Statement

With the rapid evolution of technology and internet access, students now find themselves with multiple avenues for learning. No longer restricted by the need to confine themselves to libraries for research and theory work, education must adapt to students new needs. With students now capable of streaming videos from anywhere in the world, with an internet connection, it becomes feasible to meet these requirements in an effort to allow students alternative methods of study, especially in regards to students unwillingness to read written text, alongside those with learning difficulties [Stack-Cutler. 2016]. With services such as YouTube, students are able to access videos discussing a multitude of academic subjects in a casual and entertaining fashion, for example, PBS Idea channel, using current popular media to explore theory, history and politics [PBS Idea Channel. 2017], and Crash Course, which takes a seminar style approach to educating, mixing live action segments with animated explanation portions [CrashCourse. 2017]. While more respected corporations and schools may provide video discussions, such as BBC School animation [BBC. 2017], produced with animated sequences in order to appeal to children, or Yale University [YaleCourses. 2017], which features recorded lectures simply transposed on to an online format, rarely does an official and respected source, produce animated videos aimed at higher education students, in order to assist in their theoretical coursework.

While the projects aim is to produce animated sequences, the theoretical framework, is similar to that of comic book theory, and the use of images to convey text and meaning, essentially, semiotics in itself. To use Michelle Manno’s concept of the three E’s of comics, then the videos must be:

  • Engagement: Comics impart meaning through the reader’s active engagement with written language and juxtaposed sequential images. Readers must actively make meaning from the interplay of text and images, as well as by filling in the gaps between panels.
  • Efficiency: The comic format conveys large amounts of information in a short time. This is especially effective for teaching content in the subject areas (math, science, social studies, etc.).
  • Effectiveness: Processing text and images together leads to better recall and transfer of learning. Neurological experiments have shown that we process text and images in different areas of the brain: known as the Dual-Coding Theory of Cognition. These experiments also indicate that pairing an image with text leads to increased memory retention for both. With comics, students not only learn the material faster, they learn it better.” [Manno.2014]

With a concept such as semiotics, the idea of portraying these videos as animations, plays in to its favour, as the concept of semiotics is explained with semiotics. The versatility of animation, as well as the ability to bring in primary sources, allows for alternative subjects to be taught with the same medium. A video for semiotics, produced for an animation class, can be repurposed for interactive media or fashion easily. For matters that discuss history, it is useful to keep in mind a subject discussed by Corey Blake, describing our abilities to make a connection with illustrated sources, far easier than with simple written text. Blake uses the superhero genre as an example. “Just look at how easily we superhero fans memorize our favourite character’s power levels, sound effects, costumes and history. I could chronologically sort Cyclops’ outfits over the past 50 years faster than I could list the first 10 presidents of the United States. Why? Because there is a colourful narrative in comics form tied to Cyclops that captured my imagination when I was young. Meanwhile, there was a dry narrative tied to the U.S. presidents, probably more like a litany of facts occasionally brought to life by a good teacher. That doesn’t mean a history comic needs to give George Washington a ruby-quartz visor and Spandex, of course (although that would be pretty awesome!). U.S. history is actually pretty crazy and interesting on its own, but the engagement level will increase exponentially if we actually experience the story of Washington crossing the Delaware.” [Blake. 2013]

With both of these projects, a greater depth of research has been required. This has required me to take into account multiple avenues of research, and expanding upon subject matters within a field of interest. Combining media theories to attempt to cover gaps in research. Technically speaking, my skills have needed to be expounded upon with software such as photoshop and flash. While through my undergraduate classes, I have grown to understand the basics, however, when pitching, developing and creating concept art for the ideas put forward, I discovered new techniques and short cuts that provided me with a better understanding of how these projects should and can be undertaken. In particular, techniques in flash were taken into account and expounded upon, especially in regards to utilising sound into animations, a fundamental technique and skill required for the final project.

Joining a Proposed Pitch [Final Project]

With the idea in mind, I approached Dr. B. Brownie of the University of Hertfordshire, hoping to ask if the university has any guidelines in regards to distance learning, and videos used for education. Through discussion, I was invited to work on a project, currently being pitched, that involves producing animated, aimed at undergraduate students, in order to teach basic principles in theory. With this taken on board, the project has become a live brief, meaning I shall be working to someone else’s schedule and deadlines, with their specifications.

Lessons Learned in Flash [Final Project]

While attempting to refamiliarize myself with Flash, now known as Animate, I found several long standing issues that I finally wanted to answer. First on the list, is the issue of audio. Through previous undergraduate lectures, as well as teaching the basics to undergraduates as a masters student, a particular annoyance has always been how sound is added to a flash animation. Due to previous lectures, the only method of adding audio is was aware of, would only play the audio when the animation was started from the beginning. However, through experimentation, I found that it was possible to add audio in a way that would allow you to scrub through it at your own pace. This works wonderfully for timing specific moves and tween, but also in adding elements such as lip syncing.

With this in mind, I was able to create a basic mouth model sheet in flash, to work with this new ability. Previously, I would attempt to label the points in the audio where dialogue would start and end, and implement generic mouth movements in an attempt to create some semblance of realism. Alternatively, I would ignore mouth movements, but this would leave to stretches of inanimate and boring animation, followed by rapid movement.

Video Example – PBS Idea Channel [Final Project]

PBS Idea Channel, while mostly live action, incorporates elements of animation, depending on the subject being covered. Idea Channel covers a variety of subjects, usually topical, using media such as films, games, and television, to discuss the material in a more easy to manage fashion.

  • PBS Idea Channel (2016) Is Undertale the Most Violent Game This Year? \ Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studio. [Online] YouTube. January 20th. Available From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvSd_opycoI [Last Accesseed: 12/04/2017]

Video Example – TED-ED [Final Project]

TED, already known for their insightful videos from world confrenses, on interesting subjects. TED-ED provides animated background lessons, on subjects frequently covered in conferences. The videos are completely animated, and while varying in animation style, most are simplistic and mirror the subject matter being discussed.

Video Example – Crash Course Literature [Final Project]

The Crash Course series of videos provide short explanations and discussions of subjects in parts. Usually, they have two series running simaltaniously, for example, Literature on one day, History on another. In this example, Crash Course Literature takles The Great Gatsby, discussing it’s plot, themes, and cultural impact along side author, and co-creator of the Crash Course series, John Green. Using a mixture of Live action, seminar style discussion, and elements of animation to describe visual elements suggested by the novel.

  • CrashCourse (2012) Like Pale Gold – The Great Gatsby Part I: Crash Course English Literature #4. [Online] YouTube. December 13th. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xw9Au9OoN88 [Last Accessed: 12/04/2017]

Idea for Educational Video [Final Project]

Wanting to go into education, specifically teaching undergraduates, it becomes apparent to align my final project with something that can be used to further that goal. Based on online educational shows, such as Crash Course and PBS Idea Channel, and companies such as TED and the BBC, the idea was pitched to create short educational videos with the aim to teach theory. Through discussion, it was thought to attempt to use these videos to teach film theory, not focusing on how to make a film, but the theories behind them, such as semiotics, genre theory etc. The overall goal of the project is to use them as exercises in producing lesson plans, and executing them.

 

The overall presentation could be a mixture of live action, and animation, or purely animation using clips from examples. Animation segments will most likely be created using a mixture of Flash, now Animate, and Premier Pro. This will require some brushing up in terms of animation skills.