Perspective, Perspectives

Film is a great medium to venture through on the course of education. The greatest learning occurs when we are active and engaged, film has a huge potential to instill this in viewers. Hitting every sense simultaneously, we cannot help but be engulfed in what we are seeing. Visual imagery has immense power to not just create emotion but to pull emotion out of our cores, make us feel even more vividly what was already within us. But video can also wash over us passively, letting us soak up what we’ve seen like a sponge, with equal potential to let it all go again.
I love that Ebert says that he became a teacher as part of his own path of education in film, there is no better way to learn than to teach. As a teacher, you are forced to truly believe that there is information to be interpreted and analyzed. You can’t allow what you study to come over you passively. Ebert speaks of “intrinsic weighting” in film, the tendency of visual imagery to spontaneously have a certain impact. The creator of the content need not manipulate imagery directly or intentionally in order to have a specific effect. But despite the passive means by which these effects take place, fully conscious attention is required to recognize these effects and what elements of the film caused their occurrence.
It is compelling for me, as a neuroscience student, to believe that the intrinsic weighting phenomenon of visual art, and the ubiquitous patterns seen regardless of the culture that produced the film, has something to do with how we all use the same basic neural processes to understand the simplest parts of our visual world. The neurons that make up our visual cortex are designed in a hierarchical system which combines individual sensory stimuli into more complex representations of our world. We have been able to demonstrate through single cell recordings that there are neurons which respond solely to vertical lines, and neurons which respond solely to horizontal lines. Both of these neurons will then, perhaps, converge onto a single neuron which will recognize the corner that is formed by the perpendicular lines. That images in the foreground are stronger than those in the background, and the imagery on top is considered dominant over what lies beneath it is reflective of how we take in the world around us. These are some of the most rudimentary processes of visual perception, and they apply unanimously to all normal, sighted people.

The impacts of these process are retained at much more advanced levels of visual interpretation. These simple steps in perception are a part of how we interpret film, and the intrinsic weighting of the films we watch are nearly universal because these rudimentary perceptions influence our overall perception. So even though some of us may think that the scene was a metaphor for the fragility of existence and others may think it was a political commentary on the devaluation of human life, we will all interpret the foreground as dominant.
When I think of the movies I’ve seen that really qualify as cinematographic art, I think of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. Although I really do consider these directors to be true artists, I know that I am missing out on some of the most brilliant artists in the film industry. But the intrinsic weighting Ebert talks about is most certainly used in the films of these directors. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the first film that comes to mind.

Throughout this film, the characters stand in almost unnatural rigidity, their position within the frame is obviously deliberate. Anderson uses intrinsic weighting in the scene above in particular to give M. Gustave an authoritative appearance. He often stands to the right on set drawing the eye towards him, and he also is found in the foreground, appearing dominant.

Perhaps one of the most impressive methods in cinematography is the “long take.” These are clips that are uninterrupted sequences of acting, the camera follows the action of the film as if from the point of view of one of the characters or as an omniscient presence that is not interrupted, distracting the viewer from the fiction of the story. This is an impressive method for several reasons, but especially due the coordination that it requires. Every member of the scene must remain entirely in character and respond to the actions of their counterparts with the proper timing. As impressive as these scenes are, I often find that they are so unlike every other scene in a film that they can seem out of place. The long take is exhibited in the first three techniques analyzed by Oscar Feivan in this video:

I have seen the shining several times, but have never truly noticed the use of zooms in the film. This is a wonderful element for creating suspense, but with the sound effects and music score of the shining it has the effect of being extremely unsettling. The scenes move when they seem as if they should remain still, conveying a sense of imbalance and uncertainty. It’s as if you might suddenly slip, but you only drift slowly back from the scene, moving without gaining any distance, never quite reaching safety.

The Shining – Zooms from Ian Kammer on Vimeo.

The use of point of views from below is pervasive in the films of Quentin Tarantino. This could have the effect of making the viewer feel small, insignificant and childlike or it could convey the point of view of a character on lying on his back (as is often the fate of many of Tarantino’s poor characters). However, I think that Tarantino so consistently incorporates this effect into his films because he wants to place his viewers in a position that they generally do not occupy when enjoying a film. This angle is not particularly flattering of the actors or comfortable to the viewer, and placing his viewers in discomfort seems like one of the greatest goals of Tarantino.

Tarantino // From Below from kogonada on Vimeo.

Week Three-Audio Storytelling

Reflections

1. Reflecting on Jab Abumrad and Ira Glass

Radio Isn’t Dead

2. Reflecting on Audio Storytelling Guidelines

Create Sound not Noise

3. Reflecting on This American Life: I Was Just Trying to Help

Listen Up

Daily Creates

1.

2.

3.

4.

1. For this assignment, I was able to focus on the natural sound effects of my own world, no foley artist required. These are the kinds of sounds that Ira Glass would want me to capture to contribute to the broken narrative style of audio storytelling. The clip progresses from the sounds of me brushing my teeth, making coffee and eating cereal like any other normal morning routine. Then the audio shifts to the sounds I hear in the mornings at camp, beginning with the sounds of a few kids finding me in a game of “hide the counselor” and then the chatter during our camp greeting. This assignment is worth 3.5 stars.

Putting the Day-to-Day on Shuffle

2. This assignment required me to use only sound effects to make a story. I didn’t include much dialogue because I used only generated sound effects found online. The process of developing this story was far more challenging than I had anticipated and I was eventually inundated with a great number of sound effects and no use for most of them. I finally had to narrow my collection as well as decrease the time frame of the clip as a whole so as not to surpass the 90 second limit. This assignment was worth 3.5 stars.

Move

3. I created this project in an attempt to show the power of unedited audio. While edited and overproduced content is much more my style of audio storytelling and listening, the pure organic sounds of nature are comforting and compelling. There is as much a sense of calmness as there is excitement and possibility. I attempted to make arrange the sound in a way that represented happiness. This assignment was worth 3.5 stars.

Outside

4. For this assignment, I used a few seconds from a couple of my favorite songs to write a poem. The lyrics meld much better than the music does, but this is the only project I completed this week with significant dialogue. This assignment is worth 2.5 stars.

It’s Alright, It’s Alright

Comments

I commented on several of my peers blogs this week:

1. http://littlelamb34.com/audio/moon-graffiti-summary/#comment-38

2. http://ds106jake.jakobwaterman.org/blog/uncategorized/experts-describe-their-craft-storytelling/#comment-9

3. https://jbelodeauds106.wordpress.com/wp-comments-post.php

4. http://bballforever.com/assignments/audio/a-rainy-day/#comment-36

5. http://ds106.viletroop.net/assignments/hack/#comment-7

I also received and responded to a few comments on my own site:

 

What I learned this week

I thought I liked the sound of my own voice (I don’t). And maybe that’s why I chose to carry out my audio storytelling through sound effects alone. Going into this week I thought that I would have thought that I would want to solely tell stories through dialogue because I love podcasts so much. Surprisingly, I was most drawn to the assignments that allowed me to manipulate sound to tell my stories. This was of course, far more challenging than I had initially anticipated, but it was a rewarding and interesting process. Sound effects are becoming more and more interesting to me, whenever I listen to a podcast or watch a movie now I am far more aware of the subtlety of the sound design. I am realizing that everything is deliberate and planned. There is much to be heard.

Audio Storytelling

This week, I think my best work is the project I created for the “Sound Effects Story” assignment. I kind of made the story up as I went along, which was difficult at first but eventually became intuitive. When I had finally completed the audio mixing, I had a scene made up completely in my head. The written story were the words that matched this scene, which existed completely without dialogue beforehand. It was definitely unusual for me to have to write a fictional scene, I rarely ever have to create fictional stories. However, I am pleased with the story I have created and I’m glad I was able to follow up with the goal I set for myself last week to create more fictional stories.
I experienced some minor frustration this week because of how finicky Audacity can be. It took me a while to get comfortable with the program even though I’ve used it many times before. I had to take a brief hiatus from audio editing when the program crashed on my computer which put me slightly behind in my assignments for this week. However, I did find that Audacity was much easier for me to use than GIMP was, and so the creation of content for this week went a little smoother than the past weeks work.
The comments I received this week were all somewhat useful, although the most useful one I received was a constructive criticism on my first project created for the assignment “What’s the Story Morning Glory.” The comment stated that although she liked the way that the sounds progressed somewhat seamlessly in the initial portion of the clip, the switch to children at camp was too sudden and interrupted the flow of the audio clip. I think that I definitely could have created some additional sound to serve as a transition, however I also am rather fond of the abruptness. Although I do think that this is probably because I was expecting the abrupt shift.
The most important thing I have taken from this week is the advice from Ira Glass and Jad Abumrad. These two radio personalities have been role models to me for years, and to finally hear them explicitly outline what makes for good audio storytelling was invaluable. I am excited to move forward in my own experimentation with audio storytelling. I want to really try to harness the broken narrative style of storytelling and work more adamantly to seek out better stories.

It’s Alright, It’s Alright

Theme Verse-combine verses of songs to create a new verse.

The Story Behind the Story

I rarely hear song lyrics. I am fully consumed by how fluid the melody is, the way the notes float seamlessly together. Words flit in and out of my perception, usually I’ll only catch a few here or there. I can’t really sing along, but I always try. The words are somewhat of an interruption to what is already there. The music can captivate me with or without language. And yet, a song without lyrics seems strikingly incomplete. So when I break up that fluidity I have always adored, I become painfully aware of the lyrics.
Each word falls like a hammer, nailing down notes and pinning up harmonies. They are blunt interruptions, wreaking havoc on delicately intertwined threads of music. But I hear them, I can hear each word clearly. And each word was chosen as carefully as each note, joining this perfectly coordinate symphony to create something beautiful. The words come together like a poem, a broken ballad with imperfectly cut edges that sit unevenly on top of each other. Their textured fringes cling to one another, mending themselves into a cry for healing.

The poem reads as follows:

Listen to your body you can never see it, you know how I’m feeling, you can never fake it, listen to your heart break

I don’t wanna see you waste another day, your heart break, your heart break

Get up get down, get up get down feel the general attention and stop

You should get a ride cause you cant control the heart that beats under the bone come on my comeback chameleon

You keep on askin for help but nobody knows how

Its alright, its alright, you see the fault lines, started panicking you confide in the low light, you’re so kind you’re caught up in the crossfire its alright its alright.

I was inspired to create a poem through lyrics by black out poetry. In this method, you take a book and black out certain portions of the text, leaving only a few words legible. Those words are then stitched together to create a poem. Not only do these often result in beautiful language, but the broken text is beautiful in itself. I’m particularly fond of Austin Kleon’s Poetry.

The Tutorial

To create this new verse, I first selected the songs that I wanted to use and then located them on YouTube. I then used a website called Convert2mp3 to convert the videos into downloadable audio files.

Once these songs were converted, I imported them to audacity where I selected the portions of the song that I wanted to be in the final clip. I then aligned the clips into one fluid sound bit.

Outside

Emotions Through Sound-Tryto convey a certain emotion by combining sound effects

Maybe it’s cliché that I chose to replicate happiness through the sounds of nature. But I thought for a very long time about what sounds make me happy, and they are the sounds of being outdoors. The sounds that bring me closer to the world I’ve always wished was a bigger part of me. The sounds of gentle breezes and rushing water and buzzing insects will always comfort me. When I hear the sound of a dove cooing, I am instantly transported to childhood summers where I laid my back against sun-warmed pavement and let soft breezes glance just slightly off of the surface of my skin.
And the sound of soft breezes as they swirl through leaves, causing them to rattle and shiver, will always be far more impressive than a strong gust of wind. These sounds make me feel warm as if sunlight is kissing my skin, even as I type away at this in a dark room. These are sounds of freedom from obligation and the gift of simplicity. And I do think everyday would be better if it ended with a thunderstorm.
I chose this assignment because it was truly a challenge, no sense alone is truly sufficient to convey emotion. Through sound, emotion would best be recreated using dialogue or at least human sounds. But I wanted to try and do this in a slightly abstract way. Because human emotion is an abstraction in itself. Once again the power of sound has impressed me. When I close my eyes and listen to this track I am instantly relieved, I am transported. These sound effects, low in quality and inexpertly mixed are enough to move me.

I took inspiration from this video which is centered heavily around the sounds of the woods of Georgia. Even though it is a video, I would argue that the sense that is most targeted by this content is hearing.


The Tutorial-

To create this sound clip, I first downloaded sounds from Free Sound.

 

Once the clips were downloaded, I opened a list of them in a separate clipboard to keep track of each one that I used in order to properly acknowledge credit.

The sound clips used in this project include:

Bansemer: birds morning dove song birds st Augustine april
Lebcraftlp: heavy rain
Soundkrampf: creek
Duck duck pony: foliage rustling
Le-abbaye-noirlac: tree rustling

I then opened the sound clips using audacity and merged them, overlapping some of them to generate a new combination of sounds. I used the fade in and fade out effects in several positions along the sound bits. When the project was finished, I exported it and uploaded it to my SoundCloud account to be published and then embedded in this post.

Move

Sound Effects Story: Tell a story using nothing but sound effects.

The Story Behind the Story

These days were Adam’s favorite. The rain fell gently, and the air was crisp with chilled humidity making the pavement of the carport feel damp. He sat with his legs splayed out in a V formation before him, toe to toe with his brother Andrew. They were gingerly rolling a foam ball back and forth between. Each time the ball came to Andrew, he left deep depressions in the shape of his small hand and watched the ball grow slowly back into its original form. Adam barely let the pads of his finger tips make any impression on the ball, rather allowing the smooth outer covering to slide under his fingers. He always wanted to feel as much as he could, with every moment. Right now he could feel the thick air resting on his skin more than anything, but he also felt the dull sensation of small pebbles slowly indenting themselves into the back of his calves as they rested on the pavement. He felt a subtle ache in his lower back, he had been sitting stiffly for what felt like hours. Andrew had begged him to help him reach the arts and craft bin from the upper shelf in the carport, but Adam wanted to sit with his brother and watch the storm brew, he promised to pull the bin down later.
There hadn’t been any lightning but soft rolling thunder undulated in the distance, like a soft warning that something bigger was on its way. As Adam slid his fingers off the smooth surface of the ball, again sending it spinning slowly towards Andrew, a bright light began to claim the horizon. It happened slowly at first, and then all at once, a consuming and powerful rush struck his face slapping him with invisible heat making his skin warm to the touch. Overhead, something large and foreign soared fiercely towards the two boys, and suddenly their world was in motion. There was no flame, no bomb was dropped.
An invisible force struck them, and around their feet the carport crumbled, in the distance were screams. Sound continued to pummel what was once a proud town. Disaster had gripped every living soul, had wrapped itself around everything that could have once been cherished and crushed it. Adam lay beneath the rubble of the carport, toys were scattered like casualties among fallen shelves and torn drywall. Andrew stood mostly unscathed, the arts and crafts bin had tumbled right to his feet, spilling only a few of its contents. His eyes darted around the ruins, looking for his brother. The sounds in the distance started to grow louder, he thought of his most recent science class. They had talked about the Doppler effect. He shouted to his brother to move, he shouted to himself to move. He didn’t move.

The Doppler Effect, an extremely recognizable and well-known phenomenon reminds me that the physics of sound are powerful.

The Tutorial

To complete this assignment, I downloaded sound effects from a sound effect website called Free Sound. I simply searched for the sounds that I wanted to use to generate my story and then downloaded them, and imported them into audacity.

Once in audacity, I was able to organize the sound bits in the order that would generate the story I wanted to portray. I edited the sound bites by cutting a few sections out in a few effects and using the “fade in” and “fade out” effects. Once completed I exported the clip and uploaded it to my SoundCloud account. The effects that I used include:

Timbre: loud jet-ish fly by
Design dean: Kids “WOAH”
Scream Studio: Scary Horn
Wjoojooo: Stan Throwing a Fit
Jgrzinich: Rain Storm
Scream Studio: Ambient one shot
Klankbeeld: Horror Insects
Starscade: distant fireworks
Klankbeeld: thunder suburb
Tommccan: explosion
Allanz10d: explosion simulation
Rhonturn: people on carnival rides

Listen Up

As tempted as I was to listen to an episode of RadioLab for this blog assignment, I opted for “I Was Just Trying to Help,” an episode of  This American Life. Although I’m very familiar with Ira Glass’s voice, I’ve never quite felt the intrigue to listen to his work. I was always frustrated by talk radio as a kid, because the topics went over my head and there wasn’t enough stimulation to dazzle me. The journalistic integrity and organic nature of these types of shows were lost on me, and in a way they still are. Unlike RadioLab, stories from This American Life are told much more like a news story is. There are no characters or scenes, they are purely factual and to-the-point.
RadioLab is, for the record, nonfiction but it is so well developed and crafted that it plays like a fictional story. The producers use strategic editing to create the images they want you to see and the emotions they want you to feel but they do so without ever straying from the reality of the anecdote. It’s almost as if they create a fictitious world of wondrous sounds in which they can set the stage for the truth and reality. Moon Graffiti, a completely fictional story, could have passed for an episode of RadioLab. Every emotion could be felt with the added sounds alone, no dialogue required. You can sense the imperative air of desperation to do something followed by the solemn realization that nothing could be done at all, implied by the music and sound effects.
I think this is why I love RadioLab so much, they take extremely important stories, especially scientific ones, that might not be getting the attention they deserve and present them in a context that demands your attention. These stories grip you, within minutes of listening you will find yourself transported to an entirely new world, one that you have created in your own mind. As Jad Abumrad has said, these mental images are a means of forming a connection between creator and consumer. But more importantly, it gives power to the story itself. Each and every person that experiences this story will hear the same dialogue and edits but will also see something completely unique. The story takes on a unique meaning for each listener, there is far more left to interpretation in audio stories than there is in visual stories.
This American Life is compelling too, but in a call-to-action kind of manner. When I listen to This American Life, I’m not usually drawn in as rapidly as I am with RadioLab. The style of storytelling is much more formal and has fewer frills. This does not make the stories themselves any less interesting, there is simply a sense of journalistic seriousness with this show. Every episode is produced with the purpose of bringing a major issue to the attention of the listener with objectivity. There are fewer opinions given and thus less need to “set the scene.” The producers of this show aren’t trying to throw you into the world of this story, that would almost be an interruption. The stories are not told through broken narratives as described by Rob Rosenthal and while they are edited with music, all background noise is authentic from the setting of the story.
Neither means of storytelling is superior to the other, I just happen to be particularly fond of the RadioLab methods, and I plan to make my audio stories reflect my preference. Even if I want to approach something more like a news story, I will probably do it through the broken narrative, including as much scene-setting sound as possible. Despite my usual lack of interest in This American Life, I did find myself getting hooked to the story somewhere towards the middle. I think that regardless of the method, audio storytelling is just so dear to me. It is the ultimate form of storytelling which brings to life what text alone cannot, and forces mental acuity and ingenuity. I can see a whole new world, just by listening a little closer.

Putting the Day-to-Day on Shuffle

What’s The Story Morning Glory: Limit the dialogue, walk us through your daily morning routine using sound alone.

The Story Behind the Story

Routine is something we desire, it is an evolutionarily-sculpted advantage. We can organize our daily lives into sequence and let the hands on the clock take hold of our own and guide us. Usually I dread but accept these routines, as they are pervasive. I see no reason to attempt to avoid them, and I wonder if maybe the way that I quickly take a liking to routine is simply another evolutionary mechanism. Perhaps I only feel so comfortable in routine because if I were left in discomfort, the routine would be abandoned before any benefit were seen.

However, routines can be broken in completely non-chronological manners. To see your day-to-day in a different light, a change of perspective is the only essential. This alteration could be visual, as is often the dominant sense for most people. Changes in taste and touch are often imperceptible or insignificant. But a alteration in audio could be quite compelling. The sound need not be changed, but isolated, as I did in this assignment. Here, my morning routine is reduced to the simplicity of the sounds that greet me on a daily basis. These are not the sounds I hear, rather the wavelengths produced by the actions I both feel and carry out. It is not coffee brewing, or the sound of campers searching for me in a game of “Hide the Counselor.” These are the sounds of each moment of a life unfolding, unaltered and authentic.
I chose this project because I have always deeply valued my mornings, but usually for its sights, smells and tastes. The bitter-sweet tinge that rolls off my tongue with each sip of coffee and the dim, purple-tinted light of each sunrise are sufficient to capture my attention. What might be heard in my mornings is often reduced to my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist. This assignment allows me to focus on the organic sound effects that make up my life. This audio clip is representative of a typical day for me: I wake up, drink my coffee and eat my breakfast, brush my teeth and get dressed to go to camp where we play games and shout with total abandoned. My days sound so sweet when I just listen.

The Tutorial-

I recorded all the audio material for this assignment using the Voice Memos app on my iphone and uploaded it to my PC. Once on my computer, I opened the audio files using iTunes, and converted them to MP3 files by selecting the song, clicking File<Convert<Convert to Mp3

Once converted to the proper format, I opened the audio file in Audacity, a program for audio editing. I followed this procedure to cut out background noise and come up with clear, focused audio content.