Reflection: Robert Ebert & Cinema Techniques

Robert Ebert’s “How to Read a Movie” takes the reader through various different cinema concepts that we have all seen before, whether we knew it or not. Concepts like the golden ratio or the rule of thirds. If you aren’t sure about these two concepts here are two Wikipedia articles: Golden Ratio & Rule of thirds. These are techniques that we have seen all around us our whole lives. Ebert explains in simplistic terms that, “Right is more positive, left more negative”. This is why you will often see the main character shot on the right side of most scenes in which they intend to draw contrast. For example, they could have the antagonist on the left part of the screen in the background while the protagonist is on the right side of the screen in the foreground. Another method noted by Ebert is that, “Extreme high angle shots make characters into pawns; low angles make them into gods”. This method makes complete sense to me, it is easy as the reader to picture this. If the camera is pointed way down toward a character it minimizes them into some character just taking part in the game. If the camera is from a low angle it exaggerates their frame making them so much more powerful than they actually are. Here is an example of an excellent low-angle shot:

Here is an example of a well done high-angle shot:

The difference between these two picture is drastic. In the picture of the Joker, you can tell he is in control. This type of shot carries with it a very specific visual language to the audience. It is powerful. Now on the other-hand, the high-angle shot is done to minimize the characters. It is showing that even though they are super heroes they are vulnerable, just like everyone else.

The Shining – Zooms

As the scene starts the camera is zooming along with the car, almost as if the director is drawing the audience in to the next part. It seems that in The Shining zoom is mainly used in order to build suspense for the audience. A zoom outward or inward in combination with suspenseful music can create quite a spooky atmosphere. They often use zoom to do one of two things in this movie. Firstly, they start very close to the subject an zoom outward until you’re able to see the entire environment. Secondly, they start in a big landscape and slowly zoom into the subject. A good example of this is to watch every zoom on Dick Hallorann.

Tarantino – From Below

This is a great example of the low-angle shots that we were referring to earlier. Quentin Tarantino is a master of the low-angle shot. He is forcing the audience to think of the subject matter as strong or powerful. This technique is very effective at building characters in movies.

I learned a lot by reading Robert Ebert’s “How to Read a Movie” and reviewing some of the techniques in the videos above. I had no idea how prevalent all these concepts are in nearly every movie. I think I will come away from this week with an new appreciation for good directors that are able to do so much with only cinema techniques. It is a way for them to communicate with the audience without outright just telling them information. It makes the audience feel like they are coming to the conclusion themselves.

Summary on Feedback

First off, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to leave some feedback on my posts! Thank you guys for helping me to improve on my assignments in the future. One thing that I myself think I have learned from reading other’s blog posts is that I write way too much most of the time. My mind is set in essay format all the time when I don’t think it should be. It should feel a lot more relaxed and free flowing while reading instead of a concrete essay format. I will do my best to change this in the future.

My favorite comments from this week was about my Create A Place assignment. Casey said,

“Hey Jacob! I enjoyed your final creation for the ‘create a place’ assignment. I did feel like I was in New York or a large city while listening to it. The beginning was my favorite because you had the birds screeching and the car horns honking at the same time and it was very loud and almost hurt my ears, which is the chaos I’d imagine I’d hear if I ever did visit New York. The rest of the video wasn’t as chaotic, with the trucks beeping and siren sounds only having melodious bird sounds in the background. I feel like it would have felt a little more like New York City if there had also been people talking, or tires screeching, or some other sounds also in the background to make it louder and sound more busy and populated. (But honestly what do I know, I’ve never been to New York 😆) Overall I really enjoyed your story!”.

This comment really stood out to me because they offered legit suggestions that I could implement into my assignment given the opportunity. I felt like this person really took the time to understand my assignment and then post some constructive feedback. Obviously, there were many other people that had comments similar to this one and appreciate you all!

In the future, I will do my best to try to actively respond to comments and update the assignment if it can be. I think that comments are such a valuable resource that I need to take more advantage of down the line. Thank you all that commented for taking the time to look at my assignments!

3 Weeks of Storytelling

This was a very great week for me personally. I feel like I picked up some amazing skills. Some of the most notable are being able to use Audacity and how to tell a story. Audacity is a program that I am so glad I am familiar with now. In high school we are taught essentially how the school systems wants us to tell a story and everyone is forced to do it the same way. This week we were able to step outside this box and create and tell our own story, which I really enjoyed.

Before this week I thought I had a good general understanding about audio storytelling but just like every week it seems, I was very wrong. I had listened to podcasts and radio stories before but I don’t think I really understood the techniques they were using. I learned from the first two assignments this week that I had no clue about storytelling compared to these people. Ira Glass, Jad Abumrad, TED Radio Hour, and ScottLo all blew me away by describing audio storytelling form their own perspectives. This was probably the most difficult part of the week for me as well. It was hard to teach myself to restructure stories instead of how we were always taught in school.

My favorite activity from this week has to be the Create A Place assignment. Since this was one of the last assignments that I did for the week I had a strong understanding of Audacity and felt like I was able to bring the vision in my head to life. I would for sure recommend this assignment to anyone who needs a fun assignment for the week. I don’t have any questions or concerns from this week.

Here are a collection of all the things I have completed in Week 3:

Reflections:

About Audio Storytelling Ira Glass and Jad Abumrad

Summarize TED Radio Hour and ScottLo

Moon Graffiti

Audio Assignments (12 Stars Needed):

Sound Effects Story (3.5 Stars)

80’s Product Radio Commercial (5 Stars)

Create a Place (4 Stars)

Daily Creates:

First

Second

Third

Fourth

5 Comments on other blogs:

First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Summary On Feedback From Comments:

Summary On Feedback

Create A Place

For the Create A Place assignment, I will be trying to depict a very busy New York City afternoon. Some sounds that I want to use to convey this to the listener are traffic, horns, maybe someone yelling, police sirens, and maybe even someone trying to call for a cab. All the sounds that I will be using in this assignment can be found at freesound.org. After working on several other Audio Storytelling assignments for this week, I don’t think this one will take too much time. I will be using Audacity as my audio editing software. There will be an in-depth guide on how I made this at the bottom of this post. Here is my finished product:

This picture of New York City was what I used as my inspiration in making this sound. I think I did a pretty good job of conveying this type of atmosphere to the audience.

How To Guide: The strategy for this assignment was very similar to how I have approached past audio assignments. First, I brain storm about my idea and what sounds I’m going to need to make this idea come to life. Then, I went to freesound.org and downloaded all the sounds I wanted to use. Next, I dragged all the sounds into Audacity. Once I had all the sounds, all that was left was to move them around where I wanted them. I did this simply by copying and pasting portions of each track on to my first sound. I also, tweaked some of the volume levels using the slider on the left side of the window. Let me know if you guys have any questions!

Here is a video I found helpful on some advanced tips for using Audacity:

80’s Product Radio Commercial

For the 80’s Product Radio Commercial assignment, I decided that I wanted to do it on some sort of cleaning supply. After a bit of research and by research I mean spending way too much time watching random 1980’s radio commercials. Some of these things are absolutely fascinating, they seem like they are made in another dimension. I realized that I would use these as my inspiration to create an 80’s radio commercial for a modern day product like OxiClean. This assignment will how an in-depth guide on how I created this at the bottom.

Here is the general break down of the script:

*Dinner sounds*

Narrator: “Ahh the Steven’s Family, enjoying a nice meal at the dinner table after a long week. Everything is going wonderful for them until…”

*Loud spilling sound*

Narrator: “Oh no, Jimmy has spilled lasagna all over his brand new white shirt!! Well, fear not Jimmy’s mom, I’ve got the product for you!”

Narrator:”OxiClean! OxiClean unleashes the power of oxygen making tough stains disappear like magic, without fading or bleeding the colors! It goes deep down to not only get rid of any stain but the odor as well.”

*Thanks sound*

Narrator: “No need to thank me Jimmy’s mom. Let this be a lesson learned. Don’t let a stain ruin your afternoon, go out and buy some OxiClean!”

Here is the finished product:

How To Guide: Once I had a general idea of what I wanted to do for this assignment, I first wrote out the script. This included all the external sounds that I wanted and my voice lines. Next, I went to freesound.org and downloaded all the sounds I wanted to use. Then in Audacity, I recorded all of my parts by using the red record button up in the top left. I then added in all my external sounds as there own individual tracks so that they wouldn’t interrupt my voice lines. I did this by simply dragging the files and dropping them into Audacity. I now had all the audio I wanted for my commercial inside my Audacity window, all that was left to do was organize and get everything into its place. I did this by simply cutting and pasting the sounds to the correct time I wanted them to play. I also went through to each audio track and adjusted the sound according to the part it plays in the overall commercial. This can be done by simply changing the volume slider on the left side of each audio track. Finally, I exported the file as an MP3 so that I could upload it to Sound Cloud. Let me know if you guys have any questions!

Sound Effects Story

This is my attempt at the Sound Effect Story Assignment. The story that I wanted to tell was extremely simple. A person wakes up in the morning to their alarm clock. They then go take a shower, eat breakfast, and brush their teeth. Afterwards, they go outside and warm their car up. While driving to work they get into an accident and an ambulance is called. I went with a rather simple story as this is my first time editing in Audacity. The story in total is around a minute long. I got the inspiration for this story from something that happened to me in real life a few years ago, don’t worry everyone was okay. So this is sort of a generalized re-telling of a story. Any ordinary day could turn into something like this so please drive safe. I got all my sounds from a single website called freesound.org. I will leave an in-depth guide on how I created this below the audio. Here is my attempt at this assignment:

How To Guide: Once I had the story that I wanted laid out in my head I simply went the website linked above and downloaded all the sounds I wanted to use. I opened Audacity and dragged all of the sounds into the window. So at this point, I had about 6 individual audio tracks that I wanted to all combine into one. Next, I simply copied sound #2 and then pasted it where I wanted it to go after sound #1. I repeated this with all my sounds until they were all on one single audio track. Once I tested it and liked what I made, I exported it as an MP3 and I was all finished. Let me know if you have any questions!!!

Below is a video that I used to help teach me the basics of Audacity. Personally, I would rather watch someone explain the program to me and not just go into it and try to figure things out myself.

Reflection: Moon Graffiti

This will be a reflection from The Truth Podcast’s “Moon Graffiti“. This was an excellent story to listen to the entire way through. You can really tell how much time went into creating this 16 minute master piece. Here are the notes that I was able to take while listening to this audio:

Here is the audio in case you want to follow along with my notes:

(0:38) – Right off the bat they hook the audience in with a sense of suspense for an event we don’t even understand. There are plenty of radio beeps and static added in as well to make the scene feel very realistic. The tone in the voices of the people in the control room even have a sense of unknown in them, like they are scared but don’t want to say anything.

(1:06) – All the suspense seems to come to a climax as the two are rapidly communicating before what sounds like a crash. All that is left after the loud crash are some dense atmospheric noises.

(1:22) – The silence is interrupted by a deep voice that exclaims these astronauts will be staying on the moon. It is revealed to be the start of a speech written for Richard Nixon titled, “In the event of a moon disaster”. The hook is over and the intro music to the podcast starts to play.

(3:12) – We jump right back into the scene of the two that have crashed. As they seem to frantically begin sorting things out, have they lost communications? Are their computers still working? Where do they go from here?

(4:30) – After getting their suits on they open the hatch as some creepy music begins to play. They get their camera ready to document pictures of the crash. They still don’t have any communication with their team. They are surprisingly calm at this point.

(6:07) – Once they have both exited the craft they start to describe everything that is going on around them in great detail. From, what it feels like to walk around to what the surface texture is like.

(7:14) – Buzz’s tone completely changes as the music does as well. He tells neil, “You’ve got to see this…”. We don’t quite know if its a good or bad thing. However, the music would suggest a bad thing. It ends up being that they find out they have no more fuel. They are grounded on the moon.

(11:06) – They begin to share stories as an attempt to distract themselves from the looming eminent death. The sound effects are amazingly immersing, especially the sounds of them planting the flag.

(12:13) – Layering audio starts to pace faster and faster before Neil is able to stop Buzz from what seems like passing out. The sounds increasing in speed and overlapping give the sensation that he is starting to dissociate from reality. He decides to lay down to help himself out.

(13:25) – The same speech that interrupted the two before starts to play again. This time it plays all the way through and is not cut off like earlier.

(15:17) – The ending music starts to play as the credits begin to roll.

Overall, I had a really great time listening to this podcast. The style was really what did it for me. Cutting in and out of their experience with the speech and mission control was brilliant. The music did an amazing job of letting the audience know how they should be feeling at that given time. They were able to make this such a dramatic fifteen minutes, something the audience was forced to stay and listen too. I would definitely recommend this podcast to anyone who is interested in drama or suspenseful stories!

Reflection: Ted Radio Hour and ScottLo

This post will be used as a notes section that I can write down things of importance as I am listening to both stories. The first audio I will be listening to is TED Radio Hour Audio Demo and the second is the LoDown Episode 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.

Notes on the TED Radio Hour Audio Demo (with timestamps):

(0:25) – Immediately as the background of the story is starting the narrator uses both himself and the subjects voicelines. It is almost like they are bouncing back-and-forth from one another.

(0:45) – Upbeat background music starts to play as the narrator continues to talk about a sociable robot.

(0:54) – There is a clear exchange in scene here. From the narrator to the subjects point of view. She seems to be describing what it felt like interacting with the robot and why it was so effective for the elderly. It is also worth noting she was very descriptive about the way the robot looked and felt.

(1:42) – The uplifting music continues as the subject goes on and on about how much this brought to this elderly woman. Kind of feels like they are trying to “sell” or “pitch” the audience the robot idea.

(2:16) – A dramatic shift in tone occurs near this point. Music fades, she admits that she feels very depressed.

(2:30) – The audience seems to be kind of left at a cliff hanger along with so many questions. The audio then shifts again into an intro to the radio show, introducing the speakers and subject matter for the episode. It seems that this dramatic build up was used to draw the audience in and get them to want to listen to the rest of the show. This was very well executed.

Notes on the LoDown Episodes:

The first episode was used as a sort of introduction to what the point of these radio shows will be. He will be going over assignments and radio plays that are created by students. He has had a long time interest in radio storytelling and is a valuable resource to gain information on the topic.

The one episode that really stood out to me was episode 12. I feel that I was able to really take a lot of information away from this episode specifically. At one point in the episode, he brings up narrating your process of creating a radio story. Now, he is talking about doing this in a group but I think this can be translated to be applied to solo work as well. By doing something like narrating and taking notes along the way of creating something like this, you are able to go back and see what you were thinking at a particular time. So lets say you do something wrong, instead of thinking, “Oh, Ill just do it right next time”. You are instead able to get back into your brain at the time you made the decision. I think this is actually how people begin to learn. When you can look back and change a point in which you made the wrong decision. You can then have evidence to show yourself why the decision you made at the time was wrong. For me personally, this is how I absorb information from past mistakes that I have made.

In conclusion, both of these audio tapes gave me a lot of valuable information. I think that in my opinion the first audio was easier for me to understand. It was easier for me to listen to a audio story and take notes on the important things that were happening. Things like the change in tone, background music, layered audios, and who was speaking. I was then able to go back and ask myself what each of these devices added to the story. For example, the change in background music came at a scene change once and a tone shift once. I believe that I will be able to walk away from these audio recordings with a whole new understanding about audio storytelling.

What I have learned about Audio Storytelling…

This post will be a combination of all of the key aspects that I have learned about audio storytelling from two sources. The first is an interview of Ira Glass on Storytelling and the second is Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad: How Radio Creates Empathy.

From Ira Glass’s perspective there are two main building blocks for audio storytelling. The first is the anecdote, which is a short amusing story about a real incident or person. This will most likely be used to get the listener more involved with the story very easily. As Ira Glass describes an anecdotes, “is a story in its purest form”. No matter how boring the subject matter is when it is put into a narrative anecdotal format the listener will connect to it. It has momentum when it is told in this format as one event leads to the next and so on and so forth. When stories are told like this it build some inherent suspense that something will eventually happen. It is like you are on a train that has a destination, but no one knows where it is going yet.

Another important part is the bait to the story. You as the director want the audience to constantly be raising questions about the story. For example, a question you might want the audience to come up with is, “Why is it so dark in this room?” “Why is it so quiet in this room?”. This starts to get the audience engaged with the story so that these questions can later be answered within the story.

The second main building block to the story is a moment of reflection. This is summed up as pretty much the reason you’re listening to this story. It is somewhat of a revealing from the director as to where this is going or its purpose. Here is the bigger thing we are going toward. From the train example, it would be a revealing of the destination.

From Jad Abumrad’s perspective, audio storytelling is a cool thing because of the absence of pictures. It enables the simple fact of having to describe things to your audience. You are instructing the audience to paint a picture with their own paintbrush. For example, I woke up this morning and gazed out toward the sun. It was a warm peachy color. From this scenario, you might have pictured something in your mind. It was you who painted that picture in your mind just from my words. Jad Abumrad describes this act as, “co-authorship”, in which the director gives the paint and the listener paints the picture. The director and listener are sort of connected and that is what makes audio storytelling a really beautiful form of storytelling.

In conclusion, I have learned so much from these videos already and the week has only just started. I feel like I have a better understanding of why audio storytelling can be so powerful even without any real images like you would see in visual storytelling. My three main takeaways from these videos are the bait, anecdotes, moment of clarity, and co-authorship.

2 Weeks of Storytelling

This week of digital storytelling was all about design. From general design resources to vital design principles that will change the way you look at anything you make from now on. Design is something that is not exactly hard to find if you take time to look around. It factors into almost every object or thing we see in our everyday lives. I feel that I was able to complete all of this weeks requirements fairly easy. It seems that as the weeks go on, I am able to better engage with the material to take more in at a time.

One assignment that did give me some trouble this week was my reflection on The Vignelli Canon. I think that I found this difficult as a start to the week because I had not done much with design principles before then. I believe that if I were to go back and re-read it, I would be able to take away a lot more information. It was just hard to commit time to reading about all of these principles that I didn’t necessarily understand fully.

One assignment that I really enjoyed from this week was the Design Blitz. This was a very fun assignment for me because I was able to see these valuable principles actually in the real world. I think that I learn a lot more when I am forced to go out and contextualize these things in the real world.

One area that I would do differently given the opportunity to go back would be Best sports Play gif. I feel like I was unable to really capture the atmosphere of the game in the short 20 something frames that I chose. If I were to do it differently I might just choose a different point in the game or just make it double the length to get the entire scene.

In conclusion, I really feel like I learned a lot about design from this week. These assignments forced me out of my comfort zone to apply these design principles in the real world. I also picked up some valuable skill from this week like learning how easy it is to make a gif all by myself. I also have learned that I prefer to work with GIMP rather than Photoshop when possible.

Assignments:

Reflection on The Vignelli Canon

Design Blitz

Daily Creates:

June 29th

July 1st

July 2nd

July 3rd

Design Assignments (14 Total Stars):

Are We There Yet? (3 Stars)

My Simple Logo (4 Stars)

Motivational Poster (2 Stars)

Contradiction Creation (2.5 Stars)

Favorite Movie Quote (2.5 Stars)

Animated Gif Assignments:

Animals Doing Funny Things

Best Sports Play