Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Video Hardware/Software Response

The camera that I received in my production kit was one of the older Olympus models, and it was VERY slow. I would press the power button and it would take about 4 or 5 seconds for the camera to turn on. I had a hard time taking pictures that didn't look blurry. I did not have the patience to use this camera. I own an Olympus camera of my own, the SP-560UZ, so I used that instead. I had a much easier time taking pictures and video with this than with the one in my kit. I was already familiar with the controls and knew how to get the results I wanted without fiddling around. I still had a few problems here and there, but for the most part, I got what I wanted. My perfect camera would have unlimited battery life and storage, with an incredibly fast lens with a powerful optical zoom, an awesome image stabilizer, manual focus and settings, a large glare-proof pivoting screen, a great viewfinder with an eyecup, be waterproof, be nearly unbreakable, and it would also be lightweight.

I tried to download a few different free video editing programs, but none of them worked very well. The free program that pleased me the most was the trial of AVITricks Pro, but it still didn't do everything I needed or wanted. I ended up downloading Quicktime Pro. I wish I had some prior editing experience with this program. I still don't have a complete understanding of all the features, but I've gotten a good start. Just like any other program, I spent a large amount of time experimenting with it to get a better understanding of its functions. The only disappointment I had was how long it took me to figure out what I was doing and get what I wanted. I will definitely be using it in the future for editing schoolwork and for my own personal videos. I used Ulead Gif Animator to animate my still photos. I have 6+ years of experience with this program, so I found it very easy to get the results I wanted with it. I learned about many features that I had not known how to use before, and I feel like I have a much better understanding of it as a whole. I am very pleased with the results I got using this program.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Handmade Removable Windscreen Tutorial

I didn't want to have an ugly ball of tape and felt on my microphones, so I started searching the internet for an alternative. I found the Micro-Cat windscreens online, but they cost much more than I wanted to spend. I figured I could make my own windscreens at home for a fraction of the price.

Supplies -

Faux Fur (enough for 6 1.25" diameter rounded triangles)

Needle and thread
Elastic string (I used clear beading elastic, which is probably the best choice)

The air conditioner filter foam is optional, I didn't think it helped block any more wind(and it brushed against the microphones at times), so I made a pair without it and they worked just fine.

Click here for the triangle panel template

1. Print out the template, cut it out, trace the shape 6 times on the back of your faux fur, and cut them out, making sure to leave a tiny bit of extra space for stitching.

2. Take 3 triangles and stitch them together along the edges, working inside-out. Leave one edge unstitched, otherwise you'll be left with an inside-out ball.

3. Stitch around the outside of the hole with elastic, turn the windscreen right side out, tie a knot in the elastic so that it will fit tightly around the outside of your microphone capsules, trim the excess elastic, and you're finished!

4. Enjoy your handmade windscreens!

Here are a few pictures of my windscreens in action -
1 2 3

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reading Response #2

"The Future of Music: Credo" by John Cage provides an interesting historical context to the work I have been doing with sound recording. Considered to be one of the most influential composers of the last century, Cage pushed the boundaries of what many considered music. He sought a way of creating music without following the traditional means of composition and performance. Cage's predictions provide an important benchmark with which to compare the advances made in sound and music technology during the past 70 years.

Cage begins by discussing the noise that we hear everyday, and he proposes that it may be manipulated with a film phonograph to become musical. We are presented with a term beside music to describe these noises; they are organizations of sound. Cage expresses his disappointment in the modern inventors of musical instruments, stating that their creations are too focused on imitating instruments that already exist. He suggests that electrical instruments will, one day, allow control of any tone in any frequency, amplitude, and duration. This control will allow composers to create music without performers. The composer will have unlimited sound resources and unlimited time to arrange these sounds in any rhythm imaginable. Cage considers percussion arrangements especially important in the evolution of music, as many different “non-musical” sounds are considered acceptable in percussion pieces. Organizations of sound will not be limited by the constraints of harmony, but will have a form of their own.

Many of the beliefs that John Cage had about music have become realities. Computers have allowed artists to shape sound in ways that had never been possible before. Digital media has made recording, editing, and listening to sound easy for anyone to do. An unlimited field of time for recording almost seems within reach as the price of hard disc space continues to drop. Sampling has provided musicians with a way to incorporate and manipulate sounds, whether it is in the studio or live on a stage. I found reading about Cage’s work to be very inspiring. His father once told him, "If someone says 'can't' that shows you what to do." He devoted his life to music and continued to push its boundaries, even when others considered his work to be a joke. I will maintain my search for new and interesting ways to record sound and experiment with arranging those sounds into some kind of musical form.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Audio Hardware/Software Response

I was very excited when I learned I would be building my own stereo microphone. I had worked with solder before; I've performed multiple repairs to electrical guitar wiring. I stripped my wires and connected them to my microphone capsules without any problems. I was surprised by how well my stereo microphone worked. I used it to record close up sounds, such as a dragged weight, and general ambiance, like underneath the Farwell Avenue bridge. I wish It was easier to control which noises I pick up, and which ones I don't. I wish I had better windscreens, even though the ones I made work well. I wish my recorder was smaller and had better controls. I also wish I could have no wires, but that's just dreaming...

I did not have any problems with operating the MiniDisc recorder, but I wish it didn't take as long to change the settings. If it were up to me, I'd want it to save the settings I had the last time I used it, or at least keep them until I changed the battery.

I used Audacity for my audio editing, and I had never used it before. I was satisfied with its capabilities, especially since it was free. I decided to use Audacity because it cost nothing and I thought it would be easier to get help if I needed it. I was very confused at first, but I began to learn the program's functions and things got easier. On one day in particular, I spent more than 4 hours trying all the different tools and filters. I felt like I was getting nowhere for a long time, but I eventually started to get the results that I wanted. Experimenting with the tools is the best way for me to learn how to use them. Once I began to understand the program, things became much easier. It took me a long time to tweak my recordings, and I'm still not sure if they sound exactly the way I wanted to, but I'm pleased with them. I will probably use Audacity in the future for my personal audio editing needs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

10 Questions

1. How many different architectural ornaments can I find?
2. Where are the oldest buildings in the area?
3. Are there any historically significant locations in this area?
4. Are there any hidden nooks, paths, or alleys?
5. How many kinds of geometric shapes or patterns can be found?
6. Where is the highest place I can go that is open to the air?
7. Is there something around that seems out of place?
8. Is there a way of placing my microphones that will change the character of the sound?
9. How do surrounding structures affect the reflection of sound, how can I use this?
10. What differences are there at different times of day?

Drift Assessment

I ran into a few situations during my walks that aggravated me. While I recorded the truck sounds on Newhall Street, there were people leaving their jobs within the trucking building(shown in my picture and map). They were conversing very loudly, and hung around in the parking lot talking for a while. I was upset because I felt like I was wasting my time recording in that place, at that time. I almost packed up my gear and left, but I decided to wait. I'm glad that I was patient, because if I wasn't, I would not have captured the sound that I chose from the location. I recorded at about 1650 E Thomas Ave, and I was next to an alley, holding my mics high in the air, to capture the sound of a power transformer buzzing. A medical transport bus pulled through the alley, and I figured that it would add to the recording. I was pleased at the moment, but all of a sudden, the bus started backing up. I was very confused, but I kept recording. The bus stopped, the door opened, and the driver proceeded to ask me, "What the hell are you doing?" I explained myself, they looked at me like I was crazy and left. It was annoying, and I just wanted some good audio!

The audio from the parking garage is the last thing that I recorded on my final walk. I was very exhausted, and even though I was sitting on cold cement, it felt very rewarding to truly relax and listen, knowing that the final recording was being completed as I observed it. I finally felt accomplished and at ease. I also recorded at the northwest corner of North and Oakland for nearly 30 minutes with my mics clipped to my head like antennae. I stood in one spot and watched the traffic pass. It was strange for me, since I've never done anything like that before. I watched the rhythms of it all, and it was bizarre to see how certain situations repeated.

The truck recording was strange to witness when it happened. There was a semi that was dragging something on the ground when it drove around. I thought it sounded interesting at the time, but I was amazed by the recording. I love the way the truckers shout "Yo!" and how each time it sounds distinctly different. I was unsure if I would walk away from that location with anything that I could use, but it turned out well.I was expecting to record certain sounds in the parking garage, but I ended up very surprised by what I actually heard. I figured that I would get some cool machine and traffic noise from the area. I didn't expect someone to start their car nearby with music blaring, a shriek, or a car horn, and I especially didn't expect all three to happen in a row. I am glad that I was prepared for the situation by having my manual mic settings set low enough. It was an interesting situation. It felt strange and special when it happened, and I think the recording captures that. Each situation, especially watching traffic, brought something to my attention. I never realized how rhythmic everything in our lives can be until I took the time to stop and observe it. It makes me want to attempt to manipulate and translate that rhythm to something else.

My favorite place was the alley behind The Twisted Fork. I almost felt like it was calling to me or something. I loved the graffiti, the sounds, and the feel of it. It almost seemed out of place, I never expected it to be there and when I found it, I was pleasantly surprised. There was a fence that separated it from the rest of the alley. I wonder if I would have entered if it weren't for the employee that said I could. I guess I was in the right place at the right time. It was somewhat secluded, so I was outdoors and near traffic, but it wasn't as loud as it would have been if I were next to the road.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reading Response #1

“Theory of the Dérive” by Guy Debord provides the reader with insight into the various elements necessary to complete a successful dérive, or drift, in an urban landscape. It explains how one must approach their surroundings in different manners to find a deeper understanding of the world they live in. This theory has been very helpful in the formation my own drift strategies. The ideas in this article are very important to grasp if one wants to get the most out of their drift. I consider it to be the most helpful reading I have come across on the many aspects of the dérive; it explains them, their importance, and provides easy to understand examples.

Debord’s theory has several important points. It is made clear from the beginning that one must separate them self from their typical thoughts and activities, and commit them self completely to observing what is around them. Chance is not of much importance; the surrounding landscape has a personality of its own, waiting to be interacted with. The choice of a spatial field, or an area to drift, is important, but it can as unstructured or specific as one chooses. If there are no set limits, it can be difficult to find a place to begin or end. A dérive can be conducted by one person or by a group of people, directly affecting the multitude of observations made and the ability for comparison with others. Length of a dérive is also variable, lasting anywhere from a moment to months. Different drift forms can yield different experiences; from getting more familiar with something you see every day, to discovering a place for the first time. Finding the correct amount of structure and disorder is important. The dérive is a flexible tool of exploration, and can be very effective when used properly.

Upon reading “Theory of the Dérive,” I gained an understanding of the fundamentals of the dérive and the potential conflicts I might face along the way. Before I learned about this method, I found it difficult to come across inspiration in the places around me. I became overwhelmed by how much was waiting to be encountered, and the search seemed hopeless. I figured that giving myself limits would cause nothing but more problems, but now I know that fostering creativity is nearly impossible without them. Developing drift strategies could be very helpful in finding interesting material to photograph. It allows me the perfect balance of order and chaos that I need to feel productive. I now have a system that I can use to aid in discovering myself and the world that I live in.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

First sound walk!

Were you able to find places and spaces where you could really listen?

  • Yes, but they were not easy to find. The two places this was easiest to do were in the trees southeast of Sandburg, and the trees east of the Klotsche Center.
Was it possible to move without making a sound?
  • No, but it was possible for me to walk and make very little sound.
What happened when you plugged your ears, and then unplugged them?
  • The sounds became very muffled and difficult to identify when I plugged my ears. It seemed as though I could pick up lower frequencies better than higher ones, as I could hear muffled vehicle engines in the distance and not the cicadas in nearby trees. I needed to look around me to get a sense of what was going on.
  • When I unplugged my ears, I could hear cicadas, people talking, wind, and many other things. I could tell the differences between noises much easier.
In your sound log exercise, what types of sounds were you able to hear? List them.
  • Water splashing in fountain
  • People talking on cell phones
  • Feet shuffling and dragging on cement
  • Rocks being kicked on the ground
  • Skateboard dragged on cement
  • Skateboard flipping on cement, wheels bouncing
  • People talking, echos
  • Laughter
  • Cars accelerating, slowing down, and braking
  • Cars driving over uneven pavement
  • Exhaust from buildings, different volumes and tones
  • Doors opening and closing
  • Smoothie mixer
  • Machines beeping at Taco Bell
  • Change being counted into a till
  • People speaking Japanese
  • Keys jingling
  • Upbeat, bouncy jazz piano
  • Posters with cardboard backing flapping as people shuffle through them
  • Receipts printing rapidly, non-stop
  • Plastic utensils tapping on plastic dishware
  • Empty plastic bottle dropped on hard floor, bouncing
  • Laptop keyboard tapping
  • Buses accelerating, braking loud and squeaky
  • Car making a loud buzzing sound similar to a bee
  • Motorcycle engine
  • Bikes making clicking sounds
  • Moped/scooter engine
  • Unidentified long squeak
  • Unidentified buzzing
  • Three Razor scooters on sidewalk, making a lot of clacking on cement cracks
  • Cicadas
  • Skateboards going downhill, accelerating
  • Cricket chirping
  • Strong gusts of wind
  • A girl shouting "Click it!" (maybe cricket?)
  • Leaves in trees rustling from wind
  • Distant bus braking
  • Flip flops dragging on cement
  • Leaves rustling on ground, walked on
  • Breaking twigs
  • Wood chips crunching
  • Distant car alarm
  • Three loud sharp squeaks, like a whistle
  • Distant traffic noise
  • Plane passing overhead
  • Women talking and walking with shoes that clack on cement
  • Interesting complimentary building noises from right and left
  • Car engine starting
  • Footsteps on pavement
  • Pen dropped on cement
  • Leaves crunching underfoot
  • Air conditioner whistling
  • Machine/exhaust noise from Heating Plant
  • Grass swishing as I walk
  • Bird chirping; quick, sharp, loud, constant tone, a little annoying

Were you able to differentiate between sounds that had a recognizable source and those sounds you could not place?

  • Yes. Most sounds were considerably easy to identify, but there were a few that I couldn't figure out as I looked around for a source.

Human sounds? Mechanical sounds? Natural sounds?

  • Human and natural sounds were almost always identifiable, but there were some mechanical noises I was unsure of.

Were you able to detect subtleties in the ever present drone?

  • Yes. Between two buildings, I could hear two different tones of exhaust; it gave an interesting stereo effect. The drone of traffic was steady, but sounded different depending on how far you were from the road, and how much traffic was passing by. When we entered and exited the Union, the drone changed completely.

Extremely close sounds? Sounds coming from very far away?

  • Sounds coming from up close were louder and more distinct. The further you are from the source of a sound, the harder it is to hear it clearly. Sounds from far away were more quiet and muffled.
What kinds of wind effects were you able to detect (for example, the leaves of trees don't make sounds until they are activated by the wind)?
  • I heard wind blowing leaves in trees, and the leaves made different sounds depending on their height from the ground. I also heard wind blowing past my ears.
Were you able to intervene in the urban landscape and create your own sounds by knocking on a resonant piece of metal, activating wind chimes, etc.?
  • I did not consciously make such sound in my surroundings.

Do you feel you have a new understanding or appreciation of the sounds of our contemporary landscape/cityscape?

  • Yes, it was a really interesting experience. I had never walked around for that long only thinking about the sounds around me. It gave me a completely different perspective.
How do you think your sound walk experience will affect your practice as a media artist, if at all?
  • I might start to analyze my surroundings more than I already did, only in a slightly different way. I've always looked first and listened second, but that might change. I feel compelled to incorporate the sounds around me with my imagery. I might start recording sound simultaneously when I go out and photograph things.