WITH ALEC LOWREY
Savannah College of Art and Design - Atlanta, GA - A04 - Professor Karen Chesney - Tues/Thurs - 11:00 a. m. to 1:30 p. m. - Winter 2020
My name is Alec Lowrey. I am working towards a Film and Television major at SCAD Atlanta.
DIGI 130 - Short for Digital Communication; A class at SCAD dedicated to everything from managing one's social media presence to incorporating digital tools in one's own creative work.
This page is dedicated to a log of what is done and discussed in class, as well as my own ideas and observations of those topics and concepts. I love to learn, and I am eager to share my newfound or broadened knowledge with you!
WEEK 1 - 1/7-9/20
Today marks the beginning of DIGI 130, Winter 2020!
We were given two assignments to begin work on
The first project, which will be due on class 5, is a self-portrait made using raster graphics.
I have started working on pre-visualizing and experimenting with the approach I will take with this project. I'm thinking about incorporating facets of my personality as well as my hobbies and interests into this image. The final version will be created using Adobe Photoshop.
We also took a look at the basics of raster (resolution-dependent) graphics and how Photoshop is used to manipulate and create them. One such emphasis that was made was "non-destructive editing," which involves such processes as copying the source image as a spare layer and creating alpha (transparency) masks.
The second of these assignments was Homework 1: research an "influencer" and how they achieved and currently maintain their popularity and status.
Over the next weekend, I assembled a PowerPoint on James Rolfe, an independent filmmaker who achieved early internet fame for his web series,The Angry Video Game Nerd. Myself being a Film and Television major with a soft spot for video games as well as Rolfe's unabashedly DIY approach and enthusiasm for film, I felt that this would be a fun topic to explore and discuss.
We also had our first discussion of the quarter: What is "success?" What do we think about the idea of an "internet influencer" being a viable career?
Success seems to be what a given individual perceives it as. Some might see it as no longer having to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Others may see it as simply achieving their ambitions. It's highly subjective, though the feelings and ambitions attributed to it are not only objective but universal.
Regarding the second part of our discussion, we were able to agree on one thing: "influencer" is a very broad label which can be applied to anybody with an online or otherwise social presence. Everybody from photographers, filmmakers, traditional/digital artists, and writers have been seen as "influencers" in a similar vein to vloggers and internet-based comedians.
WEEK 2 - 1/14-16/20
This week, we spent more time discussing Photoshop and raster graphics.
Among the tools we focused on were cloning and healing tools which are used to seamlessly repair or remove parts of an image. We also learned easy-to-apply layer styles (bezel, drop shadow, etc.) as well as rudimentary methods of color correction using adjustment layers and blending modes (blending effects for the colors, luminosity, and transparency of image layers). We also had a group discussion about networking.
Outside of class, I've been hard at work on Project 1. I think it's coming out quite nicely so far!
WEEK 3 - 1/21-23/20
It was time to showcase our completed Project 1 self-portraits!
On Tuesday, it was time to turn in our Project 1 files and be ready to present them. The ones I saw were extremely colorful, inventive, fun, and had some neat personal touches.
My Final Self-Portrait:
To describe my process...
I started off with a picture of myself wearing a tawny hoodie and fedora. I went in and masked out (as to not totally destroy) the background. Next up: put myself in at least 3 places at once.
The panel on the left consists of two separate photos taken at Unicoi State Park in Helen, Georgia. I composited them to appear as one, which was easier said than done. I had to mask out the sky from one of them, paying close attention to the leaves on the trees. The tint of the water in both images had to be adjusted to look like a single lake.
The ocean on the right panel had a similar process going for it: two separate photos seamlessly composited. Then I replaced a sailboat in one of them with a motorboat and added some foam where the rest of the cube-like structure meets the water.
The back panel shows a grassy overlook and a view of the Atlanta, Georgia skyline. An overlook from somewhere else, as well as some bushes, were composited onto the skyline. The overlook transitions into the grassy bottom panel, and the sky fades into the starry night sky of the top panel.
Some other details, such as the old tube TV (featuring a photo of myself adjusting the camera, some desert visuals, and numerous distortions, adjustments, effects, and layers), a stack of vinyl records and the letterbox (black bars on the top and bottom) hint at my personality and hobbies.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with this project! I got more experience with the tools I was familiar with, learned how to use ones I hadn't before, and found new ways to utilize them all.
This week's discussion: Digital Vs. Traditional
Of course, digital technology is on its way to dominating our daily life. Even then, many are attracted to the imperfect qualities of traditional mediums and the analog technologies of old. They hold a tangible quality as well as a nostalgic one as apposed to digital media's sustainability, relatively low cost, easy accessibility, efficiency, and aesthetic clarity.
Some have also found that digital media can be used in tandem with traditional media to great effect. An artist planning a digital raster or vector image may create thumbnail sketches and brainstorm ideas with pencil and paper. A sculptor may previsualize a piece in a 3D program. Visual effects appear in films that were shot on the namesake celluloid strips prior to their application.
I personally champion both realms. As much as digital technology has made our lives and work easier and connected the world and its cultures unlike anything before it, the tangibility and imperfect, somewhat human-like qualities of traditional media enables us to maintain a physical connection with the real world.
Then, my first foray into raster graphics...
The last time I used Illustrator, it was for a one-off in-class project in a TV production class I took before attending SCAD. In DIGI 130, I got the opportunity to not only find time to get a better grasp of what Illustrator had to offer, but also to learn the basic functions and applications of vector (math-based) graphics.
Outside of class, I began sketching out ideas for Project 2: a complex design/coloring page.
In addition to this project, I also worked on Homework 2: I had to find a good logo and a bad logo and briefly explain why I thought they worked or did not work. I wrote about the effectively simple and communicative design of the original Animal Planet logo, as well as the stylish yet not-so-clear design of American Airline's current logo.
WEEK 4 - 1/28-30/20
A continuation of Illustrator and vector graphics.
We explored features such as the trace tool (allowing a vector to be generated from a raster image), the blob brush (draws a shape rather than a line), the blend tool (adding a shape and color gradient between two objects), and even the spiral tool.
We also briefly touched on the world of 3D SPACE and the use of the Z axis (depth). We then quickly covered the bare basics of the industry-standard 3D program Maya before being let loose to create our own simple snowman models.
Also worth noting is my past experience with 3D graphics and dabbling with 3Ds Max, Blender, Anim8or, and Unity when I was in late-elementary and middle school; this week's experiences was as much of a new experience for me as it was a nostalgic one.
THIS WEEK'S DISCUSSION: Companies' public personas.
This is the subject of how companies, franchises, and corporations are viewed by others outside of their products and services. It can have a lot to do with the kinds of people who are stereotypically thought to support these companies as well as the kinds of people who are hired, how they are treated, and the standards they uphold. Also notable is that individual entities in a franchise or corporation often have their own personas as well.
WEEK 5 - 2/4-6/20
This week, we presented our vector graphics coloring pages.
The other students' works were complex, creative, and colorful (at least when the colored versions were presented).
The Final Coloring Page:
To describe my process...
I went with the dodo-looking doodle from earlier in my previs process. It also seemed to have other features such as a string instrument/harp looking area, a leaf-shaped lower beak, extremely fat legs, and conch/Fibonacci inspired rear parts. A fun design for sure.
I went in and traced over my raster prototype using Illustrator's pen and shape-based tools. I also sent and added some dynamics to the image by means of line profiles (shapes) and weights (thicknesses). I did also made slight adjustments from the original sketches to balance out the composition.
To make a colored version, I mostly filled in existing shapes and made new ones to hide behind the outlines of the black and white version. I also experimented with gradients and a harmonic color palette.
Another fun project for me!
WEEK 6 - 2/11-13/20
Then, my first foray into After Effects...
As a film major who was originally inspired to fully embrace the medium by post production: I will confess that I had never used Adobe After Effects prior to this class.
The time-based media portion of the class was my chance to finally dip my toes into what this program has to offer. We went over basic functions such as key frames (for animation) and parallax through rudimentary 3D space. We also looked at parenting objects (so that an object moves in tandem with another object).
We were assigned Project 3: 3D Parallax OR animating a classical painting.
We could either:
- take a photo or even bits and pieces of photos and arrange them to appear like they are in 3D space, or
- take a classical painting (or a few of them) and make certain elements in it/them move, essentially "bringing art to life."
I decided to work on the latter option for my project. My previs, as well as fun in-class experiments, are below.
This video shows some good examples of the After Effects techniques which we were to use for Project 3.
Special guest: National Cash Register
Some representatives from NCR came to class on Thursday to discuss their internship program. They also hosted a 20-minute challenge for students to previsualize an innovative design that could improve the grocery shopping experience in the future. Although I did not find it particularly relevant to the field I am looking into, I am glad that this opportunity came up nevertheless.
WEEK 7 - 2/18-20/20
More about Time-Based Media.
This week, we focused more on learning the basics of After Effects. We looked at how to create and render 3D space through parallax as well as using puppet warp effects (using points which, when moved, warp the shape of a layer) and exporting a project. We also learned about going into Photoshop to make copies of a painting's elements we want to animate and healing the original painting below them to make the removal of elements look seamless.
THIS WEEK'S DISCUSSION: Fair use and copyright.
Fair use is easily one of the hardest to understand and seemingly sporadic elements of copyright law in the United States. It has to do with the context and usage of a copyrighted work which would permit it to be used without prior permission from the rights holders. The contexts of critique, parody, and education are usually safe bets, although it can also come down to how much of the content is used, how/if it is credited, the transformative nature of the context given, and even the viewpoints of the rights holders themselves.
As someone with experience in the creation and consumption of outside resources in an educational and parody-centric context such as school projects, sample-based music, and online video, this is rather troubling. I can understand the need to not only look into the topic more but also to work with somebody who has a better knowledge of copyright than I do.
Outside of class, I continued to work on my Project 3, working from my previs and bringing my idea to life.
WEEK 8 - 2/25-27/20
This week, we presented our motion-media projects
All but two students chose the second option: bringing one or more classical paintings to life. Some were simple yet hilarious and some were extremely attentive to the paintings' details. The two parallax works which were presented were charming as well.
To describe my process...
I took an illustration from The Gospel Book of Otto III and envisioned a complex and psychologically challenging narrative: the personification of the Slavic regions tosses the ball with a cross on it to the Emperor, who rolls his eyes as the camera zooms into the ball.
I started by going into Photoshop and creating new layers with copies of the ball, the Emperor's eyes and fingers, and the personification's arm. I then used the clone stamp and the healing brush tool to "remove" these features from the original painting (I had an extra layer of the unedited original for safety).
In After Effects, I imported the layers. I turned them into 3D objects and added a 3D camera, the reason being that I wanted to have the original 2-page illustration open up to reveal a portion of the modified version. A subtle puppet warp effect was applied to the arm to compliment its swinging motion. The ball was made to move with the arm before flying across the illustration and landing in the Emperor's hand. The camera quickly pans as the ball goes offscreen after the throw and enters the second panel before it zooms into it a few seconds later. A glowing effect was applied to the ball during this zoom.
Overall, this was a fun and quirky project to work on, as well as a welcome introduction to After Effects for me.
Our second class this week was spent at an ATVfest panel.
The panel was about representation in the Film and Television industries. It had nothing to do with what we were doing in class and seems rather patronizing to those who really want to get into the industry. I was not a fan.
WEEK 9 - 3/3-5/20
We are making group presentations!
Our forth and final project was assigned this week: a group presentation on one of five pre-assigned topics.
I joined a group of two other classmates to play the role on non-self-aware 40-50 year olds discussing the topic of millennial and Gen Z culture, memes, and slang to Gen X parents.
A demonstration we were given on the first day of classes this week surprised me in an interesting way. That would be that there is much more to designing the layout of a PowerPoint or even a Word document than I thought. These two programs (especially new versions of Word) are surprisingly customizable in this sense.
THIS WEEK'S DISCUSSION: How we I and my classmates improve our digital presence and professionalism?
We discussed basic areas such as social media presence and postings when it comes to our individual fields as well as ways to network with people in our respective industries.
WEEK 10 - 3/10-12/20
On Tuesday, we presented out presentations we began working on last week. Everyone looked like they had a ton of fun with their projects.
We also briefly looked at HTML and CSS coding for websites before taking the final exam.
Thank you all for reading my blog! This was a fun and insightful class, and I am looking forward to further expanding my digital presence in the future using the skills