Author: danbesterman

Finally Finished That Intensive Writing Course

I’m a senior with one more semester to go. All I need is some gen-ed credits, and an intensive writing course. Composing Digital Media? That sounds interesting, maybe I won’t actually have to write essays and just make sweet videos… boy was I wrong (except for making some sweet videos).

I came into the class thinking it was a software-based class, in which I knew half of the software already. It’s not because I wanted to take an easy class… I really wanted to learn more about the video and photo editing software I already knew to prepare me for a software-based world. But the class turned into so much more than software. Once I started reading DJ Spooky, I knew I was in for a journey. Initially, I was bummed that we spent the first month of class talking about the theory of archiving and the idea of a citizen archivist before we even turned on the computers, but I learned a lot about the idea of composition in a digital world. It made me think differently about my previous and future digital compositions.

First, I made a photo essay. It was a story about my grandfather’s beach house that was wiped away in a hurricane. It originated from his memoirs, which were recovered when he passed away. It turned out alright, but the presentation method I used is very lackluster. In another class of mine this year, we discuss methods of presentation for pieces of work, and I think that a large-scale presentation method would be much more effective. At least more effective than a 500 pixel high picture. No one likes squinting.

Second… I made a website. Yeah, I don’t want to talk about it. I didn’t even spell my last name correctly when I was making the domain name. It’s Not a good start. If I ever decide to use the website in a professional way (which I plan on), I will find a new host for it so people can actually find it. The website is the weakest of my projects, although I plan on improving it before the term ends. It’s a personal ideal of mine that I don’t show off all of my finished projects; only if I personally approve of said project. I currently do not approve of my website.

Next, I made an audio essay from a humorous historical event. I think that the script turned out very dynamic and entertaining, but the final audio file was not. My voice actors were not differentiated and dynamic enough, and the microphone I used had too much buzzing and feedback. It was hard to remove those sounds in the final piece. I also narrated the piece, and I hate my voice. So that didn’t help my overall feelings about it.

Finally, we made a group video portrait about two student rappers at Pitt. I think the project turned out great, and I am really proud of it, as the rest of my group should be. It is deep, has great music and visuals, and flows really well. This is something I would approve of showing off. Although some of the audio files were not very clear and were buzzy. But that is about it.

So I learned a lot from composing digital media, and although I did not in fact not have to write any essays, I wrote about as much on reflections and blog posts as I would have writing essays. I also really enjoyed how our class developed. Our group discussion was very open and stimulated. I think once we got past Derrida and DJ Spooky and started discussing contemporary project like photo essays and videos and audio essays, discussion started flowing freely. I am glad I took this class, and although I was not ready for the work requirement in the final semester of my senior year while taking 18 credits, I finally got through it.

California, here I come! Wait… need to finish that remix video first!

Chroma Keying

In this tutorial, I will teach you how to “key” out a color. This is often used in conjunction with a green screen that you might hear a lot about. When you key a color, it removes that color from the image. So people do stuff in front of a green screen and key out the color green, which will remove every green image in the frame. The background becomes transparent, so if you place the remaining image on a backdrop, it will look like the image is in the backdrop. Here is how you do it:

First, get footage of something with a color that can be keyed out. I found a video of a Despicable Me minion on a green screen from YouTube:


Next, I picked my in/out points and dragged a section into my timeline.

After that, I went to my video effects and in the “keying” folder, chose “Color Key” and placed that effect on the section in my timeline.

Then I went to the effect controls of the clip I just put the color key effect, and used the eye dropper to select the green color on my viewer:


This removed all of the green from the image. It tends to stay away from the pixels near other colored pixels, so you need to adjust the tolerance, edge thin, and edge feather options in the effect options. You can also keyframe this. Here is my image without any green:


Finally, you are ready for a backdrop. You must make sure the image you just keyed is above the backdrop, similar to the way photoshop works with layers. I used some old footage from London. Here is my final video:Image

Notice the order of the video tracks. you can do this with any color, not just green. Green is just the widely accepted color in the entertainment industry.



This is John Baldessari

I decided to focus on A Brief History of John Baldessari for this visual analysis, because the style was very interesting. Like Baldessari’s artwork, the short made use of vibrant colors and high contrast between B+W and color. The short was also edited at a very rapid pace, increasing throughout the duration of the piece. The reason I was drawn to this presentation was the way the shots of Baldessari were cut and intertwined in the still shots of his artwork. And the way the editor used Baldessari’s voice to finish the sentences of the narrator. By connecting the dialogue of the narrator and Baldessari, it creates a humorous interaction with Baldessari and the audience. When people think of famous artist, the persona that Baldessari is showing in this piece is not what you would expect. He seems very colloquial, boring, and simple, yet the short build him up to be extremely interesting and experienced. This creates an interesting dynamic of informality between the artist and the audience.

Another strategy I saw in A Brief History of John Baldessari was the very rapid cuts. Sometimes it would even cut in the middle of Baldessari’s sentence. I noticed that when music was brought into the short, the video started cutting on the beat, making the cuts even more rapid. As a viewer, this made me pay closer attention to the piece. I had to focus on each cut to understand what was happening, and the cuts had enough variance in color and contrast that it was entertaining. An example of this is when the narrator says “John Baldessari has been called the godfather of art…” ect and the words appear full screen in different colors and typeface. This was really interesting because every shot had a unique color, a small nuanced joke, and entertaining fonts.

I think this video really shows how important and interesting it is when juxtaposed shots have a high variance of color and contrast. Had this rapid cutting video contained washed-out colors and low contrast, it would have been much more boring. I think that high-variance color is very important in making a quick video portrait. I also think that incorporating the subject’s voice within the short is very clever, the way the narrator and Baldessari had pseudo-conversation in this piece.

Truncate SIlence

One little effect you can use from the Audacity effect menu is the Truncate Silence effect. There may be times where you want to shorten something down time wise. A good portion of the length of any audio (especially spoken word) is going to be the time in between words and sentences. You can change this through a nifty tool called Truncate Silence. This can be especially helpful when you have a time limit. This can cut off a few seconds or more, and will minimize the length of silences.

First, highlight the section  of the audio you want to edit:


Next, go to effects > turncate silence. The turncate silence editing options will appear:


If you increase the range of the silence duration, there will be more accurate compression at a larger range. And if you change the threshold for silence, the tool will change what it recognizes silence as. Here is the same file after the highlighted section was edited with turncate silence tool:


The Truncate Silence tool has one simple task, and that’s to remove small bits of unnecessary silence you wouldn’t be able to find yourself. This effect is very helpful when you want to cut down the length of a section, or to make and dialogue much more smooth. Especially for our class projects that require voice-overs and conversations

The Most Effective Audio

This American Life – Superpowers! Is an interesting audio documentary about the super powered desires of real, normal people. It begins by suggesting a question, such as would you rather be able to fly or to be invisible? Then the essay offers the perspectives of different people whom the creators interviewed. The stories and ideas told by the subjects propose interesting ideas and scenarios that one might not initially think about, such as asking about the exact speed or your flying abilities, and if it would be “comfortable” to fly at that speed. The documentary flows like a video news testimonial story would; it goes from person to person and offers what they think about the posed question. It’s very similar to a man on street (MOS) segment.

The MOS-style structure creates a very personal rhetorical feeling by engaging and connecting the listeners with the average subjects. They are posed as average people, just like you and me, which creates an association with the listeners and the program itself. For example, the beginning of the program introduces a guy who describes himself as “the pasty kid in high school with no athletic ability.” This type of persona is prevalent throughout high school, and many of the targeted listening demographic can connect to this persona. ESPN might not use this persona, because all the sports-ball players who watch/read ESPN would not find a connection to the white pasty guy. By connecting with the audience like that, it has an affective power of exploration. It engages the audience, and they should feel an upbeat sense of interest. These stories are mostly positive, interesting, and fun anecdotes, and if the audience can connect to the subjects, a positive interest is developed.

One thing that this audio documentary showed me is the power of sound, especially for an audio-only project. I am accustomed to working with video, which is both visual and auditory. But because there is no video, the importance of perfect sound is vital. The music levels must be perfect, and the pace and tones of the interviews should be consistent throughout. For example, if you interview someone who offers a great anecdote about your posed question, but said person stutters and a few words they say are inaudible, that section becomes unusable. It might be extremely interesting, but because the flow of the speech is disrupted, the flow of your audio documentary will be disrupted as well. The narration must also be perfect; every little syllable and inflection should be emphasized or pronounced to create an effective baseline. Audio is something where adding flair and alterations can ruin something good. The best audio makes the listeners forget they are listening audio. So would you add your most interesting anecdote for a project like this if it messes up the rhythm of your piece as a whole?

The Image Switch

This is an CSS and HTML effect that will change an image or text when you mouse over the item. It requires two elements to sit on top of each other, so absolute position should be used for the hover to work properly.

First in your CSS, create a container:


next, create a container within the


finally, add your hover command in your CSS:


Thats all for your CSS sheet. Now in your html, you have to reference your div class “top” you made in CSS. And you have to indicate which image or text comes first or second. Use this code according to the name of the CSS reference:

<div class=”top”> <div class=”first”>Hover over me to see something happen</div> <div class=”second”><img src=”put your image source here” alt=”” height=”50″ width=”50″ /></div> </div>

So now this:Image

turns into this with a mouseover:Image

Instead of making the timage or text instantly change, you can use a slide option changing your hover tag in the CSS to this: div.first { -webkit-transition: left 1s ease-in-out; left: -however many pixels you want px; }

You can have the slide work in any direction by either use the top property with a positive or negative number, or switching up the left property to use a positive number.

navigation simplicity

I was searching through the websites of some of my favorite musical artists, and fell upon Bassnectar’s website: I’ve never seen this website before because I don;t really care to visit the websites of my favorite artists, but the website really stood out to me because of its colorful and simplistic design. Websites are designed to be used by the public. Figuring out how to use a specific website should never happen. It should be simple enough that viewers don’t have to learn. This begins with your design and navigation. I liked this website because there are nine different pages, all with hyperlinks going across the top in a row. You can visibly see every webpage the site has to offer right in front of you.Image

Going over the elements of the page, the first thing that jumps out to me is the banner going across the top that says “BASSNECTAR.” He is the featured artist of the website, so clearly this is a means of branding his name on the website viewers. Whatever page you navigate to on this website, the name will always be across the top of the page, accompanied with the nine hyperlinks below his name.

The spacing is used very nicely throughout the page. Nothing is smashed together, and all the spacing is equivalent and consistent throughout. The text and images are centered on the page, and all balanced. There is a white border around the text in images on the page because of how it is centered, which adds an emphasis to the body of the page. Nothing is close to the scroll bar or the left side. The border separates the body of the page from the browser layout, as though the body in the webpage is its own entity.Image

The colors of this page reflect the white background very nicely. The mahogany red in the top banner and headers, accompanied with the aqua teal color, are both in the banner of the website. It makes it seem like these two colors have a real connection to Bassnectar because of how reflective they are to the banner. The purpose of this website is to connect with the fans of Bassnectar, and the color scheme of the banner and the text headings does this very well because the banner is a derivation of a photograph from a concert of Bassnectar. By using this, it feels like a real connection to Bassnectar and his performances. Things I might take away from this website design is the navigation simplicity. Pages within pages within pages becomes very confusing, but if you are able to access every page from a top or side bar, it becomes very easy to navigate. Also, the white background looks great on this website. Sometimes white backgrounds make a site seem very boring, but on Bassnectar’s site, the white background is very calming and supports the proper spacing between elements.