COM 561

Professional Multimedia Content Creation

Parenting in community . . .


This is still exciting! The possibilities available using the multimedia approach to explore how we do (or do not) honor a parent’s autonomy within the community seem pretty infinite at the moment.  I think the multimedia approach can perhaps give more voice to the parent, the person who should be doing the defining. And who should have the platform and the supports to have her or his voice heard loud and clear when set against the backdrop of our American society that sends conflicting messages of self-sufficiency and autonomy, but also the “do as I say because I know best” message.

I received thoughtful reflective feedback from three classmates. They had a theme in common, encouraging me to slow down the scrolling text panes. To do that I moved the text clips to the track above the main video track and lengthened the text clip out. that of course meant I had to reset the video transition effects, which I did next. Another bit of feedback was to get rid of the “shhhh” clip entirely. I had wondered about the jarring effect of that text clip and removed it entirely and reset the video transitions.

As part of the final video project, I had used the audio recording from the previous Adobe project. In my review of the draft, I realized I needed to credit my friends Laura Adamson and Joyce Duerfeldt  for their participation and fabulous voices in the introduction, so I added their names to the credits at the end of the video.

I also needed to re-credit the open source crowd noise, which was part of the audio clip I submitted for my Adobe Audition assignment. As stated in that assignment, SoundJay explicitly allows the use of “sounds free of charge and royalty free in  . . . projects (such as films, videos, games, presentations, animations, stage plays, radio plays, audio books, apps) be it for commercial or non-commercial purposes,” provided the user follow their few simple rules.  The SoundJay sound in my video blog that came over with the audio clips was the sound of the crowd talking. This was at the tail end of the video clip, leading up to the final “Stop!”

I don’t think I can say enough how grateful I am to the Alfani family for sharing their time and experiences with me as brand new parents. To protect their privacy, I made sure to upload the video as “unlisted” on the YouTube site. I’m glad they live in my community. It will be a joy to watch them grow as parents and to watch Elijah grow to adulthood and beyond!

One piece that didn’t make it into my video story was Laura’s comment that the experience of parenthood was giving her new insight into the important work she does with home visiting and family engagement. there’s nothing like the voice of experience — especially when that person can hold her perspective and another person’s perspective side-by-side comfortably. Laura will be bringing new depth and intuition in how to support parents in the ways they want and need. Stay tuned!

Video Project Storyboard – Final

(Video address:

First Draft Video Project: A New Hope

This is exciting! While I still want some side-by-side learning of how to navigate Adobe Premiere, the possibilities are rather nifty. This video project gave me the scope to pull together my semester theme: exploring how we do (or do not) honor a parent’s autonomy within the community that surrounds and supports the parent. As I’ve alluded to, my concern tends to sit with “who” is doing the defining. While we Americans live in a society that pays homage to self-sufficiency and autonomy, we also feel free to share our opinion of how best to raise a child. Indeed, there has been a rapidly increasing spate of kingdom building as people make a living off of child-rearing theories , tools and opinions.

For this draft, I used my Nikon CoolPix digital camera to record two different interviews, as well taking the still pictures I needed for project footage in local businesses. I reviewed the 5-shot method and tried to keep those ideas in my head as I gathered my footage. For the story, I was torn between using hiking paths to give a sense of “finding one’s way” or sticking to my initial idea. After spending time thinking, reviewing audio project footage, and listening to the interview, I decided to stay the course. The still pictures I took in the local businesses would work well with select bits of my audio project, and help convey that sense of being overwhelmed.

Mind made up, I set to work. I developed my storyboard but gave myself the freedom to stray from it as I saw fit. The first change I made was in adding an additional column. An outline is a useful tool for the overall shape, but the details resolve themselves during the actual production. I tend to try out approaches, and if I don’t like it, I scrap it and try something else. It was useful for the skeleton of the project, but I suspect there is not as much detail in my storyboard as a professional in the field might have in hers. I also suspect that if I continued to use Adobe Premiere, I would grow familiar enough with the terminology to know what terms to plug in where.

It’s a good thing I took Thursday off of work to dive into producing the video. This part of it took 10 hours. I was glad I had hyperlinked in my tutorial blog the helpful instructional videos I found, as I referred back to them several times. I tried several new transition effects, and sliced and diced interview footage with radio project narration and mixed and matched stills to form a coherent story. I’m sure there’s room for improvement, and I look forward to feedback!

Video Project Storyboard

Baby steps with Adobe Premiere

Tutorial 1:

Tutorial 2:

Oi vey! What a challenge! This latest batch of tutorials leaves me really (really, really, really) longing for classroom-based instruction for this particular class. This is one class where I am not so sure that the on-line approach is necessarily the best — at least not for me. I did finally find a more comprehensive introduction on-line here — although again, I struggle with the fact that Adobe products are geared towards Apple and I am in a Windows environment, so that adds a component of complexity. I think it’s too easy as a student to miss critical points offered by the instructor, and I think it must be equally difficult for the instructor to lay-out the point-by-point necessary to successful assignments in absence of immediate feedback from the students. That being said, I trudged firmly along the path of learning.  (I probably should have invested in stock with Tylenol first. *grin*)

The first tutorial was easily eight hours of my time, and I am still not happy with the end result. The transitions are abrupt, and the only way I was ever able to add fade in and fade out with the audio track was by chopping out the middle of the audio already provided with fade in and fade out. The lovely little yellow volume lines (promised by numerous U-Tube sites) never did materialize for me. So, the audio also does not sound good. And unfortunately, the monthly cost of the Adobe Creative Suite is not in the budget and the free trial period for Adobe Audition was expired. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Tutorial 2 recommended using Adobe Photoshop (also with a long-expired free trial) to create the animated titles in tutorial 2. I was so grateful that there was a second option, within the free trial of Adobe Premiere.

At any rate,  back to Tutorial 1 — searching for a little school spirit. (This would be an interesting future topic — I simply don’t feel connected to “school spirit” and I’m not sure if that’s a function of being in my mid-40s or from not being physically on campus . . . but I suspect I’m not alone in that lack of connectedness . . . ) Searching Google did come in handy at various stuck places during Tutorial 1. For example, I found this nifty YouTube video that helped me work through resizing and panning the still cougar photograph.  This tutorial on adding titles was quite helpful, as well. For an additional nudge with the crawling title effect, I found this YouTube tutorial. Adding transitions between scenes was actually fun and a relief, as I was quite distressed by the choppiness of the clips. I added “film dissolve” between all clips except for the following variations: a “non-additive dissolve” between clips 5&6, a “dip to white” for the transition to the still shot of the cougar, and a “dip to black” between clips 6&7.

The second tutorial was a bit easier to work with — perhaps because I gave it a couple of days for the first go-around with Adobe Premiere to settle in. (Or perhaps it was the antibiotic working on the sinus infection.) Whatever it was, the Professor Beam tutorial was very helpful for this particular assignment, and I had a 33 second piece of footage related to the video story project to play with, so that was nice to kill two birds with one stone (as it were).

And now on to the final step — being so very new to this sort of application, some clear instructions that one probably needs to establish a YouTube account in order to upload ones video tutorials would be helpful . . . along with step-by-step instructions on the whole export process. I once again tried the handy-dandy Google search which gave me a whole host of options related to this. However, as I already had a Google gmail account, it never became clear how to actually set up a separate YouTube account. (Side note: my cat snores. I had no idea cats snored . . . /side note).

Next up is taking another look at the footage I have shot for the video story, sketching out my story board, filling in the missing video clips by shooting some additional footage, and then moving to production. I really hope I can apply some of these tutorials in more adept and useful ways to the first draft.


The Village and the Parent

I think there is a fine line in audio production in which less is probably more. However, this story seemed to invite some additional layering of sound effects, so I gave myself the freedom to experiment. I also carefully reviewed the comments from the draft audio story and spent time cutting narrative here and there, and reworking the ending for a deeper sense of continuity in entire piece. Some of the rough transition spots were smoothed by reworking how I faded the thumb harp and hand drum in and out of the narrative.

I  also shortened the introduction by several seconds, based upon feedback. I felt fairly ambivalent about doing so, as I personally liked the build-up of tension over a longer period time. However, I had also questioned the length as possibly being too long. I decided the length appealed to me simply because it gave an auditory reflection of experienced and remembered stress. One friend’s comment was fairly instructive, however, in that she felt the story probably functioned as a catharsis for me. With my only child launching into his adult life, I have been reevaluating the whole parenting journey fairly repetitively. I suppose most parents go through something similar as their children leave the nest. Gaining that bit of insight increased my willingness to adjust the introduction.

The search for open source and free sound effects that I could use in my project was quite instructive and finally took me to SoundJay.  SoundJay explicitly allowed the  use of “sounds free of charge and royalty free in . . . projects (such as films, videos, games, presentations, animations, stage plays, radio plays, audio books, apps) be it for commercial or non-commercial purposes,” provided the user follow a few simple rules. I appreciated the clarity with which SoundJay laid out their rules, actually. So many times, rules get muddied in legal jargon. Each webpage included the following injunction:

You are allowed to use the sounds on our website free of charge and royalty free in your projects but you are NOT allowed to post the sounds on any web site for others to download, link directly to individual audio files, or sell the sounds to anyone else. Remember to read Terms of Use before downloading and using the sound effects or music tracks.

The first sound effect I chose was that of a baby “cooing” — to my ear it didn’t sound as much like a coo as the beginning stage of fussiness, but it worked well in the spot I placed it (1:17). The other effect I added was that of a crowd talking. I’m actually rather proud of the way I was able to build the narrative, hand drum and crowd together and stop them at the same time (1:47 – 1:56) in a way that accentuated the story.

Out of the three tools we have used thus far (Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and now Adobe Audition), I have enjoyed the Au tool the most. It has seemed the most intuitive and user-friendly of the package thus far, and I wish I had more time to play with the different features. The trial period is soon to end, however, so further experimentation will have to wait.

In terms of my final audio story — it’s not really final in my mind. If I were to start all over again, I would probably ensure that I had a clear outline, written my narrative or in some way crafted the individual points along the way first, rather than just rely on a stream-of-consciousness approach. I think the amount of time I spent replaying different tracks of narrative to cull out what didn’t work and keep what did work for the story would have been far better spent playing with some of the different effects. But, for a first go-around, I feel like I learned a great deal, and had a chance to at least “sneak” a peek at how NPR produces the radio shows I like so well.


The Village and the Parent: Audio Storytelling Draft

Well, this was a fun adventure in audio storytelling. I pondered numerous approaches and ideas when jogging or biking. There’s something about fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity that helps the brain function more holistically. Once I had the idea fairly well fleshed out in my head, I started collecting the bits and pieces I thought necessary for my story.

Blowing off the dust from my hand drum and thumb harp, I improvised some background music I hoped would complement the story. I also invited two of my girlfriends, Laura and Joyce, to provide voice recordings of parenting messages. I borrowed from my earlier recorded tutorial footage and also recorded an introduction and conclusion. After downloading the segments, I opened Adobe Audition and imported the MP3s into the project files. After which I drug the files over into several tracks and got down to business.

The first part of business included the drudge work of heavy editing. In the assigned readings, this was stressed as critical. I took it to heart and spent considerable time in removing clunky pauses, ums, sniffles and entire sections that didn’t add to the overall story. I tried focus on selecting for emotion, eliminating repeated thoughts, and identify those segments that got straight to the point. A large part of my work-a-day world consists of casting an editorial eye on written communication for plain-talk and brevity, so I was a bit surprised by how long this actually took.

I wanted to open the story building tension and capturing the anxiety created by competing voices and philosophies. To achieve this effect, I overlapped and layered the Laura, Joyce and narrator voices, and broke the percussion track into three overlapping sections. The tension resolves with “Stop!” and then the thumb harp cuts starts growing in volume as the narrator introduces the story.

At various spots, I faded in the thumb harp as a softening addition to the background, to add some flavor to the story. I also used brief percussion effects to punctuate a thought. I went back and forth several times between different track segments, arranging and then rearranging them to achieve the best possible transition and flow.  I’m not quite sure I achieved the opening gambit in a multi-part series, but hopefully it will work for you, dear listener.

Adobe Audition is Fun!

Voila, the first tutorials for COM561, including “out of order” counting and the edited “in order” counting; an original unedited set of story tracks (warning — it’s a mash-up of three different unedited tracks all playing at once) and the final 45 second edited story fragment.  I really struggled with cutting the edited version down to 45 seconds or less! I had several minutes of draft tracks to play with and try to cobble together a coherent story, as well as having the beginnings of footage for the next assignment in audio storytelling. I’m an inveterate NPR listener and love the audio storytelling features, especially the weekend special editions. Getting the chance to learn some of the techniques and skills that go into an application that I enjoy has been exciting.

Playing with some of the features on the Adobe Audition (AA) package reminded me of my first experience in a recording studio, but happily without the q-tips and rubbing alcohol needed for prepping the analog equipment I was introduced to in the late 1980s. But, happily, the AA screen set-up had enough of a familiar feel that I didn’t feel entirely discombobulated by learning to navigate the software. Probably my only real hitch simply was needing to purchase a little handheld recorder that could download onto my desktop where the trial version of AA resided. Given that a handheld recorder has been on my wishlist for quite some time, and I neither have (nor want) a “smart phone” that seemed like a reasonable purchase to me, especially as it was on sale at Best Buy.

I’m looking forward to pulling together my audio story, and have been happily sorting and sifting ideas for several days now.  Anyway — a direct link to the SoundCloud URL — just in case the link above doesn’t actually play for you). Cheers!

Those A-Ha Moments — Round 2

 background learning

What an interesting process. I like Adobe Illustrator (Ai) much better than Adobe Photoshop. I think an Ai class  starting with the bare bones of how to take pencil and paper sketches to a completed Ai project would be most helpful, though! There are so many tools and options with Ai — and just not enough hours in the day! My first draft received thoughtful and helpful feedback from classmates as well as folks outside of class. It was interesting to see how certain considerations showed up with each person, and what things were unique to their perception.

Logo Purpose: Overall, I received feedback that the first draft succeeded in grabbing the eye, so the concept itself was a successful one. Across the board, folks found that the logo was inviting and it sparked their curiosity. For the overall semester project, my end goal is to validate parents’ internal wisdom and autonomy. Parents are inundated with value-laden opinions and suggestions by government, media, advertising, and well-meaning adults in their community. This makes an overwhelming noise that can undermine a parent’s self-efficacy. So, I wanted the logo to open the door to safe exploration and sharing of earned wisdom.

Logo Design: It was suggested that since the cloud shape also functioned as a thought bubble, I try my hand at creating a “thought bubble” in Ai. My biggest barrier was in removing the overlapping lines as I created and placed circles. I knew I needed to outline the final shape, as well, to ensure it would not be lost in the background. Turning to Google, I looked through tutorials until I found what I needed — the Pathfinder tool.  This tool allowed me to tie to together (or unify in Ai parlance) the several ovals, and then outline the outer edge into one shape, making the thought bubble-cloud effect more prominent, and helping to tie together the overall logo theme into a cohesive whole. It kept the optimistic, upbeat sensibility while making it clear that those a-ha moments of wisdom come from the individual person.

Based on feedback about the tagline “wisdom worth sharing” I changed the font type and then tried positioning it above the “a-ha!” The tagline above the “a-ha” didn’t appeal to me, although I liked how the two different fonts worked together. I moved the logo back down below the a-ha. From other comments, I knew there was some issue with the complementary color scheme of yellow/purple in the text. Some folks were seeing a resulting lime-green color. I took a look at the logo on various screens and using different browsers to see if it was the color scheme itself, or an effect of different screens. I went back to the logo to play with different shades of yellow, and then got a bit more savvy, and removed the pale purple from the thought bubble, choosing to rely on a strong purple outline to avoid a “wash-out” effect.

The last piece to do was to somehow get rid of the white box background. Enter in the inevitable heartburn . . . this took numerous failed attempts before finding a quick tutorial that did the trick. It didn’t really look like it had worked, until I previewed it on my blog and Voila! a final logo. (Until the next round of revisions.)

Those A-Ha Moments . . .

Logo Project

A-ha! indeed! Success! I wanted to try my hand at designing a logo that would grab attention, be hopeful and celebratory, and feel inviting. I also wanted something that could work as a header for a website or a magazine logo.

As I put on the finishing touches, my first test reviewer wandered in (a successful businessperson who has designed one or two logos himself) and took a look. He thought I met my goal, and made a chuckling comment about mixing Japanese anime and philosophy with hippie-esque dreams. He did feel the cloud behind the word needed to be tweaked for a bit more coverage. So, I will add that to my list of comments to ponder in the days to come.

But, back to the success! I knew what I was going for and sketched my idea out ahead of time. I was frankly quite nervous about re-creating my sketch in Adobe Illustrator. So, I set up my new file and then opened up one of last week’s tutorials to guide me along. My confidence improved as I navigated each step, applying the effects and the color scheme I wanted to the logo. At last, some small measure of comfort with Ai. I even braved the land of Google tutorials to learn how to create the cloud shape portion of the logo, and successfully navigated the fact that the screen shots were in German, not English.

In terms of design characteristics, I wanted to create a logo that presented a sense of completion, unity, and connectedness. I wanted a logo that brought a lift to the spirits, that offered a boost of confidence. The tagline “wisdom worth sharing”  (and which I think could be positioned further to the right and lower — I’ll have to play with that) should wake some curiosity. Whose wisdom? Yours? Mine? Ours? The questions would hopefully lead the viewer to linger and explore the website or the magazine.

I think in the end analysis, I really like this draft logo because it does what Michael Tuck said in his article Gestalt Principles Applied in Design: “Gestalt principles aren’t artificial constructs that people have concocted to apply to design; they are attempts to describe and verbalize how we naturally perceive things.” Isn’t it nice to discover one’s internal optimism?

Final Narrative Graphic Collage

Final Parent Collage Project

This final version offers a more hopeful look at the internal journey of parenting. I think my original notion of telling a collage story about the rewarding and challenging journey of parenting within our odd, confusing environment will perhaps need to be approached in a different fashion.  The external complexity surrounding parenting, and the resolution of those inner and outer forces are important stories in the parenting journey. As I said in the earlier post, we live in a society that values self-sufficiency and autonomy. On the other hand, we live in a society that rarely passes up a chance to share an opinion, or make a buck. We are drowning in theories, tools, and opinions on how to best raise a child. How do parents navigate the changing tides? How do they trust their inner being when the outer world says not to? I want to both honor a parent’s  autonomy and respect the communities that support parents in this critical work.

In considering the final revision and the gestalt theory we studied, I can see where the revision is moving closer to addressing the components. The flow of the pictures and words does a better job in creating a continuous sense of movement from left to right-hand top corner. The proximity of the pictures seems appropriate to helping the brain see the collage as a whole. Repetitious use of elliptical shapes, ocean themed pictures, and similar color schemes leave a visual sense of belonging together. The text is a bold black, uses the same font, with slightly different emphasis on one set of words in font size, which helpfully makes the point that the collage is about the journey. I’m not sure that there is any portion of the collage that deals with a sense of closure. I think it needs more work when it comes to figure and ground principles, frankly.

While the subject matter of addressing the external complexity surrounding parents, and the ways in which they resolve those tensions is fascinating to me, the application of new technology (to me) has proven extremely challenging. APS leaves a lot to be desired (in my mind) in terms of user-friendliness. On the other hand, I fell in love with Pagemaker in the mid-90s, so maybe I’m just prejudiced. I do wonder if getting an older version of APS to start with might help the learning process, be a bit simpler, perhaps? Or maybe it’s just a matter of time and experience. Time will tell.

Entering into the revision process, I had high hopes that this would be a wee bit simpler, or at least more comfortable. Alas, my hopes were dashed. At least in terms of my Adobe Photoshop user skills. I tried to capture some of the process in the table below:

Snapshot in time of the revision process.

Snapshot in time of the revision process.