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Images & Voice

As we wind up (or down?) our projects I found two things some of you might find helpful: one is that for PC folks, there are some quality voice-changer software that’s free (as a Mac user, I was bummed). Not that you need to change your voice to Darth Vader or Marge Simpson, but sometimes a tweak or two can improve the narration quality.

The other was courtesy of George Oberlie (PhD student of History, who also works with the Library)–our GMU Library Online Databases contains a database called AP Images, which we have access to use freely for educational purposes. It was a godsend! Made finding images so much easier. The link will shoot you to the exact page and just scroll down.

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Project Update

I am adding a new project update as I wanted to after the filming and the interview.  The interview went really well.  He had me and my friend with tears in our eyes twice.  Those were the defining moments of the interview. He provided me with some information I knew and a lot of background information on African Americans in the military.  I knew much of this but not all of it.  I did not know that the barracks in Devens in 1942 were segregated and that southern officers served the black units at Devens.  It was really cool to hear the perspective of the civil rights movement from a man who believes his generation really got the movement rolling.  I was happy with myself and how I conducted the interview.  Only once did I feel like my question was a little lame but it didn’t last long.  There were definitely things I could improve on.  Two cameras would have been nice.    He was so expressive with his hands and  did nto know this until we started interviewing.  I missed a lot of that because I was more focused on his head.  But had I pulled the shot back to include his hands then I would have had to contend with the window in the hallway that would have thrown the exposure off.  Also, the light switch behind his head was a little annoying.  At one point he received a phone call and I had to adjust the camera because he moved a bit too far over.  And he slowly leaned more to one side in the course of the interview.  I have not played back the interview yet so I am not sure of the quality.  My friend was in charge of making sure audio was going through the lavalier.  She said it was and I trust her!

The guy who helps me with camera work at Devens could not come help so I was on my own.  It should be interested!  I threw the lav on myself and talked about the sites and my thoughts as I was shooting, not so much to include in the film but more for my thoughts while I was shooting.  I took some old photographs with me to try to get some before and after shots.  I used the film camera instead of a traditional still camera for these shots on the camera was out and the tape was already paid for.  Oh, this is funny.  I thought I would shoot some interview footage of myself just to see how it would come out.  So I set the camera on the picnic table and hoped my head made it in the shot.  It did!  But I had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction that I noticed when I went back to see if my head was in the shot.  haha.  That will remain in the archives.  I know need to go to the star lab and transfer the tape.

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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.

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Progression through the maze

What a ride.  I am designing this thing in my sleep but having a blast.  The technology issues are finally worked out.  After two weeks of struggling to install software on an under minded processor I gave in a got a new laptop as Adobe Premiere is too huge to run on old equipment.  The good news is that I finally got the software loaded and the 200 plus files I developed for this project over the past 6 weeks.  I ended up taking 75 small clips of the studio session.  Now all I have to do is figure out how to edit and cut out 99 percent.  This is always the tough part of the art process.  What do I leave out because I want to say everything.

The research for this project has been amazing.  It took me back to the roots of my graduate thesis 12 years ago and now my work seems to be coming full circle.  There is so much to report but I am happy to say that the research for this project actually is helping me to identify more clearly my dissertation research.

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Project update

My project.  It is frustrating and I feel like so much gets taken out of the story that I have to rewrite it.  I have all my photos organized and about 40 minutes of video to pick through.  I am in Massachusetts interviewing a guy tomorrow who served on Fort Devens during World War II.  He is an African American man and he said to me, “There is a lot I remember, there is a lot I don’t remember and there is a lot I don’t want to remember.”  I am very excited and nervous about interviewing him.  I am also shooting at Devens on Saturday.  All my pictures are organized.  I just need it all to come together.  I don’t know how to change it at this point but I am confident that it will work out fine.

I know this is a short post but I don’t know what to say at this point.  I have talked to so many of you in class about my script and have gotten so much helpful advice.  It is not going to be the assignment I originally started out to do.

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Progress Report

My project is coming along very well.  So far.

I have been keeping pace with the class schedule all semester – developing my topic, performing research, scripting and storyboarding the ideas as they pour out of my brain.

But I’m still worried about getting it right.  I’m sure we’ve all had those moments were we stay up until 2-3AM writing something we think is brilliant but sounds horrible the next evening.  I hope that’s not the case with my film.  My goal is to finish a rough cut by April 8 so I can have an entire week to continue editing and refining.  I am already feeling very sensitive about shots lasting one second too long, or fading too quickly.  In a more broad way, I’m trying to stand back from my film and ask the “so what?” question.  Does my film successfully serve a larger purpose, or is it just a timeline?  I think I can make my film more succinct by recording my current voiceover script, then tightening up my central arguments at a later point and rerecording the narration.

So if I had a short, twitter-worth status update right now it would be, “coming along, nervous, think I have a game plan.”

Project Progress Report

So far I think my project is coming along well. Almost all my images have been scanned and organized. I spent the weekend with my grandfather (one of the main characters in my video), and was able to scan a bunch of his photographs and talk to him about his experiences in college and in WWII. He actually had a lot more photos than I had thought he would and they were about a broader range of topics that I expected. I was actually able to find photos for just about everything I had wanted to talk about in the video, which was surprising. The only thing I have left to do for the images is to find some generic images from WWII (probably from the Library of Congress and the National Archives websites), scan some of the letters and postcards that I’m quoting from, and get a few snapshots of my family now.

The final script isn’t quite as far along. I have the overarching narration finished, but I haven’t finalized the excerpts that I’m going to be using from the WWII letters and battle histories. I know the type of quotes I want to use and I have a general idea of where in the letters and books those topics are; it’s just a matter of sitting down and carefully reading through everything. Fortunately, the letters the I’m quoting have already been typed up in manuscript form, so it’s fairly easy to read through them.

I’m not too worried about putting everything together. I’ve played around with Movie Maker a little bit, and it seems pretty user-friendly (despite the fact that I have absolutely no technological capabilities, whatsoever). I should be able to get the images, text, and background music organized without any trouble. I’m more concerned about recording and editing the narration. I think I’ll just have to come in early a few times and use some of the microphones in the lab.

Update on project

So far, DST seems frightful. The technical aspects do not intimidate me, in fact, they are a nice outlet for my creative juices. But my personality is so geared to being a team player, to delegate tasks when I have been in roles of leadership, that I would rather be the quiet one working hard behind the scenes. DST forces you forward to an uncomfortable degree. I have debated whether I want someone else’s voice narrating; but in the end, it is still my name on the project. I often hear of a director’s worst moments occurring during the test-screening of their film, and their best moment is when that film received a rousing ovation.

So, as I approach the film, my best bet is to not focus on the credits at the end of the film, or the film’s screening, but rather the message of the film: that the quietest voices can often be heard the most. That human oppression appears in many ways, can target any group, and can take place anywhere.

Finding images is not too terribly difficult, video footage is a bit trickier. If there is any part of my project I regret (at this point) not giving as much attention to…it is the research. Hopefully the next few weeks will allow me to increase my research, and begin the creation process in full earnest. Perhaps the storm that awaits will keep my fears at bay.

Progress Report

I have collected a number of documentary video sources and stills which will serve as the base of my project. I have been slowly trying to replace what was scripted as voice-over narration with video clips that say a similar thing. After storyboarding, I realized that my current mash up of source clips goal may be a little too…out there? So I decided that I would like to include some interviews with experts. (I am going to the OAH anyway) Interviews will break up the clip stream, and hopefully guide my storyline.

Smashing together talking heads is familiar to me. It puts me in a comfort zone. Using experts takes the pressure off of me. I mean, they said it right? I’m just the middle man. And to be honest, this would make it look like I did more work.
My original plan was to try to use as much source material as possible. I wanted to do a sort of zen, let the sources-speak-type mash up. After story-boarding, I was afraid that it would look like I didn’t do anything but slap together some clips and maybe I would lose any semblance of an argument or thread. So, I am at a crossroads a bit…

Either I can take a risk at weird genius video editing of old footage to tell a story (fairly open to interpretation) about history and film/video, or I can err on the side of caution and have a familiar balance of sources and interviews, with a clear identifiable interpretive focus. I’m sure that the answer is somewhere in between, as usual. Isn’t Tina doing two? I think I’ll do that as well.

Blog Highlights: Final Project Progress

“Another unexpected thing regarding the objectivity question and family stories–in some ways it’s easier to produce a video with family stories because you know them so well, yet it’s hard to objectively analyze them because you have so much emotional attachment.” Warburton

“Thinking about history in this way makes it fun and stretches the boundaries of conventionality that I often feel weighing me down when doing more “traditional” history. I’m just hoping I can find the sweet spot of storytelling that engages, provokes and even entertains a little bit.” Goodwin

“While the images and videos I am gathering are going to be essential to telling my story in a digital format, the story itself is still key.” Plumb

“Since I am relying so heavily on oral histories, I have felt like I have been almost entirely at the mercy of those willing to talk to me.” Janes

“Originally, I planned to do a historiography of the Sandro Botticelli’s painting, Primavera. While this may make for a great research paper, it wasn’t translating as well to a digital story. . .” Cook

“. . . 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. . . .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.” Douglass

“We need to see beyond the chalkboard, the powerpoint slideshow, the monograph. And this *is* a good way to approach certain topics, and can lead to different sorts of learning outcomes for those who take the time to do it. . . . I’m just wondering– is it really compatible with most people’s classroom reality?” Suiter

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