Reflection Blog Post

Well, here we are. It’s the end of the semester. What that means is it’s time to write reflection pieces for any content creation-type classes.

For this class, the first line of order is talking about my favorite assignment. If I must choose one, it’s probably the Audio Story. I had always wondered what building music through an audio program was like, and with this project, I finally got to find out. Because my story involved putting together multiple voices on my electric keyboard to make complex songs, I could try my hand at being a sort-of DJ. It’s a pretty empowering feeling to make a complex song by myself, and I owe my discovery of that feeling to this assignment. Plus, I really enjoyed the creative freedom I was allowed. I was able to use my unusual hobby of piano improv to create a unique podcast wherein an interviewee uses improvised music to speak.

I’m definitely grateful to this course for showing me the ins and outs of Adobe software. Those surely count as skills I can use in the future. Before this class, I hardly understood the hype around this weird Adobe thing. However, now, I’m fascinated with the freedom for creation all the software provides, and I understand just how useful it can be for making high-quality material in the business world.

I may or may not actually use Adobe software often during my career, but knowledge of it will be valuable nonetheless. That’s because I’m not particularly sure what I want my career to be, but I do know it will be somewhere in the advertising industry. I’m pretty sure things like Photoshop and Premiere make up some of the most common programs in ad creation, so knowing the capabilities and limitations of those programs will come in handy time and time again.

Although, there is one more thing I wish I knew from this class. That would be music composition in an audio program. I mentioned before that making songs in Audition was incredibly satisfying. However, Audition is terrible for making music in, and I don’t mean just any kind of ‘terrible.’ I mean the ‘getting attacked by a bear and two goats’ kind of ‘terrible.’ I would have loved learning how to build music in a program more dedicated to that. I understand most students aren’t interested in that or would be particularly benefitted by that, but I think an extra credit assignment on piecing bits of music together would have been awesome.

Other than websites listed in class readings, I found a grand total of zero helpful resources. To be more specific, I found boatloads of helpful sites for content creation. Unfortunately, they hardly ever applied to the objectives laid out in this class. “Narrative creation” is a design idea rather unique to Com 210, so no outside resources are extremely helpful for teaching about how to adhere to that idea.

I suppose I can wrap things up by making a suggestion for this class. I could talk about expanding the scope of what students can create, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll suggest that one of the available formats given by the Video Story instructions be removed. It is the instructional video format (which cites the YouTube channels Health Guru and Food Tube as examples). All assignments in this class apparently must be narrative-based, so mentioning that format as being available is misleading.

Now, that concludes my final blog post. Yep, this blog will probably never be updated or even seen again. It will probably fade into memory so distant that the memory of forcing soap speckles out of a low-maintenance public bathroom dispenser this afternoon will be more remarkable. But hey, writing this blog has been a fun experience, and I’m grateful to this class for letting me have it. This is the only time I’ve been able to get my voice heard by almost no one.

Final Video Story

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I read the assignment description for the Video Story. It asserted I could make my video in the format of an instructional video, and it cited the YouTube channels Food Tube and Health Guru as examples for that. I decided I would use this format for my rough draft. Unfortunately, when finished, I was told my project needed to be more of a story and not an instructional video. Hence, I thought it was best to scrap what I had and start fresh.

I set out to make an autobiographical documentary for my final draft. The audio would recount the story of me learning to improvise on piano, and the video would complement that story with images. My inspiration for this came from a variety of YouTube shows that focus on audio while using images to aid the audience’s imagination. The most prominent of these was the show Brief History. I have a link to the YouTube channel it is hosted on below.

https://www.youtube.com/user/FootofaFerret

My favorite idea in the creative process was for most my video to be monochromatic. This, I felt, was an appropriate color scheme. It symbolized that my story revolves around playing piano. After all, pianos have black and white keys.

Another touch I was fond of was including my Final Graphic Design Project as one of the complementary images. Not only does it relate to a part of the story, but it also recalls the progress I have made in this class.

I decided color should finally be included in the ending, or the part of my story when I at last feel free. The video’s transition from being monochromatic to polychromatic visually demonstrates how I discovered a brighter, friendlier world after leaving my jazz band.

After making these creative decisions, I began shaping my vision in Premiere. Thankfully, the technical process for putting my video together was not difficult. I had substantial practice in the program after having made my rough draft.

I made heavy use of keyframes to make the complementary images move across the screen. I altered each image’s initial position so it would start at the screen’s edge, then I altered its position at an ending keyframe so it would end near the screen’s center.

I applied a Color Balance (HLS) effect to almost every image and video, then adjusted the saturation to -100.0 each time. This way, most of the video is in black and white. The only image I didn’t apply this effect to was the last one.

I recorded both video and audio with my phone. For the video of me playing piano, I chose to use a detail shot of my hands. I chose the angle that I did for two reasons: one, because it abides by the Rule of Thirds; two, because it’s just plain cool.

I had one real challenge when using Premiere this time. While in the middle of my session, my free Premiere trial ended. When I got everything paid for and reopened the program, I found that most of the files I was using were suddenly “offline” and unresponsive. I could only fix this by making a copy of each disrupted file and using that copy in my video story instead.

Due to this event, I decided that if I could give only one piece of advice to beginners with Premiere, it would be to make sure you know when your free trial is ending. You do not want to be caught working on something when you run out of time with the software. If you do, then you must go through the pain of replacing the files in your sequence with brand new copies.

After all was said and done, I had created a video story I was proud of. Maybe not everyone would like it, but that’s fine with me. Like the story in my video suggests, there’s no need in letting someone else’s judgment hold me back.

The End

Sources

Jazz band image: “The line-up of Woody Allen with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band in the Philharmonie of the Gasteig in Munich, Germany” by Schlaier, 2011. Shared on Wikimedia Commons with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woody_Allen_with_the_Eddy_Davis_New_Orleans_Jazz_Band_Philharmonie_Gasteig_M%C3%BCnchen.jpg

Mail image: “P Mail” by unknown. Shared on Wikimedia Commons with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P_mail.svg

Nature image: Unnamed photo by Jake Givens. Shared on Pexel with the CCO License. https://www.pexels.com/photo/dawn-nature-sunset-trees-2946/

All other materials are either made by me or in the public domain.

Draft Video Story

Considering my topic is improvising on piano, I felt this video-making opportunity should be taken for demonstrating how to improvise. That’s why I made a step-by-step instructional video for beginning piano improv.

My main inspirations for this were the Food Tube and Health Guru channels on YouTube. They led me to my decision of using a step-by-step format.

Since this video could only be two minutes long, I knew I could include only three steps at most. I thought that was perfect, however, since I wanted my lesson to appear as simple and easy-to-follow as possible. For the first step, I presented the notes I recommended using. In the next step, I suggested what you can do with your left hand. Lastly, I suggested what you can do with your right.

Each step is prefaced by a title card, then it is displayed by video of my hand on my piano paired with audio of my instructions. I took the title card idea from Health Guru, though I adapted it for my video’s style. Rather than flashy and colorful like Health Guru’s, I made my title cards monochromatic. That color scheme compliments the black-and-white of my piano in the recordings, and its simplicity helps my video story feel uncomplicated and approachable. But, just because I wanted the title cards simple doesn’t mean I wanted them boring. To liven them up, I paired them all with a piano lick I recorded.

I concluded my video story with a recording of me soloing. The purpose of this was to present what it looks and sounds like when you use the improv method I taught and practice it for a while. In other words, this ending shows viewers what they’re capable of if they follow my steps. I made it black-and-white to convey that it’s not an integral part of the video.

On the technical side, making my video story went pretty easily. The hardest part was only figuring out a way to record both my hands playing. (I taped my phone to my keyboard’s backboard).

After recording everything, including both video and audio, I imported it all to Premiere and paired the video clips with the necessary audio. I added checkerboard transitions to most of my video clips so the transition from title card to video would seem smoother. I then played with the audio clips’ volumes until all the sound was in a similar range.

The only challenge I had with the software was loudening some of the audio. Premiere has a volume limit, even though some audio clips might originally be very soft. This forced me into softening my video’s overall volume to compensate.

My advice to others beginning with Premiere is to not rely on queuing sequences to render them. When making my Premiere Tutorials videos, I had tons of trouble with rendering, and I think the Queue option was somehow responsible. When I used the basic “Export” option instead, most of my videos rendered successfully.

Raw Video Footage & Storyboard

0:00 – 0:03

Video: There is a still title frame that says “Piano Improv for Beginners.”

Audio: There is an upbeat song that I will play and record. It is similar to elevator music.

 

0:04 – 0:13

Video: I am on camera, introducing what the video will be about.

Audio: The only audio is my speech, which goes along the lines of, “I want everyone to have a shot at improvising on piano, even if they don’t have any musical experience yet. That’s why I’m showing you all a few steps for a good way to begin improvising.”

 

0:14 – 0:16

Video: There is a still title frame that says “Step 1: Practice the F Blues Scale.”

Audio: The same elevator song from before plays.

 

0:17 – 0:46

Video: My hands are shown on the piano. They demonstrate what I talk about in the audio.

Audio: The audio includes the piano notes I play and my speech, which goes along the lines of, “These notes I’m playing make up the F Blues scale. The first thing you’ll want to do for this lesson is practice going up and down the scale for a little while. Do it with both hands, too. It shouldn’t take too long to really get used to these notes.”

 

0:47 – 0:49

Video: There is a still title frame that says “Step 2: Make a Bassline.”

Audio: The elevator song plays.

 

0:50 – 1:19

Video: My left hand is shown on the piano. It demonstrates what I talk about in the audio.

Audio: This includes the piano notes I play and my speech, which goes along the lines of, “Now that you’re comfortable with the F Blues scale, try playing any four notes in the scale down here with your left hand. When you have a sequence of four notes you like, play that sequence over and over again. This is something we call a bassline.”

 

1:20 – 1:22

Video: There is a still title frame that says “Step 3: Play Random Stuff with Your Right Hand.”

Audio: The elevator song plays.

 

1:23 – 1:52

Video: My right hand is shown on the piano. It demonstrates what I talk about in the audio.

Audio: This includes the piano notes I play and my speech, which goes along the lines of, “Now that you’ve made up a bassline, we can move on to the melody. To do that, just play random notes on the F Blues scale with your right hand. Do that while you play your bassline with your left hand. Don’t worry, it’s fine to do this very slowly at first before you get good at using both hands together. When you start out, you’ll probably think your right-hand melodies sound terrible. But, it only takes a little bit of time before you figure out which combinations of notes sound good to you.”

 

1:53 – 2:00

Video: My hands are shown on the piano, playing a song in the style I demonstrated in the previous step. This video clip is in black and white.

Audio: The audio only includes the music that I’m playing in the video.

Premiere Tutorials

I finally got two of the tutorial videos to work (the ones that are edited sequences). However, since last Friday, I have been unsuccessful in getting my unedited footage to upload on YouTube correctly. I tried just about everything I could, but it just will not work.

In that case, I hope just posting the edited sequences will be enough for a completion grade. Please take my word that all the footage in my Tutorial 1 video is recorded by me. In the original footage, I recorded three subjects from three angles each, and I applied the ten-second rule to every angle.

Final Audio Story

What I have here is a very Radiolab-esque podcast. In whatever fictional world this podcast is from, the host previously interviewed me on my non-fictional story about getting good at improvising on piano. Now, during the podcast, the host recounts my story while providing some soundbites from the interview. These soundbites are answers I supposedly gave to the host’s questions about how I felt about parts of my story. Contrary to what you might expect, these are not at all answers in the form of words. Rather, they’re in the form of songs I made up and played on my electric keyboard. The tone of each song represents a different emotion, one which the host clarifies after the song is over.

My inspiration for this came immediately after listening to Radiolab for the first time. I wanted my audio story to be a similar kind of podcast, wherein I talk about what I learned in an interview. Of course, I also wanted to put a pretty big twist on what the podcast’s soundbites were like. I really don’t know where I got the inspiration from for making my piano do the talking – I guess I’ve just always wanted to show how expressive musical improv can be.

Before starting the project, I did a smidge of preliminary research by looking up some tips for podcasting. The links to the sites I visited are here…

https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/tap100-100-amazing-podcasting-tips-from-successful-podcasters/

http://www.digitaltrends.com/how-to/how-to-make-a-podcast/

I took these websites’ tips into consideration, even if I didn’t consciously use any of them.

I put a lot of time into designing my rough draft. My concept for organizing the draft’s material was pretty simple: four talking sections with piano sections in between. To make the talking sections sound interesting, I added a bit of my piano playing to the background to act as nat sound. To make my third piano section exciting as a grand finale, I again added background music.

Because my podcast could only be two minutes at most, I had to keep my story short. Thus, I divided into three simple parts (a beginning, climax, and resolution) and dedicated a piano section to each. This way, not only could my podcast be short, but it would also be engaging thanks to a positive-sounding beginning, negative-sounding climax, and positive-sounding resolution. I’ve often heard about that positive-negative-positive system being attractive to people.

When I finished my rough draft, I realized I made a pretty big mistake. Throughout the whole time while making it, I had forgotten to make it like Radiolab. I instead ended up with a direct interview without any narration. I knew this would have to be changed for my final draft.

During the peer review, I saw that absolutely all my reviewers shared a common critique: I should use my normal voice. In order to give my rough draft more character (and to hide my less-than-stellar real voice), I used a made-up voice for the host’s character, but no one seemed to find it necessary. Hence, despite my lack of appreciation for my real voice, I knew I would need to sound more natural on the final draft.

I started a new Audition file from scratch for my final. I used the same concepts of talking plus piano sections and a positive-negative-positive plot, though I re-recorded everything. This time, I spoke naturally and in the context of narration for the talking sections, and I put in better-sounding takes for the piano sections.

On the technical side, I had little trouble making the final draft. Since I wasn’t as experienced a while ago, making my rough draft was a pain. Yet with the right experience now, the final draft was a breeze.

Wherever multiple music tracks would play simultaneously, I cut the front end of each track up to the exact spot where the first note begins. I was able to sync the tracks really well by doing that then lining the starts of the tracks up together.

My finishing touch was adjusting the volume of each track. For the talking sections, I made sure my narration took center stage while the background music was gratuitously quiet. For the piano sections, I made any notes I originally played too softly become more audible.

My greatest challenge in the technical process was by far syncing musical tracks during my rough draft. Without the proper experience, figuring out any good way for doing so was agonizing. Fortunately, this wasn’t a problem by the time I got to my final draft. That’s because I had figured out the best place to cut from on the front end of each track.

My advice to Audition newcomers in my rough draft post was to avoid arranging music on this software at all costs. I argued doing this is far too hard to be worthwhile. However, given that doing this is now a piece of cake for me, my new advice is to go ahead and try arranging music on Audition if you want. You just have to know that it is definitely difficult and has a steep learning curve. But hey, if a non-technical moron like me can eventually do it, then so can you.

To wrap things up, I’ll just mention that no citations are necessary. All the audio in this post was recorded by myself.

Draft Audio Story

I made a Radiolab-like interview, but it has a tiny, tiny twist: the interviewee does not talk. Instead, he answers questions by improvising on his electric keyboard.

The interviewee is supposed to be me, Bailey. The content of the interview goes over the story of how I came to be good at piano improv. It lists the three things that got me where I am now…

  • I first learned how to improvise when I joined my high school’s jazz band.
  • As I stayed in jazz band, I found that practicing for band songs afforded me little time to practice improvising.
  • I left jazz band, allowing me to practice what I wanted.

I comment on each thing by improvising a little song. Each song represents its own emotion.

This interview is part of a talk show I made up called Improvising on Pianos. Since the interviewee is already supposed to be me, the show’s host had to be someone different. Thus, I made up a character named Peter Pantsless to serve as the host. I gave him a dumb voice to emphasize that he’s not meant to be me.

I had two big inspirations for this draft. One was Radiolab. The high energy in its podcasts gave me direction for the feel of my audio story. Another was The Dori Monson Show, a radio talk show my mom listens to a lot. The sense of fascination the host has during the show’s interview portions became the basis for Peter Pantsless.

The first step I took in making this draft was recording a narration segment for the beginning. After that, I recorded one question for each part of my story. I wanted to explain the story more thoroughly, but I had to make the talking parts short so everything could stay under two minutes.

The fun part was recording myself playing piano. For each interview answer, I recorded many takes of myself improvising a short melody. I then put the best take into my audio story. In addition to a melody, the third answer utilized multiple other tracks I made. I wanted the third answer to be a grand finale, so I gave it a fuller sound. I also recorded background music, since this would be a good way to keep high energy going throughout the interview.

On the technical side, making this draft wasn’t glamorous. Let me be clear about something: putting together music in Audition is hard. It is very hard. Lining up tracks with each other took hours to do.

I completed the background music by copying and pasting the same note progression audio. I had to cut both ends of that audio very carefully so that the background music would have a steady beat.

Cutting the ends of the first answer’s audio took a lot of effort too. This answer’s beat needed to line up well with the background music.

Thankfully, by the time I got to editing the third answer, I was pretty well-practiced at lining up the audio. I needed to line up four different tracks, but I managed to do so quickly by organizing separate parts of each track.

To finish up, I adjusted the volume for each bit of audio. By doing this, I emphasized certain tracks over others.

If I must name the thing that gave me the most difficulty, then it is the lack of precision for moving tracks around. Because I couldn’t move the music tracks exactly where I wanted, I had to rely more on cutting the ends of audio to make sure things were lined up.

My suggestion to someone else using Audition is to avoid mixing music. Audition doesn’t seem to be designed for this. If you want a high-quality way to mix music, I recommend finding different software.

That said, my current audio story has terrible quality. Despite my time taken lining tracks up, the timing is still far from perfect. My audio story is definitely incomplete, but I plan for its final draft to be much better. Between now and next Friday, I aim to line the music tracks up even more carefully. I also want to replace the third answer’s current melody with a better one, and I want to change the talking parts a bit so more narration is included.

No citations are necessary for my audio story. Everything in it is recorded by myself.