“There’s No Such Thing As Done”

This week’s classes were all about the AV.

For our first mini project, we played with a few different computer programs to create a short video. We learned some basics of Audacity, an audio recording and editing program, in order to mash up two songs and record/tweak our own voices. We worked with GIMP, a photo editing suite along the lines of Photoshop, to make a logo, a poster, and alter photos. Finally, we took our audio and video creations and mixed them up to make a movie! I used Windows Movie Maker rather than iMovie simply to avoid the headache of dealing with file incompatibilities between my lovely little PC and the classroom Macs.

What tonight taught me:

1. Plan ahead.  All of my personal music files were not in the format that Audacity uses, so I had to spend precious minutes converting the files to the right format. If I’d poked around Audacity a little more beforehand, I’d have known to convert the files in advance.

2. Sometimes serendipity wins the day. As I was mashing my songs together, I had a general sense of how long my video was going to be, but I hadn’t timed things down to the second or anything. Coincidentally, my movie switches to dark clouds *just* as the thunder crash happens in my song mash-up. I mean…um…I totally planned that.

3. There’s no such thing as done. In a maker space, anyway, according to our teacher. While in some respects, this is frustrating to the side of me that likes a neat and tidy ending to things, it’s kind of freeing. Keeping your project open ended means that you can come back to it later, change it, remix it, use part of it in something else, or destroy it. And all of those are okay–you learn from every new thing that you try, even if it doesn’t turn out as you might have planned.

On that note, I had planned to share my video, but I’d like to add a few more bits to it first. However, I will show you the fruits of my photo editing labor–Bring out the GIMP!

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This little beauty took merging two layers, doing a lot of cloning, erasing, and smudging work in the background, and creating the pirate “map” with a textured fill. It’s beginners’ work, but I’m pretty proud. Old Hooky here is shaking his fist at an escaping vessel off of Cannon Beach, Oregon. 80’s movie aficionados may recognize the haystack rocks in the background–maybe that escaping ship has some rich stuff on it?

I’ll post the finished product soon–just like Goonies, Makers never say die.

Gotta Focus on the Journey

So for me, school was a lot like this:

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My schools were not the most competitive or elite, but there was always an atmosphere of rewarding individual accomplishment. That good grade, that high test score, was what teachers wanted. This week’s readings made me wonder what school would have been like if more of my classes had taken a different approach. Some of the most challenging classroom experiences I’ve had have been while making something. I took art classes nearly every semester in high school, partly to develop an existing interest (I’ve drawn constantly ever since I was little), and partly to learn new techniques. Ceramics was probably the most difficult, because working in three dimensions was so different from drawing pictures on a flat piece of paper. While we were required to produce projects using certain techniques, it was the effort that was most important. I’d always done pretty well in a traditional classroom and with standardized tests, so a way of “grading” that was less quantitative was a tough switch at first. Some students had higher levels of proficiency, whether through experience with the medium or an aptitude with spatial thinking, and this led them to produce some pretty spectacular creations. I learned quickly not to compare my work to the more advanced students, because that just made me cranky. I had to learn to grade my work against my own past efforts, and try to keep improving. It seemed so much easier in English class, where I could just write a paper that satisfied certain parameters, and get that good grade. But which lessons were more important to learn? 

In college, I spent a lot of frustrating time in the costume shop, trying to get better at sewing and costume construction. I can’t count the times a project would have to be redone and I’d end up in angry tears because I just couldn’t get it! Even though I loved the subject matter, I think that I was so conditioned to the traditional classroom and the psychological rewards of good grades that it was hard to stomach when something didn’t come easily. Theater is full of the kind of collaborative learning that makers thrive on—it takes a group of people, each using different skills, to come together and put on a production. Every time you participate in a production, you learn from what you and others have done before, and change it to make it your own. I found it really interesting to read about the ways that online communities like MMORPGs and message boards encourage this same sort of group learning environment. I’m looking forward to the projects in this class, even if learning how to use the tools doesn’t make sense right away. Being focused on experimentation, tinkering, and engineering (using what I know and what I can learn from others), rather than meeting just the right criteria for that big final grade, will be a much more valuable experience. Bring it on, frustration–I’m ready for you.