chronicwnderlst

A place to indulge an affliction


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Gaining Cinematic Technique Literacy

All story is manipulation…

-from Ken Burns:On Story

I admit that I’ve never really thought much of cinematic techniques in play when watching movies, nor how much I have been manipulated into liking a movie through these techniques (e.g., such as orienting the viewer).  This DS106 section on “Reading Movies” has been an eye-opener. I feel I’ve gained some literacy in cinematic techniques! Of the 12 short videos on filmmaking, I watched the following five:

I found Kubrick’s one-point perspective interesting and creepy at the same time. The one-point perspective is when the movie is seen from one perspective, the viewer’s. As the viewer, I felt that I was the only static entity there; everything else happened around me. It gave me a feeling of helplessness and being out of control, as the camera angle seemed to trap me in place and I could not move to avoid uncomfortable scenes. I appreciate how effective this technique is  in making creepy movies. I have not seen many of Kubrick’s work but from what I’ve read about him (in websites and magazines, not movies :-)), this is just the type of cinematic technique he would employ.

I may be the last person on earth who has not seen The Shining. I have seen stills of the movie, especially that iconic one of Jack Nicholson peering through a crack in the door, but I have not seen the entire movie. As such, without context from the story, I could not appreciate the zooms employed as cinematic technique in the montage I watched.

I enjoyed viewing both the Top 20 Cinematic Techniques and the Camera Angles and Techniques videos.  Both provided me as a view with different perspectives, however the terms cinematic technique terms included assumed that one was familiar with them. I had to look each of them up to fully appreciate the value they added to the films. I did a Google search and found the following resources helpful:

I selected only six of the 20 videos from Top 20 Cinematic Techniques to analyze below, specifically, the movies I had previously scene, having the context helped me appreciate the cinematic techniques employed the selected scene:

Film Technique/Camera Angle Value
Children of Men (2006) Long Take, Doggicam With the doggicam technique, the camera moves freely 360 degrees and shows the rioting on the street from the perspective of each of the four characters trapped in the car. The camera also allows the view to see each of the character’s reaction to the chaos.
Children of Men (2006) Long Take, Tracking Shot The tracking shot allows the view to see the chaotic scenery from the perspective of one character (Clive Owen) as he observes first from a window, then through a doorway, until he eventually unsteadily crosses the street while dodging danger.
Ato)nement (2007 Long Take, Steadicam With the steadicam technique, the camera becomes the perfect observer as it moves freely like a person through a scene. However, unlike the doggicam, the movement is one-directional. The long take in this scene shows the landscape.   Because of the steadicam, instead of focusing on the two characters walking forward, the viewer’s eyes (and emotions) are riveted towards the background scene where the horses are being shot point-blank
Star Wars IV (1977) Extreme Establishing Shot Shows the “distance” the spacecraft, the Millenium Falcon, traveled, past a few planets. One shot shows Earth (blue planet) in the distance then the planet gets larger. The Millenium Falcon enters earth, hover over Tikal National Park in Guatemala, and landing by a Mayan pyramid
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Establishing Shot The scene shows Hobbiton, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing over its green hills, as Gandalf arrives at Frodo Baggins’s house. It establishes Hobbiton as an idyllic place that Frodo will eventually leave to go on his quest.
Cowboys and Aliens(2011) Pan The camera pans through a chaparral landscape that seems abandoned (completed by audio of insects) and the viewer is lulled into thinking that it is a peaceful scene, until Daniel Craig’s character is jolted awake (and so is the viewer)

 

In April 2009, I visited the Tik’al Mayan ruins in El Peten, Guatemala. The national park’s claim to fame has always been being in Star Wars IV (see 01:35-02:04 of the Top 20 Cinematic Techniques video). Having been on the same spot on top of Temple IV as that Rebel in 01:57-02:01 of the  video, I can further appreciate the cinematography involved. Those ledges are narrow! I’m sure George Lucas and his film crew used all sorts to equipment to get the camera shots they wanted. What damage to pre-Columbian Mayan temples caused by modern equipment during filming, I hope was offset by the fact that Tikal National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, two years after Star Wars IV was released. I’d like to believe that the film contributed to Tikal being listed. If George Lucas had used the wrong cinematic technique, would it have taken Tikal National Park a few more years to make it to the UNESCO World Heritage list?

Film and Travel is a great site that highlights places around the world that have been featured in TV and movies. There’s a post on Star Wars IV and Tikal National Park, but I thought I’d post my own photos to this blog:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 


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Week 5 Summary

This weekly summary should be titled, “The Sound of Silence,” or at least the second half of the week. This week started more auspiciously than it ended, I am sad to admit.  I created a SoundCloud account and posted my first audio assignment on Monday.  I was very proud of posting something early in the week, that I was on cloud nine!

Then my productivity went downhill. I was stymied by audio editing tool, Audacity. I must admit that early in the week, I was filled with trepidation at the thought of audio editing. It is an activity in which I do not have any experience.   I have not worked with either SoundCloud or Audacity. To help mitigate last minute panic, early in the week, I prepared for the assignments:

  1. I explored the various websites where I can download audio files. Some I found too confusing; whereas others seemed to want my billing information despite touting “free” audio files. I liked the ease with which I could navigate, search for, and download audion files from FreeSound. So I used this site.
  2. Instead of randomly downloading audio files from FreeSound, I developed a story idea first. I decided on a snapshot story of a day in the life of an inanimate object, my travel backpack, Becki. Having a story outline made it easy for me to search for specific audio files from FreeSound.
  3. I watched my assigned segment of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus.” Then I watched the entire 3 minute clip to get an overall context of the story.
  4. I further broke down my assigned segment into five-second pieces and in a table, mapped out actions that required foley sounds.
  5. I downloaded the support software LAME library. Or, so I thought.

 

As mentioned, Audacity and audio editing were challenges for me. I found the tips helpful but it still took time for me to find ease in manipulating the track timeline and adding effects. The true challenge came from the support tool LAME Library. I admit to not following the directions correctly (hmm….maybe this can be a candidate for storifying…), so I ended up downloading a few files that negatively impacted my internet connectivity. I had to engage the Help Desk to get rid of these files and restore back to my system’s functionality. Yes, by now, this is Sunday and I had wasted a few days. Granted, it was a very busy week between personal and professional conflicting priorities. I am glad, however, of the prep work I completed, because as soon as I got my Audacity tool sorted out and I was able to export MP3 files to SoundCloud, completing the assignments was relatively easy.

Due to the time crunch, I chose a fairly simple second audio assignment, Taking Back SPAM.  I was looking for the good ol’ Nigerian bank scam or one of those “you’ll get 10 years of bad luck if you don’t pass this on” e-mails, but it seems my e-mail programs have gotten better at filtering these old SPAM classics.  I suppose mail order bride and relationship seeking SPAMs are timeless, so I was able to find one to use. 

I also thought about storifying how to navigate Medicare and Medicaid paperwork. I know that’s a behemoth task.  Perhaps I should really consider storifying LAME library.


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Message in an (internet) Bottle (of sorts)

For my second audio assignment this week, I completed Taking Back Spam from the Audio Assignment Bank

The sources I used to search for SPAM mail were my personal e-mail accounts; however, I soon found that I did not have very interesting things in my SPAM folder.  The one SPAM mail I finally settled on was an e-mail from someone trying to make a personal connection…by sending SPAM mail!

I used Audacity to record myself in a baby voice reading the e-mail.  I have a negative opinion of women who talk in baby voices with their partners in romantic relationships. So, I applied this “ridiculousness” to this assignment. The SPAM mail reminds me of those messages in a bottle that people throw into the ocean in hopes of stranger picking it up and taking action on the message. To create that ambience, I layered the recording with an audio file of waves crashing against rocks I used an audio file that I did not use on the Sound Effects Story assignment, which I had downloaded from FreeSound. I exported the Audacity file to MP3 and uploaded it to SoundCloud, so I can embed it to this blog post.

Below is the screenshot of the SPAM e-mail and the photo I used for the SoundCloud avatar:

Image


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Storify this: Medicare and Medicaid

I realize as I am typing this storifying idea that this is going to be way over my head. However, the subject of Medicare and Medicaid  has been foremost in my mind for the past two months, due to a parent’s ongoing medical issues. Then this past week, there was an opportunity for me to be staffed on a Medicaid-related project. So, if I were to take this subject on for my final project, I would storify how to navigate the Medicare and Medicaid paperwork required to get the benefits.

In honor of today’s Easter holiday, below is a political cartoon (2010) created regarding health care costs. I found it using Google Image search for “medicare Medicaid cartoon.”medicare


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Scorpions, Bulls, and a Lion, Oh My!

Since my birthday is in November (proud Scorpio!), the segment I worked on in this week’s Charlie Chaplin video was from 2:01-2:30. Those whose birthday is in May worked on the same segment, hence I used the associated astrological signs in the blog post title.
At first, I just watched my assigned thirty-second segment. Then I watched the entire clip (three minutes and 26 seconds long) and certain things, such as the woman at the end of my segment, made sense after context was added. Although this assignment was only a 30-second segment, I thought I would break it down further into 5 second increments to make it manageable. Putting the actions in matrix helped me plan out the foley sounds I needed to create. See table below:

Segment Action Foley Sound Required Sound Added Created with:
02:01 – 02:05 Lion gets up and sniffs Charlie
  • Paw walking
  • Sniffing
  •  Flip flop sandal on carpet
  • Me
02:06 – 02:10 Lion turns around and lays down on its stomach Paw walking Flip flop sandal on carpet
02:11 – 02:15 Lion puts down head on its paws; black screen; Charlie looks at camera then he feels around his pockets Cat purrClothes rustling Me
02:16 – 02:20 Charlie checks his pockets and shows a face of relief. He looks over to the lion. Sigh of relief“Hmmm!” Me
02:21 – 02:25 The lion turns on his back, as if scratching it on the floor of the cage Scratching Finger nails on magnet
02:26 – 02:30 Charlie looks bored, after realizing that the lion is not interested in eating him. He holds on the cage bars. Camera shows fainted woman getting up and looking back at the cage.
  • Flesh on steel
  • Sigh
  • Two coins clinking
  • Me

I found items I can use to simulate the sounds required.  The most challenging foley for me to create was Charlie’s hand on the steel bars of the cage. I finally settled on clinking two coins togehter, because it was more audible than me recording my hand hitting an iron bar.  I recorded the audio file in SoundCloud. It took several takes and the final product is less than perfect. It is also 3 seconds shorter than the video segment assigned.

Below is a photo of my “foley studio” (items I used to create the foley for this assignment: foley

 


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Sounds Like an Adventure


The story I created is from the point of view of my loyal travel companion, Becki the backpack (see photos). Becki and I have been traveling together for a decade. This story is a forty-five second snapshot of a day in the life of Becki.

…I sit patiently, and empty, as she books flights on her favorite airline website. I wonder where we are going next and how soon. More importantly, what is she going to stuff me with? Hopefully, not the work laptop; it’s too big and I’m not equipped to provide the necessary cushion. Ahhh, no laptop. Just clothes and a travel pillow this time. And she remembered to remove the new Swiss Army knife before it got confiscated. Again. Whee! Off we go! I’m sitting on top of the large suitcase as she wheels us through the airport. I’ll have to say a temporary goodbye to Mr. Suitcase soon, as she’ll be taking him to the TSA folks for additional screening of checked bags. The trip through the x-ray machine was a breeze, on account of no laptop and no utility knife. I’m now safely stowed in the overhead compartment. I’ve got plenty of room since it’s not a full flight. But wait! There is disadvantage to this as I get tossed around during turbulence. Ugh, not good. Now I’m upside down. Three more hours to go. Yes, we have arrived! What a relief. And I’ve never been to this place before, so I expect I’ll be getting a new patch by the end of this trip. If only there was enough room…

I downloaded over five minutes of audio from FreeSound to create this Sound Effects Story Assignment. I tried the other websites, but found FreeSound to be the easiest to work with. After considering the story spine, I excluded three of the audio files originally downloaded and using Audacity, further edited the files I ended up using to create a story that is roughly 45 seconds long.

Below is a screenshot of my Audacity project for the Sound Effects Story:

Sounds Like an Adventure (Sound Effects Story screenshot)

Sounds Like an Adventure (Sound Effects Story screenshot)

Below is a matrix that maps each track to the audio file used for this assignment:

Key Sound File Name Duration

1

Keyboard Keyboard_typing.wav 00:09
2 Rummaging through luggage   00:26
3 Rolling bag Rolling bag.wav 00:16
4 X-ray Xray belt.aif 00:10
5 Airline Turbulence Airline-pilot-turbulence-announcement.wav 00:17
6 Bag Rattling Sounds for Earthquakes-textile.wav 00.09
7 Airplane arrival Arrival’s instruction/consignes arriv.wav 02:23

8

Female sigh Z1.aiff 00:02

Since downloading the LAME library, in order to get the MP3 encoder, I’ve had trouble with my Internet Explorer, and other web browsers. This slowed down considerably completion of this and other assignments this week, which added frustration to an already trying week.


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On SoundCloud Nine!


I successfully created a new account on SoundCloud today. I also personalized my settings, using the same username (chronicwnderlst) and avatar that I have on this WordPress blog, so that they are connected. Prior to this DS106 class, I had not heard of SoundCloud. The only previous experience I had with recording myself was for the IDT class on Game Design and Gamification, when we used Screencast-o-matic. I generally don’tenjoy hearing myself on a recording, but I had to get over that in order to meet the class requirements.

In keeping with the overarching travel theme of this blog, for my first recording on SoundCloud, I decided to read aloud a fake travel-related news report. The best source for fake, funny news is The Onion. I found one that was posted on March 31, 2014, titled, Flight Attendant Quietly Informs First Class Passengers Where Real Emergency Exits Are.

Screenshot of The Onion article mentioned in this post

Screenshot of The Onion article mentioned in this post

I printed the article and practiced reading it out loud before I started recording. I had to re-record four times before I was satisfied with the results.

When I replayed the recording, I was surprised at the clarity of the sound. I had a fan going in the room, and I did not hear it in the recording. I also did not use a fancy microphone, only this:

The microphone I used to make the recording

The microphone I used to make the recording

The tutorial on embedding SoundCloud tracks to WordPress provided with GMU Week 5 DS106 instructions was very helpful. This is the earliest I’ve completed an assignment for DS106 and I’m on cloud 9! Keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to keep this up.