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Copyright and Digital Storytelling

According to the documentation we read for this week, the legal constraints of copyright are fairly clear for our digital stories. Unless a digital story is entirely original in terms of audio and visual content, it will run up against copyright issues, and only then if the video is out of earshot of any copyrighted audio content or corporate logos: blank background, neutral clothing for all subjects, white noise audio background preferred. On the other hand, if the work is only going to be used in the classroom, a teacher seems to be pretty secure within Fair Use requirements. As soon as the work is considered for public dissemination, the long and potentially expensive process of securing permissions for every image will be operative. Historical material remote enough to be in the public domain would make a decent story doable. As the point person for getting permissions for the Children and Youth in History project at CHNM, I have been very fortunate in getting many organizations to give us permission with a simple form letter that butters them up. Without the cache of GMU, U of Mo and CHNM, and the grant-making organizations that fund the project, it would probably not have been as easy. In addition, there is a budget for permissions. Individuals would not fare so well within that system, or would have to curtail the content they use. On the other other hand, the web-based projects I have worked on have never been challenged as long as thumbnails of artworks (the main material I use) are put on the site, the original link is provided, and the museum or other org is credited next to the image or in a credits list. There, too, I have been fortunate. I will admit to not being terribly stringent, and daring organizations to challenge educational uses on the web. So far so good.
Where the real problems that the filmmakers and copyright rebels are pushing against is the stifling of commentary on contemporary life and art that corporate interests have won for themselves through copyright law. If I worked in that area, I would be frustrated to no end. Use of music is also a big issue that I have seldom run up against, but I can see it being a real wet blanket on creativity. The mention of “Happy Birthday” being copyrighted is truly shocking in the example of the Hoop Dreams film. Anything 3-year-olds sing has to be in the public domain, I would think, suggesting a new legal criterion for that.
My own digital story contains a whole array of images that could be under copyright. I am such a fledgling moviemaker, however, that I can’t imagine posting it anywhere, and besides, I would only use it in educational settings. The images, furthermore, are quite trivial. Is Osama bin Laden’s fuzzy video in the public domain? Is a photo of a TV playing the video under copyright? It seems unlikely that he would press me for copyright on his image…he has other things to worry about.

Editing w/ Moviemaker & Audacity

Yesterday I worked for many hours assembling my images in preliminary sequence. I went through the tutorial again (Grandpa’s Skateboard movie is a real thriller) and then used Help to figure out what I didn’t get. It isn’t that I am so fabulous at this, but Moviemaker is really limited in what it can do. Image credits are piling up as I grab Google images for this and that. I am worried that the image sequencing and transitions might stretch out the timing.
I also found out that I cannot save PPT animations on titles as a movie (I will check on Office 2007), which I don’t have at home, but I do have the titles done already, and hopefully they look OK even without animation. I saved them as jpeg files.

I recorded the narration and learned how to edit it in Audacity (if I can do it, you can!), but having figured out that the timing works, I need to re-record it because I think the delivery is flat. It might help to stand up as if speaking before a group. I will try to do this early one morning next week, and then edit the recording again. Then again, I don’t know whether it is smarter to time the visual flow first, and then sychronize the narration to it, or the opposite. Any advice is appreciated.

Category: W12: Final Project Progress  Comments off
Corrected link for US Copyright Office “basics”

Here is the link for the document “Copyright Basics” from the U.S. Copyright office. The link in the syllabus didn’t work for me.

Category: W13: Copyright  Comments off
Storyboard revisions and media creation

The partner feedback session last week, and the short meeting with Kelly were both very useful. Even in those few minutes I was able to see what I didn’t see by myself in terms of what’s missing, what’s too much, and what’s misplaced. Following Kelly’s advice with a kitchen timer ticking off 10 minutes, I timed the narration and doodle-oodled through the non-narration parts to sort of time them. After cutting a bunch of redundancies and excessively complex frames & text, the timing seems pretty close to 10 minutes. I may be kidding myself here, but at least it’s in the ballpark.

I have also thought through how I am going to create the media. I hope to do the narration at CHNM in the early morning using the good USB mic and Audacity, the free recording program I downloaded on Misha’s advice & handout. The idea is to create separate, numbered clips for each narration so I don’t have to chop them up later. If this is a bad idea, and might make the story choppy, will someone please let me know before I do it? Or should I just do straight narration except where it is interrupted by something else and this would make smoother transitions? Enlighten me.

I have already grabbed some video clips, and have a number of still images. I am going to work on the text titles, which I plan to make and animate in PPT. I hope this goes well. I still can’t see myself as a maestro in front of the editing console…but miracles do happen. Andrea makes it look so easy.

Story of Bottled Water

Check out this story from Annie Leonard, who also did The Story of Stuff/

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Storyboarding wipe-out

Like a kid on a snowboard for the first time, I launched into storyboarding my carefully crafted script. What a surprise to find out how complex it is to break it up into parts with visuals and audio. Amazing how bloated the text was!! How to do the transitions!? How long to put things up? How much to put up? Where to insert a little pause or silence? Stay tuned…this can only get better.
See you tomorrow in the lab.

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Interactivity, as I noted in my comment on another post, is an element of storytelling in many cultures. Audience and storyteller reinforce each other, make noise, move, elicit the story from the teller, who never tells it twice the same way. Audience members form the story with the teller, or become a chorus, or call for changes. We have perhaps lived in a period in the West in which storytelling was less interactive than it had been throughout time and elsewhere. That is because we have lived through the emergence of print and broadcast media, journalism, etc. in which stories became mass produced articles of consumption delivered in full color, moving, with sounds and music, and lacking any sort of 2-way expression. We sat motionless in front of the box (radio or tv), on the box (desk or couch or theater seat) and were expected to be a polite listener. No more. Computers, initially a passive medium for reading and an active one for producing text and image, are now Portals to a Lost World of interactive storytelling, a global interactive medium. The interactive element has returned, but we need to re-learn it. I really enjoyed looking at all of the different examples of literary, artistic and technological storytelling–Jonathan’s TED presentation on feelings is a bit on the techno-side but makes great abstract, moving art, and is quite meaningfully conceived and constructed, unlike a lot of techno-art that leaves the viewer wondering what it all means.
As for the classroom examples, I have had my own humble experience of transformation. Two girls in my history class were always distracted, seldom prepared, and usually pulling each other off task, looking hopelessly innocent when I called them on it. An assignment I do for studying Greek mythology involves having students do a comic strip or other rendering of a myth. These two girls marshalled some family members, put them in chitons and videotaped the story of Helen of Troy and Priam. It was amazing, since both of them had trouble formulating essays, but were quite good at the more visual, active medium. The students and teachers in the programs described in the readings combined the virtues of learning the technologies, teamwork, generating topics and projects from their worlds, and using video and film to change their communities. Writing papers as proof of learning is overrated and tiresome (I am near the end of coursework and still haven’t written a single paper I would want to read, or “only a historian would care.” On the other hand, working on web projects, leading & watching discussions in workshops, and learning digital media have enhanced my experience. The cult of the individual student, the solitary, one-way communication only for the teacher’s eyes, and for a grade, has killed higher education’s lure for many young people-especially boys. The problem is suspension of life in school, waiting until school is “over” to contribute and truly express oneself. This is changing and the nature of learning and teaching is changing for the better due to these tools.

Enjoy a different kind of story

The art of William Kentridge . Some of the stories are still, some are moving. I would like to see more of his work. Torn paper horse…hmm…hmm

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Story pitch

Digital Story Pitch, on Jihad and Terrorism

In the past few years of conducting workshops on world history and teaching about religions, specifically Islam in world history, I get a recurring question. That question is whether Terrorism = Jihad, and whether or not it is condoned by Islamic teachings, as extremists and critics of Islam claim. The objective of the story is to lay out the Islamic principles and sources according to which suicide attacks and other forms of targeting civilians cannot have legitimacy, and to lay out the principles that make it a criminal act, not a praiseworthy act. The problem of equating jihad and holy war will need to be part of that, but I don’t want it to be central, since there are more important points to make.

In terms of how the story will be told, I was reading about story mapping in the Ohler DST book, and find the model of the core story compelling for the way it moves from awareness to discovery and change. I was skeptical at first, but then the author convinced me that it is viable for narratives that are not “story-like”. I intend to map the story and then do a storyboard before attempting to write a script–also Ohler’s influence.
The pattern I want to follow–building on what is required to convey to the listener–is to make four or five arguments based on principles in Islamic teachings–very solidly grounded ones (not fuzzy interpretive things). These segments counter the facile equation “terrorism = jihad” by showing that no such equation is possible, because it violates multiple, foundational principles.

I intend to use video, text, and image, and in our first evening of brainstorming our pitches, the suggestion was made in my group to make each point using a different approach to the type of presentation, i.e. images only, a talking head, a video segment with voiceover, etc. I will have to think which type will be most appropriate for each, but of course getting the footage, images, etc. will be difficult, so I may not achieve the optimal mix. Must learn quite a few new skills with video editing.

Category: W6: Final Project Topic  Comments off
Two video stories of interest

This is an animated video story “Wake up, Freak Out…then Get a Grip” that is making the rounds on climate change/global warming.

Another animated video story I wanted to share is the “Story of Stuff” on economics, politics, and sustainability.

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