Thursday, 2 May 2013

Evaluation - "How did you use new media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?"

Throughout the course of putting together my productions, I've relied on a wide variety of different pieces of technology. This has been a consistent feature of production, and I've made use of lots of pieces of hardware and software at every single step, from the early research to showing off the final products. In this post I am going to cover everything which has been beneficial to me during this year.

First up is the hardware.

Apple iMac

This has pretty much been the main base throughout most of the project; specifically the video production.

  • Supports Final Cut Pro 7 (more on that later) which I've used to actually put the video together.
  • Has an internet browser (Safari); necessary for research.
Sony Bloggies
  • As I have had access to my own one of these I used this for filming the outside narrative parts of the music video. It has a reasonably decent picture quality for these parts.
  • I had initially attempted using these to film the performance shots, however they didn't seem to cope too well with the darkness.

Nikon SRL Cameras

The better, more expensive cameras which were available.

  • As I didn't have the opportunity to take these away from the school grounds, I wasn't able to use them for the outside shots... but they were great for the performance parts of the video. During the stationary shots they were attached to tripods, and for the moving shots, I had Sir run around with one (quite literally with the "crazycam" shots...). 
  • They can also take high resolution still photographs, so I had Sir take the photograph which I'd use on my digipak and promotional poster with one.

As for software...

Final Cut Pro 7

This has been the base for everything in terms of putting the music video together in post-production. It has quite a significant number of different parts which I've employed throughout the entire process -

  • File management: all the videoclips I've imported are easily accessible in the Browser (and playable in the Viewer), which made the process of critically analysing each shot to determine whether it is usable much easier.
  • The Canvas has let me play the video through as I was working, which let me see what I was doing. This is typically a pretty useful thing. The slight drawback with this is that at times it can be a bit laggy (which I put down to the presumably not-so-great RAM on the Mac; unfortunately I can't check the exact specs because the permissions won't allow me to. My nerd self is disappointed...) which makes it particularly difficult to accurately sync up the visuals (my lip-syncing) to the audio. This means that I've had to resort to ultra precise editing when zoomed in to the track to sync the two (otherwise known as the "left a bit, right a bit" method), and I'm still not convinced that everything is perfect because of this.
  • The Timeline is where the main magic happens... or something. This is where I've put everything together - as you can see from the screenshot, I've used what some would see as an unconventional timeline management system by piling several of clips on top of each other as opposed to just using a main track and a few overlay tracks - but there is logic behind this. This was in fact to try and work around my syncing problems - I got all of the main performance takes as close in sync as was possible (I stress the "as possible", my lip-syncing isn't perfect, which is another reason why I had to resort to the previously mentioned "left a bit, right a bit" technique") and used the Razor Blade tool to cut the clips to shape.
On top of just using the main parts of the application which are handed to you on a plate, I dug a bit deeper and made use of some other tools...

  • Image+Wireframe: some of the shots needed a bit of cropping - one of the performance takes which was otherwise a good take had a bit of an unwanted door in the shot over to the right; I used the Wireframe to zoom in so this is out of view. I also used the zoom to give a bit more variety in how close to my face the camera appears to be - which to an extent followed Sir's suggestion of making the production "more crazy".
  • Colour Correction: Most of my video is in greyscale, because DARK and EDGY = cool. For the sake of making the greyscale effect, I just reduced the saturation to the absolute lowest - though FCP's Colour Correction tool can also adjust the balance of the blacks and whites, which I've deliberately tampered with from shot to shot as an additional little touch to support the whole dark vs. light concept.
  • Gaussian Blur: Tied with some stock fade transitions to make that cool little flicker blur to nothing effect at the very end of the video.

This, at first, looks like a basic media player, akin to QuickTime or Windows Media Player; but it has an incredibly useful function which I discovered when working on personal projects about a year or so ago - it can be used for converting and compressing video files. I've used it to convert the .mov output files from FCP into .mp4 files - I've found .mp4 files typically have lower file sizes whilst still being of a decent quality - so I've used it whenever I've had either a draft or some kind of video to post on this blog, so I didn't have to wait a decade for the thing to upload.

Adobe Photoshop CS6

(Photo from elsewhere because I'm not using a computer with PS installed right now to screenshot for myself. I would link to the site for the sake of attribution, but said site appeared to be teaching others how to go about pirating the software, and that's no good...)

Used for the creation of both the digipak design, and the poster design. I've covered more specifics into how I used the software for the poster in the video here, but I should clarify that I used similar techniques for the digipak production as well. 

I used Photoshop because a) I've been using it for years for different things and so I sort-of have an idea of what I'm doing and b) it's a pretty powerful piece of software with a lot of editing options.

Microsoft PowerPoint

I'm going to be honest - I don't like PowerPoint in the slightest because it has a hideous UI and I have to look at one of the things every time someone wants to present anything, but I will grudgingly admit that it can be beneficial in some very specific situations (by which I mean laying things out in bullet point format with the odd picture). Hence why some of the blog posts here have PowerPoint embeds.

I've taken advantage of this by using social media to gain input from potential future audience members as to what they want to see in productions, for the sake of research...

Web forums

As seen when I conducted early research into fans of the rock genre, web forums can be useful for collecting feedback from specific audiences - this is because most forums revolve entirely around specific areas of interest, and in this case I was able to ask the members of two music-oriented forums for their opinions.

Social networking (e.g. Facebook/Twitter)

We're at a point now where practically everyone in western society uses a social networking site of some kind, and if we ignore the fact that a great deal of what you see on them consists of invites to play stupid Flash games and fifteen year olds going on about how they want to go out and get drunk, they can be pretty useful tools for asking your friends for their opinions on different factors which help shape a production. They were also useful for promoting polls (see below) as I could prompt people I know to go and fill them out.


Polls and surveys can be pretty useful for getting generalised overviews of people's opinions, and Polldaddy is a particularly great way of doing this as it gives good numerical breakdowns of the responses gathered, as we can see to a degree here.

Over the course of production, I've been able to upload my drafts as a kind of production log, as well as upload other videos (such as my Photoshop poster video) explaining how I've done certain things. We may moan about YouTube whenever they change the layout etc., but at the end of the day, it's a very useful site for sharing videos.

This really goes without saying, given that you're reading this on a blog which is hosted on Blogger, but I've made use of it to document my progress on both the music video and the ancillary tasks. I've also been able to get feedback on my work, as Blogger has a comments function.

So, ahem, I didn't realise this post would be so long. Eh. I hope it has filled your minds with plenty of informatively informative information about the ways in which I've made use of technology throughout the project.


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