Snow on the rainbow bridge

The second and final video project I chose to do this week is the 4-and-a-half (?!) star Narrative Ambiance assignment. I chose it because I thought it would be easy. I was dead. wrong.

I like to film the weather – if it’s raining, windy, snowing, you know I’ve got a few minutes of video of it. I make videos of the trees in my neighborhood in fall, too. There’s always that one specific day when all the trees are at their most brilliant colors: yellows, oranges, and those amazing, beautiful REDS! All cast against a cloudy, gray autumn sky. But for this project, I wanted to use some of my videos of snowfall, because I’d come across a poem that hit me in the heart.

Carl Phillips’ White Dog, to me, is about knowing when it’s time to let something go. This past October, we had to make the decision to let our beloved cat go. He was only 14, but he knew it was his time. We couldn’t make him stay for us. To let him go that autumn was to really, finally, totally let him go. He was an indoor/outdoor cat, but this was the one time he wouldn’t be slinking back through our door. We wanted to let him go because we loved him, and that was that.

Here he is being used as a pillow by our bug-eyed beagle mix. They were best friends and hardcore snugglebugs!!!

The snowfall as a visual was more than a “poem about snow -> snow video” thing, too. Snow and winter is usually used to represent death, or at least a long slumber. I think that’s partly why the poem itself reminded me of the critters we’ve had to say goodbye to – imagining them bouncing off through the snow, disappearing into it!!

This project was HARD, not just like “I had computer trouble” but I had to take a few breaks now and then to love on our living pets. There was a lot of stuff with Windows Movie Maker that I got frustrated with – I feel like I must have a crappy version, like the one they give you to try and convince you to buy the full version. I had the worst time trying to tack on the opening and closing credits without them being “white text on black screen” blech. Anyway, the music I used for the background is Snowfall (final) by ShadyDave on Freesound.org.

Origami SPEED-RUN! No zen allowed!

The first video assignment I chose to do for the week is the 4-star Six Second Art project. I’ll say right now that I’m no artist – I can’t draw for beans, I can’t paint, I can’t dance, and I can’t sing. I have shaky hands so anything that requires a gentle touch is out the window. Woosh. Bye bye, art that isn’t of the abstract performance variety!

What I am kinda good at is origami. For this video I decided I wanted to make a paper crane. When I was younger I used to make them all the time – I really wanted to make 1,000 cranes. As the legend goes, if you have the patience to make 1,000 paper cranes, you’ll get to ask the gods for a wish. I always went by the “you have to make them all in one year” rule, so I never made it to 1,000.

Instead, I’d try to challenge myself in other ways – what was the smallest crane I could possibly make? The biggest? I tried using all different kinds of paper too. Newspaper, construction paper, tissue paper… I think once I actually tried to make one using just plain old tissues. Pretty sure it didn’t go well.

Learning how to fold the crane was a really tough process for me, especially since it was a few years before everyone started posting How-To videos on Youtube. I had to go by crazy diagrams that were hard to figure out. But in the end I was able to do it, and even though I needed a “refresher course” to make the ones for this video, being able to fold them is something that I’m proud of. I realize that posting a video where my process is sped up 160% is exactly the opposite of what I would have wanted to find 10 years ago, but… that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

The worst part about doing this assignment had nothing to do with the editing process – it was positioning my freaking camera. I didn’t have anyone on hand to help me out with this in the way of filming… I was hoping someone would hold my phone over my shoulder, but nope. Instead, I had a setup that ended up looking like this. Behold, my terrible art skills!

I had a BOX in my face the whole time. ARGH. It was a bit of a struggle getting the video from my phone to the computer (I use Google photos and have my camera roll sync to that when I open the app, but the video was nearly 3 minutes so it took a while to upload). But after getting it into Windows Movie Maker, it was pretty much smooth sailing for me. I chose a shamisen for the music track because it reminded me of Kubo and the Two Strings – a beautiful stop-motion film by Laika that was ROBBED OF AN OSCAR and features origami and the shamisen. Here’s a gallery of my process –

Dream job: complaining about parking to a captive audience

Commuter Carmen has the cushiest job in radio. She gets to complain, and she gets to do it twice a week! Of course, she has to say something nice about the place she’s complaining about before she starts going off. Sometimes I wonder how she can come up with the nice things to say. It is, after all, an advertisement (in the loosest sense). It must be tough, but I’m sure that getting to tell the world about crappy parking in the same breath makes it easier. Her ads are like mini-shows, airing several times a week directly after talk radio segments or blocks of totally 100% commercial free!!! music on channels that get… not very many listeners. She doesn’t have the biggest following – her ads are less than a minute long, but she’s a kindred, bad parking-hating spirit to me.

This week, one of the two schools she reviewed was our very own University of Mary Washington. I should have hung around the parking garage or the Pizza Hut (my preferred parking areas) to try and get her autograph, but that would have been creepy. Here’s her ad!

I knew as soon as I saw the Cheesy Radio Ad assignment that I wanted to do it – it was just a matter of coming up with a character and script. At first I thought I would do something like “do YOU like (x thing)? do YOU like (y thing)? You’ll LOVE UMW!” But that seemed a little bland. Also, I wanted to complain about the commuter parking situation. I’ve literally only been able to park directly on College Ave. in the summer, and even then finding a spot is still exciting. Then there’s the issue of SNOW! In winter, the plow piles snow up into valuable spaces in lots that commuters have to share with residents. And I can tell you haven’t moved your car. It’s got 8 inches of snow on it. I’M WATCHING YOU. Then having to be terrified of sliding down Alvey Drive to my untimely doom… I just… want… a good parking spot…

Something I tried to do in this recording is use a lot of alliteration. A lot of words I chose start with or have a hard “C” sound. Commuter Carmen, considerable commuter counts, close-knit community, etc. I’m not sure what effect it had on the overall recording, but I gave it a shot. I did stumble over my words a few times. You can hear it when I try to say “historic downtown Fredericksburg, VA” – it sounds more like “issoric downtown Frerricksburg.” Yikes. I think you can also tell I’ve been having trouble with volume levels. My previous projects had some volume issues too.

Anyway, I started this project off with a script and recorded it in the Voice Memos app on my iPhone. I was able to email it to myself, but then there were some problems with the filetype! Voice Memos records audio as a .m4a, and Audacity just is not into opening .m4a files. Below is a gallery of my struggles. And HERE is a link to the FFmpeg plugin that you need for Audacity to open .m4a files. The link directs you to the LAME encoder section of the page, but just scroll down to the next section. I followed the directions on the Audacity Wiki to download it – the instructions on the wiki say to save the .exe file, which is different from the instructions on the FFmpeg download page itself. I think the Wiki’s instructions were simpler.

That process was a lot easier than I thought it would be! It only took a few minutes (it installs quickly, but I was double-checking a lot to make sure I was doing everything right). Now it was time for the actual project. The sounds I used are all from freesound.org and include highwayunderpass, Fairyland_120, Car start, and  car engine revving up to 7000 rpm (Rover 216 GSi).

You guys sound a little off

I mentioned in my about me page that I like cartoons… and one of the cartoons that I’m crazy about (like a lot of other people right now) is Steven Universe. I can’t help it. I love the songs, the gems, the fusions, and the neverending possibilities for conspiracy theories. One question gets answered and three more pop up, like a mystery hydra. It’s infuriating.

In the latest episodes, we haven’t seen much of the Crystal Gems – the three magical ladies in the intro song. “The tall one, the purple one, the hot one,” according to Mayor Dewey. I’m going to assume they’ve been sick, because that’s the only acceptable reason for not seeing them around at least sometimes. And since Steven’s gotten home, he’s caught whatever cold they have too. Or is it a magical gem disease? Whatever it is, it’s making them sound really weird.

I thought the B-Flat assignment would be a really fun one to do, especially after looking at some of the posts that former students had made. This one in particular cracked me up!! It’s so well done and it had some great pointers on how to get started on my own. It turned out to be tougher than I was expecting.  The video I used for this project was Steven Universe – Intro 2 (“Official” Instrumental and Acapella). This video was a lifesaver. In my first attempt, I had collected two individual videos (one instrumental and one isolated vocals) but when I imported them both into Audacity, the audio never lined up. I think one of the tracks was ever so slightly faster than the other. This video has both an instrumental AND an isolated vocal track in the same location… thank god. The site I used to convert the video to mp3 is onlinevideoconverter.com, and HERE is a link to the LAME plugin, which lets me export as an mp3 with no hassle!!! Below is a gallery of my final (and successful) attempt at B-flatting the Steven Universe theme.

Rumor has it, if you slow the song down…

If you slow the song down by 800%, you’ll hear a secret message. Oddly enough, the song is Icelandic pop sensation BABBA’s Disc– I mean, Swedish supergroup ABBA’s Dancing Queen. I’ve always been a big fan of hidden messages. When I was a kid, I remember finding out about backmasking: playing records backward. Hearing Stairway to Heaven backwards for the first time scared the heck out of me. How’d they do that? Was it on purpose? Did someone just come up with those words and make me believe it? Or how about the Beatles – is Paul dead or what? He’s obviously been replaced. The songs say so when you play them backwards. It’s cold. hard. fact. Yup.

Then there are ghost voices… voices that come through when you don’t expect them, or when you ask them to. It’s even scarier to think that you could be filming a video, recording a speech or a song, and inadvertently capture someone else on the tape. It’s not you putting in a hidden message, but someone who is still hidden, and trying to come through. And you never know where you might find it. So, about that ABBA song… what did I find at 1 minute, 45 seconds into the classic refrain?

These are the steps I took to find the hidden message within.

It was kinda spooky, right?

 

Shifting fully out of the story (I had a hard time deciding whether to include a mini-walkthrough in the story itself… as you can see I went for it), here is some more info on how I made the clip and why I made the changes that I did. I used this website to convert the video itself to mp3 for download. The additional sounds I used for this clip are Glitch 08, static noise, and Hello?. All are from freesound.org.

As for the extra audio that I inserted – when I slowed the song down and listened to about half of it, I thought to myself… “this is kind of boring.” I have listened to a handful of other super-slowed-down songs before and enjoyed them as background music or if I was in the mood for some ambient stuff. But I didn’t think there was much I could build around it other than “here’s a song I slowed down for the assignment.” Putting in extra audio and making it a sort of ghost story made it seem a little more fun, to me at least.

Finally, here’s a gallery of how I edited in the extra audio.

What’s the scariest part about camping?

It’d been a long day full of fun outdoorsiness. We set up camp by the river, as we usually do. It was a long walk from the park’s welcome center, carrying all our gear and swatting mosquitos away for what felt like 600 years, but we finally made it to our favorite site in the late afternoon. I dipped my feet in the cool river as my best friend fished downstream. She had chided me for sitting downstream of her before, saying “I’m going to hook your foot, you idiot.” So I moved up.

We made a fire, cooked our dinner, and made s’mores. The day had caught up with us though, and we decided it was time to turn in. Our tent was, for lack of a better word, kickass. Nice and roomy, cool, and no bugs ever got in. When it rained, it never leaked. It might sound like I have low standards, but I’ve been burned (or bitten/soaked) before. Crawling into the tent, we zipped up, muffling the noise of the crickets and katydids screaming for attention. Out of habit, I swept my sleeping bag til it was totally wrinkle-free, until I was unceremoniously shushed.

Someone was out there.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I loooove scary stories. And I don’t know many things that are more terrifying than being out of your element, in the dark, with only a tent between you and who-knows-what. A person? A bear? A mountain lion? BIGFOOT??? I wouldn’t be prepared for it. I’m not even outdoorsy, and I haven’t camped since I was a kid. That makes these kinds of stories extra scary to me – I have no idea what the heck to do, and I’d probably be running at 20% scared the entire time even when the sun was out. You never know if there’s gonna be a spider in your shoe. Or a snake. Or a daytime murderer.

The clips I used for this all come from Freesound.org. They include Zipper Unzip 3 (Slow), Canvas Tent 3, turning on lamp, sounds of the forest night, and footsteps, dry leaves.

The Sound Effects Story assignment turned out to be a really tough, but rewarding one I think. I remember listening to Scottlo’s radio clips and hearing him say that audio editing is really time consuming, and thinking to myself “pshh…” but oh my god. Why didn’t I listen? This is only a 50 second clip and it took me almost 2 hours to make. Plus, I forgot to document my steps, so what I did was basically remake the clip a second time so I could lay out how I made it! BLARG

I’ll link to some of the tutorials I used before I  embed my gallery of steps:
1. How to Muffle Audio in Audacity (it’s easiest to just read the top comment since the guy in the video goes on and on for 3 minutes and there are only 3 steps)
2.  Saving as an mp3 in Audacity (my mortal foe)

I had some serious issues with LAME at first, but I think it was human error. When I downloaded the zipped file, I think I exported the unzipped folders to some other location and that may have messed things up. I like to keep my programs (like Audacity, Paint.net, Gimp, etc) all in one folder, so when I sent it there it may have garbled something. I ended up going back to the website and choosing the .exe download option, then following the instructions in the tutorial that I linked above the gallery. After that it really was smooth sailing.

So much design, so little time.

Full disclosure: I waited way too long to do this blitz. I actually ended up staying home every day this week, so what I ended up doing is turning to one of my all-time favorites… looking at magazine ads. After all, what good is an ad if it looks bad? The design elements that I’ll be looking at in this post are rhythm, symmetry, color, and minimalism.

Rhythm

IMG_2587

This is a breakdown of a bunch of swatches for different shades and types of lip makeup. Each swoosh of makeup is stacked on top of the other. If I’m not mistaken, I think the image evokes a regular rhythm – the individual swooshes are uniform in size and length (for the most part) and are the same basic thing. They create a ladder that can be linked/pointed at from the descriptions at the sides of the Ladder o’ Lip Stuff. However, it does also seem like they might have a flowing rhythm as well. Each individual swatch is a different shade (obviously) and texture. There is also a sense of movement to them. You can tell which direction they were “painted” onto the page. Either way, there is a repetition of the same basic element: it is makeup, over and over again. Each piece draws the eye either downward or toward the description of the color.

Balance

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They sure made this shampoo look fancy. This ad is “heavy” on the top and the bottom. There’s a huge shampoo bottom in the bottom, and a huge flower with some text (that looks a little cluttered) in the top. I would say this could be balance using approximate symmetry. The two pieces of the ad are somewhat symmetrical – they are similar in color, somewhat similar in size, but they are very different in shape. The balance struck between them in the approximate symmetry, however, is used to imply that this shampoo gets all its good stuff from these passion flowers. The shampoo might as well be that flower.

Color

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This ad is just straight up blue. Obviously, blue is the color of water (duh), but this ad really drives home the idea that it’s summertime and vacation time, and you need some sunscreen. The tube is just lying around in a pool of very clear blue water. The color blue is one that relaxes you, and the sunscreen is almost like a stand-in for you, the person looking at this ad and wishing you were sitting in some nice pool under the sun… where you would need some Neutrogena SPF 100+ sunscreen. I think this ad also falls under minimalism (single item as the focus of the page, the text around it is small and unobtrusive), but I had another minimalist ad up my sleeve.

Minimalism

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This ad uses a picture of a single apple sitting on a wooden spoon to emphasize the fact that this particular applesauce uses no added sugars. It’s a minimalist design for a minimalist applesauce (that sure sounds weird). There is a LOT of open space left on this page. It could easily be filled with more apples, more bragging about how they haven’t added more sugar, or bigger pictures of applesauce bottles. They chose to keep the single apple on a spoon as the focal point of the advertisement to drive the point home that the applesauce is just apples. Having the apple sitting on the spoon implies that it’s the only ingredient. I think this is a great ad because the message behind it is clear. The caption helps to communicate that message, but the overall design of the ad – a single apple in the center of an empty table really does seem like, “oh yeah, they definitely don’t use extra sugar. It’s all about those apples.”

He’s hungry alright… for tears.

For my final design assignment this week, I’ve chosen to make a Computer Book for Kids. The one I ended up making would have really helped me out when I was younger, and now I’m kind of mad that it didn’t exist before. When I was a kid, I used to get in internet fights all the time. I would get in fights even though I knew the other person would make me cry. I was on a never ending quest to always be the smartest person… on neopets. I would get into a fight with anyone whose opinion just seemed stupid to me; I’d fight them if they misspelled a word or if their grammar was poor. I remember having an argument with someone over whether or not Santa was real, and I was the one arguing that he was. So, it’s no wonder that I got picked on quite a bit whenever I would open my mouth.

In eighth grade, I had a falling out with a group of friends online. Two of them harassed me over MSN for a few months before getting bored, but it was awful for me. I didn’t have anyone to go to – my mom didn’t understand “internet fights” and she wouldn’t get how much someone can hurt your feelings over the internet until she joined Facebook a while later. I only wish that there had been some kind of book… an easy to read, fun for all ages rundown about online cruelty…

very angry caterpillar

So I’ll be the one to go back in time and put this scary lookin’ dude on the shelves at Borders. I’m about to save myself a whole lot of grief. Check ya later.

As usual, I made this using my preferred software Paint.net. This one was a little bit simpler, but as a kids book I think it’s probably best to keep it simple. The gallery below shows my process.

 

That’s just offensive. Let’s watch it.

For the fourth design assignment, I chose to make a Minimalist Movie Poster – I really like the look of minimalist posters, ads, art, makeup, etc., so I thought I’d try my hand using a movie that I’m a big fan of. I actually didn’t see the movie until I was in high school, probably 5 years after it came out, but I like to think that if I was 12-going-on-13 and saw the poster that I had just made, maybe I would have seen it in theaters.

Imagine. It’s a Saturday in late Spring of 2004 and you are 12 years old. You’re a little bit of a weirdo and you have maybe two friends, and you’re at the theater with your family. What is there to pick from? Shaun of the Dead… you’ve probably already seen that. Kill Bill? Not old enough to go in. 13 Going on 30? Yeah right, mom! Hang on though. By the end of the concession line, there’s a horrible poster just DRIPPING with pink. You’re going to throw up. Pink is so… pink. And you’re 12 and cool and you stay up until 3am with a voice recorder trying to see if there are ghosts talking about whatever thing ghosts talk about. One thing sticks out though. This poster is offensive as heck.

meangirls-final

What the frick is a baby prostitute? But 12-year-old you can already kind of relate to the one singled out girl. Yeah! You know what it’s like stick out! To be ostracized! Lindsay Lohan, though? “Maybe she’s the one that smells like a baby prostitute,” you might snort. Surprise: she is. Mom buys you a ticket for Mean Girls, and you’re lucky to see it in 2004 instead of years later, after never getting any of the references. And you love every second of it.

That’s my dream scenario, anyway.

This was a tough thing to make. I went for minimalism but I think I still wound up with a pretty busy-looking poster. It also kind of looks like a polaroid picture, to which I think Karen would say something like, “but it doesn’t look cold…?” And Regina would roll her eyes, because she can’t shake her head, because her back is broken. Anyway, here’s a gallery of the steps I did. As usual, I did this all in my preferred program, Paint.net.

The icon that I used is “girl” by N.K. Narasimhan and is licensed under CC BY 3.0. The original image was resized and recolored for this poster.

Cat: Portrait of a Troublemaker.

For the second gif assignment this week, I chose to do a sticky note animation. I have fun making little animations in the flipnote app on my 3DS, but it’s been a long time since I’ve actually made a real flipbook. I’m gonna go ahead and show you the finished product right away, because OH BOY do I have a LOT to say about the process of this one. I had some trouble, to say the least. BIG frowny face!

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I knew the entire time that I wanted to make a cat-related gif. All the animations I’ve made in flipnote have been cats. This is one I’m particularly proud of… it’s not the greatest in the world (I’m no artist) but I think it’s cute.

I love my cat. I love every cat we’ve ever had, but they’ve all done this same thing. As soon as they think they’ll get away with it, they start scratching whatever they want. It could be the arm of a sofa, the leg of a table, or literally just the wall. One of our sofas is totally frayed on one side because of the cat, and can you guess what’s sitting right next to that sofa? A freaking scratching post. Why are they like this? They love destruction.

The process for this started simple, as you’d expect. It’s kind of embarrassing, but it took some getting used to plain old pencil-and-paper drawing again. When I made a mistake, my left hand kept trying to go “Ctrl+Z.” Undo!!! Wait, erase!!!

I then took photos of each individual sticky note, which would create the frames of my gif. I emailed the photos to myself so I’d have them waiting for me on my laptop, where I opened them all up in Paint.net (my go-to editing software, even though it’s not the best) to crop and resize them. Once I had them all the size that I wanted, I again followed the DS106 Wiki‘s guide for making gifs.

Despite the help I found online regarding frame duration, the edits I made to each individual frame, and how good it looked in the preview, when I exported the gif and uploaded it… it looked like this.

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I was VERY displeased. I had spent a lot of time editing each frame’s duration, and none of it ended up taking. Blech. So what I ended up doing is probably kind of extreme. What should have been a 14 frame gif is now something like 50 frames. To make the frames that I wanted to last longer, well, longer, I just inserted duplicates.