Camera Almighty

For this assignment I took a look at a clip from an oldie but goodie, Bruce Almighty. I am huge Steve Carell fan, so this was the perfect clip for me to analyze.

I took a look at this clip from three different vantages to fully appreciate the various elements of the film.

1. Camera Work 

The first element I looked at was the visual. I noticed that the clip starts out from the inside of a room that the main character, Bruce, was looking into. The camera then cuts to see the same room from Bruce’s view on the other side of the glass. This idea of parallel views is then revisited in the next part of the scene which starts out with Bruce watching Evan the anchorman on the TVs in the production room, to then watching him live in the studio. The scene seems to focus on individual characters at a time jump cutting to the funny facial expressions of Bruce, Evan, and the news producer.

The director then uses the “from below” angle I mentioned learning about in a previous post, to show the character of Bruce doing something devious, although it’s hard to tell what he’s up to without the context of the sound. The camera angles then move back to the individuals jump cutting to multiple characters clearly indicating that something is not usual about this news broadcast. When the camera moves to show the news teleprompter, we can then realize that the text is not usual of a news broadcast and that Evan the anchor is reading some pretty silly and incriminating stuff to the world. The camera moves back and forth from the anchor to the production crew indicating showing the anchor trying to remain calm and the crew frantically trying to figure out what is going wrong.

The camera then goes back and forth between Bruce and Evan demonstrating that what Bruce is doing is manipulating Evan somehow as Evan, seemingly uncontrollably, replicates Bruce’s actions. The clip concludes with this understanding as Evan’s co-anchor looks on with confusion and then cuts to Bruce laughing in the back.

2. Audio Track 

The next thing I looked at was the audio track. The clip opens with standard news intro music and the announcer introducing the news casters. We then hear the news music soften as the co-anchors introduce themselves and Evan uses his catch phrase “Here’s what’s making news.” He begins a normal news story when he suddenly makes a strange sound, then clears his throat. He can’t seem to lose the strange voice and noise as his co-anchor offers him a glass of water.

Evan recovers and his voice is back to normal, although the text he’s reciting is not a normal news story. The scene then cuts to the production team confused about what was being said. The production team is instructed to check the prompter and we hear some light sound affects as buttons are click and equipment is moved. As Evan continues to read strange stories, we hear overlayed a chuckle from someone else. We then hear the rustling of paper as Evan apologies for the technical difficulties, but we are soon met then with the sounds of flatulence as Evan continues to apologize. The remainder of the clip is Evan speaking loudly but incoherently and ends with a small snippet of the news music used in the intro.

3. The Whole Shabang 

This clip is a great example of how video and audio work together. Without the audio, it’s not clear what exactly is wrong with the broadcast as we can’t hear the bizarre sounds or text from Evan. Without the video, we may not gather that Evan’s character is being manipulated by Bruce, because we can’t hear Bruce or know what he’s doing in the scene. The panic in the voices of the production crew combine with the jump cut editing, creates a sense of nervousness as the audience waits to see how everyone will respond.

Another thing I think the audio and video combined help emphasize was the comedic element of the scene. The main actors in this scene are both very expressive and outlandish, but without the audio, there is a lack of story to their expressiveness. On the other hand, without the video we lose most of what the clip is about in that we can’t see that Evan is being manipulated.

It’s clear that these elements must work together to create the story for this clip, but in thinking back to the audio stories of the age of radio such as Little Orphan Annie, or the silent films of the 1920s, both methods worked very effectively without the other element. Perhaps it’s not that both are necessary, but rather both are tools in storytelling. Building the story is principle, which tools are used in support of the story are left to the designer/director to decide.

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Going Hollywood

This week I learned how to “read” movies and got some insight on editing movies from a movie-maker’s perspective. It all started with a quote from Roger Ebert’s article “How to Read a Movie.” Although sitting through a movie shot-by-shot sounds extremely tedious, I think that the overall observations Ebert makes can be found in most shots of a movie and are true whether or not we even notice them. What was also interesting was that many of the techniques he speaks of ring true of photography as well such as the rule of thirds, and the dominance positions.

Ebert states that “A POV above a character’s eyeline reduces him; below the eyeline, enhances him.” This related to another video I watched around editing and Tarantino’s tendency to shoot from below. Most of the clips used are from the perspective of a victim and include laughing, guns being pointed to the camera, the camera angle being from the inside of a truck, etc. This seemed to emphasize Ebert’s point as I noticed that the POV from below gives the actors power over the audience. 

The second video I watched was on editing techniques. As I plan on having video editing as a major piece of my final project, this video was particularly useful. I think I will narrow down a couple of these techniques, especially the jump cut (because my story is from three perspectives), tempo/rhythm (as I will be adding songs and music) and thawed/freeze frames as I include pictures.

More of a Consumer

I actually already had a SoundCloud account before this assignment, but have never uploaded anything to my account. I had created it a while ago to listen to some of my friend’s music, but never really felt like I had much to contribute to that world.

I changed my avatar to match that which is on my blog and started to think about what my first post should be. I recalled a beautiful quote a friend of mine recently posted to Facebook and decided to do share it via spoken word on SoundCloud.

Here’s how it turned out.

“Love has no middle term; either it destroys, or it saves. All human destiny is this dilemma. This dilemma, destruction or salvation, no fate proposes more inexorably than love. Love is life, if it is not death. Cradle; coffin, too. The same sentiment says yes and no in the human heart. Of all the things God has made, the human heart is the one that sheds most light, and alas! most night.”

–Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

I look forward to experimenting further with the site and incorporating other Audio editing tools!

Design Huntin’

This week I had the opportunity to search for and observe various designs though the eyes of the design elements document.

The first design element I found was Typography in this adorable invitation for a baby shower hanging on my fridge.

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I thought this was the perfect example of typography as it used multiple styles of fonts and colors as part of it’s design. The top part of the invitation is all in serif font with the words “Baby Girl” significantly larger than the rest of the text. I’ve cut off the details of the location and time of the party, but you can see that the text below the words “Baby Girl” are small and sans serif, a nice contrast to the more general information above. I also loved the use of color against a dark background to provide a unique take to a baby shower for a girl. Our attention is drawn to the fact that our friends are having a baby girl without the invitation having to be pastel pink with images of rattles and strollers.

The second design element I found on my safari was Rhythm in the poster below. I didn’t actually take this picture, but rather found it on Pinterest on what I think is a Japanese blog.

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I’m not sure the context around this poster since the blog is all in Japanese, but I did think it was an excellent portrayal of Rhythm and most of the Principles of Design. This poster demonstrates both repetition and the alternation of elements. The way the legs flow in and out of being a male or female leg in the mind force the viewer to take a second to pause to contemplate the image. It establishes a pattern using bold and contrasting black and white, perhaps indicating the uniformity of men and women in society or demonstrating the stark contrast between them.

The third design element I found was Minimalism and Use of Space.

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This is a book cover for a book called The Story. The cover uses a simple white background, limited text, and one symbolic image to illustrate it’s point. The book is based off of the Bible which is well known for having a long and somewhat confusing history, so I think it was a smart design choice to keep this book cover simple and minimalist. I am personally a huge fan of white space and think it adds a lot of power, and can evoke many emotions when used in design.

Five Cards, One Story

Five Card Flickr was certainly a game of chance. I found myself anxiously waiting as each round of images popped up, my head filling with potential stories and intricate characters. My five image story came rather naturally to me, especially going back to the theme of my blog.


Five Card Story: Where does my water come from?

a Five Card Flickr story created by AprilShowersMayFlower


flickr photo by Serenae


flickr photo by Serenae


flickr photo by bionicteaching


flickr photo by cogdogblog


flickr photo by bionicteaching

A child asked her mother how the plants she sees every week in a restaurant grow. Her mother then explains that the plant needs water to grow, but the child was not satisfied. “Where does the water come from?” she implored of her mother. Her mother then explained that the water comes from the ocean to the near by bay, it then goes through pipes and filters where it becomes available to us through faucets. The owners of the restaurant have to get the water from the faucet to water the plants. The child thought about the path of the plant’s water as she admired the plant and the rest of the family was able to eat their meal in peace in the restaurant.


I wanted to illustrate the path that water takes to grow the plant that became my first image. I found myself thinking that this was too simple of a story, but I realized that the point of Five Card Flickr is not to write a novel, but to open the mind to the possibilities of stories and themes in the most random of circumstances.

The Radio Star’s Not Dead

This week I was introduced to a variety of audio editing and producing methods, the first of which being sound layering.

It was great to see how, as in the Joanne Rosser story, audio layers can effectively pull a story from what could otherwise be construed as a boring interview. We joined Joanne on the journey of creating paper cards starting from the moment of walking in the door and up the stairs to her workshop. The differences between active tape, stationary interview, and ambient sounds were especially fascinating. Hearing her describe her personal story over the sounds of the metaphor helped to pull the picture together. Each element of sound served a purpose. The active tape helped us walk through her process of creating paper, while the stationary interview helped demonstrate the deeper level of meaning in why she creates paper in this particular town. The sounds of the blender and other ambient sounds on their own serve as paragraph indents, starting off a new section of the story.

Another interesting audio technique explored was the absence of audio completely. In the case of the TED Radio Hour clip the background music stopping signified a surprise, or unexpected change in the story. It brought to mind a scene from The Office in which the director included nearly 30 seconds of silence between two characters.

In this case it brings the audience to empathize with the tension and awkwardness between the characters. Similar to the TED Radio Hour clip mentioned above, when the music stops and there is silence, we feel uncomfortable, like we’re not sure if it was supposed to happen that way.

In listening to the Radio Lab audio A Very Lucky Wind, I noticed a great amount of audio techniques. The hosts used sound effects, music fit for the mood of each piece of the story, and narrative layered over the story being told to help bring home the points they wanted to make. It was clear that the interviews, narrative, and sound effects were not all from one sit down interview, but rather elements layered on one another. This method is even used on the singular voice of the narrator to build tempo and anticipation.

I think the audio did a really good job of incorporating the right type of music for each piece of the clip. When discussing the “spookiness” of the coincidences, we heard spooky music and a fade our repetition. When discussing the future, we heard futuristic music. My favorite effect was the sound used as the narrators described zooming in and out of the country as they discussed specific areas of the country. With this effect, I really could picture zooming to the various locations they mentioned.

To Sell or To Connect?

An example I have of something that could be “storified” is a presentation I was tasked to pull together for the volunteering I do at my church. Four people have decided to join our church and will be baptized in two weeks. We wanted to pull together a presentation about them to share with the congregation. This was just going to be a slide or two on each of them and the decision they made to join the church, but I think that similar to the Google Nexus commercial, adding elements of their journeys and decision making process would be so much more powerful than a few slides on where they live and what they do for a living. I’m not sure this will work given that I don’t know too much about their stories now, or if they would be open to participating in something deeper than the original PowerPoint, but I will continue to look into the option as I think on other examples that may work.

From Grandpa’s Living Room to the Blog

Storytelling to me brings to mind my grandfather. He loves to tell stories about history, his own life, a great book he’s read, pretty much anything. Storytelling to me, therefore, is sharing an experience, whether personally or indirectly, that has had a lasting impression on you. Sometimes it’s a funny story meant purely for entertainment, other times there is a moral lesson involved.

I suppose storytelling currently has a place in my life on client site as a consultant. We’re always thinking in the structure of stories as we look for ways to improve efficiencies in the struggles our clients currently face, and look to help them find their “happy ending” and resolution.

I personally think I can always learn from a story I hear, especially as someone who always tries to learn from the mistakes/successes of others. Stories are a way to share in the growth and experience of the storyteller without necessarily having to feel the pain or heartbreak that they experienced firsthand.

Digital storytelling seems to me to be a change in method, not in content. Instead of hearing my Grandfather tell his story in his living room, I can see his story through his use of social media, the pictures he takes and puts into a digital album, the blog post he writes about a recent experience or thought he had. These are more figurative examples than literal, but the point is that digital storytelling is changing the way in which we tell stories, and the number of people we can reach with our stories, rather than the type of content we include in our stories.

Ira Glass seemed to follow this same idea in his discussion of the anecdote as a building block of storytelling. From the audience’s perspective it’s about sharing an experience with the character. A feeling of suspense, or excitement, or disappointment.  The moment of reflection is the moment the character decides what to do with the experience s/he just had. Glass describes the combination of these two elements as the makings of a great story, that when they are accurately aligned, they become larger than the sum of their parts. I suppose this is usually the punchline in my grandfather’s joke, or the takeaway he wants us to learn from that story.

Andrew Stanton describes great story telling as making a promise to the audience that the story will lead somewhere that’s worth your time. If the audience believes this promise, they will be patient and “work for their meal.” In other words they will be willing to give you the freedom to break storytelling “rules” as was the case in Toy Story. On the other hand, if things become too static in the story, it will die and you will lose the audience quickly. Stanton brought it back to the heart of my grandfather’s stories when he described wonder as the greatest gift you can give your audience. One thing’s for sure, my grandfather always speaks to what is in his core and to a captive audience of me, has never broken his key promise of leading me through a story worth my time.

A Cinderella of a Different Sort

When asked to think about a story I’m familiar with, I thought through various movies, plays and books I’ve read but none seemed to quite hit the mark in the way I envisioned. Since the theme of my blog is spring (despite the snow outside) I thought about what was happening during springtime that could be reflected in the types of stories Mr. Vonnegut spoke of. March Madness has seemed to overtake our household, so I began to think about all of the “Cinderella Stories” we hear about when it comes to college basketball. It reminded me of all of the teams that were expected to be knocked out in the first round and have succeeded, as underdogs, over their competitors. This led me to remember a time in 2006 when our very own Mason Patriots had their own Cinderella story and made it to the Final Four.

The diagram below illustrates this very story in a shape as described by Vonnegut.

A Story of Patriots

 

Not surprisingly, it has a similar shape to the original “Cinderella Story” although because Mason didn’t win the championship, and has yet to make it that far in the tournament again, the team did not find eternal bliss. However, other than that, the team did find a unique opportunity in making the tournament, step by step continued to progress until they historically reached the Final Four, but were eventually defeated. Although they have yet to see that kind of success again, the university reaped the benefits of being a known university to young applicants, and the coach eventually got offered a position in sunny Miami. To create the shape of the story above, I used PowerPoint insert shape and text tools and pulled the Mason logo from the University website.

When reading the 22 Rules of Storytelling Pixar Uses to Create Compelling Stories, the first one really stood out as a characteristic of this story. “#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.” In this case, the character is the George Mason basketball team who surpassed all expectations. Despite not making it to the championship, or winning the tournament overall, the team came back to a supportive campus and loyal fans who saw that the accomplishment of the team far exceeded what was anticipated and found that fact to be worthy of support and admiration.

This is more fully realized in the story spine format below.

  • Once upon a time the Patriots were an average NCAA team in the CAA.
  • Every day since 1997, head coach Jim Larranaga led them in practice and games without much expectation.
  • But one day although the team lost to Hofstra during the CAA tournament, George Mason was still able to grab an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.
  • Because of that the at-large selection of teams from mid-major conferences (which included George Mason) to the tournament was criticized by media personalities.
  • Because of that the Patriots were dubbed the underdogs when they entered the tournament as an 11th seed and defeated the 6th seeded Michigan State Spartans. They continued to find success beating team after team.
  • Because of that success, the Patriots were the first team out of the CAA to reach the Final Four.
  • Until finally George Mason’s Cinderella story ended in Indianapolis, when the eventual National Champion Florida Gators defeated them 73–58 on April 1, 2006.
  • And ever since then, despite their loss, many sports analysts considered their performance in the 2006 tourney to be the best run by a mid-major in tournament history. Coach Larranaga received many awards for that year and went on to be offered a coaching job in Miami.

This story is a great illustration of the methods we watched and read about this week. It is a story of perseverance and accomplishment against all odds.

 

I Know It’s Snowing But It’s Really Spring

As the start of Spring is finally here, I decided to theme my site around this wonderful season. I currently use WordPress to manage a website so working with the site wasn’t brand new to me, but I have never set up a site from scratch. It’s a lot of fun to work with the themes and colors to center around the main idea of the page. One thing I do on the other site I manage, is coincide colors along with series we have going on. It’s a great way to tie everything together and present a cohesive brand.

I took the picture below (also used as my icon and gravatar) at a get-away a couple years back. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment spent outside that really represents everything I love about Spring and served as inspiration for the theme of the blog.

Happy reading!

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