The Mediasmith Project

Transmedia documentary as research: telling new stories in new ways

Liveblog: Remix and Representation

6 years ago, Written by , Posted in Mediasmith Blogs

Thanks to Athina Balopoulou, one of the Mediasmith Project researchers for live blogging during the third Mediasmith Project workshop on Friday 2nd May 2014.

10.00 Project updates

Today we kick off our third and final workshop with some of our project participants who volunteer to give us an update of their research projects. We look at the initial research question and hypothesis, the way that the data collected have informed the research so far and lastly we extend our thinking to the implications that alternative sources and types of data as well as methodologies might have beyond the project boundaries.

Two projects that spark a great deal of discussion are:

Dr. Tardi Tjahjadi, Associate Professor, Electrical and Electronic Division, Engineering, University of Warwick:

In his project Dr Tjahjadi has been capturing and collecting human activities in 3D and 2D representations from a range of different viewpoints. The purpose of the research is to make use of this rich material in order to be able to identify characteristic movement features for certain activities and to be able to understand people’s intentions based on their movements (movement recognition).

For Dr. Tjahjadi the biggest challenge for the project so far has been the choice of software used to manipulate and make use of data. The question that often comes up in tech-based research is whether there is an existing software available or how one can get access to it.

For many of the participants the interest lies elsewhere. Many of us notice a particular artistic value in the digital representations that Dr Tjahjadi has just shared and could see this being as relevant to a gallery as academia. This leads us to reflect on the idea of ‘remixing and re-using’ and the ability to share and to create new pieces of work that will help either the research or the dissemination or even lead to something completely new and different.

Remixing & re-using increases the likelihood of collaborations, even beyond academia

Professor Stephen Shapiro, English, University of Warwick:

In his project Professor Shapiro challenges his students to visualise Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’ in short videos of 2-3 minutes. He explains that this might not be research in its own right but it is an in depth exploration of how video production can be incorporated into teaching.

After watching a selection of three videos we are surprised by the quality of the student videos in terms of content and technical proficiency while Professor Shapiro points out that the videos helped students to do an above average job in understanding the text. Students appear to be highly responsive to the use of such methods which leads us to further reflection.

For the You Tube generation creating and editing a video is almost a feature of everyday life. Students are increasingly becoming more visually literate but there is still a need to support and enhance their abilities. Should we assume that students are already conversant with this ‘visual language’? What are the implications of this for educators? Our discussion recognises the need for visual and digital pedagogy to be incorporated in our education system and the need to legitimise visual assets as responses to research questions.

From a less academic and a more commercial perspective Chris Atkins notes that, “Yes possessing and using technology is important but it doesn’t necessarily make you a master of it. It’s like spelling; they know how to spell the words but we need to teach people the grammar too”

11.30 Chris Atkins, Documentary maker and editor.

Chris is here to demystify us about the art and craft of video editing. You may wonder, “Why do we need to get technical at all? Chris argues that being able to edit gives you more control of your film.

Key takeaways:

Editing is not a standalone process. Filming, watching and editing have to feed into one other.

Watch everything first and absorb it. This is the process that takes the most time but it is worth it. Fast forward is better than skipping over cuts so that you avoid missing anything out.

Editing is a very intuitive and iterative process. Get your material ready ‘quick & dirty’ and don’t agonise on each cut to start with.

Always get feedback from people who are not involved; your family, your friends or just random people. The best thing about them? They don’t know the story! If it doesn’t make sense to them, it won’t make sense to your intended audience either.

Tip: Watch them watching your film, don’t watch the film.

The first 10 seconds are critical; you need to whet people’s appetities by letting them know what is coming up and excite them in the first 10 secs.

Voiceover can convey a lot of information in very short time. It can be a very efficicent way of communicating your key message.

Fine-tuning details makes a huge difference: i.e. dialogues and music need always to be on same audio levels, smooth jumping from wide shots to zoom-ups, colour balance, grading. Learn when to spend your energy on small details. Inexperienced people start by doing the finishing touches too early.

13.30 Rob Batterbee, Learning Technologist, Student Careers & Skills, University of Warwick

Rob is about to put all this information in a more academic context. He notes that in academia we’re often focused on the work but the alternative methdologies that we are exploring open up opportunities to discover new things from the outside. Rob walks us through an edit workflow that might prove useful when multiple stakeholders are involved in the production of a film particularly when time is precious. By uploading the rushes to a secure site and allowing the stakeholders to log which footage they would like to use, the edit process is streamlined; the editor is able to refer to a list of timecodes and assemble a rough cut without the need for everyone to watch all the footage. Peer review is a common feature of text based research and collaborative filmmaking software such as Wipster may perform a similar role in a filmmaking context.

14.15 Steve Ranford, Academic Technologist, Faculty of Arts

Let’s get started with some data viz magic! Steve is hosting a hands-on workshop to familiarise us all with a range of data visualisation, analytics tools and his secret digital resources that we can use for films and create digital assets.

Steve explains that filming, editing and animating might actually be easier than we may think. Lot of open source tools can be found in our browser. Here we will reveal (only) some of them:

1. Inkscape is a free software like Illustrator

2. Mondrian is a free vector graphics web app like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape

3. Prezi is a presentation software which allows you to think about your narrative and draw it through your key messages. Here storytelling is used instead of presenting through a linear sequence of slides.

4. Echo 360 is a lecture capture software that allows you record your voice, capture slides and brings those elements together to create a digital lecture.

5. create hand designed looking diagrams

6. Goanimate: create animations and use ready made characters.

And what about data? Why do we need to visualise them?

To start with we acknowledge that there’s increasingly more data being generated. More specifically, 90% of data has been generated during the last two years. So the question that often rises is how do we make sense of them?

Steve explains that data visualisation mechanisms allow us to bring visual coherence to the alignment of information and to play with the relationship of things. To put it simply data visualisation gives us the opportunity to group, compare or contrast things through the choice of color, size, etc.

We move on to discuss the limitations and risks of visualisation. Data visualisation is big and is likely to grow with the development of more free and fast tools that generate. This often leads us to believe that it might be the answer to everything or to go for solutions with a one size fits all approach. Some things to consider:

Data visualisation can describe data but cannot to explain it. How do we spatially represent a narrative rather than present raw data?

Issues of translation from one thing to another (context-disjunction-ambiguity)

Lastly and most importantly visualisation has to be meaningful. We need to ask ourselves, “Why is this information useful? Who can use it?”

Steve presents sometools to help us make sense of it all:

1. an app which allows users to connect data from different web applications through simple conditional statements.

2. Gephi: creates data graphics that deal with relationships. Here we are trying to represent what is connected to what and organise a large amount of data.

3. Google fusion tables: a web application to gather, visualize, and share data tables, edges and modes.

Tip: The most crucial part is getting your raw data organised beforehand so that you are able to use them later. Systems which integrate data (extract, transform, load) from multiple applications can be useful to ‘clean up’ the data.

17.00 Next Steps

Participants are encouraged to keep pursuing individual projects and put learning and insights from the workshops and dicussions into action. We discussed the possibility of deferring the proposed symposium to the autumn so that we can properly evaluate the work and outcomes of the project so far. Watch this space!


Ruth Leary

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