Animated Classic Reading-The Death of Hector

This assignment caught my eye because the animation in the thumbnail looked quite interesting and I’ll never turn down doing a reading of classic, or in my case, classical, story.

The process for making this wasn’t too difficult. I used Plotagon to make the video. Within the app, I created the character, and her expressions, then just recorded myself reading the part of the scene in the Iliad in which Achilles kills Hector.

How to Read a Movie-Ebert and Hitchcock and Kubrick! Oh my!

Our first task for video week was to of course learn things from the masters. The first master from which we were to learn was esteemed film critic, Roger Ebert.

The Ebert article we read was “How to Read a Movie.” Since photography and cinematography are so closely related, I already knew most of the things that he points out about techniques and what they accomplish. I can’t explain why these techniques work, all I know is that they just do. I suppose the the concept of “right is more positive, left more negative” in terms of placement works because of the millennia-old notion in the West that the right side is blessed and the left side is cursed. Though, I cannot explain why this concept also rings true in films from cultures that read right to left, as Ebert says.

Along with the Ebert article, we were to also watch 3 clips about cinematic techniques.

This clip was about how which clips are juxtaposed together can make or break or break a story. The example in the video shows how putting different clips in between two shots of a man, one in which he is expressionless and one in which he is smiling, can completely change the perception of the man. First, a clip of a woman smiling and holding a baby is placed in between the two clips of the man, which makes him seem sympathetic. The next clip that is placed in between the the clips of the man is a clip of a woman in bikini, which makes him seem like a pervert.

Just as the title says, this video shows examples of editing techniques:

Jump cuts

Slow motion/Montage

Wipe transition

Still/Thaw frame

Form cut

Flash cuts

Fast motion/time compression

Tempo/Rhythm

Freeze frame

This video shows many examples of scenes shot from a one-point perspective. There is no narration in the video, but it is clear that this perspective draws the viewers’ eyes into the middle of the frame.

Look, Listen, Analyze-Dracula (1931)

After reading esteemed film critic Roger Ebert’s article, How to Read a Movie, we were to analyze a classic movie scene in three different ways: visually, without sound; audio analysis without looking at the screen; then watching and listening.

The movie scene I chose was the scene from Dracula (1931) in which Renfield makes his journey to Carfax Abbey and meets Dracula for the first time.

Here are the notes that I took while watching and/or listening to the clip:

Watching Without Sound:

  • Starts off showing the driver of the carriage in the middle left and Renfield in the middle right; the driver is mostly silhouetted and Renfield is somewhat lit up
  • Cuts to driver looking at Renfield as he gets into the carriage, only his face is lit up
  • Carriage goes from the right diagonally away from the camera
  • Long, winding road up to Carfax Abbey, Renfield’s carriage comes into view from the bottom left and continues up the road
  • Cut to Renfield in the carriage, carriage is moving up and down and side side
  • Camera on the ground with the front gate in view and the carriage bridges it and goes through the gate
  • Camera pointed to the right and carriage comes in then follows the carriage until it stops in front of the front doors, dimly lit light on Renfield and the house and the front of the carriage, horses are silhouettes 
  • Cut to closer shot of Renfield again addressing the driver by getting out and going to the front, the carriage continues moving, but there is no driver
  • Cut to the right front huge door slowly opening
  • Cut to a diagonal shot of the front steps and Renfield, whose hat is the only thing that is lit, enters from the lower, but not bottom, right and slowly walks up the stairs
  • Cut to a high up shot of the foyer of the abbey, the only light is “natural” light coming in front he windows, moonlight presumably, Renfield enters the shot at the middle bottom, emphasizing how large the house is 
  • Cut to silhouetted shot of bats flying outside of a pre-Romanesque window
  • Cut to a shot with one of those columns in the middle foreground and Dracula holding a candle in the left background 
  • Cut back to Renfield walking backwards in the right third, and Dracula coming down the stairs in the middle third, walk towards each other unbeknownst to Renfield
  • Renfield turns around to see Dracula on the steps and the shot cuts to Dracula in he middle third
  • Cut back to Renfield from a high-ish angle in front of him looking up a Dracula, the light coming through the window cast out on the floor, again dwarfing Renfield
  • Cut back to Dracula from a low angle speaking to Renfield 
  • Both men walk up the staircase, Renfield in the right third and Dracula in the middle/left third, they walk and stop in tandem
  • Dracula walks through spiderwebs without touching them, good visual way to allude to his paranormal abilities without seeming like there’s a narrator 
  • Cut to Renfield in the center, zoomed out a little more than previous shots of him, making him seem smaller, literally and figuratively—he gets “smaller” the more powerful we realize Dracula is
  • As he is watching Renfield deal with the webs, Dracula is lit up only by the candle that he’s holding in his right hand
  • More shots of Dracula from a low angle and Renfield from a high angle—power dynamic
  • Most of the light in the room is from the flickering fire
  • The men in the center of the room are framed 

Listening Without Visuals:

  • Carriage door opens and shuts
  • Carriage on the Road, metal rattling, horses hooves on pavement
  • Renfield  talking to the driver, then stops himself short
  • These sounds gets distant when the shot is farther away 
  • Can tell that the surface of the road changes
  • Door creaks slowly
  • Long pause
  • Animals squeaking
  • A sound I can’t identify. Rustling maybe?
  • Long pause
  • “I am Dracula”
  • Renfield speaks hesitatingly 
  • “I bid you velcome
  •  Wolf howling
  • Long pause
  • Renfield responds hesitatingly to the weird things that Dracula says
  • Door creaks
  • Men speak

Watching With Sound:

  • Renfield talking to the driver then cuts himself off because he sees the driver not there, but there is a bat there instead
  • These sounds gets distant when the shot is farther away 
  • Long pause as Renfield takes in the house
  • the squeaking animals were bats flying around outside a window
  • Still cannot identify the rustling sound
  • The next long pause is while Dracula walks through the spiderwebs to emphasize how dumbfounded he is

It was really interesting to see what I could and couldn’t deduce was happening with only the visual or with only the sound. I could figure out most of what was happening, but there were somethings that I didn’t put together until I watched the video with sound.

It didn’t take long to that I remember reading about in the Ebert article. For instance, how the angle of the shot affects the viewers’ perception of the character(s) in the shot. Most of the shots with just Dracula in them while he is talking to Renfield on the stairs are shot from below him, making him seem more powerful than Renfield. During the same conversation, the shots with Renfield in them are shot from above, making him seem smaller, literally and figuratively, than Dracula.

I also read this article about camera work and how they affect the perception of the character or landscape. One example I noticed was the “extreme long shot, in which the character is so far away they’re nearly lost in the frame or obscured by their surroundings.” This kind of shot is employed when Renfield for the first shot inside the abbey around 1:32 in. Most of this shot is comprised of scenery, the grand foyer of the abbey, and then Renfield comes into frame at the middle bottom, is almost unnoticeable at first, emphasizing how not only how big the abbey is, but also how figuratively small Renfield in the story of Dracula.

Audio Reflection: Moon Graffiti

Moon Graffiti

I thought this audio story would be really cool and fun since it’s called “Moon Graffiti.” This story is based upon Richard Nixon’s contingency speech titled “In Event of Moon Disaster.” As soon as I read that line, my hopes of this being a fun story vanished.

The clip itself begins with a narrator saying the name of the podcast “The Truth.” While he is speaking, there is a beep and some static in the background. This immediately made me uncomfortable. Then there is a voice coming through a walkie-talkie accompanied by more static. I became more uncomfortable. To me, hearing someone speak through a walkie-talkie is reminiscent of almost every movie or TV show that includes the use of walkie-talkies; the person on the other end is probably going to die.

We then hear the Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong communicating with Houston, informing them that they are about to land. An alarm, more beeping. Faster this time. Buzz and Neil begin talking more franticly before we hear the sounds of the rocket crash landing. Then silence, an extremely effective silence. A silence that simultaneously makes your heart drop and fills you with anticipation.

Next we hear someone acting as Nixon say the opening lines of contingency speech.

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to
explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

Richard Nixon’s Contingency Speech “In Event of Moon Disaster,” written by William Safire

One the presenters, Jonathan Mitchell, then narrates everything that happened in 1969 right up to just before their successful landing. While he is speaking, there are sound effects that illustrate and emphasize the part of the story is telling at the moment: the sound of a rocket shooting through space as he says the words, “maiden voyage;” echoing beeps emphasizing the vast emptiness of space as he says, “a place with unfamiliar gravity.”

The story picks up again with Armstrong asking Aldrin if he is okay. The two then determine that there are only about 7 to 8 minutes of air left in the cabin and decide to put on their helmets. When they put on their helmets, you can hear the sound of the visor coming down, and even more effective, the white noise in the background cuts out at the same time you hear the visor shut. Their voices also go from being crystal clear to only being through the static of a walkie-talkie. all of these sounds and lack of sounds make the listener feel as though they are in the protagonists’ place, wearing a full space suit.

Starting at 5:41, we hear Armstrong go down the ladder onto the surface of the moon. Once he is out of the ship, there are a few seconds of no sound except the two men breathing and some eerie, atmospheric “music” playing in the background, illustrating just how in awe the men are.

The men then further assess the damage done to the ship during their crash landing. Buzz calls Neil over to look at something, and you can tell from Buzz’s tone and the delays in between one of them saying something, that whatever Buzz found is really not good. The fuel cell is damaged beyond repair and there is no fuel left.

They accept that they’re grounded, or at least they know that they are grounded. Neil suggests that they should start the geological survey, and Buzz, as if he didn’t even hear what Neil said, suggests that they get the radio working. Neil tells him that the radio is dead and Buzz continues to suggest things they communicate back to earth. It takes Neil saying that the radio is dead another 3 or 4 times before Buzz actually hears him and accepts that they have no way to say their goodbyes to their families. The desperation in Buzz’s voice and Neil’s attempts to get Buzz to hear him almost made me cry.

At one point, Neil is talking about graduating from flight school, and Buzz is starting panic, but we don’t know this information because he says something; it’s the sound effects that give us this information. Neil continues talking, but we don’t know what he says after a certain point because amidst all of the overlapping sounds that are playing, we can hear words repeating over and over. Neil snaps Buzz out of it and Buzz lays down presumably because he is feeling faint from his state of panic. They continue their conversation, but it kind of just peters out.

Next, we hear the rest of Nixon’s contingency speech and are able to conclude the men did in fact die on the moon.

Create a Place-Where I’d Rather Be

The beach? No, that’s too predictable. I would really love to be at the beach though. What’s another place I’d rather be? Well, I’ve always wanted to go to Italy. Okay, but where in Italy? Anywhere outside since I am over quarantine. Ooh, how about an outdoor café?

This assignment is pretty self-explanatory, but here are the details for Create a Place:

For this assignment create a place by just using sound. For example, make the listener know where they are if outside use birds, cars, etc. You can get sounds from https://freesound.org 

Just like my other audio assignments, I started with freesound and searched for effects like “restaurant” and “outdoor groups talking.” I then imported the effects into Audacity and overlapped them just the way I wanted, and had change some clips of people indoors to make them sound like they were outdoors. Then, I exported it as a WAV file and uploaded it to SoundCloud.

Sound Effects Story-Pompeii, 79 AD

Author’s note: This story/narration may be upsetting for some people. Please read/listen at your own discretion.

Pompeii, 79 AD. Though she didn’t know it at the time, this year in this location would go down in history. But for now, to her, it started as every day other day this year did. She was woken up by the roosting crowing and got up to wash off her face. She got dressed and ate breakfast then set out into the streets of the city to do a little shopping before the dinner party that was to take place that evening. And by “a little shopping,” she meant “a lot of shopping” as she left the house around 10 o’clock that morning and didn’t return home until about 6 o’clock that evening. All of her and her husband’s friends are now at the house, reclining and telling jokes as they ate. Everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves until someone hears a loud BOOM and distant screaming. They all go quiet to try and figure out what the sounds were caused by. The screams get louder and the booms are happening more frequently. The day that they all knew was possible, but had been living their lives ignoring it, had finally come. Vesuvius was erupting.

If you read my About page, then this story probably isn’t a surprise. I knew that I couldn’t just create a sound effects story of my morning routine, but what if I did a story about a day in the life of a someone living during the early Roman Empire. I then started thinking about what kind of sound effects I could do for this without making it boring. That’s when I had the idea of sounds effect story of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in August or October/November (the traditional date of August 24/25 has recently been called into question. Isn’t that exciting?!) in 79 AD.

The Assignment:

“Tell a story using nothing but sound effects. There can be no verbal communication, only sound effects. Use at least five different sounds that you find online. The story can be no longer than 90 seconds.”

The Process:

I started by looking through freesound.org for sound effects that I could use by searching effects like “rooster crowing” and “outdoor market.” I was lucky enough to find a recording of an outdoor market in Italy with people speaking one of the closest (but not the closest, believe it or not) languages to Latin. For all of my searches, I made sure to look for uploads under Creative Commons License 0 so there was no chance of copyright infringement.

I then imported all of them into Audactiy, and cut the each clip in exactly the way I wanted to make the story coherent.

I had to turn down the gain on some of the clips as they were much louder than the ones before it and I didn’t want damage the ears of headphone users. Once that was all done, I uploaded it to SoundCloud.

Emotional Rollercoaster

This assignment was fun to do and a little challenging for several reasons. It is hard to tell a story in five songs where the last word of the song before it starts the next song and keep the theme the same. Its hard to use multiple different songs without any of them getting taken down for copyright and it was difficult to think of a story to tell. However I think I was able to tell one that may hit close to home for a few story. This story is about a person that is dreaming about his current relationship and is dreaming about breaking up with his partner. The dream consists of him regretting his relationship feeling that he has wasted a few years of his life on it, feeling bad about it, realizing that relationships change and then waking up next to the partner they dreamed of leaving.

Audio Reflection: RadioLab’s Songs That Cross Borders

I listened to Songs That Cross Borders by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.

As someone who listens to a lot of music spanning many different genres and languages, I was immediately drawn in by the title of the podcast. For me the voices of Jad and Robert were very calming which helped keep me immersed in the story of the podcast. The podcast talks about how some music reaches across borders to countries that we wouldn’t think they would reach. It talks about how Dolly Parton has a large fan base in Zimbabwe and how country music is loved in several middle eastern countries as well. One of the hosts interviews Gregory Warner who recounts a story of how he went to Afghanistan, and he brought his accordion with him and would occasionally play it while he traveled. While playing he his translator asked him how he knew an Afghan song and Gregory responds that it is an American song called “Those Were The Days.” It turns out that an Afghan singer named Ahmad Zahir “Afghan-ized” a whole lot of other western music. The podcast diverged a little bit to talk about how Zahirs music and and other songs that he had actually wrote influenced the culture by talking about freedom and how he was killed for the music that he had written. Even when the podcast had diverged it was easy to stay immersed because they did not use sound effects that were out of place for the time and place that the story was taking place. When demonstrating the “Afghan-ized” music they would over lay the original song with the song that Zahir had written to let you hear how similar they were. They told us the story of Zahirs death and a story from Zahirs wife about her dreaming about his death the day he died. During the telling of the dream they used some ethereal music in the background which made it more dream like and added to the imagery that they were describing from her story.

To me the podcast did very well at keeping me focused on it and did not use out of place sound effects so it was effective at keeping me immersed in the imagery that the two hosts were creating the and story that they were telling.

My Dogs Run My Life

Whats The Story Morning Glory?” Was a fun assignment that allows me to narrate how my dogs run my life in the morning due to their need to always have a human around.

While you can not hear them in my audio, my morning often begins with my dogs barking as my mom pulls out of the driveway to go to work. My morning revolves around keeping them happy, they don’t like being left alone too long or they will chew on the furniture or run through the house. It is often startling and their barks shake me awake. It is hard to get out of the bed some mornings as I want more sleep but they eventually come upstairs to scratch at my door until I open the door and greet them. The noise of them at my door is what typically gets me up and moving through my morning routine. My routine is more simple than I would like it to be. I immediately shower as fast as I can (shortened sound so you don’t have to listen to it too long ) and brush my teeth so that the dogs don’t get lonely. Then, I go downstairs to let them out into the back yard so they can run around for a few minutes and go potty. While they do that I make myself a quick and simple breakfast and put food the dogs’ bowls. I don’t have a large appetite in the morning so for me I tend to pour some coffee with a little vanilla syrup and grab a granola bar from the pantry. If I am feeling hungry enough somedays I will make scrambled eggs with sausage but that does not happen often. This process takes all of about 2 minutes for me as it is habit and I know where everything is. I could do it in my sleep, which is how i feel most the time. After pouring the coffee and eating the granola bar I let the puppies into the house as they have finally settled down a little. My mourning while simple is not something I would ever change as I get to spend it with the two sweetest dogs I have ever met.

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