Communication Practices


This course is an introduction to the study and practice of communication production techniques. The main focus of the course will be practical, affording students ample time to produce original works. In doing so, students will begin to master the use of the computer as a creative tool and to explore how they might draw on other media (text, music, painting, drawing, theatre, and sculpture) in their productions. We will inform this practical focus by attending to the theoretical context of digital media in order to better understand the current problems facing the genre and the role that digital technology might have in expanding communications languages and traditions.

Students will acquire the practical skills necessary to produce digital “cinematic” projects by being required to complete a series of production assignments that use both optical/analogue and computer-generated imagery. The specific technical skills that students can expect to learn touch on central technical and formal aspects pertaining to digital media and communications processes.

The course will provide a theoretical context by means of assigned readings and viewings. We will critically reflect on the fruits of our labor in the course of in-class critique and discussion pertaining to the nature of digital productions. The goal being to cultivate constructive criticism of our own artistic products and those of others, and to place digital art, including our own, within the tradition of contemporary culture and aesthetics.

The goal of this course is to develop the students’ ability to communicate effectively in a collaborative environment as well as to work autonomously and responsibly. Students are responsible for accessing the assignments and research material online, when applicable, organizing their materials and time, and for purchasing project materials and the text, if stipulated.

The production schedule is provisional. Depending on our progress, and in common with all good syllabi, the dates and subject matter described in the distributed course outline may change, depending on our temporal and learning progress.

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Creating Unity: Common Characteristics of the Portrait Projects:

Characteristics common to all projects:
60 seconds duration. Shoot at least 10-15 minutes of usable video. 3 takes for each shot. Choose the best take. Plus100 digital stills as a sequence or series (or a number of such).
Video starts in 5 seconds of black and ends in 5 seconds of black (inclusive)
In order to maintain graphic consistency between projects all transitions will be over black.
That is; no fades to white.
You will record a voiceover track. The voice does not need to be present throughout the whole portrait. There could possibly be 2 (or more simultaneous) speaking voices using different diction, possibly representing, the public formal self, the casual unguarded self, and the voices from the external world calling us to perform for it. There should be an original soundscape audio track. There will be no use of any copyrighted music.
The aspect ratio will be consistent throughout the projects, preferably 4:3 (camera setting).
The sound will be 16 bit (camera setting)

The project will consist of a series or sequence of still images with a only one video (moving) shot sequence. So use it wisely, perhaps to make a point in the video or to emphasize some aspect inherent to your narrative. One of the purposes of the exercise, with respect to the use of still images, is to get people thinking about how to create movement without actual video footage. The video tape that we will use then can be used as a counterpoint to the stills. It might be used as a stop, a punctuation, a rest, and/or a change of pace. I’m not sure how it would work if placed at the beginning of your project… show me how and explain it to me if you think you have a good idea how to employ this.

The projects will be layered using typography, text, and possibly drawing overlays, reflections, mirror images (whole and fractured), shadows and sounds to reinforce the narrative points being made. Green screen proposals will have to pass review and be fully scripted.
Limit: 1 green screen scene per anthology.

Combined credit roll- 20-30 seconds for each anthology.
Question: How many edits in 60 seconds? Consider pacing and changes in pace.

On Creating Structure in Media Works

Creating Structure:
You need to create a structure to organize your raw content; video, images and sounds. This can be imagined as a framework that holds your images together and presents them in a coherent and effective manner. There is no need to make it complicated. Understanding the value of spareness and economy when it comes to conveying emotion is so often overlooked as a possible route through a project.

Here are some other tips:
•Repetition of specific images or parts of images help to create a visual connection and therefore structure.
•Adding to that, varying the image, using it strategically throughout your narrative helps create structure.
•Using a detail from an image and enlarging it or making it smaller to create a new image or variation will help to create structure.
•Using found objects, shadows and textured backgrounds can help to create mood and structure.

•Deciding to use only specific colors or tones and using them consistently and throughout your portrait will help to create structure.
•Repeated use of the same font (semi-transparent layers in video if we can get to it!) with variations helps create structure.
Or create your own text using your imagination… and ketchup, or macaroni, or shoelaces, or bottle-caps, or sticks. See Napolean Dynamite‘s opening credits again for inspiration
• Let’s not forget about sound; melodious undercurrents, whispers,  and sound loops, for starters.
Or rings and ring-tones, voicemail, alarms, sirens, horns, machines (that talk) etc.
Maybe you want to create your own song in Garage Band… go for it.

Portrait Anthology Group Production Overview

revision in red: october 1, 2008

Draft (v.1.5) for a group project employing mixed media.

The following is a document in progress and is subject to change and/or revision as the project develops and unfolds. Your input into the process, at all stages is essential to the successful completion of the project. Participation categories and boundaries are not clearly defined. You must invent this process and in some respects, re-invent yourself in relation to your involvement.
We’re all in this boat together. So if anyone person puts a hole in our boat, everyone is jeopardized.

Media Project 2:  a.k.a. Medeya Projetkt 2woa.k.a.: creativity is not a 4 letter word

An individual project, to be assembled into a timeline or video portrait anthology that will be linked together using recurring fades to black between individual segments. The subtext is “everyman” or “everyone”, at once iconic and personal. Using still images, video, and sound clips from various sources create a portrait. It could be a self portrait or a portrait of someone you know (or don’t know). Maybe it will be a study of some aspect of the human condition.

When I say a portrait I don’t mean a bunch of photos or collection of random video clips. You can include likenesses of the subject but I also want you  to think about how to express aspects of the subjects characteristics using a non-literal approach. This is a project about working metaphorically. Symbols are an important part of that equation. Think about your location and setting as symbolic of a psychological state. It could be tranquil or tormented. Maybe both! The visuals may not necessarily contain a likeness/realistic representation of the person whose portrait is experienced. It may be the things he or she feels, sees and experiences. There may be an overriding emotion or thought, or there may be some co-existing or conflicting ideas and emotions. Or it may be images of significant people in the subject’s life (a family member, a lost friend, family gathering or event, impersonal public spaces).
I also want you to think about the kinds of emotions and ideas you want to convey in the portrait.
Confusion is a state of mind but as a subject it can be re-imagined in an orderly or structured manner. Likewise your portrait could be an ambivalent sketch of a person you simultaneously love and despise. Or a portrait of a person with a highly developed inner life.

Other topics to consider might be;
• the burden of carrying ones parents expectations on their shoulders. A rite-of-passage topic addressed in many youth oriented feature films dating back to the 1950s and before.
• the dilemma of seeking external rather than internal validation
• betrayal (for instance)

Guidelines:
Each media portrait will be 60 seconds long. That requires you to plan effectively stick to your work plan, and co-ordinate your efforts as needed and required. The guidelines are few but the must be followed to insure an internal cohesion within and throughout the whole project. The outcome of the initial step into the anthology project will determine how deep a path we choose to cut into the technology and intellectual terrain available to us in this setting. I strongly urge you to team up with one person in the class, to share experiences, expertise and knowledge, with a view toward helping each other through your respective individual projects.

Shooting strategy:
Full, medium, close-ups, X–CUs and tracking shots (left to right only) with an absolute minimum of hand-held shots overall.
Room tone used throughout
No camera mics to be used. Lavalier (clip on) or external mics only to maintain consistent production values throughout the segments.
If for any reason the production quality of an individual component does not meet the standard of the other components, it will have to be re-shot or a new sound track developed, depending on the type of deficiency or inadequacy.

Acceptable types of transitions:
Butt edits: Back-to-back shots on the timeline without further embellishment. Push/pan, Motivated=Continuity vs. Shots emphasizing spatial discontinuity.

Fade to and from black. There can be internal fades to black over a non-stop audio track.
That is, the sound need not stop or pause when the image stops or changes.
Consider this; a conversation or monologue is visually punctuated or interrupted by fades to black, a transitional device similar to but more emphatic than the dissolve. The fades do not actually interrupt anything, for each time the scene returns the conversation continues with no major indication of a change in time.

Lap Dissolves: Conventionally used to signify a lapse of time or a change of place. It could be used to suggest a momentary lapse of consciousness or of a drifting off, unbound by time.
Point to consider: What is the viewer’s perception of the character’s state of mind.

Slow motion: retains its power as a signifier of disturbed perception, ranging from insight to disturbed temporal reality.

Step/zoom technique. Long shot with figure isolated in space, using continuous zoom that ends on an XCU (say of a part of a person’s face). Brief sections of the video track only are removed, but the soundtrack is left intact. (see: “fade to and from black” above)

In the final stages the individual portraits will be edited together and we’ll add title sequences, front and back, using a production team to create effective, thematically grounded titles.

Ideas:

Sound intro and extro can be a collage of hard sell advertising, news casting, aggressive rap, reality show soundtracks (rings and ring-tones, voicemail, alarms, sirens, horns, machines etc.). List to be expanded. The result would be a significant contrast in the types of sounds found in the intro/extro and the portrait collective/body.

Direct and non-Direct Representation
(deleted text)
After–life and re-Purposing:
Each persons extended portrait can be re-imagined and edited in another software program (Flash preferably) to produce a variant of the original media reformatted for different distribution and transmission methods. (ie: Flash Projector, standalone self-executable program)

Big screen (projection) vs. small screen (computer screen),
Public (projection) vs. private (individual) viewing experience.
Immobile viewing vs. mobile viewing

Rough cut due: October 16th 23rd
Final cut due at the end of the class on October 23rd 30th. No exceptions.
Works not submitted on the due date will not make the final cut.