An Inspiring Bad Photo

One of the assignments that caught my eye was strikingly simple.  Pick a bad photo, apply a vintage effect, and write something in helvetica.  It seemed like a brilliant way to highlight how easy it is to make something inspiring.  Just make it look like it was meant to have poor quality!  The photo I chose essentially had poor lighting and was a bit blurred, making it the perfect candidate for some vintage effects.  This time I was able to successfully play around in GIMP, finding a Decor filter called Old Photo.  I messed around with the settings and ultimately chose to mottle my photo while neglecting the sepia tone (that would just be a bit too much).  As I began inserting my text, I realized that GIMP didn’t have helvetica!  Darn it, that was the whole point of the exercise.  Luckily some quick internet searches assured me that helvetica is really a form of sans serif, so I opted to use a bolded Sans as a replacement font.  I fiddled with various sayings that revolved around the fire/light source that would be long enough to fill two lines across the picture (like the assignment model).  Once, completed, I exported my image, and voila!  A poor image has been transformed into an inspiring one.

vintage-fire

Honestly, this exercise also demonstrates the need for caution/discernment when examining images on the internet.  I’ve come across similar “inspiring” photos, and its important to note that minimal thought may have been put into them (as this exercise demonstrated).  Be careful before taking life advice from the internet!

Drawing Wonder Woman

Despite some of the frustrations with GIMP, I still wanted to experiment some more with it.  I liked the idea of trying to make a drawing from a photo.  The photo I selected was the first Wonder Woman promo photo released on Gal Gadot’s twitter.  Being as her character is fairly ancient, it would be somewhat fitting to convert the photograph into a sketch.  I initially began exploring filters myself, and while I could find ones that make your photograph resemble an oil painting, etc., I could not find one that resembled a pencil drawing.  I conducted a google search, which eventually led me to this video.  This made life so much easier.  Previous I had followed step by step written instructions, which were helpful, but occasionally I’d get lost between steps.  By watching someone else demonstrate the process visually, I could more easily follow along and see exactly which choices were selected, etc., especially in regards to using layers and adjusting settings.  It seems to me that a lot of GIMP requires some trial and error, as I couldn’t get my photo to quite match the look of the tutorial’s example.  However, it’s a fairly good imitation, and the background in particular captures that pencil drawing look I was striving for.

wonder-woman-drawing

WANTED: Xena “Warrior Princess”

The image of Jim Groom on a Wanted poster naturally caught my eye as I was searching through visual assignments.  This interest was only magnified by reading the description.  Essentially I could pick a favorite character and try to describe her as a villain.  I immediately jumped to the idea of using Xena.  While clearly a heroic figure, she has a redemptive storyline with a dark past.  It would be easy to see how society at large might be skeptical of her redemption.  After all, her past crimes included piracy, pillaging, and murder, and she was once known as “The Destroyer of Nations”.  So this was a fun way to essentially highlight this character’s ex-warlord days visually.

I chose to use the poster generator suggested by the assignment, which was relatively easy to use.  I first had to select a picture of Xena to use, so I conducted a quick Google Search and found this one.  I then used paint to crop out some of the extraneous background, and uploaded the final product to the site.  One of the only difficulties I ran into came while filling out the lines for the text of the poster, which had character limits.  This forced me to be as concise as possible while describing the many atrocities Xena committed in her past.  Ultimately I chose to generalize them as “crimes against the state” I also opted to use dinars (the currency used in the show) as opposed to dollars while issuing the reward.  I then generated the image successfully!

wanted-poster-2

 

Turning Your Friends Into Memes

I was immediately drawn to the What’s The Meme? assignment, as I’ve tried my hand at turning my friends into memes before.   The attempt was a very humorous endeavor that I found quite personally rewarding.  However, the final product was made with paint, and was somewhat frustrating as I couldn’t use any outline features for the text, which was ultimately something I hoped learn in choosing this assignment.

 monday-morning-meme

For this attempt, I first began by searching through my photos for funny/captionable moments.  After, previewing my selections, I opened one in paint to begin editing, but still could find no way to outline my text.  I decided to explore using GIMP or Photoshop as an option.  Unfortunately, Photoshop appeared to cost money, so I opted for the free version of GIMP.  While playing around with GIMP, I still couldn’t find a way to outline my text, so I resorted to a Google search that brought me to this article.  But I got stuck trying to create a path from text, so I switched gears to this article, which did a better job of explaining the process more thoroughly.  Even then I still had some hiccups.  Sometimes I hadn’t selected the correct box or option, resulting in incomplete fills, or worse, everything being filled.  But after some serious trial and error, I successfully created three memes of my friends, which continue to make me laugh.

air-marshalling direction skeptical

Thinking About the Visuals of Storytelling

I don’t think I have a great deal of experience with photography.  Growing up, my parents would sometimes provide me with disposable cameras when we were on vacation.  The results were often blurry with poor lighting, or worse, covered by my fingers.  Now that I have an iphone, the majority of my photos are taken on the go.  While there are a lot of great photo features on smartphones, I don’t take advantage of most of them (filters, etc.).  Interestingly, I don’t take that many selfies.  I generally prefer taking photos somewhat spontaneously when on outings with friends.  Essentially I try to capture the moment.  Of course, this is mixed with a fair amount of posed pictures as well.  Overall, I’m interested in taking photos as essentially a means of documentation.  My goal is that reflecting on these photos later will bring back pleasant memories of the day in question.

After examining these articles and resources, I think I could definitely learn to pay better attention to lighting (as of now I generally ignore it unless there’s an obvious problem).  I could also start to incorporate different perspectives to help make my photos more dynamic (which can also help better covey the narrative I want to communicate).  And of course, I can always improve my observation skills to better scan activities for particularly photogenic moments.  Ultimately I think one of the foremost ways I can improve my own photography is through better cognizance of the narrative I wish to tell.  Doing so will begin to naturally improve the quality of the photos I take, by simply increasing my own awareness and effort.

Week 2 Summary

I felt that this week had a great deal of variety.  We first had the opportunity to reflect on how storytelling is adapted or changed when used digitally.  I will say that with this aspect of our coursework, Hypothesis was acting oddly.  Sometimes I would go to add a new annotation and it would start editing an old annotation, thus continuously interrupting my work flow (even with using Google Chrome).  However, I was able to rangle Hypothesis and see how the “digital” in digital storytelling provides us with more flexibility and avenues for creativity.  In a similar manner, we also were able to see how future technology was anticipated, and how to successfully write-up a ds106 assignment post.  This particular reading was extremely helpful as a reference when writing up assignments (I had to keep reminding myself to be creative with titles).

Speaking of assignments, I really love the flexibility of ds106.  The few requirements present ensure that we achieve a certain amount of depth over the course of the week, while also ensuring that we have a diversity of experience.  I loved the creativity behind the trolling assignment.  The project essentially focused on finding common character tropes, and allowed me to better analyze some of my favorite characters.  I also loved that I finally know how to use the Wayback Machine!  That’s been a goal of mine for a long while, and it turned out to be much easier to use than I thought it would be.  I also really enjoyed learning how to work with the effects room in my video-editing software.  Working with subtitles is a pain, but it was well worth the satisfaction that came with completing the final product: a silent film version of Wonder Woman.

I also enjoyed the concept of the Daily Create.  They’re very quick, but make you think critically, oftentimes creatively, and ultimately encourage you to share your work with the wider ds106 community.

I also felt that customizing my blog went well.  I had the Akismet and Jetpack plugins already established, so I focused on changing my theme and added some more widgets, while beefing up my about page.  My one qualm is that my pages don’t necessarily have the titles displayed when you click on them (besides in the navigation menu).  As such, I’ll probably keep tinkering as the semester continues.

Finally, I also appreciate the emphasis on interacting with the work of others.  This can of course help inspire your own creativity by exposing you to new ideas, while also allowing you to draw comparisons between your work and the work of others.  This week, I especially enjoyed seeing that we have our very own ds106 flag!  In addition to this, Jim Groom, who introduced me to video-editing over four years ago, must have found some of my ds106 stuff and now follows me on Twitter!

Wonder Woman ca. 1918

I was intrigued by the idea of aging a movie trailer to make it appear to be from the silent era.  It essentially admits that silent films are a separate art in and of themselves, with unique pros and cons (while of course also providing the opportunity for a humorous editing project).  As such I immediately began to rack my brain for recent movie trailers… Then I hit upon the new trailer for Wonder Woman.  Not only is it a beautiful example of a modern movie trailer, but the setting of the film is WWI.  I could essentially edit the trailer to match the time-period of the film itself!  As such, I realized that it would be the perfect candidate to return to the silent era.

This video assignment posed a unique challenge, in that I have a great deal of experience with editing video, but haven’t had much need to use effects.  So I began playing around with different options in the effect room of Cyberlink PowerDirector (my video-editing software), and found an effect called “Old Movie” that seemed to fit my needs.  However, I adjusted the background color, as the original seemed to filter with a strange sort of mustard yellow that just seemed odd.  I also realized that my video still seemed too smooth.  It now was black and white with aged lines, but the actual playback wasn’t jumpy.  I ultimately decided to combat this by adjusting the playback speed.  I’ve actually been searching for a way to edit speed for a while now, and now had real motivation to properly investigate.  Combing through the designer options yielded nothing, nor the effects room.  I ultimately opted to try a Google search, and voila!  The answer turned out to be in the Power Tools section of my software.  I then sped up my footage to make it jerkier.

After adjusting the playback speed, I began to work with title cards (specifically this one), stretching my selected card to fully fit the 16:9 aspect ratio.  I opted to use subtitles to insert the dialogue.  This was a bit of a pain, as it was difficult to center the dialogue, and timeline adjustments usually meant adjusting the placement of all the following subtitles.  I also used Incompetech to select my silent film music, ultimately choosing a bouncier intro piece and a more dramatic distressed piece for the latter half of the trailer.  After making small adjustments here till the video met my satisfaction, I published the final product on YouTube.

The final product looks relatively well aged.  Personally, I most enjoy the mashup of WWI battle scenes with this silent film style.  The two mash together quite well, and helped affirm my trailer selection.

A Logic Named Joe Response

In reading this article, one of the first things that struck me was that I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this sci-fi short or author before.  The fact that Leinster was able to so accurately predict future technology is incredible, and I couldn’t understand why it appears to be obscure.  It’s notoriously difficult to predict the advances of the future.  “All we know is all there is”, and therefore it is quite hard to foresee that which does not currently exist.  This makes Leinster’s accuracy particularly amazing.  However, perhaps his genius was in the simplicity of his premise.  He appears to have recognized a trend within the developing technology of the time.  Information was being shared quicker.  Through phones, radios, and early televisions, communicating ideas and finding solutions was becoming much easier.  So perhaps the logical extension would be, what if information could be found almost instantaneously?  And what if some of that information wasn’t necessarily good?

Perhaps what intrigues me most is that Leinster anticipates that the tool itself is morally neutral.  It can be used for good or for bad.  Too often we see technology portrayed as a villain in media.  But this simply doesn’t mimic real life.  We don’t see technology rising against us like the depictions of dystopian novels.  But we do see it being misused for nefarious purposes.  It is this understanding of future technology that I find to be particularly impressive.  Essentially he portrays these future advancements as a tool, and cautions us to use it wisely.  This is consistent with how I view the modern-day internet, and it is this fundamental agreement that I am most pleasantly surprised by.

Wayback When UMW’s Website Was Young…

I was first drawn to this assignment simply by reading the title.  I had heard of the Wayback machine, but had never used it myself.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so!

The first thing to do was select a website to examine.  Originally I considered Wikipedia, but then the idea of examining the school website struck me.  This seemed like a great way to make the assignment especially engaging to other UMW students by using a website that is relevant to them.

In terms of assignment completion, please note that I opted to use the snipping tool to grab my screenshots, as I haven’t yet totally figured out how to use my screenshot option (I’ve used it in the past but forgotten how to use it, as the process isn’t very intuitive on this laptop).

My earliest screenshot was from 2004, and I immediately note the immense amount of white space…

may-20-2004
May 20, 2004

In continuing my search, I kept finding that the website links were covering the background with the school title.  At first I assumed this must be a mistake in the loading of the Wayback Machine.  But this mistake was consistent until late 2010…  Also note Professor Giancarlo!

oct-2-2008
Oct 2, 2008

Over time, the link coverage was corrected, and much more color was added, in addition to more dynamic features, such as shifting images (This made it a bit harder to grab screenshots.  At one point I accidentally grabbed one mid-fade!).

may-27-2013
May 27, 2013
aug-31-2016
Aug 31, 2016

Ultimately I think I prefer the modern design to the previous options (though that may simply be because the current site is most familiar to me).  I think its also interesting to note the changing color patterns over time.  Now, excess white space is generally discouraged on most website (a problem of the 2004 version of the site, which was later corrected).  Some color pairings are now considered a bit off (the 2008 grey and orangeish-yellow seems an odd combination to me, and apparently the UMW web designers agreed and thus adjusted in latter versions).  And now more dynamic sites are popular (as seen in the image-shifting 2013 and 2016 versions).  In addition, one can see the new dashboard of the 2016 version, which includes icons as opposed to simple links (again emphasizing the importance of visual richness).  Ultimately I think these changes are consistent with the advice we currently receive regarding keeping websites engaging and user-friendly.

Wonder Eowyn: Warrior Princess

I loved the humorous example I saw while browsing this assignment.  The idea of mixing an image, quote, and signature to trick unwary viewers seemed intriguing.  I wanted to try my hand at finding similar characters and see how one could mash them into essentially one super-character.  But on a more serious note, the assignment immediately reminded me of the various quotes that pop up on Facebook.  Many of them have an image of either a celebrity, or a particularly emotionally-compelling image with some form of quote.  Oftentimes in the comments I will see astute observers pointing out that either the quote is misattributed or completely false.  So while this certainly was a fun exercise, I felt that it also reinforced the need for skepticism while browsing information on the Internet.

For the actual creation process, I first had to decide on the characters I wanted to include in the piece.  Xena and Wonder Woman immediately came to mind, followed by Eowyn as another popular female warrior.  But then came the question of which aspects of each to include.  At first I considered using Xena’s famous quote of “I have many skills”.  But it then became apparent that such a choice would mean I would have to use an image of Wonder Woman with the signature of Eowyn, which I felt might be more easily spotted as a fake (as the two are fairly distinctive).  I then considered that many fans reacted to Gal Gadot’s first promo image as Wonder Woman by comparing it visually to Xena.  As such, perhaps Wonder Woman and Xena would be more likely to be confused with each other.  This led me to use Eowyn’s quote of “I am no man,” (especially fitting since all of the chosen characters are female) paired with that particular promo image and Xena’s signature.

To create this image, I opened the promo image in paint, and cropped out extraneous space on the righthand side.  I then changed the word coloring to white (to better contrast with the darker background), and experimented with various fonts for the quote itself.  I ultimately opted for Papyrus, which had a more ancient/timeless feel to it (especially fitting since Xena and Wonder Woman have Greek backgrounds).  After fiddling with font sizes, I saved the work, and voila!
wonder-woman-eowyn-xena-mashup

I felt that the final product looked quite convincing, but was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of my parents.  My dad’s reaction was, “Did Xena really say that?” apparently missing that the image was of Wonder Woman.  But better yet, my mom didn’t notice anything odd at all about the picture, which cemented in my mind that the image appears perfectly plausible to a casual viewer!