Milestones and Hurdles

Given the limitations of the project, I think my group has done an excellent job in creating a video that caters to everyone’s wants, entertains, and conveys a message. It’s been a collaborative effort so far, one in which someone presents an idea and everyone else comments on and tweaks it. I think our video idea turned out well because we believe in the tool we’re essentially “selling.” Focus 2 is genuinely useful—something I wish I’d had when I was picking a major back in high school. If you believe in the product, you can sell it with confidence. The first milestone we’ve accomplished is coming up with a solid idea; in my opinion, that’s always the hardest part. Once you have an idea of what you want to do or say, the rest comes naturally. The second milestone is that we’ve started filming. Everyone’s been so busy lately, especially now that it’s finals season—it’s been a challenge to find a time where everyone can meet. Still, we’ve got something on film; that’s most of the project done already. The first hurdle we still have to cross over is the editing; luckily, we have someone who has significant editing experience, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Second is the essay. 15-20 pages sounds extremely daunting, but once we’ve split up the work, it should be fine. The most important digital tool that we’ve been using in class is probably iMovie/Movie Maker. Because we’ve all learned how to edit videos and have at least a bit of experience now, any one of us could take on the role of editor for this project. Also, we’ve used the Creative Commons Search Engine to find the video’s background music. The feedback we received on the storyboard was, for the most part, positive; the only suggestion was that—instead of using a Screencast—we could film someone using Focus 2 on their laptop from over their shoulder. I think this would be more visually interesting than having a full screen of a Screencast, especially with that obnoxious watermark in the corner.

Portfolios and Video Games

For anyone who has been consistently reading my blog posts, you know that at this point, I’d say, “I’ve totally mastered this new thing!” Well, dear reader, I’m won’t lie to you—video editing was harder than I thought it would be. Good thing I did it a day in advance, ‘cause that took up waaay more time than expected. Hey, look at me, not procrastinating. Aren’t you proud?

I once went on a date with a film student who told me that even the shortest clips—commercials, trailers, etc.—can take days or weeks to edit; well, after working on 2 minutes of footage for almost 3 hours, I totally believe that. Cutting out bits where mistakes were made, adjusting the audio, positioning the captions—it was quite the tedious process. In the end, I’m relatively satisfied with my work, and now I’m apprehensively sending my digital child down the river, hoping the basket doesn’t sink in a plethora of hate comments. For those of you wondering, I used Kekai Kotaki and Nicole Green’s portfolios and Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 for my video.

Now let’s talk about video games; of course it’s possible for them to have meaning. Phff, do I really have to explain the religious symbolism in Super Mario? Seriously though, video games are very effective ways of conveying messages, because they’re fun to play, attention-grabbing, and—when made using certain dialogue, music, and visuals—can deliver a powerful emotional punch. One game I think of in particular is That Dragon, Cancer, a video game made by parents Ryan and Amy Green, whose son, Joel, was dying of cancer. In it, the player experiences the torment of doing everything possible to save someone, only to lose him/her in the end, playing through Joel’s four short years of life. The helplessness felt by the player conveys how parents in this situation feel—the struggle to keep playing, to see the situation through, even though you know that the odds of getting a happy ending are slim to none. For the Greens, making this game was a way of coping with their grief and immortalizing their beloved child. For us, it’s a visceral, surreal, and in-depth look at the hearts of two sorrow-filled parents.

 

Would-Be Podcast

The hardest part of the audio editing assignment had to be—without a doubt—listening to my own voice. After hearing my recording, I had to resist the urge to apologize to everyone I’ve ever spoken to. Aside from that, simply coming up with something to say was a challenge. I mean, how was I supposed to portray my wit and charm in only a few seconds? Clearly, the time limit stifled my opportunity to showcase my humor, and deprived you all of my angelic radio voice—oh, the Audacity! Using the program itself wasn’t that complicated (even though I’m a PC user and, therefore, was stuck with the “much harder” Audacity); granted, making a fake 1-2 minute introduction to a podcast is much easier than having to record a full-length 10-15 minute one—which I’ve had to do. So, overall, the assignment wasn’t that difficult. I guess I can add “audio editing master” on my ever-expanding list of things I’m great at, right under “image editing god.”

I watched the first video I found on Channel Awesome: Bubblegum Crash—Anime Abandon. The video is a review of an anime, Bubblegum Crash, the sequel to Bubblegum Crisis; the host gives some background information on the making of it and then proceeds to go into more detail about the show itself. There only appears to be one camera angle on the host—he’s just sitting in a chair, talking. Then, there are clips from the show he’s reviewing that appear, with him talking over them (probably to compensate for his lack of movement and to show the audience what scene he’s referring to in that moment). Other than inserting these clips, I don’t see other examples of editing (besides the video’s introduction and probable editing to fix any mistakes). He borrowed the anime clips from the show, while his commentary is completely original. As for recording the audio, I’m going to assume he has a microphone set up somewhere off-camera—the sound quality wouldn’t be as good if he used his computer’s microphone.

 

Audacity and You

I feel like my header needs some explanation, since you’re probably wondering, “How the heck does a picture of Pomeranian heads edited onto margaritas represent who you are as a student and person?” Well, anybody who knows me knows that I always put way too much effort into things that don’t require nearly as much of it; this header was no exception. Not only did it take me forever, but I only ended up using about a third of the actual photo. This pretty much sums up my academic life. Sigh.

This header also represents my sense of humor; after I finally finished and took a good look at the picture in its entirety, I spent a full two minutes giggling to myself like an idiot. It’s lively, quirky, and you shouldn’t look at it too closely or else you’ll spot all of its flaws—me, literally me.

Since I’ve pretty much mastered graphic design, let’s move on to audio editing. My freshman year, I had to edit a clip of Richard Nixon stating, “I’m not a crook” so that he said, “I’m a crook.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yeah, no. This turned out to be one of the most tedious tasks I’ve ever had to do. The word “not” took up mere seconds, so I had to listen very carefully and try to cut it out precisely. Precision is key when it comes to audio editing, because your clip won’t sound right otherwise. Turns out, I have the precision of a toddler trying to color within the lines. When I cut too little, he said “I’mn—acrook;” when I cut too much, he said, “I’m—crook.” Overall, I’d say that the system was pretty difficult to get the hang of. While I will probably never edit sound clips as a hobby, I’m sure someone with more experience could/would. How fun would it be to manipulate recordings of your friends so that they say funny things? And just think of the blackmailing opportunities. “Oh, you didn’t call your boss fat? That’s funny, ‘cause I have this recording of you saying that…” Or if you’re looking for something less morally-bankrupt, you could also use Audacity/Garage Band to create and edit podcasts, record voice-overs for videos, or mash up songs. But, ya know, whatever floats your boat.

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Your new desktop wallpaper. You’re welcome.

Phreaks, Hackers, and Trolls—Oh My!

Before we talk about the phreaks, hackers, and trolls, let’s discuss image editing. I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve got some crazy editing skills—just look at this amazing work done on my friend.img_2371Please, hold your applause. Can you tell the beard’s not real? Surprise. Seriously though, my image editing repertoire pretty much only consists of goofy stuff like doodling on preexisting photos (I’d show you the picture of myself that I “edited” to look like a vampire, but I’m trying to maintain some shred of dignity) and cropping pictures—all, mind you, on MS Paint. Fancy-schmancy terms like “layers” and “optimizing” elude me. I’ve seen a few YouTube videos of people editing photos and I must say, I’m impressed. Even a touch of editing can make a photo look incredible. For example, this puppy photo I found on someone’s profile on a website called “We Heart It”:

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Yeah, I know, another puppy picture. What? I like dogs…

The pastel tint on the photo immediately brought to mind the term “saturation,” so I looked it up. According to my dear friend Google, “Saturation (or ‘chroma’) defines the intensity of a hue. Vivid primary colours are highly saturated, while pastel colours are unsaturated.” Therefore, this picture is unsaturated. Neat. I’m a bit nervous about having to actually edit images, because from what I’ve heard, it’s quite an arduous process; however, I’m willing to give it a go.

Now, let’s talk about the phreaks, hackers, and trolls. (There’s really no smooth way to segue from one topic to the other here, sorry.) When I think of a hacker, I imagine some guy wearing an Anonymous mask, typing rapidly, his computer screen raining binary like in The Matrix. Coleman mentions in the opening of her article that hackers follow a “hacker ethic”—“shorthand for a mix of aesthetic and pragmatic imperatives: a commitment to information freedom, a mistrust of authority, a heightened dedication to meritocracy, and the firm belief that computers can be the basis for beauty and a better world” (99). Sounds like they’re the heroes we need, but not the ones we deserve… Hackers’ ability to “watch the watchers” made them prime targets to law enforcement, which feared their technological prying. This resulted in the legal prosecution and persecution of hackers, in which “their punishment often exceed[ed] the nature of their crime” (108).

What comes to mind when I picture a troll is an acne-ridden neck-beard, purposely leaving racist or sexist comments on YouTube videos with the intention of stirring up trouble. Coleman writes, “Trolls work to remind the ‘masses’ that have lapped onto the shores of the Internet that there is still a class of geeks who, as their name suggests, will cause Internet grief, hell and misery” (110). She continues to explain that trolls serve a purpose—to “fuck shit up,” mostly, but on a deeper level, to take political correctness and make a mockery out of “the idea that language, much like everything virtual, is anything that should be taken seriously” (111). Personally, I don’t think that’s a good enough justification for the existence of trolls; all they do is spread hate and make people not want to be online. We don’t necessarily need jerks like these to shatter the concept of “political correctness,” especially not in the usually-crude way they do it.

Prior to Coleman’s article, I had no idea what a phreak was. The term “phreak” was once “phone freak,” but was “condensed out of the ambient cultural humidity” (103). These phone freaks were labeled as such due to their brand of hacking: “By 1961, phreakers—although still not named as such—no longer had to rely on perfect pitch to make their way into the phone system. They were building and using an assortment of small electrical boxes, the most famous of these being the Blue Box. This device was used to replicate the tones used by the telephone switching system to route calls, enabling Blue Box users to act as if they were a telephone operator, facilitating their spelunking of the phone system and, for some, free phone calls” (103).