An Overly Dramatic Reading of Itsy-Bitsy Spider

I love the idea of playing with tone.  With video-editing, I’ve always enjoyed creating video mash-ups that significantly alter the tone of a movie (usually making something seem entirely more dramatic than it should be).  As such, the over-dramatic reading assignment naturally caught my eye.  Making anything over-dramatic generally entails looking for decidedly non-dramatic source material to create some nice contrast.  Thus, what better material to use than a classic children’s nursery rhyme?  I ultimately chose to use Itsy-Bitsy Spider, as when not sung, it becomes apparent that the spider’s story is somewhat epic.  I mean, being washed down a water spout is certainly life-threatening to a spider.  So I opted to read the rhyme (using Audacity to record the piece) in such a way as to emphasize this dangerous event and the subsequent triumph of the spider.  I essentially ignoring the song-like nature of the piece and down-play the built in rhyme, and emphasize certain dramatic words (washed, dried, again).  Overall this was a fun little exercise that outlined the importance of tone in any form of sound.

Thinking About Audio Storytelling

It’s amazing how much information we gain simply through sound waves.  Sound can be incredibly powerful.  Patterns/tropes can emerge (think of the Wilhelm scream) and memories/feelings can be evoked (nails on a chalkboard, nostalgia from particular songs, etc.).  Each of the assignments this week reinforced the incredible diversity of sound and the implications associated with it.

For instance, Moon Graffiti clearly demonstrated the variety of audio that can be created.  The piece included alarms, dialogue, announcement/radio crackle, grunts, changes in breathing patterns, camera clicks, and echoes (to name a few), all of which enhanced the story that was being told.  Even small changes in volume and intonation could have a big impact, heightening suspense or creating stress through minute alterations.  This also demonstrated the power of a chronological timeline where the listener can immediately follow what is occurring and when (epic foreshadowing of the advice of Ira Glass…).

The importance of sound as a means to create a specific atmosphere was also emphasized by the pieces we listened to on ds106radio.  These stories all had sections with distinctly different tones (ranging from merely informational to horror).  It was clear that to create an atmosphere of suspense/horror, sometimes all you need to do is alter sound content/quality.  Some of my major observations are provided below.

I also really appreciated the insight of Ira Glass. He emphasized the usage of anecdotes (sequences of actions one after another, stories in their purest form), which have momentum in and of themselves, with a sort of innate destination.  He argued that you need to couple this with bait by constantly raising questions and implying that these will be answered.  During this process, having a moment of reflection allows you to inject meaning into the story.  He also provided some very honest advice, pointing out that it can be hard to find a decent story, and thus emphasized the “importance of abandoning crap”.  He explained that it’s all part of the process.  Being tough but allowing yourself to fail sets you up to cast a net wide enough to stumble across some truly amazing stories.  He also pointed out that there’s often a gap when you’re starting out in your chosen field.  Often you’ve got good taste but what you’re making isn’t living up to that taste.  He reassures the listener that everybody goes through this stage, and the best way to counteract that trend is to create a huge volume of work, which allows you to catch up and close this gap.  Finally, he pointed out two real errors in radio.  1. People will try to talk like people on tv/radio.  2. People will talk too much about themselves.  Her argued that you should be interested in other people and the world, which ultimately makes the story more engaging.  You can be a character, but shouldn’t ever be the center of your story.  This advice is certainly relevant to radio, but also has implications for other storytelling forms, such as writing and film-making.  Storytelling has certain innate qualities that are common across all mediums, which makes his advice particularly practical.

The particulars of radio were further explored in the piece, How Radio Creates Empathy.   This argued that the absence of pictures allows a sort of co-authorship, where the speaker paints the picture but the listener imagines it.  The narrator pointed out that co-imagining allows for a connection between speaker and listener, which is magnified by the power rooted in the human voice.  He speculated that perhaps this is why radio never dies.  I believe he may be right.  Television has existed for decades now, but it has never been able to eliminate radio, which I think speaks to its power as a medium in and of itself.

Finally, I really enjoyed the video on What is Foley Sound?  My main takeaway was “That looks like a fun job.”  Honestly those guys were practically stuntmen, but they simply don’t have to worry about the technicalities of cameras and staying in frame.  It also hints at some of the deception associated with sound, whereby certain things sound similar that in actuality have very different origins.

Overall I felt these readings and examples helped provide a better understanding of storytelling as it relates to sound, and emphasized the power and intricacies of this medium.  Sound is essential to creating mood, which is certainly something I’ve observed in my own life.  Within video-editing and creating movie-trailers, background music is essential.  (Think of how different the Inception trailer would be with something other than Mind Heist?

In fact, the music selection of a trailer is usually determined before any visual editing even begins.  Now I have a better understanding of why this is a common trend.  Its something that derives from the power of sound to craft mood and atmosphere.



Brainstorming Radio Show Ideas

Here’s a few of my rough ideas for the radio show project.  I’ve tried to focus on ideas that can be connected to the Internet, and then attempted to flesh them out.

  • Covering the most outlandish Internet news stories
    • What has gone viral, and why?
    • Fact-checking
    • What are the origins of each story?
    • In which social media platforms did they proliferate?
    • How much coverage did any corrections receive?
  • Discussing recently released movie trailers
    • Thoughts, reactions
    • Examining/analyzing popularity, spread, online discussion
    • Implications for the movie itself
    • Plot/tone speculation




Week 3 Summary

This week was a fun foray into the world of photography.  The Thinking About the Visuals of Storytelling assignment helped me evaluate my current photography skills and areas where I could make improvements (essentially in most areas).  I was also able to find images on Flickr that demonstrated these photography-improving techniques (many of these images were absolutely gorgeous, and provided a great series of goals to work towards).  Meanwhile the Photoblitz actually got me up and taking pictures!  This exercise in particular was quite fun, as it was truly experience-oriented.

I also found that the assignments themselves were quite fun.  The Meme assignment forced me to experiment with GIMP, which, while frustrating (as I was not at all familiar with the software), lead the creation of incredibly rewarding products.  Then came the Wanted Poster assignment, which allowed me to evaluate one of my favorite character’s history if she was viewed strictly as a villain by society (a very fun exercise).  I was also able to experiment some more with GIMP through editing a photograph to resemble a drawing, and creating an inspiring image from a bad photo.  I found that the more experience I gained with GIMP, the easier these projects became.  I also discovered that video tutorials were much easier to follow than written instructions when it came to learning how to properly use GIMP.  I’m hoping that by the end of the semester, I’ll be able to have a proper handle on this software.

Finally, I really enjoyed the daily creates this week.  Interestingly, two out of the three I chose were image-oriented (thus particularly fitting for this unit).



My photoblitz journey began at 6:21 pm in the HCC.

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At first, I took a picture of a magnolia tree as a “soulful” tree (they’re my mother’s favorite).


I knew I’d be hard-pressed to find fire on campus, so I opted to take a quick shot of a nearby fire hydrant.


I immediately thought of the Jepson fountain as an image that would have clouds, water, and stone in the frame, so ran over to Jepson to take a quick shot.


I wasn’t sure what to do for a picture merger, and thought I could perhaps capture two round images, so I quickly took a picture of a sewage lid.


I then wandered on the paths beside Arrington, hoping perhaps to see a squirrel.  I spotted a bird but it quickly fled deeper into the woods.  I snapped a quick picture of it, but the thick foliage made it almost impossible to distinguish it.


While in the woods, I noticed what appeared to be a much older, gnarlier tree that I chose to replace my “soulful” magnolia tree with.


While wandering these paths, I also saw a construction sign that had a 7 in it (my favorite number).


I then saw a straight metal pole next to a straight tree trunk which I felt could be merged in a nice contrast of artificiality vs nature.  I was unable to find a way to merge the two without serious post-editing (which seems to defeat the point of a 20 minute photoblitz, so essentially here are two contrasting, yet comparable images).

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I then decided to head back to the HCC, thinking I could grab a picture of a choice between the Mac and PC operating systems, but instead snapping a picture of a choice of browsers.


While by the computer, I saw a lady walking her dog, and quickly hurried outside to try to take a discreet/non-creepy picture of said pet.


I then ran back inside and took a picture of a clock with the ending time, 6:38.


Overall, I really enjoyed the exercise.  The time limit added pressure that made the endeavor more exciting, as you couldn’t focus on perfection.  In some ways, this made the task much less stressful.  This is not to say the exercise wasn’t frustrating at times (especially with the finicky bird).  But overall, I felt that this was a fun way to encourage people to move around and look for interesting shots.

Examples of the Techniques of Becoming Better Photographers

To look for examples highlighting the lessons learned in Becoming Better Photographers, I chose to search through Flickr.  Below are the images I found and analyzed.


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The first photographer clearly took the time to examine their surroundings in order to notice this face-like tree, and take it at the angle that best highlighted this resemblance.  The second photographer probably posed this picture with careful deliberation to make it look like the figure is looking at the wide expanse of water, and clearly focused on the figure itself (thus blurring out the background).



In this image, the white blossom stands out starkly against its background.



In this image, the photographer chose to take a picture that focused on the shadows of objects, rather than the objects themselves.



In this case, the submerged tree trunk helps create a sense of depth in comparison to the cliffs in the background.


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In the first image, a beautiful mirror image of a bird is created.  In the second, one third of the frame captures the water, while the other two-thirds are filled by the two starfish.


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In the first image, the photographer brilliantly captured the flight of a cat, while in the second, the photographer managed to capture this huddle of giraffes.



This image utilizes natural backlighting to create a shadowed figure.



In this image, a water spigot is in the foreground, helping to create a sense of depth when looking at the old farmhouses in the background.

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.


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.


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!



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.


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.

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