Monday, 26 September 2011

Animating the past.


Digital storytelling generally makes use of personal archives to tell narratives on personal themes. They are usually short and could be considered multimedia haiku - implying more than they say.  Here's a link to one of my favourites from the BBC's Capture Wales project

I made this digital story for a variety of reasons. As an idea it's been hanging around for ages and it was good to finally realise even a very small ambition. I've got round to it because I'm making digital stories with our students as part of the MAD archive project and needed an example I could talk about with authority. I used PhotoStory 3 for the "rostrum camera" effects and Audacity for the sound. The animation and titles/credits were added in Movie Maker.

Anyone familiar with kids' PowerPoints will know the fondness they have for transitions, effects and animations - which they sprinkle around like confetti. I've consciously tried to use all of these things in this piece but stick to the principle that they should only be used in the service of the story - the pinwheel transition, for example is used to underline the surprise a spoke breaking induces in the unsuspecting cyclist.

A similar problem is their choice of music - they are often desperate to use whatever is currently cool  irrespective of whether it serves...The hornpipe by Tony Hall serves on several levels:
  • my wife and I often used to listen to his first album (Fieldvole Music) in her car whilst we drove around sunny East Anglian lanes 
  • the stop-go nature of the piece illustrates the spoke problem perfectly whilst the otherwise steady pulse has a good cycletouring rhythm
  • Tony Hall is from Norfolk and its good-humoured wit has a fine, sunny, holiday feel. 
I recorded the voiceover using Audacity rather than PhotoStory so that I could use SFX as well as music and have greater editing control.  I also prefer the more flowing effect produced by fitting pictures to sound rather than vice versa. Perhaps best of all it allowed me to"sing" the voiceover to the music by listening to it through headphones while recording. I used cueprompter to allow me to read from the screen while watching out for labels I'd added to the music track in Audacity.

I created the stills for the final animation by pasting increasingly small cutouts into a layer on the base picture and saving them all individually. I think I probably used Photoshop Elements but as I did this a few years ago I can't recall. Each image is 1.5 seconds long with 0.5 second crossfade.

There's also a subtler message here about the way memories can relate to very specific places. I'm sure, too, that the memory I have of an otherwise fairly featureless lane is embedded forever by having taken two photographs there. Interesting... media creating memories which create media.
There is a lane near here I cannot drive down without remembering meeting my mother there at seven a.m. on the day my niece was born. We're hoping to explore this idea further next term.