The Prayas Challenge

IMG_0579Prayas is an NGO based in India, for children. They work with children who have been in various bad situations, like child labour, sex trafficking, homelessness, etc. saving them from it and giving them an opportunity to grow within a safe community and achieve their dreams. Through various drives, they save these children and bring them back to the various homes around various cities in India and provide them with food, shelter, care, medical needs and skill developing education.

During my trip to New Delhi with RMIT, I got the amazing opportunity to work with Prayas in order to make a video to spread awareness about children who were under their care and had been saved from sex trafficking. I chose this particular topic because as of this year, according to census, Delhi is one of the largest hubs for child prostitution and trafficking. This is because of the high demand of children for domestic labour in Delhi which leaves a lot of them in the clutches of people who sell them into the market. Being an upcoming issue, I wanted to help in every way possible. This video is meant to spread awareness in Melbourne and is hence, tailored to cater the market here and not the very different audience present in India. The idea is to generate help and volunteers from developed countries who are in a much better position to help us overcome this problem we are facing today.

Working on this project, I had to make sure that I was suiting not only the Australian audience with their cultural sensitivities but also the needs and cultural background of my Indian clients. Initially this proved to be a difficult task when I gave it thought, but discussion with the client made the issue much easier to deal with and solve. I have discussed the differences in culture in another article and just lightly touch on my decisions to overcome these for my project here.

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Indians love long videos, the idea of a short documentary, only 2 minutes is quite difficult for them to understand. What’s the point, why not make it longer, more detailed? The point here though was that my audience belongs to a community which strives on short videos today. The shorter the better. No one really has time to watch a forty minute video talking about the hardships faced in another country anymore. Discussing this, we decided on a short length, longer than my suggested 1 minute, but we put a full stop at 3 minutes.

To preserve both cultural sensitivity as well as further exploitation of the victims, we decided against using any faces in the video and hence all shots were captured keeping that in mind at all times. Use of imagery collected from around India, bluish cold colour and sad music hint at the story behind this poetic documentary.

Even the audio collected has been through volunteers, repeating what the children told us as they were very intimidated by the camera and microphones, which we decided against using then. I am now sending my film to the clients and await further feedback. While editing the film though I kept thinking of everything I have learnt from that trip and have been thinking a lot about these differences we have in culture…

Umda – A technical breakdown

As a reference for the style of shooting for Sonder Melbourne, I have often referenced Umda – a music video by David Aufdembrinke. This has been one of my favourite films in the last year and has truly inspired me with it’s style. For my personal choice blog, I would like to do a technical breakdown of the film as it is invaluable to the research behind Sonder Melbourne.

Visual Filming – The film from was shot during a six week travel through India. It was shot using a Sony A7, and three old Nikon lenses and a single tripod. There were two main reasons for using this equipment – one that the old manual lenses made it look like a analogue photo camera and David wanted that because people react differently to a camera when they think you’re taking a photograph as compared to knowing when they are being filmed. The second reason was the low cost of the gear, which meant that a lot more risk could be taken with this equipment, which one would not do with a more expensive kit. This would be absolutely necessary in getting the type of shots for such films as one is more open to the ideas of how the camera can be moved to get a shot. For example, David tied the camera to a stick and stuck it outside a moving train to capture a video that way. Use of hyper lapse was very important in this film but due to the speed of the film, a lot more shots were required and to be on the safe side, he got 12,000 photos for hyperlapse. The footage itself was ten hours long, from which he was able to cut a 4 minute video.

Due to the kind of shots and pre-planning of what he would do in post production, stability of the camera and perfect framing was not of great importance. The effect of an old grainy VHS film with exaggerated and bleeding colours leaves an option of high zoom and re-framing option.

Nothing was staged for shots required, it was shot naturally, in a documentary format. Most of the shots were unplanned.

Post Production – Editing Style – The film is made with match cuts, which means that every shots ending has been matched graphically to the next shots beginning. The fast movements between shots has been inspired by Japanese cartoons for children, which is what gave me the younger age group insight. It is amazing how much more a child picks up as compared to an adult. The editing was done completely in Adobe Premier. The idea was to shift through shots before one could comprehend what had happened, hence just leaving a sense behind. He calls this style ADD-Editing. In an interview with Dezeen Magazine, David explained that he was inspired by the disregard of pixel resolutions he witnessed in Indian videos, and so just used every effect in the editing suite, which is why could scale images to 600 percent to match them to lead in and out.

The hyper lapses have been stabilized to look like a fast, fancy video takes. The clips were linked into After effects to create some of the effects.

Colour Grading – The colour grading is the most interesting part of the film for me as a VHS tape was used to colour grade with the use of two different strength magnets to pull the colour and make it bleed. The final effect could not have been guessed before, but was a pure experiment. The video was recorded on two different tapes, one with the magnets and one with cuts. It was testing and then do again to get different affects. I would like to try this myself in my video but have not made a decision on it yet. Though exciting, I do not have the means as yet.

Audio – For me the audio was amazing as it added to the film itself, gave the perfect beats for the perfect visuals. But, that was all it was. Finding out that the film had been made as a music video was very disappointing as the music itself is lost in the beauty of the film and is not but a mere enhancer. A powerful one, but not a standalone. One you’re not really listening to. It was a remix of six songs by varied artists.

So, in conclusion to this research, I do think I would get a completely different outcome as it is all an experiment, but I love the idea of using a camera like Sony A7 and three old lenses just because I loved the reasoning for it. Before this research I had been ideally thinking of using a 70mm lense and was very sad that the uni does not lend them out, but I have my answers now. With colour correction, I plan on using Premier and After effects as well but no VHS, as much as I want to. I will save that for a later project. For the audio, I want to use whispered thoughts, music as an enhancer and sounds from the city, make it three level.

Sketch 8 – The jumping bird

For this video, I tried to use a different kind of background texture, a little further away and less abstract. The background I chose, as you can see is leaves on a tree. Using a background this bright had an opposite affect as compared to my last video – Ant Man, as you can see unlike clear ants I have a bird that is hardly visible. The brightness took away from my subject. This is in my opinion both good and bad, where it takes away from my subject but creates an ethereal effect/illusion as well. Plus, when the bird takes flight, it almost looks magical, out of a fairy tale. I Really like the effect and I think it is created due to the colour choice as well. Bright greens and a little reddishness from flowers in bloom.

The spontaneity here too was in the movement of my subject, something that cannot be controlled to be camera friendly but just happened to be in those moments. So, for my discoveries at the moment, I am very interested in textures as well as colour. Another thought I do want to work with is reflexes in spontaneity, of which I have spoken before.

The only issue I had while shooting this video is that I would have liked to zoom in slightly more but my phone did not allow me to do so. That was unfortunate as I feel like a bigger image of the bird and a more closed background could have made it even more powerful.

Sketch 6 – Pretty Feet

This is probably the most common type of video in any teen girls’ world. It’s actually pretty bizarre how many people photograph or make a video of their own feet! Unconscious feet fetish might actually be really common. I guess, thinking about it, there can always be a great story behind every shot of feet, but at the same time I question if the idea of moving ahead, the conspet of getting somewhere, is so inbuilt into the minds of people, that clicking feet is now part of spontaneity in the form of a reflex action of sorts, when one holds a camera and looks around for something to click.

Stopping my rant here, I think it is really interesting, not only metaphorically all over the place, but even composition wise. Looking at what I shot, I think composition of making the picture good is a huge part of it.

What I was actually trying to do was create small splashes in the left over rain water in my drive way. Though, I guess I was also being very gentle because I had my phone in my hand and did not want to make it horribly shaky. Hence, I ended up making ripples instead of flying water.

The colours in here are also interesting to me because again, they belong to only two families – Grey and Red (feet are also red due to blood flow). I am now thinking that sticking to close family shades to make different elements of my composition is probably more advisable than having colours all over the place, when it comes to making a by the rules aesthetic image.

Sketch 4 – Raindrops are falling on my head

With this video, I was going for an abstract quality kind of imagery. It was drizzling and the world just looked a little bit brighter and more colourful. I have always loved the rains and as I sat outside, sipping a cup of chai, I thought, well even my horrible phone camera can’t miss the beauty of the rains! I wasn’t disappointed. I got a close up shot of the water drops falling in to the lotus pot outside.

While doing this, I noticed a few things other than the pretty colours. The rain drops were forming the smallest ripples in the water. I could catch the reflection in the water, while capturing the bottom of the pot and everything in that murky water as well. In theory, a pot full of compost and in the rains should not look good, but there it was, a pretty picture just waiting to be clicked.

While noticing the composition, I was thinking of what Sabine, a fellow group member, was saying the other day in class. Reflections are her discovery. The spontaneous collection of aesthetically beautiful things to form a composition which is not planned in advance, but just comes into perception while reviewing the video is pretty genius.

The only issue I faced with this particular shoot was a cold cup of Chai that I completely forgot about and a slightly wet phone!

Spice Up My Life

 

Spice up my life is a story about a fictional Indian girl who is on a path to self-discovery. She uses various spices to change her luck. Indian culture is very aphrodisaical in nature and every spice elevates a different outcome in our lives. This is the thought, from which our story originates. Sabina, our character, is an odinary girl from Delhi, but when she gets left at the altar, she decides to leave and travel the world as no other Indian girl, her stature would do. Her journey is full of suprises waiting to be read. Along with her story, find her recipes, all with a trick and discover the spice you need to change your life.

Aesthetics:

The aesthetics of website building was probably the toughest part of our project. We actually managed to design more than one website and put it up for peer vote, to help us decide. We had one that had a very commercial look to it. It was aesthetically perfect but it wasn’t warm and inviting for our viewers. Which is what a BLOG must be. The other website was much plainer than the first and probably ignored some aesthetic rules. But at the same time, it gave out a warm bloggy vibe. In the end, that’s the one we decided to go with.

The points we kept in mind while building this website were white space, pastel colours to act warm, keeping in mind the emotions of the story, easy accessibility, better interface and easy maneuvering. It was very important for us to give it a personal aspect and that is what we wanted to reflect through our website. It is the one point we kept in mind throughout.

Content:

Coming up with this story was a long process but I think it represents a part of us all, i.e. Warren, Sabine and I. Mixing all of us into one character was a tough but very interesting job. We decided to treat this story as a website/blog. With a total of ten blogs, released periodically, chapter by chapter, our story unfolded with a new recipe each time to engage our audience. It wasn’t just a story but also a recipe search site as well as a study into spices of India and the qualities they exude.

Every blog starts with a personality or adjective that Sabina thinks she needs to add to her life. Then we tell you the story covering why she needs it and end with her special recipe. An example of a spice and it’s personality is cinnamon which stands for love. Both Sabine and I have travelled India largely and the story tells some experiences taken from our lives, while Warren, as a nurse, has always worked around Indians and was able to relate to this girl. We had a lot of fun with the story and even got together every week to cook a dish used in our blog, so we could photograph it.

We all wrote our blogposts individually but then edited it together so as to have one voice for our character. I think this really helped us and solved a major problem of a common voice that we were facing in the starting.
The entire blog is copyrighted by law through the builder website called Wix. Our copyright mark is situated at the bottom of the website. We decided not to use creative commons for this one and all the content generated has been done by one of the three of us and is legit.
The main aim of the story is a message to all women in India to follow their dreams.
Technology and Social Media:
We used a website builder called Wix which makes creating websites much easier. We were able to design every thing to the very last detail which gave us a lot of control over what we were doing as well. On the home page, we put a timeline which tells you the linear format of the story but also the recipe in each chapter if that is all you need. This makes maneuvering much easier. Also a search bar is situated at the top right which lets all search the website. Each post is tagged appropriately. You can view all of our fictional character’s social media on our website and even read a summary on the about me page. An Instagram page, Facebook page as well as Twitter page were designed for our characters. We had numerous friends who followed our posts and kept advertising her website on her social media as well as ours.
While Sabina’s social media posted everytime there was a new post, our pages were used to spring the project and marketing image to our friends, calling them to visit and subscribe. We also sent out two newsletters to all our followers at the start of our project as well as at the end, calling them to view and follow our story.
Marketing Image:

marketing image

I designed the marketing image and am actually quiet proud of it as I think it’s very warm, welcoming and aesthetically correct. It reflects our theme as well as sets the cooking mood that we want to inspire.

We posted this image on all of our social medias to hit as many of our audience we could. The use of hashtags should also hopefully pull more viewers as the hashtags that we used were ones I discovered during my hashtag research for the class.

Team Work:

As I have mentioned before, this project was the perfect collaboration between my team members, Sabine and Warren, and I. We were all part of everything as a team but also had our personal roles defined. Sabine took part in the overall look and design of our website. Warren was boss of the content whereas I made sure of all the copyrights, widgets and apps on our website. I was also part of social media along with Sabine and Warren, all of us taking a platform each. I would say that we divided according to our expertise but ended up doing a little bit of everything.
Though it may not reflect to the normal eye looking at our digital story but every last detail has been thought of including the lengths of the blog posts and it was and could only be done through great team effort, awareness and togetherness. I think I had the best and most vocal team to work with.
Overall, I think it’s a project all of us are mighty proud of and have worked very hard on. I just hope everyone enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Take your lollipop

For this blog post, I have reviewed Take this Lollipop, Hurst and The Wilderness Downtown, on the basis of their funstionality, visual design and structure.

Take this Lollipop

Probably my favourite of the lot, Take this Lollipop is designed to be an interactive horror film which uses information from the viewer’s Facebook Profile.

Functionality:

This short film has no real reason other than entertainment. The functionality is very simple. The site has been built using HTML5 and is a short sequence of scenes which have been shot prior to posting. These scenes remain the same. All a viewer has to do is connect his or her Facebook page to the website. There is no further direct interaction. It turns into a personalized film which I particularly think is very cool.

Visual Design:

Visually, the film is shot with very good quality which makes it more cooler. The visual design is done with HTML5 and the effects like the lollipop with the razor inside on the homepage are really cool. The visual design goes hand in hand with the functionality.

Structure:

The structure as mentioned before is fairly simple. The website first asks you to connect with Facebook, from where it then uses information to screen a personalized film. It is a short horror film, where the sequence has been shot beforehand and does not change with different profiles. It uses photographs and location from the facebook profile to tell the story of a staulker. In the end it chooses a friend of your list and calls that person the next victim, hence asking you to share the media.

Hurst

I enjoyed Hurst a lot because it was very different. The author of this story used tweets as a way to communicate the story, hence uploading bit by bit every few hours. I think it is an amazing feat due to the character limitations on Twitter. We have seen diaries come alive as books before but how cool is it that she did the exact same thing with an online diary of sorts, as we treat Twitter.

Functionality:

I wasn’t very moved with the functionality of this story because to me it is quiet a task to go through so many tweets if I decided to read it through. It works only as a one time read, if you come upon it while she is tweeting. A later read also takes away from the spontaenity and excitement of a story. The overall working is simple, scroll to the bottom of her tweets to the very first and read up. Plus it’s free and on a huge platform like Twitter so the reach is amazing. It is very interactive as a lot of conversations are built as per tweet and she gets everyone’s feedback almost instantaneously.

Visual Design:

There is no visual design as such in this digital story. The entire story is told using Tweets and inserting photos or videos using Frog or Youtube, respectively.

Structure:

The structure is very linear, telling one story using three platforms – Twitter, youtube and frog.

The Wilderness Downtown

Awesome. My classmate showed this one to me and I fell in love with it because of the music, the simple concept and the nostalgia it created. I might change a few things personally, but it is fun, even though the real message is lost in all the hype.

Functionality:

This website is easy to use. The first page asks for your childhood address after which a song and a few windows open up. A man is jogging and he is heading towards your given address. The Google maps street view has been used to do this. The reason of planting trees is lost as it becomes an entertaining video in the end and nothing more. It lets you write a letter to your child self in between the shots but this is also pointless. I wish it could have been to your future self and maybe an option to get it posted in real.

The functionality from the viewer’s point of view is great but not from the makers.

Visual Design:

The visual design is very interesting in this particular project. Use of film to show a man jogging to the music is interesting and adds a nice element to an otherwise bland setting. The use of google maps street view to find, jog and walk around the location provided acts as nostalgia inducing effect, which is absolutely cool. The animation of trees sprouting up and birds in the sky are cool but stretched out for too long. The website design is really good with amazing animation happening. It is also made using HTML5.

Structure:

As mentioned above the structure is fairly simple for a viewer but has obviously taken a long time to develop due to it’s various elements. All a viewer is required to do is enter an address into the box and sit back an watch as a man jogs on the streets around that address. After a while of this, the viewer is asked to write a letter to his former self, which is a little pointless and distracting. Once this is done, trees start sprouting up as the man jogs, bringing us to the long awaited end.

From the above projects, I tried to join ideas into my own digital story project. I use Twitter as a platform to pull my clientel. I got the importance and the amount of reach of Twitter by going through what was made possible by Hurst. Using HTML5, I built my own website, using a lot of modern technology, great visual design, functionality and simple usage which I learnt to do from the other two projects.