Category Archives: Digital Storytelling

Playing with Video: Introducing What I Now Teach

As part of switching to a new position (more below), I recently started pursuing some Adobe credentials. This is the assignment that I produced for the first week in a course on Video Production.


Challenge: Create a short video about the subject you teach.

What Do I Teach? (0:40 secs on Vimeo)Narrating the Work

Recently I moved out of the classroom, sort of, becoming a technology integration coordinator at my school. This left me with a slight challenge to consider what I actually teach. Plus, a lot of people immediately answer that kind of question with a content area subject, but I remind myself all the time that it is actually people more then content.

Now I spend most of my time teaching teachers how to use the various technology tools at their disposal better, but I spent over ten years in an English classroom, focusing a lot of efforts on teaching student writers how to read like writers and write like readers. I also continue to teach an online screenwriting course with students from all over the world.

My instinct was to record people, since stories are about people, but kept questioning how clear that would be in such a short time. For whatever reason, I struggled to think of ways of capturing myself engaged with another teacher for this assignment.

Consequently, I got thinking of trying to represent writing visually and gravitated back a bit toward a subject. I also just started playing around.

I have always liked the sound of a typewriter far more than a computer keyboard, and I have similarly been drawn to film titles sequences that begin with typing of some kind. Also, given that I was leaning toward representing screenwriting in some way, the old-timey typewriter seemed a interesting fit.

Essentially, I went a bit more literal with this than I would normally. However, I started just playing and was having fun manipulating the sound of the typewriter’s clack to appear with each character and timing the carriage returns. I also pushed to 40 seconds, but that was because I thought it clever to add the unexpected screenwriterly CUT TO BLACK as the end.

In truth the whole thing might be too long, but, again, I was playing around more than anything. Also, I liked the suspense of sorts created by revealing one character at a time, which kind of withholds the words and meaning  a bit.

Reflecting on the Week

I thought this was a good opening week with a lot of the most fundamental items covered. The story structure material was interesting as an opening. I was familiar with it, but still think it was a good place to start.

Also, I am really new with Premiere, so this will be a a good experience for me, and I appreciated the short tutorials. I am going to need a lot of practice, however.

Learning I Value: A Video Product & Process

As part of MOOCMOOC one of the tasks was to make a video about the kind of learning we value most. It took a longer than I hoped for me to be able to do it, but I still wanted to do it, regardless. I reframed things a little, although that is kind of the point often, now isn’t it?

I had to steal minutes here and there to put it together, but once I was able to get a good run at the work things started to come together quickly. While the task allowed for more time, keeping things short and simple is always a challenge. I was trying to cut it down to a single minute but that would have actually taken longer, and I didn’t want any more delays.

In the spirit of another MOOC, DS106, here is the method behind the making. Made all with an iPad, tried playing around here a little. I started just kind of playing around and sketching some ideas in the app Paper 53, just thinking really. While playing, it occurred to me that that rough, sketched look could work on its own.

From there it was a matter of shooting a little bit of footage. I opted for some quick and dirty B-Roll type stuff that just came to mind. Being primarily for the MOOCMOOC community of online collaborators, it seemed appropriate to I include myself with a basic A-Roll talking head shot.

Lately, I have been opting for the app Pinnacle, formerly Avid Studio, to edit video over iMovie. Using Pinnacle allows for dropping in a separate audio track for narration over the B-Roll with relative ease. It is a small but significant feature that iMovie does not have.

Finally, since I mention jazz, metaphorically, it seemed almost necessary that I drop some in to score a portion. For speed sake and because my iPad’s memory is practically full, rather than download something and try to cut it, made something quick in GarageBand. It is kind of amazing how someone with little to no musical talent, like myself, can string together a handful of instrumental loops, tinker a bit, and create something that isn’t half bad.

The real trick is getting the audio out of GarageBand and into Pinnacle. As expected, Apple doesn’t necessarily play well with others, especially if they have a competing product. So it is a couple of touches to export audio from GarageBand into iMovie, which is actually what I did. Then exporting the audio from iMovie, unfortunately as a video file, allowed me to kick it into the Camera Roll, where I could easily pull it into Pinnacle. At that point, I could use it as just another audio track. A little fine tuning and I had my own original score. A minor workaround that I thought was worth sharing.

DS106 Week 4 – Design: A Sansing Sprint

Inspired by my Slaughterhouse IV bunkmate Chad Sansing, I composed a Design Assignment Sprint. I spent a lot of time in tinkering in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, which always leaves me wishing I could do more than I actually can.

Originally, I was eager to do the Minimalist Travel Poster Based on a Movie. The samples were so good. I was inspired. As I was thinking of places, I grew a little ironic and thought I would use the TARDIS from Doctor Who. While not exactly a travel destination, in and of itself, it is definitely a means to travel anywhere. That put me on a bit of a Doctor Who kick as I began playing around with different images.

I started working in Illustrator on the Minimalist Television/Movie Poster idea, working in simple block colors and trying to get essentially silhouette like blocks. To do this I snagged an full front image of the TARDIS from the web and used it to trace a series of rectangular shapes on another layer. Most of the work was using shapes occasionally switching to the pen tool for the mullions in the windows. Once I got the top third of it looking good, I was happy since I already had a layout idea.

Doctor Who Television Poster

For this piece, I wanted to keep things limited to as few colors as I could. The obvious color was the TARDIS blue, which required a little trial and error, because I wanted something a little greener with a distinctly unmistakable quality. Then I opted for a dark grey, not absolute black for the background, mostly because I thought it softened the contrast nicely.

It was at this point that I thought it would be kind of slick to have the light atop blazing. That just required some quick work with the one tool. Then I screened the opacity to make it actually look more like light projecting.

I considered adding some clever text, like “It’s bigger on the inside” or “Will take you anywhere in time and space,” but then scrapped the idea, liking the stark look like the example. Plus, I wanted it to be instantly obvious what the show was, but present in an interesting way.

From there, I completed my partial TARDIS in Illustrator so that I had a good block image of the whole thing from the front. I considered using a slightly turned view, with two visible sides, for the Travel Poster. However, that was going to be a whole lot more work, considering all multiplicity of angles that would be involved. I am sure that if I had more skills it would have been a lot faster and easier, but I am still working at that.

As you can see, I actually built a simplified Illustrator version of the poster, almost like a sketch. It also gave me a lot of the raw material that I would need to use in Photoshop. So, I kind of completed this assignment twice, as seems to be a habit of mine. It’s good practice, so I don’t mind so much.

TARDIS Travel Poster (sketch)

Once I had the completed Illustrator version, I started porting items over into Photoshop. For the Travel Poster, I wanted to have a much richer, textured quality than the stark version of the Television Poster look. To achieve the look, I started playing around with spray brush settings to splatter and dirty up the TARDIS image, which I dropped in as a primary layer. I also wanted there to be a sort of thematic visual continuity that echoed the stars.

TARDIS Travel Poster

For the background, I actually did a quick Google search for “cosmos,” grabbing a simple star-filled image. I imported it into Photoshop, stripped it of color, and tiled the image across the entire background layer. Once I had the starry look, I went back to the TARDIS and touched it up a little so that it didn’t disappear into the background. These two layers served as the primary components of the image.

This piece was definitely going to incorporate text, and I definitely took my inspiration from the Star Wars example. I tried to keep the font as clean and simple as I could, going with a sans serif like the Police Box lettering. The Police Box font was just Myriad Pro, which looked near perfect. Yet for the poster lettering at the bottom I chose Franklin Gothic Medium. It has a bolder and beefier look for the larger size I needed. I made sure that the spacing for both lines of text matched up in terms of length and used a simple horizontal line to break the text up clearly.

After pasting them from Illustrator into Photoshop, I used the wand tool to select all the letters by color so that I could use the same brush technique to splatter the letter fill. I switched between an orange and red, warmer colors to compliment the TARDIS blue I used. The coloring is even inspired by the recent show logo that was used for the newer series. The logo got a TARDIS-like makeover since Matt Smith took over the role.

One minor issue I toyed with was messing about with the background behind the lettering a little. I am not sure that it made that much difference, but I was trying to diffuse the starts and lettering some.

The last thing I did was throw off the symmetry, tilt the TARDIS to the right and arbitrary amount. I thought it was funny, in a supremely nerdy way to set the arbitrary amount at pi, 3.14.

If I count the two versions of the travel poster, that left me in need of another assignment. So I opted for more minimalism with an attempt at Iconic You.

Icon of Me

Although I have recently shaved at my daughter’s request, I generally have a beard or goatee. The goatee made for a better iconic look. Again, I used Illustrator, just some basic oval shapes and the pen tool. At this point I was getting a bit better using them. This ended up being a little more Homer-ish than I intended, but it got laughs from both my wife and daughter. My wife was the one who suggested I throw in the frown lines that are deep and seemingly permanent in my fivehead.