Good Morning. My name is Mikayla J. Laird, and I thank you for your time. I’m here today to introduce my final project for MA Digital Media Arts. Animating theory. This project came out of my long-term goals, as well as a desire to work alongside the university. Education is important in life. And while many choose to continue their education, just as many struggle during their first or second years to grasp the basics of academic theory. It’s my belief that one of the best methods of engaging students with the material, is to present it through entertainment. People, regardless of whether or not they are students, find themselves more interested and engaged in finer details, when the core material is viewed as fun or exciting. You wouldn’t read the History of Middle Earth, without first falling in love with Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or The Lord of the Rings.
Either due to a lack of time, learning disabilities, or procrastination, students frequently find themselves neglecting their academic reading. At the undergraduate level, and especially at level 4, this can become a problem for both lecturers and students. Particularly when these subjects are elaborated upon, or come the time when students are required to use this knowledge for essays and classroom discussions. It seems that when confronted with such dense seeming material, students find themselves intimidated. Causing a sense of unease before they have even started.
- Target audience
The primary audience for the project is undergraduate students. Particularly those struggling with the material. However, the nature of the project works to tutors and lectures benefits as well.
- Benefits to students
For students, the projects short but direct nature, gives them a fair playing field. Allowing them to quickly digest the basics of the required principle, or academic figure. With the prevalence of devices such as smart phones, tablets and laptops. Video streaming and downloading has become a more prevalent form of media consumption. Students find it easier to download or stream a video from anywhere, rather than visit a library or order a book. With students already finding themselves stressed, simply by the fact that they are starting university. This ease of access and freedom to view where ever the student may be. At home, on campus between classes, at lunch, or even on the bus ride home. Students can find the entry level into their studies more accessible and easier to grasp. Or simply refresh their understanding when the subject is re-introduced.
- Benefits to teachers and staff
With tutors and lecturers, the project provides a completely different, but equally valid purpose. For lecturers, when a student comes to them exclaiming that they don’t understand the material or theory. Lecturers have a short and direct source that students can easily be sent or pointed towards. With lecturers who have students with learning disabilities, or a fear of approaching such dense text. They have something in addition to Learning Support that can help them. When multiple students approach lecturers year-round with this fear, the ease of access of the project, means that lecturers can focus more on their own work, and provide a better service to classes as a whole.
- Created in collaboration with UH tutors and staff
My clients for this project are lecturers and members of the university themselves. Meaning that not only did I have to respond to their wants in regard to the project. But also, their specifications as lecturers. The material being conveyed, and the way in which it is conveyed needed to comply with their needs, and the needs of their students. With this, Marty Lobdell’s lecture on Study Less, Study Smart, was used as a template for understanding the lecturers needs. Lobdell highlights several principles that allow students to study with greater ease. He discerns that students can handle a total of between 25 to 30 minutes of study, before their attention weavers. To which at this point, they need to rest or refocus themselves for a minimum of 6 minutes. When digesting information, it’s better for them to highlight key concepts rather than have entire chapters worth of information. This helps them to recollect and utilise the information at a faster rate. Encouraging recollection rather than recognition. When students are able to recollect information independently, then it is easier for them to understand. Being actively able to remember the information in their own mind and words, rather than recognising something when a trigger is provided for them.
The method in which students access the information is extremely important. While the university provides a number of avenues to access as many books, documents, and tools as necessary. This does not mean that students actively know where to find this information. Despite posters, lecturers, and emails pointing students in the right direction. Students feel more comfortable when using systems, they are more familiar with. When a student is already confronted with a subject they feel uneasy towards, then an unfamiliar environment will add to that unease. With video streaming and uploading services, such as YouTube or Vimeo. Both students and lectures are not only comfortable with the environment, but confident in their ability to navigate to their desired content. Many phones and tablets already come with the YouTube app pre-installed, making the material even more accessible to the wired in, and tech confident students.
- Watch time and retention on YouTube
According to Google, and their YouTube support. Watch time and retention is the most important element when uploading information and videos onto the site. A video can be broken down into three sections. The Nose, the first 2% of a video. The Body, the middle 96%, and The Tail, the final 2%. According to Wistia, in their research into audience retention. The average loss of engagement in a 1 to 2-minute video, is 4.9%. This increases to 17.3% in a 5 – 10 minute video. Their own study brings about several key elements that should be included to keep a viewer engaged up until the main body of the video. To abbreviate any introductory material, and cut straight to the point. To make audio clear and distinct, as well as hooking your audience by showing your point. YouTube and Googles own support forums, state that the first 15 seconds of any video is the defining factor in whether or not a user chooses to watch the video as a whole. Through analytics of retention over the run time of a video. A shorter video, with a clear and engaging opening 15 seconds, that cuts straight to the point, has a higher chance of reaching the viewer.
- How the project meets the criteria
With the information discerned from research, as well as client specifications. The final product takes all of these criteria on board, and delivers in just over 3 minutes, a basic overview of the core principles of Marshall McLuhan. Using information taught in a two-hour lecture. The information was distilled, with the core principles highlighted. Proof of the contents worth and its usefulness to the student are presented within the opening 15 seconds. The platform to which a student or lecturer can access the information are simple and seamless. As well as easy to share through both social media, and direct links. The platform also allows for the project to be easily imbedded into lectures, slides, or documents. Meaning that students are able to engage with the material in a stress free and quick manner.
- Costtrell, S. (2013) The Study Skills Handbook: Palgrave Study Skills. Macmillian Publishers Limited: Hampshire.
- Fishman, E. & Currier, A. (2017) Understanding Audience Retention. [Online] Wista. January 20th. Available from: https://wistia.com/library/understanding-audience-retention [Last Accessed: 20/08/2017]
- (2017) YouTube Help: Watch-time reports. [Online] Google Support. Available from: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/1715160?hl=en-GB [Last Accessed: 20/08/2017]
- PietceCollegeDist11 (2011) Marty Lobdell – Study Less Study Smart. [Online] YouTube. July 22nd. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlU-zDU6aQ0 [Last Accessed: 20/08/2017]
- Thomas Frank. (2015) Study Less Study Smart: A 6-Minute Summary of Marty Lobdell’s Lecture – College Info Geek. [Online] YouTube. January 29th. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23Xqu0jXlfs [Last Accessed: 20/08/2017]
- Thomas Frank. (2017) How to Make Studying Fun (or at Least Less Boring). [Online] YouTube. August 11th. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YitcDk-Wwiw&t=436s [Last Accessed: 20/08/2017]
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954 – 1955) The Lord of the Rings. Allen & Unwin: Crow’s Nest.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1983 – 1996) The History of Middle-Earth. George Allen & Unwin: Crow’s Nest.
This project has been the culmination of previous modules and assignments. As well as incorporating skills that were learnt in the process of editing, and animating. With this project beginning as a client led assignment, I found myself needing to evolve skills I had learned from the previous live brief. While the specifications were given to us beforehand, this project required a far greater level of engagement with the clients. The need to balance both my own time management, and the required communications with the clients was a skill that needed to be learned and disseminated quickly. While research has always been a strong suite in my favour. The nature of research changed in this manner. Rather than researching uses for an idea. Research was directed more at justification and experimentation. This required a need to expand and elaborate on my own research skills. The direction of research changed, as the need changed from a question of ’what’ to ‘why’.
With technical skills, I found myself having to learn elements of flash that became obsolete by the projects end. However, these skills became transferable since they related to sound and timing. Learning of the use of dope sheets became a valuable asset. Had the project continued to be produced with Flash, the dope sheet would have become even more valuable. However, learning to adopt this method of working provided a more organised and productive flow, allowing for time to be organised and distributed across the entire editing process.
The change in asset and animation style did force me to look at how I view materials, as well as how texture work. This came into play especially when looking at ripped paper to create the collage effect. This allowed me to experiment with additional brushes in photoshop, as well as how colour changes the tone and feel of the image. When it came to story boarding, I had to draw greatly from my knowledge of comic books, and how they can convey mood and movement. The storyboards went from an afterthought at the beginning of the project, to an immediate and crucial detail. My previous method of animation and editing relied more on script based work, rather than storyboard driven. Through this project, I learned the value of a well-presented storyboard, as it can convey to the client a greater sense of what the final outcome will be, rather than words on a page and simple directions. This also helped in understanding the projects reason for being. That both the clients and target audience respond greater to image and sound, than text.
Throughout the project, the process of decision making has been in constant flux. This seems to come from the need to satisfy a client’s needs. While some decisions, such as the initial art style came naturally, based on my own experience and style. Others came from the need to justify why my style was a practical fit. When these ideas did not fit with the client’s specifications, decisions were made either as a compromise, or through research. The research for each decision became imperative in this regard, as they not only provided inspiration for my own thought and design process, but justification and examples as to how and why a different style, method or approach may suite the project better. Working with more experienced clients, also provided an extra layer of knowledge to the project. The clients, all of which had an academic background, had advance knowledge in various aspects of design. This provided guidance in various aspects, such as typography, and colour design. When notes were passed to me for things to consider. I would proceed to take these suggestions, and research as to why these suggestions were made.
Other decisions were made in more spontaneous circumstances, or through trial and error. When moving from storyboard to full animation, changes became more spontaneous, as the greater sense of movement gave a better idea of what might tonally flow better, and provide a greater level of engagement with the audience. Circumstances that resulted in trial and error, usually came from moments of desperation, or hurry. When a planned method or style did not transition well from theory to reality, these ideas or mistaken results were salvaged, or modified to either bare a resemblance to the original proposal, or adapted to at least fit with the already finished work. In the case with the car movement in the middle of the McLuhan video, a spontaneous decision became the bases for an entire change in design. The Monty Python-esc moment of animation, caused myself, and my clients to look at the animator Terry Gilliam, and the college style as a design choice. From there, follow up decision were made to fit in line with this new direction. Causing myself and the clients to seek out examples and inspirational material. Decisions we had made before then, that we felt were vital for the project, needed to be adapted to suite this style. This string of decisions was made in almost rapid succession, causing the pace of work to become much faster. Producing an organic flow between each of the participants. From here, any decisions became simplified, due to the cemented style and feel.
- M.J.Laird (2017) Marshall McLuhan – Animating Theory. [Online] YouTube. August 8th. Available from: https://youtu.be/qsUk-TWuuXE [Last Accessed: 20/08/2017]
While experimenting with added audio for effects, I found them distracting, and took away from the work as a whole. While sound effects would add a nice flair to the project as a whole, this works better with background music, rather than a simple voice over. Comparing it to the works of Terry Gilliam, his use of voice over and sound, including music, rarely crossed over. For example, the animator death in Monty Python and the Holy Grail [Gilliam & Jones. 1975]. The music from the over all scene fades out as the animation starts, and additional sound effects are added within long pauses between lines. While that could be added here, it takes away from the flow of the dialogue, and would create an uncomfortable pause mid-sentence in some cases. With this in mind, it feels best to forgo the use of sound effects, in favour of clarity.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (1975) Film. Directed by Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones. [Blu-Ray] Python (Monty) Pictures: UK.
M.J.Laird (2017) Mikayla J. Laird – Animating Theory Promotional Video. [Online] YouTube. August 19th. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwqp7d1dZ-I [Last Accessed: 19/08/2017]