Reading a video ad

For week 2 of the GMU #ds106 course that’s being taught this Spring by Alan Levine, one of the assignments given was to analyze an advertisement as a short story. We were to choose an ad from this YouTube search and analyze it in 5 second increments.

I went a little bit down the list and just decided to watch this one. I was instantly hooked because of the little kid who looks about the size of my 6-year-old son. I can imagine him doing exactly this. That’s probably why I’m drawn to this one and decided to analyze it!

It’s not clear whether the kid is a boy or a girl, and I just thought of him/her as a boy because I imagined my son…but there’s a reason we might think of her as a girl (see below, under 0:15-0:20).

Here’s my 5-second-interval play-by-play.

1. 0:00 to 0:05

— We are introduced to the character. The camera starts off on her feet and slowly moves up her body to her head. We get a sense that she’s a small-ish child.

— She’s moving along a white corridor, which is vaguely reminiscent of a white interior to a spaceship. There is a bright light behind her.

— Then the camera angle switches to the rear and we see her cape swishing after her as she goes down the hall. Now the bright light is in front of her—she’s walking towards it.

— Throughout, the “Star Wars Theme” is playing. Wonder how much they had to pay to use that music?

2. 0:05 to 0:10

— There is a quick cut and suddenly Darth Vader is walking slowly towards an exercise bike as the music builds. There is a bright light coming from a large window behind both Vader and the bike. We get a shot from the side as she takes a couple of steps. She is on the left of the bike.

— Then the camera angle switches to being ahead and somewhat above her, accentuating her small size as she purposefully puts out her hand towards the exercise bike.

— At first I wasn’t sure just what the heck she was doing. But after a few more seconds it became clear.

3. 0:10 to 0:15

— Quick cut to Darth Vader standing in front of a dog in a dog bed, lying down. Vader is to the right of the dog in the video. Again with the forceful hand gestures, this time two hands purposefully aimed at the dog.

— Quick cut to closeup of the dog’s face, still lying down in the dog bed. The dog doesn’t raise its head, but only lifts its eyebrows and ears a little (do dogs have eyebrows?). It’s clear that the dog could pretty much care less.

— Back to the original camera angle of Vader and the dog, and Vader lowers her hands in a kind of dejected fashion.

4. 0:15 to 0:20

— Quick cut to a much more forceful gesture in front of the washer and dryer—stepping forward with one foot as well as using both hands. This lasts just one second or so. The step is in time to the music as it builds even more. The camera is slowly panning inwards.

— Quick cut to a side view of Vader standing at the foot of her bed, with a doll sitting on the edge of the bed. Vader is to the left of the doll. This time she puts one hand out, then the other, again in time to the music. The room is decorated in somewhat girlish colours, and the doll suggests a girl as Vader. But then again, this is pretty sex-stereotypical of me to assume. But assume I am.

— Quick cut to a closeup of the doll’s face, which of course remains impassive. The camera is slowly panning in towards the doll. The doll cares even less than the dog.

5. 0:20 to 0:25

— Cut back to the side view of Vader and the doll on the bed, with the camera still panning inwards. Vader lowers her hand dejectedly and slumps her shoulders and head, giving what looks like a heavy sigh.

— Cut to a side view of a hallway; the dog passes by with Vader walking close behind, holding her hands out towards the dog. Clearly she’s trying to get the dog to do something, and the dog just wants to get away.

6. 0:25 to 0:30

— Cut to Vader sitting at a kitchen counter, moving her hands as if to do something, but we can’t see what. She’s aiming at something outside of the view of the camera.

— Cut to a bigger picture of the same scene, and her mother pushes a plate towards Vader as she moves her hands along with the plate—as if trying to move the plate herself.

— This is the only place I noticed so far where there is another sound besides the music—the sound of the plate going across the counter is layered on top of the music.

— Vader visibly crumples her body again, putting her hand to her helmet as if disappointed.

7. 0:30 to 0:35

— Cut to a view of a driveway and a car pulling into the driveway.

— Cut to Vader with her head in her hand. The dog barks, and she lifts her head, as if she knows what the dog barking means.

— Cut back to the driveway, and Vader’s dad gets out of the car with a briefcase. We hear the sound of the car door close. He walks toward the house with his arms outstretched a bit.

8. 0:35 to 0:40

— Camera angle from behind the father, with just one of his hands visible in the shot (the one with the briefcase), outstretched a bit. We can hear birds.

— Vader comes running out of the house, shakes her head at her dad with her hands out in front of her (the same gesture she’s been doing); we get a bit more of the dad in the shot and see both his arms fall.

— Cut to an interior shot of the car, looking at the dashboard and through the windshield at Vader, who stops in front of the car. Nice way of getting the dash into the ad!

— We also see the dad walking towards the house through this view though the dash. It’s clear he’s just going inside and letting his daughter be.

9. 0:40 to 0:45

— Side view of Vader standing in front of the car. This is similar to the side shots of her standing in front of the dog and the doll, though she’s back on the right this time.

— We catch a bit of the dad’s body walking out of the camera to the left, apparently into the house while Vader stands in front of the car with her hands outstretched.

— The music builds to a climax as she moves her hands backwards to push them forward again.

— Cut to a closeup shot of Vader from the side; the music falls as she pushes her hands forward; the music suddenly gets much quieter. Clearly something is going to happen.

10. 0:45 to 0:50

— Cut to a rear-side closeup of Vader and the car. Only the front grill and headlights of the car are visible, with the car logo clearly prominent.

— Vader stands still with her hands aimed at the car, as the music goes quietly forward, with her cape billowing in the wind a bit behind her.

— Suddenly the signal lights flash and the car starts. She jumps back, visibly startled. The music stops completely.

— Cut to a closeup of the remote for the car, held in a hand. A thumb moves away from one of the buttons.

— The music from the beginning starts up again as we see the dad and mom at the kitchen window, the dad’s arm at an angle that one would use if one had the remote in one’s hand.

11. 0:50 to 0:55

— We see the mom only from behind and the dad only from the side, but the dad lifts his eyebrows just a bit and they both turn back towards the window. A wonderfully subtle gesture that says it all.

— Cut back to Vader and the car in the driveway, but this time with more of Vader and less of the car in the shot. She turns forcefully from the side to a frontal view, unsteady on her feet a bit, as if to be looking into the kitchen window.

— Cut to a wider view of Vader and the car in which we see the whole car again, from the side-front view. It’s a very typical view of a car in a car ad. It’s like there’s a “car-in-a-car-ad” angle, and this is it. There is a subtle light on the front of the car that looks like it could be the beginnings of sunset.

— She turns forcefully back towards the car, using her hand to move her cape out of the way in a kind of strong, “I did it” gesture. She is master of the car.

12. 0:55 to 1:00

— Cut to a title screen with information about the car.

— A circular cut (I’m sure there’s some other word for it) with the sound of a light saber—the title screen becomes the car logo as the cut moves around a circle.

— Music fades quickly.

Some overall thoughts

I thought I’d try to analyze this commercial  according to some of the ideas in this post about JCVD’s ad with Vovlo involving the splits, and a little bit using the “story spine” idea from Ken Addams.

— The beginning, and all the way through to 0:40, is the beginning part of the story spine, the “once upon a time.” The character and her routine are established. She tries and tries, but the force isn’t working for her. This is the storyline.

— This also establishes empathy—we feel bad for the poor kid who can’t use the force like she wants to. She is really trying, over and over. And what’s more, she tries harder with each attempt. As the music builds, she uses one hand (with the bike), then two hands (dog), then steps forward with two hands (washer and dryer), then does one hand forcefully and then the other with one foot forward (doll). But it just isn’t working. And then the ultimate embarrassment—her mom has to push her sandwich towards her. Head in hand, indeed.

— The “then one day” part of the story spine is when she stands in front of the car and the music changes. There is a clear sense of anticipation for a second or two as the music completely changes to much quieter and she stands still. Then the car starts and she jumps backwards. This is clearly the surprising revelation in the JCVD post. We know something is going to happen from the music, but we’re not sure what.

— I don’t know if there’s a sense of admiration and awe in the audience at this point (JCVD post), but there is certainly a sense of awe in Vader!

— And by the end, she has achieved “mastery”—she has mastered the force.

— There isn’t the full story spine here, since there isn’t a “because of that, and because of that,” and then a “since that day” ending. But we can get a sense as viewers of what she thinks the future will bring—success in using the force. We can also get a sense that she might end up being disappointed again, which is a bit of a downer. 

I really enjoyed doing this assignment. I caught so much more by focusing on each 5-second interval. I noticed the change in music, the change in camera angles, the fact that Vader tries harder with each attempt and that the music builds as she does so.

I was impressed by the way the story is told in such a short time period, while still showcasing the car as the main point of the ad. Having the view of Vader through the inside of the car was pretty darn cool as an idea to get the interior shot of the car in the ad without breaking up the story. All that was needed from the dad was a short, small, subtle gesture of the eyebrows, mirroring to some extent that of the dog earlier in the ad.

I was able to notice how the side views of Vader and other things are switched: when she approaches the bike she’s on the left, when she’s standing in front of the dog she’s on the right, when she’s standing in front of the doll she’s on the left, when she’s standing in front of the car she’s on the right. I would never have noticed this balance without stopping every 5 seconds.

I got quite a great respect for telling stories within one minute through this assignment and the things we watched/read for it. Amazing what can be done in a short period of time!

Radio Show Archives

Radio Show Archives:

As if just doing the GIFaChrome project weren’t enough during the Headless version of ds106 in the Fall of 2013 (see the previous post for a description and rundown of what we did), we also decided to have a radio show product launch of the GIFaChrome camera. Quite a few people did amazing audio for this radio show, all of which you can hear at the Radio Show Archives link given at the top of this post.

Here I will just say a few things about the audio that I did for the radio show. I can’t believe how quickly all this came together—we basically did the entire project and the radio show in 1.5 weeks. I managed to squeeze out two audio projects in just a couple of days.

Roxy Louridge archival audio

I had the idea early on in the project that we could say we’ve found some old audio from the very first creator of the GIFaChrome film. I cam up with a story, the name (clearly a play on Rochelle Lockridge, or Rocky Lou, the CEO for GIFaChrome), and the name of Roxy’s dog, Corlin (a play on the GIFaChrome mascot, Colin Dog, who lives with Mariana Funes). The only problem was that I wanted to have it be scratchy, as if it were from an old phonograph recording that was heavily damaged such that the audio gets completely covered over by the “scratch noises” at crucial parts. Rochelle said she could use an effect in Garage Band to simulate this, and voila….

GIFaChrome commercial

I also scripted and recorded a commercial with my 6-year-old son for the GIFaChrome camera. I recorded his and my sections separately and then edited them together using Audacity. He never really quite understood what he was talking about when he said his lines, but he was a good sport!

I got the music for this commercial from Kevin McLeod’s free music site, (all music there is licensed CC-BY). The piece I used is called “Friendly Day.”

In addition to these two audio pieces I did for the radio show, I acted as co-host for the GIFaChrome launch with Alan Levine. This was our second time co-hosting a radio show for the Headless 13 ds106, as we also worked together hosting a three-hour show during which we played all the group radio shows for this course. You can find the whole show, broken up into pre- and post-show discussions of each, here.

But back to the GIFaChrome launch. The idea for this radio show was to have a party atmosphere, as if we were broadcasting from a live party during which the camera would officially be launched. Alan Levine has a great summary of the radio show launch and how he managed a number of the audio effects, including the party sounds. Alan had all the audio pieces on his computer and designed the script for the show. The whole show, as well as the various pieces, can be heard from Alan’s post about the show. As usual, I just sat back on the Skype and talked while he handled the technical end of things. But I have learned enough in ds106 by now that I should be able to run a radio show with multiple people on Skype at the same time. It’s not just a straightforward thing, but I just need to try and ask people along the way and eventually I’ll get it to work. Sitting around wishing I could do it is going to get me nowhere.

Afterwards, we had a Headless 13 ds106 radio campfire, in which anyone who wanted to join in could call Alan on Skype and discuss their Headless experience. Alan has an archive of that radio discussion as well. I had to leave partway through, as that day was insanely busy for me, but it was great to be able to reflect on how this whole Headless thing worked, with others. 

And speaking of reflecting on the Headless thing, that is what I do in the next post!

Ahhhhhh! The hand! The hand!

Ahhhhhh! The hand! The hand!

This is for August Animated GIF challenge #10: Monster Chiller Horror Theatre 3D style GIF. It is also a new animated GIF assignment on ds106. The idea is to find a 3D style movie scene and somehow

find your own way to emphasize the moving of a thing out of the screen and into your face in a GIF.

I found this scene from a 3D Dracula movie trailer on YouTube.

I wanted to try to emphasize the hand moving out of the screen somehow, and came up with the idea of selectively colourizing it. I discovered that if I selected the hand with the lasso, or free select tool, and then inverted the selection (so everything but the hand was selected), then I could go to Colors -> Desaturate, and it would make what was selected b/w (everything but the hand) but not what was unselected (the hand).

I did a few layers that way, but then realized that what would be really cool is if it started off in full colour and gradually went to b/w except for the hand…like the hand was really coming out at you while the background was fading into, well, the background.

So for the layers that would be first in the gif, I kept the first two full colour, and then gradually desaturated the next few: 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, then one at 90% b/c I wanted another step there. How I did this was to free select around the hand, invert the selection, then use Colors -> Hue-Saturation, and chose the amount of desaturation for each layer. Then the last layers of the gif were full desaturation.

What took the longest, of course, was doing the lasso/free select tool around the hand on each layer. There were a couple of layers where the hand didn’t move very much, so I could keep the selection from one layer and use that for the next layer too, for desaturation purposes. But for most of the layers (12 total, 10 desaturated to some degree) I had to do a new free select around the hand each time.

I actually started off with twice as many layers as I ended up with, and deleted every other layer to end up with half as many. That saved a lot of time, and made the gif file smaller. Desaturating most of the image made the gif file smaller too.

I realized too late that I wanted to have more of the full colour and gradual desaturation layers, so the desaturation was more gradual. But I’d have to re-do all the free selecting to change the saturation level on any of the layers. So instead I just slowed down the first few layers by putting the time in milliseconds I wanted them to last after the layer name (e.g., “full colour (300 ms)”). Then when I exported as a GIF, I chose something like 200 ms for all the layers that weren’t otherwise specified for length. The first few layers go a bit slower than the last ones that way. It’s not quite the effect I wanted, but it’s close. If I were to do it over again I’d have more full colour layers, and do the desaturation more gradually, over more layers, with just a couple at the end fully desaturated.

Finally, I used a new trick I learned from Alan Levine’s comment on my last post, as well as Talky Tina’s reply on Twitter: dithering. When I was done with the layers, I went to Image -> Mode -> Indexed (because GIFs get indexed when exported anyway), and chose the fullest number of possible colours (256 for a GIF) and clicked the check box for dithering. I played around with several dithering options, and just used the first, which is called “Floyd-Steinberg (normal).” And I didn’t get the colour banding I’ve been getting on my other GIFs! Sure, the quality isn’t perfect, but it’s an animated GIF, after all.

I had a lot of fun with this one, even if it took me awhile to finish because of the hand lassoing of most of the layers!

And I think my favourite part is that—ha ha!—Dracula never gets to grab the woman. He keeps trying and trying and he never does it. A nice twist on the fact that these horror creatures continually attack women. Not this time. In your FACE Dracula!

How I feel when I have too much coffee.

How I feel when I have too much coffee.

I was making this GIF this morning at a coffee shop while working on another GIF that I still have yet to finish. That one will be posted soon.

August Animated GIF challenge #11 is making a wiggle stereoscopic GIF. Seemed pretty easy—take a photo from two different angles and make a GIF so it wiggles. But this, like all digital storytelling, is an art. And I have a lot to learn. This one does not look like 3D like these sorts of things are supposed to. Rather, it looks like a jumping bunch of confusion.

I should have made the angles between the two images less—I should have taken the photos without moving so much in between. Lesson #1. I wanted the coffee cup to wiggle but not the computer so much. But the coffee cup wiggles too much and the keyboard of the computer wiggles too much too.

I should not have had a great deal of the cafe in the background, because what I wanted to stay fairly lined up was the computer screen, which meant that the background in the cafe moved a lot, which was really really annoyingly dizzy-i-fying. Lesson #2. What I did (in GIMP) to help with this was create new black layers on top of each of the two images, then create a layer mask with a selection so that the black layer showed only in the cafe part behind the computer. I reduced the opacity of the black layer to about 90%, then applied the layer masks to the black layers and merged them down onto the two original images. So now the background is blacked out a bit and it’s not quite as distracting. But I could have used more black than this, even. Maybe nearly full black, because the cafe movement is still distracting.

I should not have had a glare on the computer screen, because that moves too much with the two images as well. Lesson #3.

And why is my image so pixelated? Really…this has been happening with gifs a lot lately. Is it the gif format?

But it’s late and I need to go to bed, so, well, it is what it is for today.

Even though this did not turn out how I would have liked, I learned a lot, which is a good thing too. I want to make another one sometime that looks better, and then I’ll post it to the assignments bank as an example. This one…not so much an example of the right thing to do!

The GIF on my computer in the image is taking a little while because I have to do something to it layer by layer, which is kind of a pain but I hope it will turn out looking good as a result. Hopefully tomorrow or the next day that one will be done!