The Aussie Affair – A Review

A group in my class produced a wonderful short little documentary on the experiences and lives of a few international students, here in Melbourne. Please have a look below!

Perhaps my favorite part of this video was its visual production quality. It was a joy on the eyes to watch – at no point was a scene lit poorly, and great care was taken into the cinematography. I mention this, not to be condescending, but because I was so impressed, I could not believe this was done by amateurs for a university project! The only parts that gave it away were some aspects of editing during the interviews, where words or sounds were clipped too early. There were also some jarring edits when it came to the B-Roll ground footage, but the beautiful cinematography made up for it.

In terms of content, I was very impressed with the selection of interviewees. I enjoyed that we got to hear the story from someone from a completely different language and cultural background, and someone from a very similar background, with whom we locals wouldn’t normally notice any differences. I was pleasantly rewarded with little anecdotes about navigating the accent, or the search for the best replica of a good home-cooked meal (spoiler alert: it doesn’t exist), or the fact that Melbourne cigarettes cost almost as much as a car in Indonesia! (But not really.)

(I suppose, though, if I had to be absolutely nit-picky, Yuri strange and unsolicited interpretation of an African American accent was a touch awkward. The thing is, I know Yuri, so I wasn’t even confused!)

I think that the video touched on the issues that a university  student faces very well – it’s not about a migrant family, or someone on exchange; it’s about youthful international students living here. The issues that they faced were akin to issues all youths face when in a new environment: isolation, loneliness, the cultural shock…the JET-LAG. The video focused on these aspects, rather than more mature issues like “job hunting” or “house buying”. It was refreshing to see that the problems we locals face are reflected in our international counterparts.

I use “we locals” and “them internationals” very, very casually, because the most well constructed part of the video was that it did not segregate based on the passport that the person holds. It was more about the differences in cultural habits, rather than the fact that they are from another country, or that things here are so different. At no point, watching the video, was I made to feel that these characters didn’t feel like they could proudly call themselves Australians if they were so inclined. This is an aesthetic that many, many projects that tackle the issue of nationality seem to never be able to grasp.

Great work, guys!

Alex.

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Megatron the Stinkbutt: A Digital Story

I have finally finished the digital comic that I had set out to do nearly 12 weeks ago. The following is the reflection on the process, and this post also functions as my masterpost for where everything is, for easier submission. Jenny and James, when you start reading this, please click on the prompted links below to be taken to the final products. You have a choice between two platforms, but please look at both!

Megatron the Stinkbutt on Tumblr

Megatron the Stinkbutt on Medium

As mentioned previously, I had been debating on whether to publish the comics on Tumblr, or on Medium. Then, as the wise Old El Paso said…’por que no los dos’? I was hoisted upon the shoulders of my ambitions, and I proceeded to publish on both platforms.

Platform

In my ‘Hosting Issues’ post, I talked about how Tumblr has ‘built in’ gutters, but Medium didn’t. To combat this, I had to separately upload differently edited products onto Medium in order to get the same feeling. I created one comic with gutter, and one without: ultimately I prefer the one without the gutter, for even though it doesn’t look like a traditional comic, it went well with the aesthetics of the rest of the comic, which also didn’t match traditional comic style.

Drafting

Speaking of which: I tried a rough cut of my project a few weeks ago, to which I received the feedback: Do you want your audience to know immediately that it was an edited photograph?

This was a major point of concern for me, for it was the reason that I chose to take on the project in photo form, rather than draw it. Yes, I do want the audience to know that it was a photo, because the focal point, apart from the story, is also Meg’s appearance. But I do not want it to simply BE a photo – that would look a little boring.

In the end, I opted to edit the photos with high contrast, then use a filter Poster Edges to further posterise the colors. That way, the image has a cartoon feel, without losing the aspects of the subject. Then, taking on board some advice from Jenny, I overlayed the photo with a gradient filter, creating a (dare I say) CSI Miami look.

Collaboration

I must say, working with myself has been a joy. Even though I did not hit the target dates that I strictly told myself to keep, we still came through in the end.

That was a joke – the reflection criteria mentioned collaboration for group projects, but I went solo.

I will talk about working with animals, though. I haven’t worked with a professionally trained dog before, I have worked with unprofessionally trained humans, and now that I’ve worked with an unprofessionally trained dog, I have to say: the dog is still better than people.

When it’s the dog, every mistake; every bad photo; every useless material, it’s all my fault. There is no ‘but’, the bottom line stops very quickly with me. With humans, you can always blame a lack of cooperation or communication, but with a dog, it’s literally “I didn’t plan, and now I stuffed up”. This was the case with my first photoshoot, where I didn’t bring an auto-focus lens. Meg was fantastic, she grinned, she panted, she sat, she begged – I just didn’t catch any of that in focus, because I stuffed up. So, when it was time for the 2nd photoshoot, I made sure I had every setting just right, before I even pointed the camera at the subject. As a result, the photos were much better. Plus, I learned a lesson in taking responsibility when things go awry.

Social Media

I used Tumblr and Medium for the reasons I listed in “Hosting Issues”, but my plan was to also let people know about the project through other means. I shared a Medium post onto my Twitter:

And I also shared the Tumblr posts and Medium posts to my Facebook, where the largest portion of my most likely first readers will be. (My Facebook is set on private, so there’s not much point in my linking here, but you can extrapolate from my Tweet what it would have looked and sounded like.)

I also tagged the projects on Tumblr with popular and relevant tags, such as #cute #puppy #digital comics etc. However, I believe that my active linking on social network brings more traffic than the hashtags.

Critical reflection

I feel that the end products were a mix bag of success and mediocre. The one of Meg in nature was my favorite – the dialogue was on point, and the images were engaging to look at. My least favorite was perhaps the bath-time comic, which went well in planning, but was executed poorly in terms of the lighting in the original photos. Finally, there was the issue with the online dating comic, where the 2nd image appears warped on Tumblr, but when clicked on loads perfectly. I could not fix the issue.

The most important part of the comics relied on my writing – there were times when the writing were not punchy, but as stated before, the nature comic was strong, and I felt that the treats comic had a good premise.

I’m glad that this project is finished – and I feel that some of the ideas and skills I learned in this can be used in future, similar premises. I will never stop loving and wanting to show people photos of Meg, so I will always have material!

Alex.

Designing a Website for Function

Please listen to my short podcast on designing a website for function over pure aesthetics. In this podcast, I outline and reflect on the points made by Jonathan Roper in Jenny Weight’s interview, as well as give examples of my own experiences with website design for function.

Media Objects Edited Sequence

For my edited sequence, I chose the theme Impact. I approached Impact in both the sense of the moment of impact, as well as the editing style, which featured sharp, distinct visuals and quick tempo audio.

I am extremely attracted to the idea of non-linear editing as outlined by William Burroughs in 1964. Burroughs would cut up or fold together pieces from entirely different narratives, put them together, and create a completely new and interesting narrative from the mix (Packer & Jordan, 2001:277). I attempted to emulate this style in my work, in that there is no immediate discernible continuity, and yet the narrative is formed via human inference and closure between non-sequitur elements juxtaposed against one another. I find it fascinating that the human brain can create a narrative by finding a relation between two different visuals, or two different audio, or a mix of both.

For that reason, I chose to rarely use the accompany audio in the video clips that I found from the Internet, instead mixing it with the sounds that I recorded for the audio assessment. For example, juxtaposing gunfire with dog barking and car honking invokes the narrative of a disruptive neighbourhood, or other such negative imagery, even though the context within which all three elements originally existed were all controlled and peaceful.

Then, the non-linear introduction and re-introduction of the thief from the single-shot assignment bookends the example above, and coupled with a scream that’s entirely removed from the visual, would then move the viewer to a different narrative.

My editing does not intend to create one meaning only, rather creating a context wherein many different means are meant to be inferred, and countless segments of narratives formed and reformed depending on the viewer themselves. However, I do purposely introduce and reintroduce similar elements – the barking; the bookended sirens; the before-and-after of crashes – to place these different narratives within certain confines.

I also chose to edit together short, sharp segments, as the feeling of Impact can also be created from the quick introduction of new elements, such as a new visual, or new sounds. As a result, the video was rather short, as I did not want to overload the viewer with too many elements.

As this was my first time editing with moving images, and my first foray into a non-linear narrative form, I feel that the piece lacked technical sophistication. While I experimented with transitions between materials and clips, and attempted to mix the audio in a more subtle and sophisticated way, I still could not achieve the sort of effects that I wanted, such as panning sirens, or smash cut transitions.

Working with different formats was also a challenge: I only learned the basics of encoding files to be the same format on the same medium, and could not fix the difference in aspect ratio, resulting in the black bars around the frame.

References:

Packer, K. and Jordan, K., (eds.) Multimedia: From Wagner to virtual reality. New York: Norton, 2001. Pg 275 – 278

Videos:

Drone POV Crash in Highlands Bowl by Vital Films, under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://vimeo.com/96320135

Extreme Snowboarding Crash in Switzerland TRT 1:50 by Fusion TV, Inc., under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://vimeo.com/95322091

Request to Blow Up a Company Logo for Marketing by Ryan Morris, under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://vimeo.com/93104412

Test Firing an Heckler & Koch MP7 PDW at Lock and Load in Miami by Dan V, under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://vimeo.com/78314176

Audio:

Sirens‘ by Trinity101 is available at FreeSound.org, under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0

Smoke Alarm Piep Piep‘ by Jan18101997 is available at FreeSound.org, under aCreative Commons Public Domain 1.0

Car Breaking Skid‘ by Iberian_Runa is available at FreeSound.org under aCreative Commons Attribution 3.0