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December 12, 2007

Project IV: Mirror

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November 27, 2007

Xi's Perfect Sportsmanship World

This video shows a soccer match in which one player, in a fit of anger, head-butts another player in the chest, knocking him over. Following the title of "referee perspective," another video plays instead that shows a similar scene where one player knocks over another by striking him in the chest with his head. Following this, the video is shown from the less-objective perspectives of the French, Germans, and Americans. (We also get to see the rather amusing perspectives of the Mushroom Kingdom and Street Fighters.) Transitioning back to the original sequence, we see one player helping the other back up, which shows the kind of sportsmanship you might expect in a perfect world. Stop motion animation is used for the sequence at the beginning and end. The middle part, with all the replays, contains animation laid over video.

I think this video does a good job of showing its basic point, that regardless of what happens in a game, we should be civil with other players (and help them up even if it seems they've just knocked you down). However, beyond that, I really liked the sequence of "replays" in the middle of the video showing the perspectives of various observers. Although it seems quite obvious what actually happened from the referee perspective, the French seem not to see the other player at all. The Germans see the other player, but also noticed that had he not valiantly knocked over the player wearing blue, he would have been shot and killed by a sniper kitten. The Americans blame Islamic extremists. These views are, of course, completely ridiculous in the case of this soccer match, but they do a good job of representing the vast chasms between various world viewpoints on other issues. Almost all conflict in the world stems from differences of viewpoints and an inability to understand others' points of view. To a lesser extent, these differences of views also show up in sporting events and can certainly lead to one group feeling sore towards another.

The animation is excellent. The beginning and ending parts are well done, of course, but it's the effects added in the middle that make this video stand out. The ideas for the various viewpoints are good, and they are well executed. The Mushroom Kingdom and Street Fighters viewpoints are humorous, and also serve to point out how ridiculous the other viewpoints actually are (since they fit right in).

To me, the sound was the weakest part of the work. Although what is in the video is generally good, there are long periods of silence, especially in the beginning and the end, which are awkward. It would be nice to have some sound effects in the opening part where there are shots on the goal. Also, a constant low background crowd noise might have helped tie together parts of the video which had specific sound effects that needed to be accentuated with those that didn't. The sounds in the "replays" section were pretty good; they helped show what was going on and enhance the humor of some of the clips.

Overall, I liked this piece a lot. I think the "replay" animations idea worked very well to show different perspectives, and I appreciated the humor added here. I think this video goes beyond just talking about sportsmanship and talks about differences in world opinion in general in a very effective way.

Laura's Perfect Eating World

This is a sketch-style animation that shows a young girl who comes upon some freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, and is tempted by the cookies to eat them, but tries to refrain from eating them. In opposition to the cookies' plea to be eaten, voices from outside tell her that, though she may be hungry, she shouldn't eat cookies. Eventually, she gets overwhelmed, screams, and gives in to eating a cookie. Quite satisfied, she eats the remainder of the cookies happily and smiles.

The quality of the images in this animation is superb. I was especially impressed that the photographs of the individual frames were either very carefully taken or adjusted afterwards so that white was white and black was black; this made it easy to see and pleasant to watch.

As a perfect world, I think the idea of a place where you can eat free of guilt and consequences is a great idea. In Laura's description of this piece, she says that "time stops (as you can see on the clock in the animation) which demonstrates how the girl has escaped reality." I didn't notice this the first time I watched it; I wasn't watching the clock at this point in the video. If this was a very important point, some emphasis should have been put on the clock. But, even though I didn't see the stopping clock, I think the scream served as an effective transition to escape the voices. I also liked how the voices of society were drawn as coming from outside the frame, while the girl's own thoughts (and the cookies' pleas of being eaten) come from inside the frame.

Even though Laura says she didn't have much time for the sound, I think the sound is fairly good in the work. The pitch of the voices and the munching sound effects work very well together with the sketchy style animation. The only point where the sound doesn't work very well with the mood is during the scream, when another scream is patched onto the first to make it longer. It would be nice if this could have been recorded at the correct length instead. In general, the sound helps to show what the girl is thinking or feeling, even just by the simple way her hums change.

Overall, I think the video works very well to show a perfect world in which the voices of society are silenced and you can eat in peace. The video quality was excellent, and the audio was very good too; neither one got in the way of the message that the film was trying to convey.

November 26, 2007

Critique for Grant

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Critique for Grant

Grant’s third project focused on stopping time, an idea that at first seemed ideal but eventually turned out to be something not so desirable. I thought Grant was successful at portraying this idea. I liked how he used both video and stop motion to display this type of situation. He used the video to show real time and then after time stopped he used stop motion. I thought the idea was well thought out.

During the animation Grant also incorporated sound. He impressed me with how nicely he fit the audio to the visuals, which many other people in class found difficult to do. The sound was clear and crisp. The animation seemed virtually seamless. It was evident he put a lot of thought into what sounds worked with the images (i.e. clock changing numbers, flipping through books, walking outside, etc)

Another part of Grant’s work that impressed me was one of the final shots, when Grant was falling on his bed (in essence falling back into real time). I was amazed at how he was able to capture himself falling with stop motion. He must have used a special feature on his camera where he was able to take shots in a sequence, sometimes know as a paparazzi feature on a camera.

Overall, I thought Grant did a good job expressing his idea of a perfect world. He even touched on the fact that what we think might be a perfect world doesn’t always play out that way. The images we great (i.e. exposure, clarity, etc) and so was the sound. I couldn’t think of any ideas of what to do differently next time.

Critique for Grant

Grant’s third project focused on stopping time, an idea that at first seemed ideal but eventually turned out to be something not so desirable. I thought Grant was successful at portraying this idea. I liked how he used both video and stop motion to display this type of situation. He used the video to show real time and then after time stopped he used stop motion. I thought the idea was well thought out.

During the animation Grant also incorporated sound. He impressed me with how nicely he fit the audio to the visuals, which many other people in class found difficult to do. The sound was clear and crisp. The animation seemed virtually seamless. It was evident he put a lot of thought into what sounds worked with the images (i.e. clock changing numbers, flipping through books, walking outside, etc)

Another part of Grant’s work that impressed me was one of the final shots, when Grant was falling on his bed (in essence falling back into real time). I was amazed at how he was able to capture himself falling with stop motion. He must have used a special feature on his camera where he was able to take shots in a sequence, sometimes know as a paparazzi feature on a camera.

Overall, I thought Grant did a good job expressing his idea of a perfect world. He even touched on the fact that what we think might be a perfect world doesn’t always play out that way. The images we great (i.e. exposure, clarity, etc) and so was the sound. I couldn’t think of any ideas of what to do differently next time.

Critique for Grant

Grant’s third project focused on stopping time, an idea that at first seemed ideal but eventually turned out to be something not so desirable. I thought Grant was successful at portraying this idea. I liked how he used both video and stop motion to display this type of situation. He used the video to show real time and then after time stopped he used stop motion. I thought the idea was well thought out.

During the animation Grant also incorporated sound. He impressed me with how nicely he fit the audio to the visuals, which many other people in class found difficult to do. The sound was clear and crisp. The animation seemed virtually seamless. It was evident he put a lot of thought into what sounds worked with the images (i.e. clock changing numbers, flipping through books, walking outside, etc)

Another part of Grant’s work that impressed me was one of the final shots, when Grant was falling on his bed (in essence falling back into real time). I was amazed at how he was able to capture himself falling with stop motion. He must have used a special feature on his camera where he was able to take shots in a sequence, sometimes know as a paparazzi feature on a camera.

Overall, I thought Grant did a good job expressing his idea of a perfect world. He even touched on the fact that what we think might be a perfect world doesn’t always play out that way. The images we great (i.e. exposure, clarity, etc) and so was the sound. I couldn’t think of any ideas of what to do differently next time.

November 25, 2007

Project IV Proposal

There were several things I wanted to do with my final project.

First of all, I wanted to do something a bit more "interactive" than anything we'd done in the past. I wanted to do something that wasn't just a static piece, but would change in response to people and how they interacted with it. The shadow screens done by one of the artists shown in class (whose name I've forgotten) gave me the idea that I might be able to use a camera to get video of people near my project, then use that to display something interesting. Since I've noticed people using Photo Booth on iMacs as a mirror, I thought it might be interesting to make a "mirror" using a camera and a computer.

My second source of inspiration for this project goes back to a project I did when I was in high school. For a (digital) photography course, I wrote a computer program to patch together many small photos to make one large photo. (you've probably seen similar photos before.) I've always liked photos like these. I think it's an interesting concept because you can show an image of something that's literally made out of some other type of thing.

For my final project, I would like to combine these two ideas. This implies transforming the "combine photos to make one big photo" technique into "combine videos to make one big video." This is a more difficult problem; I've never seen it done before, but I think it should be possible.

I plan to set up a camera and a computer. Right now, I think I'd prefer to use an iMac and its built-in iSight, but I haven't decided against using my laptop tethered to a camcorder and a screen yet; I'd like to see how it looks on an iMac first before I decide. The computer will contain a large library of very short (absolutely no more than 2 seconds) video clips. After collecting video for a period of time equal to the longest video clip, the computer will decide, for each region of the video, which clip best matches the color and motion in that region. It will then play the best matching video in each region. When each video ends, it will select a new video. To avoid making these transitions jarring, I want to make the clips of different lengths so that all the clips don't change at the same time.

I'd like to do it without the delay, of course, but predicting the future is impossible in general, and very difficult and complicated to do with any acceptable level of accuracy. (Though I do have an idea of how I could do it reasonably well as an extension of this project at some later time.)

For the library of short videos, I plan to shoot a lot of videos around my apartment, around campus, and pretty much anyplace I am over the next few weeks. I don't know how many I'll need, or how many it will possible to use. I'll need a lot of different videos in order to make a good enough match against arbitrary video so that it will work. At the same time, having too many videos will make it too difficult for the computer to figure out which of the videos to use, which could make the entire thing fall apart. I will need to experiment to see what I can do. My feeling is that it should be possible to do something that will look decent, though I don't know how difficult it will be to actually get this to work.

I think it would be a lot of fun to use only a certain type of item in the videos, but because I'm not sure how easy it will be to make a coherent image from videos, I don't want to limit myself right now.

November 24, 2007

Grant's Project.

In Grant’s video, the beginning he seemed to be stressed, worried by homework and things. He was tired and went to sleep. The focus becomes the alarm clock on his bedside. The speed of the clock went increasingly faster along with its sound. Then he woke up, but suddenly found that every single clock froze. He went out and found that leaves stopped in the midair, and the entire world has stopped. His stress and frustration went away that he could finally get his work done. He could finally get do something that he always wanted. Such as watching the entire series of a movie that he borrowed from a friend, read all the textbooks that he had been behind. He tried to talk to his friends, but realize that he was the only one in that world. He was bored and tired of being the only one. The time finally started moving again. The perfect world is never perfect. There is always something that we don’t idealize. The stopping of time allows us to do things that we always wanted, but it also posts many problems. The concept becomes what is the perfect world? And do we really want to live in an idealized world? We would perhaps want the imperfect world back.
It is a narrative piece that runs with time. The space and time melted together and coherent into one. It attacks the idea of perfect world through freezing of time. The pictures were well shot. The lighting was clear and uses of tripod helped to keep images moving. The editing reflected the change of angle and photoshop was used to add the unmoving leaf into the frame. A small fracture of video was used to reflect the unstopped part of the video. The sound was well, seamlessly used and incorporated into the work. The narratives timed well with the video. Also the clicking sound from the alarm clock and the flipped sound of DVD covers left me memorable impressions. The idea of this work stands out becomes it displays the idea of imperfection. The perfect world is not perfect. The graphic details also leave audience with great impressions. The angle of picture taken and outdoor effects were powerful.

November 20, 2007

Stopping Time

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November 4, 2007

Project III Proposal: Inventing a "perfect" world

If we really were given free license to change the world in order to make it into what we think a "perfect" world ought to be, I wonder what the consequences would actually be? I can't help but think that things would never work out quite so perfectly as we might have hoped, and we'd find ourselves wanting to go back and revise our changes to undo the mess we had made.

If I were able to change anything about reality to make things more pleasant for me, I think the first thing I'd want to do is give myself more time. My biggest problem is that there are a lot of things that I really want to do, but I can't possibly have time to do all of them. I think it would be great if I could slow down and "stop" time so that I had time to do all these things. I could leisurely get caught up on my schoolwork, other work, play games, read, and investigate all sorts of topics that interest me.

Of course, if I really was suddenly granted an unlimited supply of time, like I wish I could be, things might not work out quite the way I think they would. I might find that when time doesn't pass, I get very bored very quickly. It's this progression from the realization that time has stopped, to actually enjoying the sudden excess of time that I have, to getting really really bored that I want to show.

On the technical side of things, I plan to do this using almost entirely photography. I'll probably also want to include some ordinary video for the periods when time is working normally. Since I rarely leave my apartment if I don't have a reason to, and I wouldn't have a reason to if time stopped, I'll do everything from my apartment.

I'll get through the useful stuff fairly quickly. I'll finish all my homework. I'll do dishes. I'll vacuum. I'll play a video game or two. I'll read all the books in my apartment. I'll write a novel. I'll read through Wikipedia. All this time, the clock will stand still. Eventually, I'll run out of things to do and be very bored and wish that time would move again. And, as it resumes its normal uninterruptible march forward, I'll suddenly think of something I would love to do, if only I had time...

October 27, 2007

How To Make Something Usable

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October 20, 2007

Visiting Artist Response: Nikki S. Lee

I found Nikki S. Lee's work extremely compelling. The pictures were interesting, of course. But, frankly, the pictures weren't the most interesting part of the work: a single photograph from her series, or even just all the photos from one of the projects, wouldn't have been all that interesting.

To me, what made the pictures interesting was thinking about the process by which the photos were produced. These weren't staged photographs. Nikki didn't didn't just dress some people up, pose for a few snapshots, then wipe the makeup off her face at the end of the day and go home to her usual life. These were real. The people in them were real, and she really was, at least for about a month, really a part of their culture. The fact that she successfully gained acceptance into so many wildly different cultures, and the experiences she must have had while doing this, is what made the work interesting. That the pictures were just snapshots taken with a cheap camera only added to the reality of the work.

The fact that Nikki came from a Korean culture and is living in an American one probably led her to start to wonder about the ideas of culture and identity. People are able to choose to change their culture, to an extent, and her work showed how quickly this could be done. It breaks down the conventional wisdom that people can't really change their culture too much. At the same time, her work does leave a question unanswered: if changing cultures is so easy, why don't more people do it? What is it that makes us stick to our "own" culture? Nikki insisted that she was Korean-Korean, not Korean-American. She showed how easy it is to join another culture, so this must simply be a choice. Is it just that we're comfortable with what we know best? Or do we fear that if we really let ourselves fully assimilate into another culture, we'll lose who we are?

In the other project she showed, her "part" project, she tried to show how relationships could affect her personality. It's an interesting idea, and after she said it, I was sure that it is true that the people around us have a powerful effect on our mood and personality. But, I didn't like this nearly as much; perhaps because I knew it was all faked. I'm not sure if its because she told everybody that she staged those photographs, or perhaps because they were visibly modified in a way photographs usually aren't, but to me, they lacked the feel of reality that made her other work so powerful.

October 10, 2007

Design it yourself

The article on the "DIY Coffin," and the emerging ideas of "prosumerism" drew an interesting parallel between the do-it-yourself culture and the wealth of sites on the internet featuring user-created content. I find the kind of collaborative networks that have developed online in the past few years extremely interesting - Wikipedia is one amazing example of what community-created content can do.

I believe there is a distinct difference between the kind of things that you can "do yourself" and these community-content sites, though. Wikipedia is not great because of any one user, but because of the large community of users who add content and maintain its pages. Social networking sites (like MySpace or Facebook) are nothing with a single user. A single blogger is a curiosity at best; but when there are millions of them it can redefine how we get information and opinions. Amazon's peer reviews are pointless without countless people volunteering to put in reviews. All these sites which have emerged from the spirit of "do it yourself" support things that you CAN'T do yourself - only a cooperating community can do them.

The internet, and the sites with user-created content, are changing this world. It may appear that we'll lose some things because of it (the author's lament that music videos may mostly be watched on iPod screens, or that album artwork must be scrunched into a tiny jpg file) but the electronic distribution of these forms of art may open up new possibilities, too: someday we may end up with animated or interactive album artwork. This kind of a thing would have been completely unfathomable just a short time ago. Things will change - they always do - but there will always be new opportunities, too.

October 7, 2007

Project II Proposal: How to Make Something Usable

Have you ever used something that's hard to use? I bet you have! In fact, I bet you put up with hard-to-use things every day. From doors which simply open the wrong direction to machines with cryptically-labeled controls, once you begin to look, examples of poorly-designed items show up everywhere in everyday life. When there's something that's just too hard to use, it's not your fault — it's a failure of design. Sadly, there's frequently not much thought at all given to how difficult an item will be to use when it is designed. It shows.

The design of the things we interact with everyday is very similar to the design of computer user interface, which is a topic that is very interesting to me. However, unlike computer interfaces, we interact with designs of doors and microwaves in a much more physical way, which makes it easier to understand the concepts associated with design. (It also makes it easier to video tape.) Most of the ideas I described above were discussed in a class in user interfaces I took. I think everybody should take such a class: a lot of people end up building things that have to be used by other people. If people would think about usability issues before building something, the world would be a much more pleasant place to live in. My intent is to educate the audience. This is relevant whether or not you ever design something that will be used by other people. If you do, hopefully I can make you think twice about how usable it will be before you actually build it. If you don't, you'll at least be able to notice when things are poorly designed. This may save you the trouble of buying a frustratingly unusable appliance some day.

I plan to gather video from any source where I notice usability disasters over the next few weeks; many of these will probably be in my own apartment. My hope is to be able to show examples of well designed and poorly designed items. Depending on how much time there is in the video, I may also include some techniques for improving the quality of designs. This could possibly include examples of mistakes that could easily have been discovered early on if some thought had been given to looking for them.

September 26, 2007

Program Sounds

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September 22, 2007

Visiting Artist Response: Lowery Sims

Lowery Sims spoke about race in art in the 1990s. She concentrated on identity as it related to race, and discussed the "flattening" out of cultural differences in society today. As she pointed out, people of different races come into constant contact with each other in today's society like they do in the movie "Crash." Along with this interaction, and the friction along the way, can come a loss of racial identity as bits of past culture are lost.

Some of the pieces of artwork she showed presented the confusion of racial identity very clearly, such as the piece with black women who saw their reflections as those of white women, or the Japanese people with faces painted black. I don't think that people being dissatisfied with who they are or what they look like is a new phenomenon, but since races haven't been able to mix as much in the past as they can today, seeing yourself as another race is perhaps relatively new.

Another piece she showed that sticks in my memory is the man who lay in a museum case for hours to show how in some cases we have forgotten heritages and turned them simply into relics to be placed in museum cases. I don't think our origins should be forgotten, nor cultures and customs of old abandoned and completely relegated to history books. Different cultures and customs are fascinating, and are a big part of what makes humanity what it is. At the same time, I don't think it's wrong to move forward. "Flattening" of cultures and loss of racial identity isn't something that should be feared. For even though we may lose some things, and may in the end look on some of the old customs simply as museum pieces, we will always gain a new culture too. People don't simply assimilate into new cultures and lose all memory of their past. Each individual is bound to affect the culture in some way. This, along with the relentless passage of time, will inevitably cause cultures to change. What we have in the end isn't necessarily better, or worse, just new and different. Change in cultures isn't something we need to fear or fight, it is as natural as the change in seasons. And so while I think some of the art Lowery Sims showed was somewhat wistful and morning the loss of sharper cultural divisions, a lot of the things she showed challenged racial stereotypes (sometimes in amusing ways) and showed how old ways of thinking can no longer persist. I particularly liked the picture of the tattooed shirtless black man with angel wings — it mixed images that you might not have expected to see together, but then made you question why you shouldn't expect to see them together in the first place.

All in all, Lowery Sims showed some very interesting pieces which showed how people think about and deal with the "Crash" of races coming together which has happened in the world today.

September 12, 2007

How I use technology

I am using digital technology almost constantly. For me, this means using my laptop more than anything else. I don't carry an iPod (or other digital music player) or a cell phone. I use my laptop at home, and at school. I use it for almost everything I do: work, play, and studying. It is also my primary tool for communication. I am almost constantly using it. If I am awake, chance are I'm at my computer.

My computer has my life on it. Nearly everything I do is stored on my computer. A lot of this work is only meaningful when it is on my computer, and doesn't have a useful physical form.

I use my laptop as an essential part of my work. (which is related to computer programming). Though I could work without a computer of my own, it would be a lot more difficult.

I use it to help study for classes when I can. For at least one class, my computer holds a database of the things I'm supposed to know. It helps me learn them and reminds me of them if it thinks I may have forgotten them. This (relatively) tiny 4.8 MB file took countless hours to compile. The code that makes it all work took weeks to create. Losing it would be like losing a piece of myself. (I regularly backup my hard drive to another disk, but I still nervously wonder if I shouldn't keep a third backup. It's that important.)

Most of the assignments I've done for classes in the past are only on my computer. Some of these aren't very important to me; I'll likely never look at them again. But others are still valuable: just this week, I referenced and used something from something I wrote for a class two years ago.

I also use my laptop as a communication tool, in much the same way I'm sure a lot of other people use their computers. I don't use my phone much because I have e-mail, which I like much better. I do almost all my communication and research online. Thanks to the internet, I have links to people in distant parts of the country and world, who I probably would have never met without it.

Living without my computer (as I have had to do on occasion for one reason or another) is hard, and truly makes me recognize just how much I rely on it. I feel helpless without it. It is the most important tool I use in almost all areas of my life.