a point in the clip where the Charlie Chaplin character says, ” uh, am I dreaming? ” so I decided to make this into a dream sequence.  Charlie starts out being chased by a pony but once he enters the lion’s cage we hear the dream-like music (I added a track found here) come in and we realize that he’s in some sort of surreal dream state.  He encounters the lion, the tiger, the annoying dog, and the strange girl that wants him to escape. It’s all very confusing.  Since Charlie is in a dream, he doesn’t feel the panic to get out of the cage that a lucid person would feel.  Finally, the lion roars loudly enough to wake him from his dream state and we watch him run off into the distance – supposedly to wake up.

Here’s a screen shot of my work:

Screen shot 2014-05-03 at 11.14.00 PM

And, alas, the finished product:

 

Read Me A Movie

This week, my fellow DS 106er’s and I are delving into film.

Our assignment was to watch two clips from a set list and analyze them against Roger Ebert’s “How to Read a Movie.”  About the article – I really wish I could have attended one of Ebert’s Cinema Interrupts sessions.  That would’ve been so cool.  It made me think back to the film classes I took in college where we’d get together and watch films we’d never heard of and we’d wind up in lengthy discussion about the techniques used in the film.  I think Ebert brings up a lot of interesting points about film techniques that enhance and advance the story of a film.  While I haven’t sat down to watch a film with his article in mind yet, I think I agree with him about how things like composition and camera angles can change your impression of a character or what’s going on in a scene.

The two clips I chose to watch were Kubrick: One-Point Perspective and Example of a Match Cut.

Here’s Kubrick: One-Point Perspective:

The Kubrick video runs through a montage of scenes where Kubrick shoots using a one-point perspective.  A perspective with just one point will contain only one vanishing point on the horizon line, like this:

Inside_Greenwich_Foot_Tunnel

Stanley Kubrick is known for his love of the one-point perspective.  He used it a lot, as evidenced in the video.  He also often placed his main character, or all the action, in the center of the screen.  Ebert would say that this would objectify the character, kind of like seeing them in a mug shot.  I think this applies somewhat to Kubrick’s works, at least in the static shots.  However, in the action shots that use a one-point perspective, it’s less about how we see the character and more about how we feel as an audience.  Viewing the scene straight on makes you feel more like you are there – like you’re in it with the characters.  From this perspective, when a character is running down a long hallway, the audience feels the walls on both sides of them too.  If the character is running from something scary, the audience will feel a little scared being in that hallway too.  I think Kubrick’s technique is less about the characters and more about making the audience feel uncomfortable, or involved, depending on the scene (let’s be honest, it’s Kubrick – it’s probably uncomfortable.)  Thinking about the one-point perspective has made me understand that film techniques can do more than enhance a story or a character, they can also make an audience feel a certain way.

The match-cut clip I watched was from 2001 A Space Odyssey:

In this scene, a human-like gorilla throws a large bone in the air.  The camera follows the bone upwards as it barrels through the sky. Once it begins it’s descent, the scene cuts to a space ship, of a similar shape and size on screen, also descending.  A match-cut is used to create continuity of action between two shots and to link them perhaps metaphorically (thanks wikipedia!)  Here’s where, I have to admit that I’ve never seen the film 2001 A Space Odyssey, so I don’t really know what this scene is about but I have to assume that the filmmaker (more Kubrick!) used the bone and the space ship to tie seamlessly tie together two very different worlds.  Following Ebert’s logic, I might also assume that the space ship, since it’s travelling downwards, might be heading towards some perilous fate.  I’m hoping now that one of my classmates will pipe up here and tell me what’s really going on in this scene.

Each of these clips were really helpful for me to learn to analyze different film techniques.  Maybe I’ll even use these techniques in some of my DS106 work!

“Big Mistake. Huge!”

Remember that scene in Pretty Woman where Vivian (Julia Roberts) really sticks it to the shop girls that had previously snubbed her? After getting her makeover and shopping her tail off she walks into the mean-girl shop with her hands full of bags and says “Hey remember me? You wouldn’t wait one me the other day?? Big mistake. Huge!” and walks out leaving the women with their mouths gaping.  What a great scene.  In the previous scene, where Vivian gets her makeover, the song Pretty Woman plays in the background.

As part of this week’s DS106 assignment, I watched the below clip from Dumb and Dumber. In the clip, Lloyd (Jim Carey) gets a makeover with the help of his friend Harry (Jeff Daniels).  the makeover scene also uses Pretty Woman soundtrack – a clear, hilarious reference to the original film.

In order to analyze the combination of audio and visual techniques, we were asked to first watch the clip with no audio, then listen with out watching, then watch, listen, and analyze.  While watching the clip sans audio, I made notes by drawing little sketches of the scenes I saw instead of writing them down.  Here’s pic of my sketches:

Image

Rather than showing you all my sorry sketches, here’s a quick list of some of the scene set-ups and visual techniques that were used:

  1. Over-the-shoulder (of Harry) shot with Llyod in the back of the shot slightly left but close to center.
  2. Shot of Harry and Llyod in barber’s chairs, each with a barber to the left.
  3. Harry and Llyoyd in salon hair dryers with two stylists in between them.
  4. Pan from Llyod’s head down to his (gnarly) feet.
  5. Pan out from Llyod being shaven
  6. Shot looking up at Llyod as he laughs
  7. Straight on shot of Harry getting/giving a massage
  8. Same shot as beginning
  9. Pan up from floor to Lloyd and Harry getting nose trims
  10. Pan up from Llyod’s (still gnarly) pedicure
  11. Back to the same shot we started with, over Harry’s shoulder with Lloyd in the back, almost center.

Next, we were asked to simply listen to the audio, without watching the clip.  Here’s what I heard:

  1. “Pretty Woman” scoring the clip.
  2. Scissors
  3. Hair dryers
  4. Filing
  5. Shaving/squirting
  6. Laughing
  7. Body smacking sounds
  8. Walking
  9. Scissors
  10. Power tools
  11. Cheering and dancing

And now – the final piece, putting it all together.  Even though I knew all the gags of the scene from watching them one way and the other, they were definitely funnier once the visual and audio components were together.  For example, focusing on the visual, you only see the pan down from Lloyd’s face to his feet while he’s getting a pedicure.  You also see the pan back up later.  You see Llyod’s nasty toes and it kinda grosses you out.  Hearing the sound of filing, and later, power tools, along with Lloyd’s nasty toes totally makes you cringe.  I think the best way to sum up what I’m trying to explain here is that the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.  The visual and the audio and funny – but together, they’re laugh-out-loud funny.

Taking time to isolate a sense caused me to notice some things that I may not have noticed before.  For example, the cutting and trimming noises aren’t something I would have picked up on just watching the scene ordinarily.  However, once I noticed them, I continued to notice them, and they definitely enhanced the scene by giving it a realistic dimension over the soundtrack of Pretty Woman.  The scene incorporates some of the techniques that Roger Ebert discusses like using a shot from below Lloyd’s point of view while he was laughing at the barber after pulling his little ‘prank.’ The shot enhances him and makes him look bigger in the situation — which he is since he’s the one that is controlling the situation.  Ebert also talks about how symmetrical shots seem to be at rest.  This scene has several shots that are almost symmetrical but they defy Ebert’s theory by always incorporating some sort of motion. For example, when Harry and Lloyd are in the hair dryer chairs and the stylists are between them – the shot is perfectly symmetrical.  But, the two make a turn towards each other, keeping the scene in motion and more interesting.

I never was too crazy about the movie Dumb and Dumber, but breaking down the scene has definitely allowed me to give the film a little more credit.  It uses a lot of film and audio techniques to make this scene something that drive’s the films story forward and keeps the audience extremely entertained.

Week 5 Summary

A little late to the summary party this week but here it is!

This week’s GMU DS106 class dove into the use of audio in storytelling and allowed us to get our hands dirty with some practical experience editing our own audio.  This week’s multimedia and assignments really reminded me how important audio is in telling a story.  This made me think back (again!) to the film classes I took in college (which I’ve mentioned before) and the time we spent discussing how audio can make or break a story.

My first assignment was to do a quick audio test to get familiar with SoundCloud.  SoundCloud was really easy to use and I kept my post pretty short and sweet.  If you check out my post you’ll see how proud of myself I was for starting on my assignments early in the week….that momentum was short lived!

Next up, a challenge to tell a story with audio only – and only five different tracks at that.  I used the free download for Audacity and it didn’t take me too long to get up to speed.  I used Freesound.org to pull a few sounds that helped me tell the story of a day on the farm.

For my audio assignment, I chose to read a Craigslist missed connection.  Half the fun of that assignment was looking for the perfect missed connection.  The real challenge of the assignment was deciding what the story was behind the guy (or girl?) who wrote the post and what were they feeling?  I made some decisions about it and layered in audio accordingly.

Also this week I tried on the hat of a Foley artist.  It’s way harder than it looks.  Once again, I’m operating with a new found appreciation for the fine, fine, skill of audio editing.

Lastly, I’ve got another idea for something that would benefit from a storified approach. I’ve got to get my team on board – maybe I should link them all to our class materials?  Now there’s a thought.  I’ll be sure to report back on what they say.

This week was a lot of work but well worth it to have experience with these tools.  I definitely learned a lot and I know that these skills will not only come in handy in the coming weeks but they will also serve me well on future project engagements.  The last three courses I worked on required us to record our own audio.  I stayed away from that work as much as possible but next time I won’t be so afraid!

My Brief Career as Foley Artist

For :30 this week, I had the distinct privilege of being a Foley Artist. As part of my DS106 assignment, I had to create :30 worth of Foley audio to go along with this Charlie Chaplin clip:

I was responsible for creating accompanying audio for the time frame of 1:31 – 2:00.  During this time in the film, Mr. Chaplin is working on his escape plan to get out of the lion’s cage.  He’s trying to be very quiet so as not to disturb the lion, but he does a few things that would (or could) make noise;

  • A girl comes to talk to him
  • He shooshes her
  • “Ouvrez la porte, vite! flashes on screen to indicate he’s saying to her “Open the door, fast!”
  • The girl faints
  • Chaplin picks up the tray and splashes water on the girl
  • The lion yawns
  • Chaplin keeps splashing
  • The lion gets up halfway and Chaplin drops the tray, runs to the door and leans against it

The bold words show the sounds I focused on.  I used this to create a list of sounds I needed to try to create:

  • Girl talking
  • Shushing
  •  “Open the door, fast!”
  • Fainting/falling
  • Water splashing
  • An animal yawn
  • A tray dropping/running

I spent some time thinking about different things I have around the house that I could use to create appropriate (and possibly inappropriate sounds.)  I thought about things found in the kitchen, nosier fabrics I might be able to find, and what sorts of sounds some of my daughter’s toys make, and of course I needed a helper so I recruited my husband.

Once I decided on my sounds and how I was going to make them, I practiced a few times and then got to recording.  It only took a few takes to get a decent version!

My final result is below, as is the list of sounds and how I made them is also below.  Enjoy!

  • Girl talking (me!)
  • Shushing (Hubs)
  • “Open the door, fast!”  (Hubs)
  • Fainting/falling (Me! + banging on the counter)
  • Head scratching (Daughter’s crinkle book)
  • Water splashing (Hubs + a bowl of water in the sink)
  • An animal yawn (Daughter’s teething giraffe that squeaks. Aren’t I funny??”
  • A tray dropping/running (Me, banging on counter again)