Andy Berryman: Specialist Project Evaluation
When deciding what to base my project on I wanted a subject that would be both fun to work on and also satisfying to produce. With this in mind I chose a topic that I have found of intrigue before. That topic was the attitudes of capitalism with regard to advertising campaigns and more specifically the anti-branding movements against them. Further analysis on why I chose this can be found on my blog.
The first thing I considered was how I would go about conveying my message. In early brainstorming sessions I considered how great it would be to simply block these adverts out of your life entirely with the flip of a switch. Although this would be unfeasible in reality, it did draw my attention towards a plugin for web browsers called AdBlock plus. This plugin stops adverts from popping up ahead of YouTube videos or on web pages. I had to consider how I might take the idea of blocking or obscuring adverts and applying it to my own project. My initial gut reaction was to make a more conventional short film relating to this subject.
Part of deciding the direction of the project was to first evaluate my own skills, strengths and weaknesses. I had completed a piece of freelance work over the summer unrelated to my university studies, this work was quite heavily dependant on the use of adobe after effects. With this in mind I decided to create a short film featuring the use of an ad blocking plugin that would work in reality as opposed to virtually. As explained in my blog the main storyrtelling device was to be a fictional version of Google Glass. I chose this because I think it’s important for my films to be relevant, and Google Glass is a hot new technology.
My initial idea had two main stumbling blocks. The first problem is one that I actually discussed with Phil Bears at a relatively early stage of the process. I intended to create a short film heavy in post production but that also included several characters, locations and props. Being that this was a solo project it was going to be difficult to maintain a high production value throughout the film. This was partly due to the limits of resources available but also because from day one I knew I was going to have an extremely time and labour intensive postproduction phase.
I contacted a student on the Acting course at AUB called Mianga whom I had worked with on a previous project. I did not commit to asking him to come on board as I know plans can often change, however I did confirm that he was in town and that he was available for my window of filming. One prop I had to think about sourcing was my Google Glass equivalent; I decided that safety specs may be a cheap and easy option. Having looked at some costing I decided that I could buy a large quantity of these glasses and ask multiple actors to wear them. Some issues persisted, issues such as the lack of suitable locations and the fact it would be difficult to source a crew.
The second issue facing me was one that was far harder to overcome. My project was based on a brandalism and culture jamming campaign. In these kind of campaigns people have experimented with billboards and artistry outside to grab the attention of the public. Even if I made a relative success of my film, how would I get my message out to my target audience? There was a real danger that I would complete the project only for it to then sit in my YouTube account with minimal views. I considered ways to overcome this, such as creating social networks to back up my ideas. I even considered entering the film in festivals and competitions however this did not really fit with the theme of brandalism that I was so keen on from the start. To speak critically of myself I think that one of my weaknesses when working tends to be that I become too emotionally attached and dedicated to either my first idea or a relatively early idea. In past this tendency to stubbornly hold myself to one idea has negatively affected my final work.
Reflecting upon all of these factors I decided that action was needed and my plan for this project would have to become far more adaptable and fluid regarding the shape that my final piece would take.
Discussion with Phil prompted me to take a more forward role with my activism. Research I had done featured all kinds of interesting projects being displayed in the public domain. With this in mind the next idea I considered was to take my idea of playing around with the adverts and parodying them (originally within my google glass equivalent) and apply it to a different medium. The new plan was to find billboards to map and project my animations onto. This idea again presented more challenges and problems, which are outlined in further detail on my blog. However it have the bonus of being out in the public domain and therefore better fit the culture jamming style of work I was aiming for.
The problem with projection was my lack of expertise in the area and mainly the logistics of setting up a projector on a busy street and the permissions surrounding that. Permissions would especially difficult as the projections would be very critical of the billboards they were displayed on. I after talking with Tony and Bob the idea changed to filming the billboards and animating them in after effects, then posting the film on YouTube with a rough storyline of an energy ball that would give life to the animation.
This idea did not fill me with confidence and trying to move forward from it was difficult. One problem was that I had the exact same distribution and exposure issues that I highlighted with my original film. In addition to this I felt the idea was convoluted and weaker than my original film idea, although admittedly more achievable.
After more meetings with lecturers I finally reached a stage where I was happy with the direction of the project.
The development after I chose to abandon the film idea was I feel simultaneously this projects greatest strength and greatest weakness. The idea gained strength through developing naturally over time, indeed I feel the reason why my final idea is quite unique and original is because it was born out of so many failed ideas that I pursued before. I also said however that this development process was this projects greatest weakness, changing the idea so many times had really limited the amount of time I had available to produce my final body of work.
I had decided upon basing my idea around QR codes, the whole nature of my project changed which left me with a new set of challenges to face. I had to think carefully about how I would present this idea to my audience. The beauty of this new plan is that members of the public can interact with the videos I have created. However I still had to keep in mind how I would present my work to the class during the final crit. I decided the best way of doing this would be to first set up my digital vandalism campaign out on the streets and then film it in action. The result would be a video just under 3 minutes in length with a soundtrack and a mix of stop-motion GoPro and DSLR footage. I chose to make this video the centre showpiece for the campaign. This video can be used to quickly and efficiently show people what my work is all about in a slick, stylish medium.
The technical side of this project was quite complicated however I feel I rose to the challenge well. Firstly the filming had to be carefully planned. I had rough sketches of how I wanted the finished animations to look and many of them involved text or particles moving outside of the confines of the billboard itself. With this in mind it was of great importance that I filmed nice wide shots, being careful not to clip the edges of the advertisement or obscuring the poster itself. I had learned in past that a good lens can make all the difference so I chose to hire a 24-105mm canon lens from the store. I filmed both static shots with a tripod and also shots with movement, reason being if my tracking failed I had the option of reverting to a clip without movement.
I took short clips of about 10 to 15 seconds to animate on to, I was very aware that the people watching these videos may well be walking along the street or waiting for a bus, and would not have a huge amount of time to invest. I used tracking, 3d particle effects, element 3d, masking and a variety of other techniques to achieve my desired effect. The postproduction was a relatively smooth process however it was rather labour and time intensive. This led to the unfortunate side effect of all the bus stop posters having changed by the time I came to my final video. This is a great shame as it would have been nice to film the phone playing the video next to an actual relevant poster. The combination of the time spent in post production and also my lack of knowledge regarding how often they change the posters ultimately led to this unfortunate mishap, the posters being changed 2 days before I finished post production.
On a more optimistic note the change of posters was inevitable and therefore the stickers would not have matched perfectly at one point in future regardless. I still feel the project is successful and very powerful, I think scanning the code to be met with a video of your actual surroundings is very unique and has a great future. Upon reflection of the poster-changing incident I have pondered basing my animations on for more permanent structures, therefore increasing the time at which the media is most powerful.
Choosing what to actually animate and what message to push reflected my research. I was very much at the mercy of what posters were available so my technique was to scout the area and then choose the posters that best lent themselves to my purposes. After choosing my posters it really was a case of researching around the company, finding an element that was somewhat shady or unpalatable and then highlighting that fact.
Although perhaps not the most technically challenging my favourite animation was the one cantered around TSB. This bank was previously a part of Lloyds but is attempting to create a friendly local image with the community in mind. My animation shows that this bank is in fact stemmed from the same bank that had to be bailed out by the government due to reckless attitudes and business practice. TSB does in fact operate out of the exact same branches that Lloyds TSB used to it simply has a new sign on the door and has fielded a new advertising campaign.
I leave this project feeling happy with what I have achieved, however also realising that I have made many mistakes along the way that I need to learn from. I regret not doing more research into how long the posters would be available on the particular bus stops as it would have been nice to immortalise the concept working as envisaged originally on film. Regardless of this I still think my film communicates the function of the technology to the viewer. This project has taught me more than any other how working through a creative process with several different ideas creates a much richer understanding and also a far more original final project.
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