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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

French New Wave Anthology: Alphaville

I wrote my critique on Alphaville as part of my final assignment for CMCL 398: Post Nouvelle-Vague French Cinema. 

Jean-Luc Godard’s film Alphaville (Alphaville, une ├ętrange aventure de Lemmy Caution, 1965) is about an American secret agent named Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) who arrives in the futuristic city of the same name. While there, he falls in love with the mad scientist Von Braun’s daughter Natasha (Anna Karina). Natasha, like the other city’s inhabitants, is being controlled by her father’s (Howard Vernon) creation: the smart robot Alpha 60. Alpha 60 outlaws love and self expression. Alphaville is an excellent example of Godard’s tongue-in-cheek humor and counter-cinema ideas as he experiments mixing film genres, technical elements such as camera work and lighting, and plot elements.


This scene is my favorite from the film:



This is the original trailer from the film:






You can read my take on Alphaville here.

Depicting Interactive Technology in Inception: A Theatrical Experience

Basically, this was a paper I wrote for class. I had to watch a film in a "theater" (loosely defined as "with a group of people in a public setting"), and then discuss the film using the theories and terms we learned in class. I received a high grade for this paper (a B+), and so for your reading pleasure, I have reproduced it below. I have removed the AI's name that graded the paper (to protect the innocent), but the course instructor's name remains intact here since I used him as a source in this paper. Finally, keep in mind that there are SPOILERS for the movie so read with caution!
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EDIT 10/6/14: You can read the post in full here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Return of the Quack (Midterm Project Critique)

I had to write a critique for my midterm project Return of the Quack. I went on to enter this video into MultiVisions 2011. MultiVisions is an annual contest/showcase in the Telecommunications Department at Indiana University, Bloomington. I didn't win the "Graphics for Video" category, but I was a runner-up. Below, you'll find what I had to say about my project.
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3 March 2011
Midterm Project Critique
            My midterm project is based on a photography project I had last spring semester. Last spring, I made a black and white, film noir inspired “photonovel” or a comic book with photographs. Unfortunately, because it is not a digital photography project, the pictures are not online. They are posted in a black sketchbook as part of a “detective’s file.” The story follows Detective John Wilson Hart as he battles corruption and other metropolitan issues in a New York police district. I started telling the story with his last case file where he is killed by Madam Madeline King at the end so the midterm project is a continuation of the storyline. John’s older brother Dr. Calvin Lloyd Hart takes over John’s business in an effort to bring down the people who murdered him.
The 30 second video is an advertisement notifying “fans” of the John Wilson Hart series when the next installment is going to be released via date and website. The ad is supposed to be dramatic, intriguing, and mysterious as the story introduces Dr. Hart. Upon watching it, fans will browse the website and buy the novel whereas nonfans will be inspired to learn more about the series. To make this dramatic ad, I used several tools in Photoshop and After Effects.
In Photoshop, I composed the backdrop and bloodstained badge. Using online tutorials, I made the foggy and rainy night scene using layers and various filters. For the rain, I used “add noise” and motion blur followed by levels under the adjustment settings. Finally, I added film grain to make it look like rain from a Frank Miller novel. Next, I created the silhouette of a man using an existing picture I found via a Google search.  This was the original picture:

I chose this picture because it was very large, had a white background that I could easily cut out, and had a subject in a simple pose wearing a fedora. This picture was perfect for my silhouette. I used the following layer properties: drop shadow, inner shadow, outer shadow, and stroke to turn this photo into a silhouette. I added a new layer, rendered clouds and then liquefied them to get my fog.  Finally, I used color, blend modes, and layer orders to get the right composition. The words were also made in Photoshop but in a separate file so that I can animate them easily. Besides the night scene, I made a bloodstained badge through an online Photoshop tutorial that utilized shapes, colors, layers, layer properties, burn tools, smudge tools, and varying opacities. Once I finished all of these elements I animated them in After Effects.
            My use of After Effects was strictly for animation. I did not create anything new in the program. I animated mostly words using the chapter “Textacy” from the course book. I animated the position, opacity, tracking, motion blur, scale, and leading to achieve a typing effect which adds to my crime drama themed book. I animated the title “Return of the Quack” using position and scale. Besides the text, I animated the badge’s position and rotation to make it look like it was rolling on the ground.
 My sounds were apple loops from Soundtrack Pro. It’s supposed to sound like Dr. Hart is walking in a thunderstorm until he meets Madam King. He says a “witty line” (“The Doctor will see you, Madam”) and cocks a gun. I personally thought everything sounded cool and worked for my theme, but I could have improved my image by adding vocals (i.e. a narrator’s and Dr. Hart’s) to the track. 
 Overall, I am satisfied with my 30 second ad, but I could improve it in numerous ways. I could have created the background in After Effects. The background was the most frustrating part of the project because it looked fine in the program but when outputted it looked compressed. I imported the background as Photoshop layers and as a TIFF besides rending out in higher quality (i.e. as an animation file), but nothing seems to work. My background is the only part I would definitely change if I had figured out how to create it in After Effects. Unfortunately, the book didn’t give me ideas on how to achieve this, and the few tutorials I did find required cameras, plug-ins, or tools beyond my understanding and skill. Besides the background, I would have added vocals, slowed down the badge, manipulated a photo I owned (to make it 100% legal) and changed the pacing of my text (because it was very slow). In conclusion, I have learned a lot more about After Effects and Photoshop, and though I did use a lot of Photoshop to make the commercial, the techniques I learned such as burn, smudge, and liquidfy might be transferrable to After Effects. Now that I know what tools exist I must find them in After Effects.

Directions to Planet X (Final Project TEL-T354 Critique)

For the midterm and final projects, I was required to write a detailed critique of what I set out to achieve, how I achieved it, and the end result. Below you will find my excuses (er-I mean explanations) for "Directions to Planet X." Click this link to watch the video on YouTube from my channel youtube.com/afordproductions.
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3 May 2011
Final Project Critique
            My final project was supposed to be a tribute to Mel Blanc’s work. As most people may already know, Mel Blanc is the voice behind numerous Warner Brothers and Hannah-Barbera characters including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Barney Rubble, and Cosmo G. Spacely. I wanted to do an animated short biopic on his life, but I found that a minute was too short to relate a book’s worth of information to people. Therefore, I decided to do a short animation based on a memorable scene from a Looney Tunes episode entitled “Duck Dodgers and the 24 ½ Century.” Basically, Daffy Duck (alias Duck Dodgers) explains to Porky Pig (Space Pig Cadet) how they are going to get to Planet X. Overall, I disliked the fact that I compromised on my original idea as I planned to add more animations or homages to Blanc’s other roles, but I did like the fact that I deviated from my original storyboard because doing an animation in the style of a Looney Tunes cartoon was much more interesting than moving pictures along z-space or rendering an animated typography.
            Most of the project was rendered in 3D space, and most of it was pre-composed as a beginning, middle, and end sequence to be nested into the final composition. My font treatment, the beginning, and ending were all inspired by the Looney Tunes cartoon intro and ending. I thought adding a beginning and ending would be an appropriate way to start the tribute. First, I made the iconic circle by nesting shape layers of different sizes, colors, and opacities. Then, I pre-composed the final product. Next, I added basic text with some stroke and arranged them around the outside and inside of the circle similar to how you would see the titles displayed in the cartoons. I rotated the text using “Range Selector” from the animator text properties. The beginning was easy, but the ending wasn’t because it had to be timed to the music.
            For the ending, I added an “egg” pattern shatter effect to make Porky Pig “burst” through the circle. I timed the effect using “Radius” under “Force 1.” I used the Puppet Tool to make Porky “talk” and move around. Finally, I wrote on the iconic saying “That’s All Folks!” using a tutorial I found online in class a few weeks ago. Basically, I typed the text using “Brush Script” first; then I masked the letters using the pen tool. After all the paths were drawn, I used the effect “Stroke.” I changed the stroke’s color to blue and keyed the “End” property over time to draw the paths on the canvas. Like the ending, the middle portion was hard too because I had to animate it in time to the audio.
            Like the ending, I also made the middle map portion after I followed a video tutorial. I made a new shape layer and kept the stroke. I took the pen tool and drew the paths onto a simple, cartoony outer space background that I made in Photoshop. After all the paths were drawn, I added the Trim Paths property and animated the “End” over time. The grid was added in After Effects. Finally, I added Daffy and Porky. I animated their positions and opacities, and I made them move and “talk” using the puppet tool. To zoom in closer to the map, I animated the position and point of interest on the camera, but instead of this motion, I would have liked to cut into a close-up of the two characters as they were giving that final exchange, panning the camera quickly between them, but I couldn’t figure it out. All of the audio, video, and images came from Google or YouTube.
            In conclusion, I didn’t like this project, as it was a compromise on my original vision. If I had to redo this project, I would have picked another voice actor who has a shorter biography and who is relatively unknown like Sterling Holloway, Kathryn Beaumont, or Arnold Stang. Had I done someone different, the class and “my audience” would have learned something new as I feel Mel Blanc is very well known because he is popular. However, if I could make the current project longer, I would have added some biographical information and more examples of his voice work (or turn “the show” I had pitched into a short miniseries therefore I could have given my “audience” more “episodes”).