For my Comm Lab final, I wanted to play with Final Cut Pro and at the same time experiment with different ways to mash up audio and video.

VIDEO: Computer Bowl Redux

For my Comm Lab final, I wanted to play with Final Cut Pro and at the same time experiment with different ways to mash up audio and video. Lately I’ve been most interested in the ephemeral videos that are licensed under Creative Commons on Archive.org

Since it’s the end of the semester, I wanted to find footage that I could do something funny with but that might also be relevant to our time here. I stumbled upon a video from the 1988 series, “Computer Chronicles,” where they covered the first ever Computer Bowl. It was a gathering of geeks from the east coast and west coast, including luminaries like Bill Joy from Sun, Esther Dyson and Mitch Kapor (who, for the record, ripped it up).

Ultimately, I was blocked creatively. The raw footage (including the TV commercials at the end) were so funny by themselves, I couldn’t figure out what to do with them. I thought about finding episodes of both the Simpsons and Family Guy that I could remix for the east coast vs. west coast battle. I also thought about how to play with the audio and video to make it funnier. Here’s the result:

Given the time constraints and my lack of experience in Final Cut, I think it turned out pretty nice. However, I still think the audio needs some work.

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Sara Bremen and I used the first line from Chekhov's "The Seagull" as the inspiration for this short piece using After Effects.

VIDEO: Hipsters perform Chekhov’s The Seagull

For our first foray into After Effects, Sara and I created a short clip using the first line of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” for inspiration.

It was a lot of fun learning how to use the program, but also frustrating. We got a quick and dirty 30 minute tutorial and class, and then set out to create our piece. Part of the problem was that we had collected assets the week before, and once I learned more about how After Effects worked, I had wished that we picked different images as our starting point.

Also, I had started creating the project on my computer and Sara had done the same in the lab at school. Unfortunately, we had different versions of the program and therefore couldn’t combine them. We ended up rebuilding my section in AE.

I’m pretty pleased with the final result, especially given our time constraints.

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Alex, Zach, Michelle and I decided to work together on the two-minute video assignment for CommLab...

VIDEO: Sonata No. 666

Alex, Zach, Michelle and I decided to work together on the two-minute video assignment for CommLab. When we met for the first time, we started talking about different story ideas. Alex said there was a story he always wanted to tell about a pianist who is walking home and has his fingers broken by a mugger for no other reason that he’s pure evil.

Huh?

I wasn’t really in to the idea. For one, I was much more interested in doing something funny. If the audience is my CommLab peers, then I wanted to make them laugh. We decided that we would take the basic premise, then go and draw up our own storyboards. A few days later, we’d get together and compare.

Here’s what our combined storyboards looked like:

storyboardall.jpg

As you can see, I tried to take it another direction by adding a clown, but the group wasn’t feeling it. I agreed that this would be a new experience and that I would try something new, like making a dramatic/horror type film.

The first challenge was finding a place to shoot a piano scene. It’s amazing that ITP has no connections or agreements with any other departments within Tisch, so we were forced to scavenge. I don’t mind guerilla style shooting, but it does seem a bit ridiculous given that we’re part of NYU, which has state of the art facilities that I assume my tuition helps fund. Nonetheless…

It took us about two full days to shoot all of the scenes we wanted, and we did so focusing on the pianist’s hands and avoiding any face shots. Lighting proved challenging, but I also learned a lot as we tried to appropriately light so many different scenes.

Alex shared this video as inspiration:

The editing was probably the hardest part of all this, mostly because the lab isn’t really set up for four people to huddle around a computer. The process was slow, with most of us taking turns in different shifts over the weekend to prepare a final cut. 

There were, of course, disagreements. Some people felt that their ideas weren’t listened to or respected. While it’s an unfortunate outcome, I think it’s a risk that all collaborative processes run. I’m very pleased with the final result!

So without further ado, here is Sonata No. 666:

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With about 10 different voice samples, we had to edit them in Audacity We then used GarageBand to put it all together. Audacity was much better for actually trimming and manipulating the pieces but I found GarageBand much simpler for repeating sounds and the construction of the final cut.

Sometimes It’s So Loud In Here That I Can Hardly Hear Myself Think

For our Comm Lab assignment this week, Alex and I had to record and play with audio. This is something that I hadn’t done before. We started out with a couple of M1 recorders, shotgun microphones and headphones.

Our original idea was to head out to Washington Square Park and walk around next to each other with the microphones held out to opposite sides, effectively trying to create a ‘surround sound’ experience. It was a good place to start, but I don’t think either of us we were enamored with the results.

We then headed into Bobst to try and capture some interesting sounds in there. We started recording before we walked through the revolving doors, then on the elevator and walking around one of the floors. There were snippets of conversation and other ambient noise, but nothing too interesting. While we were in there, we played around with sounds like the scratching of hair, the flipping of book pages and other sounds. It turned out that my recording levels were a bit low and most of this was not usable.

I think we were both inspired by the next class and started tossing around ideas for how to create music using only voices. Alex explained to me the concept of the fugue and that became the foundation for the next round of recording. Armed with the same equipment, we walked around the floor asking people to read the line, “Sometimes it’s so loud in here that I can hardly hear myself think.” This was a great phrase because it had the homonyms ‘here’ and ‘hear’ as well as a good rhythm.

With about 10 different voice samples, we had to edit them in Audacity We then used GarageBand to put it all together. Audacity was much better for actually trimming and manipulating the pieces but I found GarageBand much simpler for repeating sounds and the construction of the final cut.

So here it is:

Sometimes It's So Loud In Here I Can Hardly Here Myself Speak

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Nobu and I worked together on this project, and it was a lot of fun. We started by watching a few popular stop motion YouTube videos for inspiration, including Tony vs. Paul and Ping Pong Ball Manipulation.

VIDEO: Rat vs. Spider

Nobu and I worked together on this project, and it was a lot of fun. We started by watching a few popular stop motion YouTube videos for inspiration, including Tony vs. Paul and Ping Pong Ball Manipulation.

We then discussed some different types of narratives. We tossed around the idea of taking our camera out to the park to film something in “Tony vs. Paul” fashion, but we couldn’t figure out how to make ourselves fly and so decided against it. So we went to the Halloween store on West 4th and Lafayette to see if we could find something fun there to use for our film.

Jackpot! We settled on some silly string, a tube of fake blood, a package of rubber rats and a package of rubber spiders. We constructed a bunch of different storylines with these new props, but we still needed a place to set it in.

Back at ITP, we decided we liked the West Side Story angle, and we wanted our rats and spiders to fight it out cage match style. Nobu and I rummaged through some garbage cans and the junk shelf to construct our set, and then took our first stab at shooting with iStopMotion.

It didn’t take long to determine that 30 frames wasn’t very much. What you see here is our third attempt. In the first, we spent too much time on the intros of the rats and spiders and not enough on the actual action. The second take was a complete departure that began as a fight, transformed into a choreographed dance and ended up as a fight again.

But in this version, you can see we had a better understanding of how to tell a stop motion story. In the end, there were only a few frames that needed editing:

and one more:

So without further ado, here is “Rat vs. Spider”:

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It's so interesting that once you start exploring a new topic, you find that it's all around you. This week, we started to explore both Photoshop and comics.

Comic: Busting the Future

It’s so interesting that once you start exploring a new topic, you find that it’s all around you. This week, we started to explore both Photoshop and comics. That day after class, I was online and found a link to this site that takes old Nintendo video game characters and places them on real world backgrounds. Then today on NPR there was a podcast with Chris Onstad, a web comic creator discussing the art of creating an online comic as well as how it differs from more traditional comics. It was really cool to see these applications of the things we’re talking about in class in the real world, and it makes it all the more interesting/relevant. 

For this assignment, Zack and I decided to create a new type of comic. We really liked what we had read in Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics about narrative and how it has evolved over time. And then we started thinking about how we could use the traditional web page layout to play with a sense of time and the way the story is both told and experienced.

To accomplish this, we started by brainstorming what type of narrative we wanted to tell. We brainstormed a ton of ideas:

We agreed that we liked the idea of using the concept of time travel, and the two most famous time travelers we could think of were Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap and Christopher Lloyd from Back to the Future. Then, because the narrative structure was getting kind of complicated, we sketched it out again on paper so that we knew what digital assets we needed to collect:

That, it turned out, was the easy part. We were going to have to use Flash to create the final product, and I had never really even played with Photoshop before. So we ended up working together, but dividing the responsibilities. I searched for our images and began Photoshopping the scenes while Zack, who had only used Flash once before but who was much more well versed in Photoshop, started to build the initial blueprint in Flash, which he documented here

Here’s an example of some assets that I put together:

The above image was a screenshot from Back to the Future. I cut out Doc Brown and turned his arm around. It wasn’t the best switch of his hand, but I knew that most of it was going to be covered up.

I then found this set of cookies:

I cut the cookies out, burned them, and placed them on Doc’s hand to create this final composite image: 

Finally, this was put into the first panel as the setup for why Doc Brown had to travel back in time (so that he wouldn’t burn the cookies): 

And here’s the final comic.

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What is art? Is it couture imagined and drawn by the hand of a fashionista that is reproduced by seamstresses to specifications? Is it the inspiration of an artist executed by his dedicated assistants? Or is it, perhaps, the words of a playwright exhibited upon a stage centuries after his demise?

Response: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

 

Photo credit: Idiolector (Flickr)

Photo credit: Idiolector (Flickr)

What is art? Is it couture imagined and drawn by the hand of a fashionista that is reproduced by seamstresses to specifications? Is it the inspiration of an artist executed by his dedicated assistants? Or is it, perhaps, the words of a playwright exhibited upon a stage centuries after his demise? 

 

 

Benjamin makes many assertions with which I agree, but the one he doesn’t discuss is the definition of art, which is still changing. A play is a work of art that mainly exists through its repeated production. And even the most popular stories of the Greeks still exist today only because of its repetition until it could be recorded and distributed. 

The definition of the “aura” may have changed as well, but its existence has not. The collective experience of watching a film on its opening night or at its premiere is magical. Watching the opening ceremonies for the Olympics with hundreds of millions of people around the world was inspiring and unforgettable, even though it was done through a TV, recorded live and watched hours later. And the exposure to incredible artists from around the world through the medium of the Internet has only served to strengthen my relationship and interest to art. 

But what is most interesting to me is the dichotomy between where Benjamin left off and where we are now. Writer and reader are no longer separated by time and space as they once were with the printed word. They can actually communicate instantly through digital media! And the ability to record, watch and interact through film has truly made this a medium for the masses. 

I look forward to discussing this more in class.

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Waterfalls

Response to Waterfalls

When I initially visit the first of three NYC waterfalls, I’m on a sailboat that launches from Chelsea Piers approaching the waterfall situated in front of Governor’s Island almost head-on. A host of steel pipes form a temporary structure that reminds me of the scaffolding construction workers use for support as they work on repairing/restoring/remodeling buidlings around the city. It looks just as wobbly and temporary. From the top spouts a waterfall that cascades down to where the Hudson River and East River unite.

Image credit: Architecture MNP

Image credit: Architecture MNP

From there, the boat makes its way around the Statue of Liberty affording a pretty decent view of the waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge in profile as well as the installation next to Pier 35. I try to conceptualize these three waterfalls in a couple different ways. There’s their collective physical appearance: temporary, minimalist and simplistic in design. They are spaced at a distance where one can observe them all together, but each must be discovered in turn. Seeing one does not guarantee the discovery of the other, and I appreciate that. Then there’s the reaction by participants. The majority of people that share this boat with me a snapping frantic pictures with their digital cameras to ensure they take home the best shot. Few seem interested in actually thinking about the waterfalls as anything more than another New York backdrop, like Times Square and the Empire State Building.

But I’m being more critical. Individually, these towers of water aren’t much to look at. In fact without knowing that they are a group, my reaction is that this is little more than a cluster of expensive water statues obfuscating what is otherwise a beautiful, historic waterfront. The asceticism represents a sense of raw industriousness. It feels like possibility and hope and a new future. That being said, it would make more sense to see this installation scattered across a city like Hong Kong or Dubai; a place where industry continues to thrive and cranes, new construction and robust economies signal a bright future full of possibility. Here in New York in 2008, whether the waterfall sits like a troll underneath the Brooklyn Bridge or tries to mask the facade of a 200 year-old military facility, it feels woefully out of place.

Credit: Inhabitat.com

Credit: Inhabitat.com

A few days later, I’m running from my apartment along the East River. I pass underneath the FDR and keep right on moving until I’m down by the South Street Seaport. I circle around to return the way from which I cam when I pass the waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge. Seeing it from the shore is a totally different experience, and I’m kind of surprised I didn’t take notice the first time. The installation feels more like it belongs to the bridge. From this perspective, it obscures the bridge’s foundation and appears as an integrated part of the structure.

I keep running and minutes later pass Pier 35, which is where I find a group of Chinese people gathered, doing what appears to be Tai chi exercises. Others rest their arms on the rails separating the path from the shore, staring at the water falling from atop the installation. I stop and join the group at the rail. It’s then that I think about the peace we find in falling water. There’s the beauty of the water as it drops rhythmically from above, and the calming effect it has on the ears. Five of us lean in silence, watching the water fall and listening to soothing sound of water hitting water. Minutes later, I’m on my way uptown again, showered by wind whipped wisps of water as I go.

The ugliness of the physical structures detracts from my ability to fully appreciate the other components of the design. The disparate elements don’t seem to come together (the sheer randomness of the placements is infuriating!) and, although I enjoyed my time in front of Pier 35, I’m not sure I’ll remember the waterfalls once they’re gone with the same fondness I have for The Gates in Central Park or the Cows on in Chicago.