Category Archives: Reflections

Reflection on Roger Ebert’s “How to Read a Movie”

In the article “How to Read a Movie,” Roger Ebert gives a brief discussion on the various rules of thumb used in movie and video production. Many of these he states are not absolutes to be followed in film production and review, but rather “tendencies” that nearly ever producer and culture adhere to in the thousands of clips he has viewed.

I appreciate the fact that Ebert gave us these “rules of thumb” in simplistic terms. I felt that myself and others lacking film knowledge could understand what was being discussed and some of the techniques utilized in film production. I found Ebert’s discussion on placement within the film screen to be very convincing. Generally, the right side is favored over the left side. I could think of many other films where this is so. Often, in movies with superheroes and villains, the “good guy” will be placed on the right side of the screen, where the “bad guy” will be placed on the left side of the screen. For example:

The Avengers (2012): Loki (the villain) is on the left-hand side of the screen, where the Hulk (the good guy) is on the right-hand side of the screen.

I also thought that Ebert’s description of screen tilt’s and the emotional response within the audience was highly convincing. As Ebert states, “[t]ilt shots of course put everything on a diagonal, implying the world is out of balance.” As a movie-viewer, I can say that points where the screen is off-balance and tilted, are emotionally uncomfortable and jarring. Mentally, I need everything to be set straight and in the correct place. For example:

Transformers: In this shot, the screen is tilted to the right. Ebert states that tilting to the right suggests the characters are “sliding perilously into their futures.” This could not be more true for the this movie as Sam (the main character) has a conversation with Optimus Prime about the “impending doom and battle” to come later on in the movie.

Overall, I found Ebert’s article to very informative and interesting. When viewing movies and film, I had never realized that I was unconsciously being affected by the techniques and choices of the producers. I will take many of the tips provided by Ebert to heart as we enter into this week of Video Storytelling.

 

Radio Show Reviews

This week we had to review another group’s radio show, as well as our own. We were asked to evaluate them according to audio sound and editing quality, use of sound effects and music and the show’s structure and story. I had the chance to listen to and evaluate Wacky History which gave several informational segments on some wacky things/objects in history. Overall, I felt that this was a great show that communicated some interesting information to its audience, and I learned a lot of unique history that I hadn’t heard of before.

For their audio sound and editing quality, I’d say that Wacky History did okay. For most of the show, I was able to track what was being said any by whom. However, the entirety of the show did seem pieced together, and there were moments where I wasn’t sure if a pause was indicating a transition or just the editing choices of the group. Some of the pauses were definitely awkwardly long, yet were a continuation of the same topic. Sometimes I expected them to move onto a new discussion, but they continued on with what was discussed before.

For sound effects and music. I liked the introduction and background music the radio show group utilized. It was catchy and entertaining, and I think it’s important that they used a catchy tune for the introduction because it drew me in to listen to the rest of the radio show. However, there were also some times where the music/sounds effects would overpower the volume of the speakers. At times it was hard to make out what exactly was being said. I think it’s also important to note the sound effects used throughout the show were different and varied. Normally, I would say that this would take away from the cohesiveness of the show as a whole, but I think it helped in the sense that it kept the show interesting. Each new sound effect or choice of music gave the show a uniqueness and surprise that kept myself as a listener engaged.

For the show’s structure and story, I thought the group did an excellent job of communicating their information in a cohesive and understandable format. The introduction maybe could have been more informative about everything that would be discussed. I understood that they show would be spent discussing wacky history, but I felt myself as a listener wanting to know everything that would be discussed. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to stay and hear the rest of the show. I think they definitely could have benefited from an interesting tagline at the beginning to draw their audience in more. Other than this though, I enjoyed listening to their show. Some of the transitions were awkward, but I left with a good sense of the wacky history behind dentures and wedding bands. They communicated a great story that was informative while also interesting and funny.

Overall, I would give this show 3.5 out of 5 stars. Wacky History gave their listeners some interesting facts about dentures and wedding bands, keeping their audience engaged through sounds effects and music. Some of the transitions could have been clearer, and given some professional editing, this would be a perfect show.

 

For my own group’s radio show, we decided to discuss fun health science topics/facts on DS106 Radio’s “The Verge.”

For audio and sound editing quality, I felt that we did a decent job. Some of the transitions were a bit awkward/too long of a pause given that we didn’t record this all in one sitting. However, I found that I was able to efficiently follow along into the next segments of discussion. I thought the volume levels were appropriate, though at times some sections were louder than others. Most of the segments were free of background noise, but there were moments where I could hear the speakers messing with something in the background or clicking around of their computer. I know I am a victim of this at well, and after listening through our radio show again, I more quickly noticed these distractions.

For sound effects and music, I think we chose relevant music for the introduction, commercials, transitions and bumpers. Especially at the beginning, I felt that the track MIranda chose made me think of science and discovery of new ideas/experiments which was something we were trying to achieve in our radio show. At some points, like many of the other radio shows, the volume of the background music and sounds effects would overpower that of the speaker. Because I knew everything that was being discussed, I didn’t have a hard time personally realizing what was being said. However, I can see how this might get in the way of another listener who did not initially know all of the topics being discussed.

For the overall structure and story of the show, I felt that by the end of the radio show, the audience had a good sense of all of the information we wished to communicate. I liked that we discussed multiple interesting topics. This kept myself from becoming bored with a couple topics being dragged on for the entirety of the show. I also think it was super helpful that we discussed everything that would covered in the radio show, as well as gave introductions to the speakers. I found that this made me more engaged as a listener because I was expectant of what was coming next.

Overall, I would give our show 4 out of 5 stars. I felt that we effectively communicated our science topics as well as used audio techniques to keep our audience engaged. Personally, I came away from this project knowing more about health science as well as audio storytelling.

Reflection on The Vignelli Canon

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this booklet, The Vignelli Canon. It presented great insight and thoughtful information to consider as we enter into this week of Graphic Design. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed reading this book so much, and I feel as though I have a new-found passion for Graphic Design. It was so interesting to me, and I feel that from this point forward I will notice many of the elements pointed out by Massimo Vignelli.

Vignelli’s main purpose in producing this pamphlet was to introduce his audience to the basic elements of graphic design. So many people nowadays do not know of the many details involved in creating Design. He listed many including both the tangible and intangible aspects of Design. Some of the most interesting ones he brought up were Semantics, Syntactics and Pragmatics. I found these to be particularly intriguing because I am an English major and connected them to much of how Literature is created and produced. Like a written text, Design must have meaning as well as a cohesive structure and understanding by the audience. Without these things, Vignelli argues for the overall purpose of the piece. Vignelli also discusses the various elements within graphic design from typography to texture or color. I think these will all be important elements to keep in mind as we create our own Design Assignments this week for class. One last point I would like to highlight from the booklet is Vignelli’s approach to ambiguity. Like before, ambiguity in literature represents when something has several meanings, not just vagueness or apathy. Graphic Designs hold a plurality of meanings given context, personal experience and execution. I believe this is an important point to remember for the remainder of the semester as we approach the rest of our assignments. We are creating Designs meant to have meaning, yet those meanings will differ greatly amongst all of us. This is such a powerful human tendency that we need to take advantage of!

Listening to Stories: Getting Away with It

I chose to listen to an episode of The American Life entitled “Getting Away with It.” Overall, I really enjoyed listening to the stories, most of them being quite humorous. It’s amazing some of the crazy things people can get themselves into, while skating by without any consequences!

As far as the audio techniques and elements go, a majority of the radio show was dedicated to the recounting of the individual stories. The producer chose to present them in various ways. The show began with what seemed like a real-time interview, intermixed with various interjections from the interviewer. These interjections tended to be comments and explanations on what the interviewee was saying. This section, the Prologue, gave the audience a snippet or sneak peek of what to expect for the remainder of the episode, various individuals telling stories of how they got away with something. The host of the show was also very direct in describing the purpose/focus of the episode. Following the Prologue, the host introduced the next segment as if it was a cliff hanger to keep the audience entertained. This very much relates to one of the main building blocks of audio storytelling as discussed by Ira Glass. By giving listeners an idea of what to expect next, but not fully revealing it, the host kept listeners engaged for the entirety of the show.

Some other elements utilized, were instrumental/musical interludes. Many times, I noticed that these musical segments were used as transitional indicators. They would often lead listeners from one scene/event to the next. The music was also played in the background of interviews and conversations as well. When I listened closely, I noticed too that the music played was meant to elicit a specific emotional response within the listener’s mind. As a story would get more suspenseful, the music would build and grow in volume and speed, or when a particularly funny or lighthearted moment occurred, a more relaxed, playful song would be going on in the background.

I don’t think I would have noticed many of these audio techniques or elements if I had not approached the radio show with prior knowledge. However, I am astounded at the many details that can go into something that I first assumed to be so simple. This does make it a little more daunting to have to make our own audio stories, but I’m hopeful that it will be a great learning experience.

Reflection on Jad Abumrad’s Radio Empathy

I LOVED this interview, short and sweet, but directly to the point of something that I think is so important. I never wondered much about radio and the techniques behind selling/marketing radio stories and audio pieces. However, Abumrad brings to light an important point that the compelling aspects of radio lie solely in the human voice. I’m and English major, and I fully understand what it’s like to have words and sentences before you, yet no picture from the author. I never thought of radio in this way, but it could not be more true. As Abumrad states, there is no visual aspect to radio. Instead, words spoke by the newscaster or whoever it may be, are left to be visually created and imagined by the audience. This is so powerful. Both author and audience/listener have the authority to paint whatever picture in their minds, creating this deep and intimate connection between the two groups of people. This is such a powerful aspect of literature, and I think it’s important to note and take to heart that this is also an important element to audio production. This all definitely gives me a new perspective on creating/producing/sharing audio stories.

Reflection on Ira Glass & Audio Storytelling

Ira Glass’s response and description of audio storytelling really opened my eyes to a new perspective and style of telling stories. Personally, yes I am afraid to tell stories through audio techniques, but I’m hopeful that it will be a good experience.

Glass made many good points throughout. He first discussed the two main building blocks of an audio story: anecdotes and moments of reflection. These were helpful to consider for our upcoming assignments. Anecdotes are simply a series/sequence of events that all stories must follow in order to keep readers interested. As the storyteller it is your job to continue raising questions and baiting the audience, otherwise they will have nothing holding them down. On top of this sequence of events, Glass notes that when telling a story through broadcast you need to have moments of reflections set aside for the listener. What is the big picture? What is your purpose of even telling the story? People need to leave with a solid reason for listening, give them something worth discussing once your story has been told!

Glass also made many great points about finding a great story. It’s important not to give up on finding a great story, because Glass notes that this often takes more time dedication than actually creating the story itself. I’ve found this to be true in some of our assignments already, as I take more time to create and dream up my ideas for the assignment. It usually takes me much less time to execute and create the final product.

Another helpful tip made by Glass, is that when telling an audio story, don’t try to sound like newscasters or the people on TV. Glass states that it’s much more compelling for the audience when they hear your real voice, so just talk normally! You need not emphasize every other word or carry this fake tone in your voice. An audience will connect with your story if you talk like you would any other time of day.

Reflection on Louis the Hedgehog

I enjoyed this assignment! It didn’t feel to constricting or objective because it’s really up to myself and other viewers to determine the actual story told by the five pictures. These pictures happen to be of my hedgehog, King Louis, that I got with my fiance. We took this video the day we picked him out at only 8 weeks old! He’s such a cute little fellow, and we couldn’t help but record him exploring his new surroundings. I had some trouble taking clear screenshots of the video on my phone, so I decided to go into Facebook where I had posted the video and see what I could do from there. I clicked on “Edit Video” and saw an option within that section to change the thumbnails. All of the available thumbnails were clear. I right clicked the image of the various thumbnails and saved them to my computer. I then posted five of them together for this digital storytelling assignment. This is good to know for the future if I ever want to capture a specific moment from videos that I take in the future!

Reflection- Michael Wesch: Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able

Going into this presentation, I expected much of the same information given in Gardner Campbell’s talk on personal cyberinfrastructures. However, I was pleasantly surprised that although the two presentations shared similar viewpoints, they also approached the issue of effective media usage from different perspectives. Wesch placed much more emphasis on how media integration can truly transform the classroom as well as students’ academic careers and futures. He went into much more depth of what Campbell introduced previously. The idea presented by Wesch of knowledgeable to knowledge-able transformed my own thought process of technology and media usage as a college student, and I see now more value in utilizing these “tools” and platforms to further create my identity as a future individual in our society.

Throughout the presentation, Wesch reiterated the fact that as a professor or teacher, it is one’s job to give students the opportunity to engage in projects and ideas that will transcend the classroom and their four years (or so) on campus. As a student, this could not speak more strongly to me. Many times, I have found myself bored and distracted in class simply because I don’t see the point of cramming facts into my head for a test. I have always valued a class more when I knew I would use my new-found knowledge and ideas in a future career or in future classes. Because my generation is growing up alongside the creation of new medias, it is so important, as Wesch points out, to utilize this parallel in education. Our identities are truly created through the ways in which we all use media to find and share information. Because this generation of students pursues identity and recognition through the media, I believe Wesch is correct in stating that universities and education systems need to implement new strategies involving media and learning.

As Wesch points out, the web is not just linking information, but it is bringing together people who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to do so. Anyone now has the ability to publish, create, share, etc. with the other individuals throughout world. I found this to be one of the main points in Wesch’s argument that relates directly to the goals of ds106 at Mary Washington. This class allows students to engage in media in new ways that many other classes do not offer. It moves beyond “information literacy” and into “social imagination.” As a community, we engage with one another thoughtfully and communicate via the media itself. DS106 provides a platform for us as students to connect, organize and share ideas as well as publish them for others in our digital lives to view. Personally, I see how this semester-long “project” will thus transcend my time as a student at Mary Washington. This class gives myself and others the opportunity to further pursue our digital identity after we graduate and take advantage of the many avenues available through media to connect with other people.

DS106 allows students to move from “knowing stuff” and memorizing bullet points on a power point toward a greater ability to sort, analyze and create innovative ideals. Thus, in the light of the fact that I now have the opportunity to create my own online space, I hold much more value in my job as a meaning-maker, sharer, publisher, etc.. My education is no longer a one-way conversation, but rather a vital discussion between growing minds taking advantage of this user-generated atmosphere in the classroom through media.

–Amanda

 

Reflection- Gardner Campbell: Personal Cyberinfrastructure

I thoroughly enjoyed this talk! Campbell brought up numerous points relevant to the use, or lack thereof, of online spaces in the college environment by both faculty and students. Before hearing this talk, I personally never took into consideration the vast amount of opportunity and resources available via the Internet. Never before had a single person emphasized to me, in such a way as this, that taking advantage of my generations parallel growth with technologies was so important and vital to the continued advancement of our society.

In his presentation, Campbell discussed three recursive practices that he believed to be essential in the teaching process on the college level. Students should expect to enter their college classrooms and experiment with ideas and such through these practices: narrating, curating and sharing. I found this to be a direct reflection of the ways in which this class, ds106 is structured. As a student in this community, I am expected to thoroughly describe to my classmates the processes and steps I took to create various assignments. I then become a teacher of sorts, describing this process of learning and experimentation. The second practice mentioned by Campbell, curating, is reflected in our creation and organization of information an posts within our personal domains. Personally, I and other students within the ds106 community make decisions on how we arrange our discoveries for other people to view it which leads into Campbell’s final practice, sharing. Through sharing, we publish and contribute to the greater digital community. As Campbell stated in his presentation, we may not know who finds our learning to be valuable, and through sharing we can then make these valuable connections with others. I think this was the most important aspect of the article and presentation, being able to make the personal connections to our own class here at Mary Washington. It actually made me extremely excited to be a part of this innovative movement on our campus and in the worldwide digital community.

As I take this new-found perspective away, I am hopeful that it will make a profound difference in how I approach this class from here on out. This is not just busy work, it’s making a difference in my life and maybe for someone else as well. I realize that I’ve been given an opportunity to experiment and grow as a student. But importantly, I can be innovative in an atmosphere that allows for creation and discovery. It’s not like any other classroom where as a student I am only trying to fulfill the guidelines laid before me. I have options to formulate new ideas, and as Campbell put it I am my own “system administrator.” This personal domain allows for unique creations and innovations given the freedom to choose how one will express oneself in the digital world.