V&S-7: Infomercial Final Cuts

13234-a-young-businessman-giving-a-thumbs-up-signal-pvFor our final cuts, we didn’t make any drastic formatting changes. Instead, as per suggestions, we tried to adjust sound levels and tighten up a few of the scenes. We also added some new sound effects and flashy animations.

At least for the Fax video, I found standardizing the sound throughout to be quite difficult. The audio sounded incredibly different depending on the headphones I used. I also wanted to smooth out some of the hollow sounds in the recorded audio, but unfortunately, that could only be done so much as the room we recorded in was extremely echoey. This is definitely something I would take into future considerations when recording.

We also did not get a chance to actually use the interactive software from Treehouse, though we did play around with it a bit and it seems fairly intuitive to use.

The greatest challenge with making these videos was the discrepancy amongst group members in understanding the infomercial-style. I have a gross fascination with them and have watched way more than I would care to admit. Understandably, this was not everyone’s experience in our group. That said, I think we hit the mark pretty well.

 

V&S6: Roughest of Cuts

After hitting the drawing board several times over with this project, the three of us finally settled on a series of 3 ‘How To’ videos in the style of an infomercial.

The concept is that each of us would be hawking our wares which would be pieces of old technology: landline phone, typewriter, and fax.  We also wanted (and are still trying) to make this video piece interactive so that the sales pitch videos could be triggered by user input, be that what it may. In this way, we wanted to create the idea of a 21st Century flea market — using new technology to sell old things.

I also find it fascinating how, in recent history, standard pieces of technology that have been used for years can go out of fashion or even become extinct so quickly.  For instance, the Fax machine was invented even before the phone in 1843 and was relied upon heavily up until the internet/email singlehandedly rendered the technology in the very least laughable, if not entirely moot.

I enjoy how we – or maybe just me- find retired inventions comical. The humor seems founded in a smugness, as in, ‘Look how little we knew then,’ but I also think it’s kind endearing and celebratory. It’s being able to look back on your progress in a lighthearted, rather than overly critical way.

The actor prepares.
The actor prepares.

Shooting these and getting used to the camera was less of a challenge than understanding that meticulous planning prior to shooting is beneficial. We did try to account for most scenes, but inevitably, things come up that you wish you had shot or need to reshoot.

Editing, in part because I got to sample many of the effects in Premiere, was by far the most enjoyable part for me. This is when you can really try and match the vision in your head to the image on your screen.

I would like to try and align all 3 videos stylistically and there are a few parts in the following video than need cleaning up. I would also love to get the interactive portion working, as I feel this will add quite a bit to our videos.

 

 

V&S-3: storyboard

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Illustration by Daniel Egnéus

When Jason, Kylin, and I got together to discuss our upcoming video project, Jason confided that he was inspired by Zoe’s and my attempt to creative an interactive sound piece and wanted to do the same with our video project.

I had some reservations since I ended up funneling a lot of time into my audio project and Zoe and I struggled for a while with the MOTU interface, literally up until the last second.

However, we all decided that our time at ITP is best spent by aiming high, even if that means failing and falling in the process.

Jason had been playing in pcomp with the idea of dictating circuits through varying resistors and had the clever idea to apply this concept to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style video.

After explaining the concept, he graciously fashioned a prototype of his idea:

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The two objects which the viewer would choose from each contain resistors of different values. When the objects are placed in the stand, the feet of the object complete the circuit and depending on the resistor, dictate whether an input is sent through the Arduino microcontroller. The Arduino is programmed to choose 1 of 2 videos based on the input. In this way, the viewer can literally choose their own video. We also really like the idea of the viewer changing location to see the next part of the story so that everyone has a different experience.

Since the concept complicates the project, we wanted to keep the story simple, so we stuck to a well-known Grimm’s fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood. As with all classic tales, the story actually has many iterations, lending itself to alternate endings. In early German version and in the Brothers Grimm version, little Red and Grandma are saved by a Huntsman, whereas in the French story, they are saved by a Woodcutter.  Typically, a woodcutter (or huntsman) enters the scene after the wolf has eaten Red and Grandma and manages to chop them out of the wolf’s stomach, alive and unharmed. However, in many earlier versions, the ending is not so happy, if only to ensure that a lesson is learned.

Seeing as history has taken a liberal, creative license in adapting such a well known story, we thought we would do the same. In particular, we decided to adapt the story to a more modern, NYC-based setting with moral commentary that would speak to current generations. For instance, our wolf appears both as a bag-inspecting subway cop and a street fruit vendor. Red forgoes the usual trek through the woods and instead travels to Central Park via the subway or by foot on the streets of NYC. Our woodcutter hero is of course a flannel-wearing, beard-donning, Brooklyn-based woodworker of the artisanal variety. And finally, the viewer’s ultimate demise is dictated by having or not having social media followers.

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The most difficult part of creating a storyboard for this project was creating divergent and convergent pathways. Figuring it would be more difficult to shoot 2 entirely different stories, we decided to make the story come back on itself a couple of times. I feel like this also adds some cohesiveness to all the viewer’s experiences. While efficient, this was surprisingly difficult to do, especially while taking into consideration the feasibility of the circuitry.

While our plot line isn’t necessarily reinventing the mold, I am excited to see how the interactivity of this video plays out.

STORYBOARD: Little Red
Characters: Little Red, Grandma, Wolf, Woodworker
Shot from the perspective of following Red

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V&S-2: visceral voices mobile

For our sound project, Zoe and I chose to make an audio installation. Though we bounced around a number of ideas (single space recording, extinct sounds), we decided to pursue an idea from an earlier in-class recording of someone divulging a secret.

Secrets, especially those conjured on the spot, come from very emotional and intuitive places within. Our original thought was that we would create tracks of different confessions  and play them from plush organs that represented the physical location in the body from where that secret was emanating.

The idea of our body harboring emotions in particular places is not unique. In English, we often talk about honest and emotional confessions ‘coming from the heart’ or refer to our instincts as ‘gut reactions.’ In Chinese medicine, emotions are explicitly connected to organs and any imbalance in one affects the other. In fact, our emotions are so cross-culturally tied to our bodies that science has even attempted to map them.

Nummenmaa et al. Bodily maps of emotions, PNAS. 2013
Nummenmaa et al. Bodily maps of emotions, PNAS. 2013

Our own emotional map of the body began to take shape as we recorded people in the street. Asking a stranger to divulge a secret to another stranger, while not as difficult as it may seem, is not the easiest of sound bites to acquire. It definitely required some tact and time.
Despite our relative success, as we recorded, we started to realize that the most common confessions were fears. To broaden our scope, we decided to ask a variety of questions, all pertaining to the idea of a visceral reaction:
Do you have a secret or something that you don’t normally admit to yourself or others aloud?
What is the first word that comes in to your head right now?
What is the first thing you see in the morning?

From the answers we received and going off our own experience with physical reactions to emotions, our body map most closely resembles as follows:
Brain – cerebral, single word
Stomach – happiness, lighthearted
Eyes – first glance
Lungs – fear, anxiety
Heart – love, honesty

We decided to make a mobile to display our recordings both visually and interactively. We used a dowel that we cut and fashioned into the arms of the sculpture. Our organs, fashioned from fabric and stuffing, are suspended by a plastic slinky called a “Pop Toob” that is its own sort of sound installation when contracted and extended. For each of these tubes, we made a fabric sleeve. In each of the organs are sewn individual stereo speakers with attached auxiliary cords. IMG_4383

We used LogicProX to edit the recordings for each organ.IMG_4389

 

 

 

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Organs and pop toob socks.

 

 

 

 

 

Nearing completion.

 

 

 

 

Hear the organs below!
Brain

Eyes

Heart

Lungs

Stomach

 

 

V&S-1: no two snowflakes

Originality and Lack Therof

The first thing that came to mind after confronting the harsh reality of not only my own unoriginality, but that of some of the greatest minds in both art and culture was Twitter.

I had recently heard that they were pulling “unoriginal” jokes from their feed for copyright infringement. Twitter has unofficially replaced comedy clubs in the last 5 years and I’ve heard a lot of complaining from small time comics who use it as a global joke-lab about bigger names, even writers for primetime comedy shows plucking their 140 characters of surely original genius. Maybe some of these complaints have ground, but I’m inclined to say the majority are just cases of an over-inflated sense of self.
In the same news reel I was listening to, several comedians were discussing the originality of jokes. They asked, if you put 10 comedy writers in a room and gave them the same subject, how many of those jokes do you think would be the same? The consensus was most of them and that we are generally far less original than we like to give ourselves credit for, particularly legal credit.

We are at an interesting crossroads of new media and antiquated copyright laws. Suddenly, any idea can be electronically brought to fruition. Writer Chuck Klosterman once poetically said ‘Internet porn makes everything more reasonable — once you’ve realized there is a massive subculture of upwardly mobile people who think it’s erotic to see an Asian woman giving a hand job to a javelina, nothing else in the world seems crazy.’ Besides being the subject of your next incognito Google search, this concept also serves to demonstrate that the internet is a world of infinite unoriginal ideas and tastes. How does one claim ownership in such a vast, accessible world? For me, it’s still quite gray.

In On the Rights of Molotov Man, I sided much more with Joy Garnett. I repeatedly put myself in Susan Meisalas’ shoes and could not find grounds for taking legal recourse. In her argument, Susan talks about decontextualization of the image and how different iterations of her photo diminish Pabolo Arauz and the story of Nicaragua’s political history. I don’t see recontextualization as a bad thing. I don’t think it diminishes an object or an idea. I think it gives it new meaning and allows people to view it from a different angle. In fact, Susan’s original photo was surely a recontextualization of the actual truth. I would never have known the historical context from her photo alone. A photograph is a snippet of time and there is no way to understand all the subtleties leading up to and after that moment. We literally do not see the full picture.

In fact, Jonathan Lethem’s idea that in the age of information overload, our current artistic tendencies are to take known objects and ideas and recontextualize them really resonated with me. I’m not even sure that is a recent phenomenon. From all accounts, recycling and re-presenting ideas seems like an ancient art form.

Blatant rip-offs excluded, how one reuses and reworks an idea, whether consciously or not, forms the basis of true creativity. The originality of that creativity is, perhaps, all about context and good timing.

Walking with Janet Cardiff

I walked with Janet through Central Park and I loved it.
I also walked with my boyfriend. We bought a headphone jack splitter and walked around the park connected to one iPhone and scared patrons with our seeming codependency.IMG_4292

I mention it, because it was interesting to simultaneously experience this audio walk with someone, yet feel so isolated in your own world. As it was a beautiful Sunday, the park was packed. This only added to the surreal and disorienting feeling of hearing objects and people around you that did not exist. It really toyed with my sense of reality, yet the whole experience was very calming. When we finished, we sat down on a park bench and said nothing to one another for a good 15 minutes, just listening to the actual world around us.

The tracks synched up so well with reality, which I found delightful.

Her Long Black Hair top; my long blond hair bottom
Her Long Black Hair top; my long blond hair bottom

What kind of lease do these ice cream stands have on Central Park property? In a city that is constantly resurfacing its landscape, how long will all these things exist as accurate landmarks for the project?

I did not like some of the interludes, namely from her boyfriend, as I felt they pulled you out of the trance that she had you in for the majority of the walk. The zen state also started to unravel towards the end when we entered one of the busier areas of the park and the chaos of the reality trumped Cardiff’s soothing drone.

But otherwise, I loved it as both an interesting use of sound and technology in a very human and organic way.

Listen
My favorite in-class recordings

An unoriginal secret

A common foreign tongue

Our universal necessity

 

Sources:
http://phiffer.org/hlbh/
http://harpers.org/redirect301/?q=archive/2007/02/0081387
http://firstpulseprojects.com/On-the-Rights-of-Molotov-Man.pdf
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/opinion/allergy-to-originality.html?_r=2