Final Essay 12/12/08: Response to Antl's Manifesto

What is Graphic Communication?

Graphic Communications (GrC) are defined as the processes and industries that create, develop, produce, and disseminate products utilizing or incorporating words or pictorial images to convey information, ideas, and feelings. The traditional paradigm regarding Graphic Communication at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo is that the industry encompasses solely print and packaging. However, based on its broad definition, it appears that Graphic Communication can involve much more than just print.

A little Background

Upon entering Cal Poly, many students are faced with the daunting task of selecting a major. Most students have no idea what profession they wish to pursue; thus, it is more common that they will transfer from the area of study they had originally selected. I, personally, began as an English major. Once I realized that I was passionate about website design and development, I began to look for a Cal Poly major that would fit my interest. Naturally, my first inclination was that Graphic Communication, as the name implies, would involve all forms of visual messaging including those that encompassed prevalent and current technologies such as the Internet. However, I soon found out that our GrC department had a very limited and traditional focus.

The Futility of my GrC Knowledge

In my years as a GrC student, I have taken only three classes that relate to Web design: GrC 338, GrC 429, and GrC 452. Everything else pertained to presses, forms of printing, printing technologies, marketing through print, some color management, and one design class. I knew after a few months in GrC that I didn’t want to work in print. However, I learned that a four year degree in anything will get you a bigger salary, and a degree in Graphic Communication would at least sound close enough to website design that it could help bolster my résumé. So, I’ve stayed in the GrC major and studied website development on my own through web tutorials, Lynda.com, and through general practice. And I can honestly and very sadly state that nearly all of my knowledge gained through the GrC major will be put to very little use throughout my career with the exception of the web, video, technological, and marketing classes. I am a senior and plan to graduate in March 2009. While various graduates I have met are still performing interviews and awaiting responses, I have already been offered a full time position by a successful Internet company, and have received frequent requests for website and Flash development. I’m not attempting to show off; I’m stating this in order to demonstrate that the Internet is a booming technology that lends itself to thriving businesses. To ignore this substantial market especially when it is a part of the GrC industry is, to me, an incredible mistake which places many students at a disadvantage when entering the “world of Graphic Communication.” There is a stark contrast between the demand for printers and the demand for developers. Having the skills to run a press is only valuable to those who have presses, and those who own presses represent a small percentage of individuals. My point is this: while having knowledge of print may be beneficial, it is no where near as marketable as knowledge in all other branches of Graphic Communication.

The Obsolescence of Print

We are frequently told that print will be obsolete. I see proof of this in everyday life: people preferring online news rather than newspapers, letters being sent through email rather than post, digital taxes, digital communication, books being replaced by the Kindle, and large printers such as R.R. Donnelly frantically reaching for straws when planning their business strategy. In fact, just the other day while watching The Daily Show they were discussing how large newspapers such as the New York Times and Tribune, Co. (who publishes the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune) are struggling to stay in business. Granted, this could be more of an indication of our current economic meltdown; but still, it is not a promising outlook on our career paths. Our teachers try and soothe us saying that print will last and that people will always prefer books. However, wasn’t that what they were saying about typewriters and audio cassettes? I think we all need to face facts and realize that while there may always be a market in print, that market is rapidly shrinking. And that in the future, a job in print may not prove to be a job at all.

The Future of GrC at Cal Poly

Based on earlier statements, it is very obvious that I agree with Tom Antl’s “manifesto.” GrC should not focus only on the printing industry because GrC concerns with much more than just printing. It’s a stretch, but teaching just one side of GrC could be comparable to a music label that only releases music on compact discs (CD). Sure, people still buy CD’s but it’s just not practical to base your entire industry around it. Thus, I strongly believe that our major should be expanded upon. Graphic Communication does not solely encompass print. Therefore, the major should include more forms of visual communication that it currently neglects. Internet technologies, Flash animation, video editing, and user interface (UI) design should become a part of the curriculum. It seems illogical to me that the concentrations offered all revolve around print with the exception of Electronic Publishing and Imaging (EPI) and Independent Course of Study (ICS). An alternative to this would be a restructuring of the concentrations. Each area of study should be portioned out into branches of the following: Web Communications (including UI design, content management systems, search engine optimization, and Flash), Video Communications (including instruction on video editing software, 3D development such as Maya and SolidWorks, and overlap the Web concentration with Flash), Print Communications (which would cover graphic design, advertising, packaging, prepress, etc.), and an option for an independent course of study. Overall, I am grateful for my opportunity to study at Cal Poly and I have learned a lot through my experiences here. However, it saddens me that our major is missing the great opportunities that the entire scope of GrC provides. By delving into the other areas of Graphic Communication, our major here at Cal Poly can arm students with the skills to compete in our ever-changing and innovative industry.



Project VI: UGS Promo Video

Objective

The purpose of our sixth project was to develop a promotional video for our on campus print provider, University Graphic Systems. The only stated requirements included the use of the UGS logo, along with a time limit of 90 seconds. We were provided with shots of interviews, press runs, and various printing equipment that could be sliced and edited in Final Cut Express.

Procedure

  1. First, I spent most of my time finding music for the video and viewing all of the video content provided
  2. A noted the start and end times of each clip that I wished to use in my video and included a short description of the clip's content alongside them for my reference
  3. I browsed through UGS's website in order to obtain each interviewee's full name and title
  4. I created all of the titles in LiveType, and animated the intro title University Graphic Systems
  5. I, then, placed each clip in the timeline and sliced them accordingly
  6. I added transitions and placed the color corrector filter on the logo for increased saturation and on the intro clip for each interviewee in order to create grayscale videos
  7. I placed the titles over each intro clip and included transitions where appropriate
  8. I adjusted the audio on all of the clips and used a 3 Band Equalizer filter for the male voices
  9. For the music, I used keypoints to identify when I wanted the music to decrease to -20 decibels or level out at -12 decibels
  10. I synced the video to the music by ear which consisted of continually watching the video over and over again...which was as before, pretty redundant
  11. Lastly, I exported the finished product as a .mov file and uploaded it through vimeo

Video

view video

Summary & Conclusions

In the end, I was able to produce a cheesy little promo video that included UGS's logo and manager interviews. The overall experience was an alright one with the most troublesome portions being syncing the video with the music and creating titles within LiveType. I initially aimed to create a video that was much cheesier than this one with flaming titles and slow to fast motion shots; this was inspired by the Kill Bill music and my desire to make a more "light-hearted" promo video. So, if I had had more time and more skills, I would have "cheesed it up" a bit and made a video that emulated a blend of Charlie's Angels and 300.

Project Significance

This project was signficant because it gave us more experience with Final Cut Express and LiveType. We were also able to go through the process of selecting small clips from a large chunk of video which is more realistic than being given the desired clips at the start. We obtained more experience with audio and how to equalize vocals if their was an excess of bass.

Closing Thoughts

I can't help comparing Final Cut Express with Adobe Premiere Pro..so, here goes. LiveType is annoying. In Adobe Premiere Pro, the "text building tools" are included within the program so that the user doesn't have to switch between programs just to get simple text on their video. But I'm sure they have their reasons, whatever they may be. And I'm sure its better than Adobe Premiere Pro in some ways, whatever those may be. My only criticism of the project itself (since the other criticisms were of the program not the project) would be the inability to edit the video at home without purchasing the software. It would be just dandy if Apple would offer trial versions of their products such as Final Cut Express.



Project V: WiHire Splash Page

Objective

The purpose of our fifth project was to develop a splash page for an online recruiting company named WiHire. The only stated requirements included the use of the company's logo and fonts, along with a time limit of 5 to 10 seconds. The end product would result in an .avi or .mov file that could be produced in either Final Cut Express or Adobe/Macromedia Flash. This video would be shown at the beginning of any video that the company wished to present in order to brand their media.

Procedure

  1. First, I spent most of my time conceptualizing, finding music for the clip, and viewing other videos including those on this awesome site
  2. Since I wanted to be able to animate each piece of the logo within Flash, I created WiHire's logo from scratch within the Flash environment using gradients, text tool, etc.
  3. I made a separate layer for the music and inserted ActionScript to control its behavior
  4. I browsed istockphoto to find all of the "people icons" and acquired ones that I felt demonstrated WiHire's slogan: "connect, inspire, succeed"
  5. Since these icons were in .eps format, I opened and edited them in Illustrator
  6. I exported the "people icons" as .swf files in order to ensure that I could resize them in Flash without effecting the resolution
  7. Then, I imported them into Flash, separated them into different layers, converted each to a movie clip, and animated them using motion and shape tweens
  8. I used blur filters to simulate quick movements and alpha in order to fade out objects
  9. I synced the animation to the music by ear which consisted of continually watching the video over and over again...which was pretty annoying
  10. Lastly, I exported the finished product as an .avi file for viewing and for the purposes of this lab write-up, I included player controls to prevent the video from automatically playing

Video

Summary & Conclusions

In the end, I was able to produce a short clip that included WiHire's logo and company slogan. The overall experience was a good one, and since I had already planned out what I was going to create, the execution was relatively simple. The most repetitive part was syncing the animation with the music which took a lot of patience. Hopefully, in the future, I will find out a more efficient way to complete this.

Project Significance

This project was significant because it gave us real life experience with clients. We were able to create a finished product and were provided with the incentive to cater our work to the goal of our customer. The video allowed us to conceptualize with the client's specifications in mind.

Closing Thoughts

While I am pleased with the finished product, I do wish that I had created it through Final Cut Express rather than Flash based on the fact that my experience with synchronizing sounds in Flash is not that extensive. When the video is viewed for the first time, the animations appear delayed in relation to the sound. This occurs, according to my knowledge, because the sound loads at a different speed than the video. Thus, in order to prevent this from occurring, I would probably need to prevent both the animation and the sound from playing until both have completely loaded.



Project IV: Making Flash Interactive

Objective

The objective of our fourth project was to emulate a Flash advertisement by AT&T. We were to further familiarize ourselves with the concept of tweens, importing and creating images in Flash, creating movie clips, developing with ActionScript, and using various effects including the blur filter and alpha.

Procedure

  1. We began in Photoshop where the layers had already been separated based on their Flash implementation
  2. The layers were selectively hidden in order to isolate each piece
  3. Each layer was then saved as a .jpg or, if it required transparency, as a .png file
  4. These images were then imported into the library in Flash and dragged onto the stage when needed
  5. I created the main text within Flash, converted it to a movie clip, and then added a shadow filter to it
  6. For the motion, I inserted a keyframe where I wanted the animation to end, selected the starting keyframe and moved each object off of the screen (while of course keeping each item I wished to animate on a separate layer)
  7. For the text that was offscreen, I added a blur filter and ensured that the text in the end keyframe had a blur of zero
  8. I then added a motion tween between the start and end keyframe of each line in order to create text that would scroll in
  9. The sub-text ("Change Your Game" and "With Mobility Solutions from AT&T") was created in the same way as the main text except without a blur filter
  10. In order to have the "learn more" button fade in, I converted it to a movie clip, added an end keyframe, entered the alpha for the start keyframe as zero, and added a motion tween
  11. ActionScript was used to create a rollover for the button
  12. From what I remember, the ActionScript that I used was: learnBtn.onRollOver = function() {learnBtn.gotoAndPlay('2');} learnBtn.onRollOut = function() {learnBtn.gotoAndPlay('1');}
  13. This basically told the program to play frame 2 (which contained the blue 'learn more' text) within the learnBtn movie clip when a user moved over the button, and to play frame 1 (which contained the standard view of black 'learn more' text) when a user's mouse moved off of the button
  14. We then used the learnBtn.onRelease = function() {getUrl('http://www.att.com'')} function to tell the browser to go to a particular site which in my case was AT&T's website

Video

Summary & Conclusions

The project resulted in a completed advertisement that included animation and a button that sent the user to a website upon "release." For me, it was a standard project. However, I definitely understand why it became a struggle to both teach and learn.

Project Significance

This project was significant because it taught us how to work with images and create buttons within Flash. Flash is a very powerful tool in the web design and development industry and can dramatically enhance one's website. Being able to create links within Flash rather than just developing neat little animations allows a developer to create an interactive environment for their visitors.

Closing Thoughts

In the end, I think the lab would have been more successful if we were all on the same level with Flash. I have had a lot of experience with Flash outside of school, so it was easy for me. But it seems that the Flash environment is very different for some, and that the knowledge required to develop a Flash animation needed to be strewn over several labs instead of lumped into just two.



Project III: Skinning a Custom Flash Player

Objective

The objective of our third project was to create a custom skin in flash with various techniques. This was demonstrated in three different ways: First, the creator could use a pre-built skin and simply select the skin from the menu. Second, the creator could open the native .fla file of the skin and customize the colors, etc. Third, one could select the appropriate FLV playback components from the Components Panel and customize and insert the logic behind it using ActionScript 2.0.

Procedure

Skinning Method 1:

  1. Export your video from Final Cut Express
  2. Import the video into your Flash library
  3. Select a skin from the menu
  4. Export the video to HTML
  5. Select the HTML object code and paste it into your blog
Skinning Method 2:
  1. Export your video from Final Cut Express
  2. Import the video into your Flash library
  3. Open the flash file for a pre-built skin
  4. Select each piece and color as desired
  5. Then, select that skin for your video from the menu
  6. Export the video to HTML
  7. Select the HTML object code and paste it into your blog
Skinning Method 3:
  1. Export your video from Final Cut Express
  2. Import the video into your Flash library
  3. Open the Components panel and select the appropriate components: play/pause button, seek bar, and volume bar
  4. Ensure that each object is on a separate layer
  5. Place the components in the area where you would like them to be displayed
  6. Add a custom logo next to the volume bar
  7. Give each component an instance name to control its behavior in the Actions panel
  8. Go to the Actions panel and program the logic behind each component using ActionScript 2.0
  9. Export the video to HTML
  10. Select the HTML object code and paste it into your blog

Video

Watch the video here.

Summary & Conclusions

In the end, this project resulted in a custom flash player with playback control. With the knowledge accumulated, video editors can upload videos to the internet that allow viewers to control the volume, playback, and seek capabilities.

Project Significance

Skinning custom playback is very valuable when distributing video via the web. It allows you to brand your videos and upload them without the need for an external video sharing community such as Vimeo. Furthermore, a knowledge of Flash and ActionScript is incredibly useful since the majority of internet users have the most basic FlashPlayer plugins.

Closing Thoughts

It was a pretty simple step by step process. I believe that ActionScript is extremely valuable and the use of this object oriented programming language gives any developer the upper hand when creating videos and/or websites. One thing I noticed upon placing my video in my blog is that it automatically plays upon entering my page. Next time, I would like to prevent the video from playing automatically. I think that inserting a stop action [stop();] at the beginning of my code would execute this task.



Project II: Using Green Screens, Depth Simulation, and Cloning

Objective

The objective for our second project was to create a clip that was a minium of 30 seconds long and that emulates the iPod commercials by utilizing green screen effects. Our video was to include the following: a minimum of twelve clips, at least three motion properties, minimum of three transitions, the dancer must be "cloned," and three instances of graphics using depth simulation.

Procedure

  1. We used the Chroma Key filter on our "hip hop clips" in order to isolate the green
  2. We then changed the colors of each dancer using the sepia filter
  3. I found a funky song and slowed it down so that it ...kinda looks like the dancers are dancing to it
  4. The first few seconds were edited with several dancers and blocks placed on top of one another in the timeline. The dancers remained "on the scene" during the whole time (they matched the black background) and the blocks alternated
  5. Depth simulation was used several times throughout the video, although I just used blocks and other dancers to revolve around the main dancer
  6. I used cloning and motion for most of the "main" dancers except for the last two
  7. The overdrive filter was used on the green cloned dancer to create a "ghost trail" effect
  8. The light rays filter was used on the second to last dancer
  9. The solarize filter was used on the last dancer for a "photo negative" effect
  10. The following transitions were used in my video: crossfade, wipe, and swap

Video


Project 2: iPod Demo from Stephanie Varga.

Summary & Conclusions

I learned a lot about filters from this lab especially the Chroma Key filter and its use in green screen effects. Furthermore, motion via a bezier curve proved to be a terrific tool for simulating depth. The end result, as you can see above, was a home-made iPod commercial. I think mine sort of resembles the Brady Bunch though because of all those silly blocks...

In regards to my process, slowing the song down took forever since I had to keep watching the video over and over again in order to sync the music with the dancer. In the end, I'm not really happy with my execution because it still seems like the dancers are off beat. Syncing the animation with the beat also took some time since unlike another video editing application (ahem, Adobe Premiere Pro), the audio wave isn't viewable on the timeline making it exceedingly difficult to find the "boom points" (for lack of a better word).

Project Significance

This project helped to familiarize us with creating a green screen effect using the chroma key filter. In addition to green screen effects, working with depth simulation and the overall usage of motion, transitions, and "cloning" increased our knowledge of video production/editing. It allowed us to sync animation with music in order to create an entertaining experience for the viewer.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, it was a fun project. Working with sound and animation is awesome and having a basis with which to begin our project (copying the iPod commercials) gave us solid direction. However, I do wish we had had more time instead of having to cram in EPL hours.

In the future and if I ever attempt to do something like this again, I think I would try to find better music and create a cohesive theme instead of going from color blocks to fire to a city background. After viewing the finished piece, the ending seemed as though it was quickly thrown together with random effects.



Project I: Editing a video in Final Cut Express

Objective

Our objective during this lab was to create a 30 second commercial using various clips. We were to emulate a video that had already been edited and were given the logos and audio required to complete the project. The application used was Final Cut Express, a video editing tool very similar to Adobe Premiere Pro.

Procedure

  1. View pre-made video on the San Luis Obispo Creek Clean-up
  2. Obtain materials through GrC server
  3. Import the music you prefer for the video (I selected some news station theme song)
  4. Place narrated audio on timeline
  5. Edit video using various filters including vignette, motion, color correction, etc.
  6. Add transitions, such as elliptical wipe and crossfade
  7. Render the video
  8. Export video from Final Cut
  9. Upload video onto vimeo

Video


Project I: Creek Clean-up by Stephanie Varga.

Summary & Conclusions

In essence, this project encompassed the editing, exporting, and uploading of a video file. The project resulted in a 30 second commercial for creek clean up day in San Luis Obispo.

I have Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects, thus, a lot of my knowledge from using those applications translated over with Final Cut Express. The keyframes took some getting used to since there was no "end keyframe" just a "start keyframe" which, to me, seems strange.

Project Significance

The significance of this project was to familiarize ourselves with Final Cut Express and to gain experience with motion, placing text/images over video clips, using transitions, applying filters, exporting video, etc.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, the project was relatively simple. If I were to complete it again, however, I would have definitely brought headphones since it was difficult to tell how loud my music was in comparison to the vocals. Upon watching the video now, with audible volume, I notice that the background music nearly drowns out the narrator.

© Copyright 2007-2008 www.grc452.com All Rights Reserved.