Old Hitch’

I love how you really notice things after someone points out the obvious. I’m a Tarantino fan, but watching the video example, I noticed his use of low camera angles really conveyed meaning in many scenes. With the exception of Daryl Hannah’s deadly assassin character gasping for air in a toilet, they each conveyed the power and superiority of characters in various scenes.

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And though I’ve never been a huge Kubrick fan, the video example of his work showed his very effective use of zooms (though also not a huge fan of these) to convey solitude, malice, realization, and a host of emotions and motives.

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The Zolly example in the Camera Angles and Techniques video showed a scene from Goodfellas using a technique I hadn’t noticed watching the movie before. And, trust me, I’ve watched that move a lot. Using the zolly kept the characters in place while making their background slowly appear closer or zoomed in, conveying how one character is subtly probing for details into the life of the other.
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But I have to say the Hitchcock example of how a reaction shot carries different meaning depending on what the character reacts to seemed rather obvious. I wonder if his comments weren’t a subtle barb at accusers of his attitude towards women?

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One of the first classes I took at UMW was Professor Mathur’s Shakespeare in Film. On more than one occasion during discussion, I stressed to my fellow students that everything — everything — on the screen is there for a reason.

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My arguments were met with quiet derision. Well, pearls before swine.


But now and again, I see something that reinforces my assertion. Roger Ebert, long hailed as a leading authority on film and its techniques, did so in his article, “How to Read a Movie.” He discusses blocking within the film frame, how the position of people and elements on the screen subconsciously invoke moods and convey emotions to the audience, whether they know it or not.

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In my discussions on the subject over the years, people have countered that the deluge of film could never conform to a set of “rules,” there being simply too much counter of any one example. But Ebert addresses this, directly saying the guidelines he enumerates are not laws, and that violating them can be as effective as following them. The novice’s problem is that you must know the rules before recognizing when they’re being bent or broken.

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For examples, Ebert lists a few of these guidelines, such as how high camera position tends to minimize characters while low shots make characters larger than life. He also walks the reader through a single scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, describing how Cary Grant’s walk into negative space subtly reinforces a plot of the movie.

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So, Ebert helped prove me right, at least in my own mind. I’ll quietly sit back and enjoy my Schadenfreude.

Crank(y) Call

So, my daughter pointed out to me as I recorded this audio that it will be interpreted as racist or discriminatory or anti-something.

My answer to that is that this is nonfiction.

This is a phone conversation I had sometime back in 1997 or ’98. I wrote the dialogue as true to my memory as possible. The greatest difference is that the caller was female, which I couldn’t re-create in Audacity (also, my phone number was different then, but I don’t remember it).

I was a young Marine at the time. I later learned that the person who wrote the check was another Marine who also lived on Quantico but belonged to another unit. He picked my number at random, then started bouncing checks all over the local area, writing my phone number on the checks. When the police did contact me, we straightened everything out and I encouraged them to prosecute him to the fullest extent because, well, screw that guy.

So, in answer to my daughter’s accusation, how is one supposed to portray an event if one of the parties uses broken English? Am I supposed to change what they actually said? Am I supposed to omit information or not talk about it because one party was of a different ethnicity? I’m sorry, but the first option does not represent reality and the second is censorship. If anyone is offended by this post, I re-created this phone call to the best of my ability to be a true and accurate representation of an actual event. That’s not racist.

To create this audio file, I started by writing the full conversation out in MS Word. I recorded it with an audio recorder and imported it into Audacity. I copied each section of the ‘caller’s’ voice and pasted each into place on a second track, generating silence over them in the first track. I also generated a tone to ‘bleep’ out my phone number.

Highlighting the entire second track, I adjusted the pitch and tone of the voice, increasing the speed slightly and raising the pitch.  I downloaded sound effects for a ringtone and dial tone, placing them at the beginning and end.

Then, I exported the audio as an mp3.

Chugging along

Okay! You know that feeling when you’re on a long, arduous journey and you keep thinking ‘we’ve got to almost be there by now’ and you look up and realize you’re just more than halfway there.

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Yeah, that.

So, my first project since Wednesday was this Daily Create.  Pen crafting is something I started doing a few years ago. It’s great therapy. A client commissioned a pen a while ago, and I sent still images and a few videos to her as work progressed, so I had them on file. I laid them all out in a video timeline, adding music and transitions.

The next day’s Daily Create had me learning about a writing system I’d never heard of before. Once I’d put the sound-characters in order, the face was obvious. I copied the characters and laid them out in a new Photoshop document, using various shape selection tools and the color Fill command to draw the face.

Image result for foreign language funny gifOn Saturday, I tackled the Alternate History assignment for this week. Coming up with an idea took a little while, but creating a newscast in that alternate world seemed like a no-brainer. Once I changed the President’s name to the Spanish translation for ‘trump,’ that ruled out any borrowed audio that used his real name, but I’d already recorded my narration by the time I realized, so that was that. I downloaded supporting audio and recorded my daughter’s soundbite, laying all these into Audacity and cutting and trimming until I had a decent newscast.

The audio assignment I chose is “Have a phone conversation with yourself” (5 stars). This is based on an actual phone conversation I had, re-created to the best of my memory. I wrote out the script, recorded it, then imported it into Audacity. I used two tracks, one for my voice and ring/dial tone and the other track for the ‘caller.’ Having the second voice on its own track allowed me to batch-edit the whole track so the effects applied would be uniform.

Another day, another Daily Create. This time I used MS Powerpoint because it does make some pretty neat charts. The idea of procrastination came to me as I procrastinated, so in a way it was destiny.Image result for powerpoint funny gif

I also commented on two of my peers’ work.


The all-sound-effect assignment was a little more challenging, both from creative and technical standpoints, but once I had the idea, the whole thing came together fairly quickly. Image result for space monster funny gif

By this time I was fairly proficient at laying things out in Audacity, copying, cutting, pasting and dragging elements until it was just right.

Tales From Space!

Image result for tales from spaceOn this week’s episode of Tales from Space!, our intrepid hero learns that not everything on unexplored worlds is friendly …

After listening to some samples, I came up with the idea of a space explorer meeting his fate on an uncharted world. I searched for sounds of a spacecraft landing, steps on a metal ladder and then footsteps in gravel, loading them into Audacity.

Next, I found an other-worldly roar, a bark and an attack, followed by a pig chewing. I used multiple tracks to overlap sounds, sometimes copying and pasting to get the “story” right. I found a male scream and put it between the attack and the chewing, then added some steam escape to the rocket ship. Some of the clips needed to fade out to prevent a sudden audible stop.

I trimmed, nudged and arranged everything until I had it where I wanted.

Finally, I decided it needed some into and outro music to give it a radio-drama feel. I put music at the head and tail of the project, which moved most of the clips that then had to be re-arranged.

Cordelia Villalobos

Building on the theme of ‘if the Spanish Armada had won,” today’s project is a local radio newscast. I wrote it to parody Telemundo, the all-Spanish broadcast, as if English were not the common language here. I’d have done the whole thing in Spanish if I spoke a word of it. I tried a little accent, which I’m not sure was effective but kept because many news anchors with foreign services have an accent when they broadcast in English.

The first task in the project was selecting real-world news stories. I chose President Trump’s recent comments on cannabis law reformation, then his recent remarks at the G7 summit, and finally put in some local news regarding the flooding. I wrote the copy in MS Word, then recorded it using a handheld recorder.

I knew I needed supporting audio, and found a clip of President Trump here.  Then I found audio from the BBC World Service, which included its well-recognized into and outro music as well as reporting from the G7 in Canada.

I asked for help from my lovely assistant, Cordelia (Piper) Villalobos to record a man on the street interview to support the flooding story.

Finally, I imported all the audio into Audacity, trimming out mistakes and copying in the music and supporting soundbites.

Once I’d listened to it a few times and made final edits, I exported the audio as an mp3.

Is it Wednesday?

It’s all a blur.

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It’s like I can’t tell where Sunday stopped and the rest of the week began.

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For this mid-week update, I started with a Daily Create, this from some dash cam footage I shot earlier this year. I hate the way people drive around here and pointed out one of my biggest gripes. I used a free film editing application on my laptop and layered in audio of a music track, laughter, and a clip from The Big Lebowski.Image result for big lebowski But because I refuse to pay for the software, I had to export the video for each audio track because the free version only gives you one track.


Image result for searching funnyI followed that up with my first animated gif, another Daily Create. It was easier than I anticipated. I may have spent more time looking for ideas than actually creating the gif!


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Moon Graffiti was a great example of storytelling with audio. I wrote some thoughts on the  incredible work they did, mostly out of envy. Their use of music, sound effects and voice acting melded seamlessly together.


Then I wrote another post reviewing the material covered.

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Using Audacity is like operating a vehicle you’re not familiar with. You know what you want the vehicle to do, just not how to make it do that. The tips from the video really stood out to me.


A glutton for punishment, I followed with a few more Daily Creates: here, here and here.Image result for glutton for punishment gif

Create. Every. Day.

Image result for confused by puzzleThe first Daily Create I undertook was a puzzle. I hoped against hope that the rest wouldn’t be puzzles.



I’ve been having fun doing them, though! I struggled for an idea for the “idle” create, but followed through with the meaning of that old proverb about idle hands …

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For some reason, it won’t animate on here or on Twitter or Instagram. Oh, technology.



The previous Create had us making animated gifs. Not really familiar, but willing to give it a go, I made this one about myself:

The good, the bad and the polished

Can I make something like Moon Graffiti?

I have worked with audio before, including SoundCloud and Audacity, though I’m not as familiar with Audacity as I would prefer. I often know what I want to do, but not how to do it. I have a basic familiarity with Adobe products, including SoundBooth. Image result for adobe soundboothBut since the cost of that software is prohibitive (and with the government no longer funding my work), I have to learn the tools of Audacity to produce the results I expect.


I watched the Audacity video provided. The time shift tool, the envelope tool and the trim tool all caught my attention, being tools I’d wished I’d known how to use before my last audio project, a 3-part podcast for Professor Rafferty. I completed that project using copy/paste and adjusting audio by amplification (added or reduced) instead of the envelope tool, which would have saved me a LOT of time and frustration.


Listening to Moon Graffiti and watching the videos confirmed my belief that well-weaved audio makes the difference between good audio work and polished audio work.