“Can you fly, Bobby?”

I recently watched Paul Verhoeven’s 80s tech noir classic Robocop and thought it might be interesting to do a little design analysis on the Omni Consumer Products logo. The first thing I notice is that OCP is an inversion of cop. While this is not a visual design aspect exactly, it does carry meaning. The underlying story in the film is policing turned inside-out by a profiteering corporation, hence the inversion.

Some of the more obvious points of the design:

  • the octagonal shape, like a STOP sign. That could be read as a message or warning. It also symbolizes control over the flow of traffic
  • The metallic chrome finish. This can signify strength, a shield, technology, modernity, hardness, and also reflection. It does all of these things at once, in our subconscious, mostly.
  • the design is reminiscent of a labyrinth. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it can make for an interesting read, connecting to the concept of the minotaur as a symbol of power.
  • On the other hand, we could also see it as a web and a spider, symbolizing trap and predation, danger.

And what does this mean to today? The name, Omni Consumer Products, suggests a company that sells everything, a company that’s everywhere. Which sounds familiar, like a company currently investing in surveillance and marketing to law enforcement. In the movie, the company describes itself as one that invests in traditionally unprofitable sectors – hospitals, prisons, law enforcement – and makes money out of it. That kind of privatization was happening in the 80s. It has accelerated since.

As I was working on this I found a site that does a much more detailed and in-depth analysis of the logo design, and several others from the movies, which may be worth a look.

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Chuck on the Clash

I listened to the Stay Free podcast a few months ago. It’s Chuck D of Public Enemy narrating the story of The Clash. It bleeds off the edges of our ds106 80s theme, as The Clash was late 70s-early 80s and PE was late 80’s into 90s and beyond, but it connects. I thought it would be interesting to analyze one minute of the production to see what went into it. I played the first minute of the show with Soundflower as my audio output, and recorded it into Audacity with Soundflower as the audio input. Then I exported the recording as an mp3 and uploaded it to SoundCloud. (Hopefully it stays there for a while.) One of the things you can do with SoundCloud is annotate audio. You can stop playback and add a comment at the point where you stopped.

I marked every time I heard an edit – where it sounds like different recordings were spliced together. I counted six, which isn’t a big number in itself, but it shows a lot of work that went into that one minute. Just the physical act of putting the parts together so that they flow smoothly and are evenly balanced would take time, even in the hands of an expert. On top of that is making, finding and indexing the recordings, and planning how to bring them together. Good planning makes the production easier though.

That work pays off in the way the piece holds the listener’s interest and attention. I especially like that little shift from where it sounds like Chuck D is on the other end of a phone call to where it sounds like he’s right there with us. That could be two recordings spliced together or one recording with some kind of phone filter applied to part of it. Either way, it activates our attention without being distracting.

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“Good to go on your radio”

Title borrowed from LL Cool J’s 1985 hit “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”

We’re into Audio Week, so I put together a three-hour show, the ds106 Hour, for ds106 radio. What it does is take a random sampling of content labeled “ds106” in the ds106 radio library to fill a three hour time block. Here we can see an example of one of the blocks:

Note how Kollin’s bumper clocks in at 10.6 seconds. Brilliant touch! The other segments are shows from previous semesters. The last segment gets cut off after half a minute unfortunately. Those are the breaks when the machine makes the decisions. That particular show will show up in one of the other blocks though.

I have these scheduled for 0600 and 1400 PDT, which may be 9 AM and 5 PM Eastern time, if I know how to do the conversion, which is generally questionable. They’ll be on Tuesday through Friday. When I figure out the settings to make the schedule repeat automatically, I’ll have it going every day, although perhaps at a different time.

Any students who are interested in broadcasting should let me know. I can give you directions to broadcast live, worldwide on the web.

 

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Roll Your Own

Something you can do at any point in ds106 is add a new assignment. Maybe you don’t like any of the options. Maybe you have an idea and there isn’t anything in the Assignment Bank to go with it. Maybe you found some interesting digital art somewhere and wanted to try it yourself. Then go ahead and roll your own. In the header of each section of the Assignment Bank is a link to add an idea for a new assignment.

It links to the Submit An Assignment form, which gives some brief directions on how to do it. To me, the main thing is that it leaves room for creative interpretation. There’s no one right way to do a good assignment.

This is a way to further push your creativity, and to offer creative challenges to the class. It’s fun to see people take up your idea too, and take it to places you didn’t expect. I recommend everyone try it at least once this semester.

I think there’s fun to be had in playing with David Lee Roth’s vocals, so I made an assignment out of it. No one has to do it, but everyone has the option.

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Jammin’ with Dave

For this week’s video, I wanted to show Audacity in action, to give people an idea of audio layering and combining tracks. I’ve also wanted to play with David Lee Roth’s isolated vocals from Van Halen’s Running with the Devil for a long time. (Someone has to be able to put that track to better use. Consider that a creative challenge.) For the background sounds, I used “Ambience, Night Wildlife, A.wav” by InspectorJ for the crickets and “running sounds” by zombiechaser3. I recorded my part with my laptop and iPhone headphones/mic. My voice is pretty soft, so I used Audacity’s Compressor effect to even it out and boost it a bit. Then I imported the sound effects I had downloaded from Freesound. I cut and pasted the sounds to where I wanted them, and applied fade in and fade out effects. Then I imported the Dave track and copied and pasted the parts I wanted to use to a new track and aligned the parts to my recorded part. That involved some copy and paste work. I didn’t pause long enough for Dave, so I copied some of the silence in my track and pasted it in the same place a few times, which made the pause longer. I used the volume control to bring Dave’s voice down in the mix a bit. When I felt it sounded good enough, I used the Quicktime Player to make a screen recording of the track playing through. I exported the Audacity file to an mp3. The export process automatically combined all the tracks into one recording. I brought the mp3 and the Quicktime movie into iMovie and more or less lined up the audio and video, and saved it to Youtube.

I mentioned in this week’s post that audio editing is time consuming. This piece is a little more than a minute and a half. It took me about an hour to put it together. Part of that was opening and working with iMovie, but most of it was getting the parts and editing them together in Audacity. And I’m not new to the program. So hopefully this will give you some ideas about what you can do, and some idea of the time it might take.

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“Reality of My Surroundings”

After looking at the photo reflections people have written, I thought I’d do a quick one of my own. I feel like photography isn’t really my medium, even though I have an extensive background in art and design, and did a lot of photo work way back in high school. But even then I was more on the production side, being in charge of the darkroom and doing much of the film and photo processing for the yearbook. Now most of my image work is in Photoshop, which I would call photo editing rather than photography. What I need to work on is selectivity and an eye for framing and composition. The pictures I take are of the snapshot variety, mostly as a form of visual note taking. In fact, I just scrolled through the photo library on my phone and deleted dozens of images because they were notes I no longer needed. As an example, here’s a picture of a 1980s telephone that I spotted the other day

The visual interest is in the object itself. It’s a documentary photograph without any artistic pretensions. If I had been thinking, I would have taken a side view as well, so I could make a kind of police mug shot out of the two. In comparison we could look at Hinoiri’s photo blitz which shows an artistic sensitivity throughout. That’s a nice thing about photography – not only can we capture the art around us, but we can create art out of our surroundings.

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The other stories

I watched Ridley Scott’s pseudo- true crime film All the Money in the World yesterday, after having had it sit by the TV for two weeks while I was too busy. It’s about the kidnapping and ransom of J Paul Getty’s grandson in the early 70s. Maybe I should have read Martin Weller’s review before I put it in my queue. Given that Scott made it, I expected it to be a well-made film, but to me the focus was on the wrong story. Weller mentions Getty’s “otherness,” the dehumanizing aspect of his massive wealth, which would have been worth exploring. The movie instead focuses on the family tensions. I’m sure people can relate to that, and it’s what studios want, but personally, I’m not really interested. I would be much more interested in the kidnappers’ story. Wikipedia tells me that they were ‘Ndrangheta, a mafia group I had not heard of. In the film, a motley group nabs young Getty out of the blue, has trouble negotiating the ransom, and basically sells the crime to a larger organization. That’s the story I want to know about. It reminds me of Jim’s take on The Iron Heel, where a story mentioned in passing seems more compelling than the story that’s primarily being told. While the elder Getty operates in a metaphorical cut-throat world, the ‘Ndrangheta inhabit a real one. I wonder about the inner workings of the business deals and decisions that go on there. How was that sale made? What goes in to it? Or the impending decision to cut their losses? What price does the original kidnapper pay when the job fails? Shifting the perspective might have made for a more interesting tale.

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Tagging UMW

Today’s Daily Create was Creative Graffiti. I tried a graffiti assignment a long time ago, so I liked the idea. I don’t have any recent pictures of graffiti, but I did photo some street art a while back. I could run that through some of the filters from the other day to see what happens.

But maybe I could do something more meaningful, like ds106 graffiti. I found a generator in the photofunia site, but it doesn’t accept numbers. So I went to dafont.com to look for something I might use. For whatever reason, a lot of graffiti fonts don’t have numbers. Not sure why that is. But I found one that could work. Then I had to think of what to put it on. I went to flickr looking for a Creative Commons licensed image and found something from former ds106er Stephanie Lefferts that seemed perfect for some Photoshoppery.

That was probably a bit more work than a Daily Create should entail, but is was fun

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Monkey Shines

One site/feed/whatever I like following is Behind the Grooves. Occasionally it brings up things I didn’t know about, more often things I forgot about. So today is the birthday of Peter Gabriel’s Security album:

https://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com/post/187582817474/on-this-day-in-music-history-september-8-1982

I don’t even know if I have this one, and I’m too lazy right now to go to the other room and check. I remember “Shock the Monkey” being a big MTV hit. Most of my people thought he was too weird and didn’t like his work, but started to warm up to him through this song. I liked his work because it was weird and experimental. It seems influential, especially in the big drum sound of the 80s, although it may have been more precognitive than progenitive. Maybe I’m just saying that because I think it sounds smart, but changes in technology changed the way music sounded. Vox had a video about it:

So now we know.

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“ds106 is pure joy”

Here we have another discussion with ds106 godfather Jim Groom. I should do some editing, but I think it’s better to just get it out there without the delay. We talked about public access TV in the 80s as a precursor to Youtube, and the anyone-can-do-this punk aesthetic that carries through with the web.

Another topic related to that was digital writing and the freedom it offers. The Wesch video we’re looking at this week addresses issues of how digital writing is different, and also points to a number of issues that we’re currently struggling with as a society, which were also part of 80s sci-fi.

We also brought some work from the class this week, particularly The Steining and the Berlin wall image. I am fascinated by the way people connect with this theme and what they make of it. The possibilities are endless.

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