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Category Archives: 600 ~ Technology

Video sharing apps – Vinestagram Lightt

Yesterday Instagram released the 4.1 update incorporating the ability to upload video content from your camera feed. This is a significant step, distinguishing the app from Vine and Lightt. Whilst still restricted to 15 seconds of video, the ability to upload video makes it closer to YouTube than the other two apps. This means footage that has been pre-recorded and edited can now be uploaded. You can upload snippets from different video footage, manipulate the length of the footage and create a montage for 15 seconds. Thus the ability to utilise the app as a basic editing tool has also been enabled. Comparisons between Vine and Instagram have been quite rife with some predicting the demise of Vine. This review –  Instagram vs Vine: Battle of the short-form video-sharing apps indicates the depiction of the two apps as being in competition.

When Instagram first launched video, a few like minded individuals including myself, came together and formed an account dedicated to capturing stories in 15 seconds. 15secstory is an international collaborative account purely dedicated to the Instagram video format. Interestingly, the contributors to this account connected via the Vine app and continue to be avid Viners. In this respect there is a useful purpose for both apps and each has its strengths

Within the initial instagram format, the challenge of capturing a story in 15 seconds was difficult. However, it became apparent you could preview, as you filmed, delete clips if they didn’t work and reshoot. You could work with the limited filters to alter the look of the final clip. Thus the ability to utilise post-production techniques was built into Instagram from the outset, even though limited. One thing Instagram didn’t have was the ability to have a fine-tuned stop-start recording feature enabling stop-motion and time-lapse clips to be created as effectively as you can with Vine. With Instagram stop-motion just seems a bit clunky to achieve as you are not able to capture miniscule segments of footage, as you can with Vine

The comparable app, to this initial version of Instagram, is Lightt. Lightt allows the filming of footage with the benefit of manipulating individual clips for sound, image, duration and effect. You can reverse clips, cut and paste and move them around on the timeline. You can post-record sound and apply simple effects like echo for individual clips. A particular bonus is that you can manipulate individual clips with more options than you can on Instagram. In terms of post-production abilities, within an app, Lightt is superior to Instagram even with the current Instagram update. Post-production ability with instagram is limited to duration of clips, deletion of most recent clip posted on the timeline and the application of a filter across the 15 seconds. There is no ability to move clips around a timeline or even work with asynchronous sound. Unless… post-production occurs elsewhere… Which is what the new update is about.

With Instagram’s new update, you can effectively record the whole interview outside of instagram and edit it down to a fifteen second snippet to upload later if you choose. This is quite a remarkable change to the process. If you wish you can utilse Final Cut Pro X to edit your video and then transfer to your camera. Effectively more time, resources and capabilities are utilised but the opportunity to share highly polished videos in this instant social media format is there. This is where Instagram becomes comparable to YouTube even though it is a short-form video format.

I decided to test the new ability to upload clips to Instagram from my camera. I chose three vine clips that were on my camera feed and uploaded them. I then altered the time of two clips so that they fit within the 15 second limit and posted the final clip. If you consider this process and what it actually consists of, the time factor comes into play. I haven’t utilised any post-production software in this process at all, just two social media apps that allow video sharing. Following is the final clip that was uploaded yesterday.

Vine video upload  to Instgram

My first uploaded video to Instagram composed of three Vine clips. Click on the image to play.


The overall process consisted of planning my individual Vine clips, setting up and filming these clips utilising the Vine app and posting to Vine. To upload to Instgram I selected three of my Vine clips that were saved to my camera role. I manipulated the duration of two of the clips and posted the final version. The majority of the creative process occurred with the Vine process where the clips were created.

With Vine there is no post-production ability. Essentially, Vine is the most restrictive of all the video sharing apps. There are no post-production options. You cannot upload content. There are no filters you can apply, there is no ability for asynchronous recording or editing. Preview is the last stage before you post and you can’t delete clips and reshoot segments. If you choose not to post, you lose the ability to post that clip. Gone. Just like that.

I have worked on stop-motion clips for Vine for over two hours and lost everything when the app crashed because of a low battery. I often shoot and reshoot a clip over twenty times before I am happy to post a final version. Sometimes an earlier version is better but because I wasn’t satisfied with it at the time, it never made it to Vine. So it sits on my camera roll. Sometimes I never see what a clip looks like whilst in the process of creating a clip, nor am I ever able to until the end and it’s impossible to recreate. This is often the case with stop-motion Vines. With Vine, the process is similar to in-camera editing. It is restricted to stop-start and that is all. Once posted Vine is a six second format that continuously loops. There is no delay in the video starting when viewing as I have experienced with Instagram and Lightt.

The restrictions or limits applied by the Vine app have proved to be incredibly liberating at the same time. The focus has shifted to pre-production. I find myself questioning what do I want to film, or as I’m journeying, an idea pops up from stimulus around me. I look at the world around me and start seeing visuals that work. I question how do I want my final six seconds to look? What do I want to convey and how can I achieve this within these limits? I get inspired by other creative Viners and wonder how did they do that? I feel propelled and compelled to experiment and to push boundaries. I’m almost certain that this wall of limits is movable… This is the mindset that Vine has inspired.

Over time this process of incredible experimentation has become evident amongst many who are participating in the Vine video-sharing community. This is evident with the use of Assistive touch by many focussed on stopmotion wanting to squeeze in more frames in the tiny six seconds offered. It is evident in experimenting with physical lenses to apply desired effects including the use of coloured crystal glasses, experimenting with stretching soundclips so stop-motion sound seems more synchronous in the recording process and so forth.

As the first video sharing app, Vine captured the imagination of those focused on the filmmaking format. Adam Goldberg is one example of the incredible talent that transformed and inspired many with the boundaries overcome by the incredible Vines created. With limits you become resourceful. Failure is not crushing, just another learning experience, it becomes a dialogue with the others in the community that have been inspired by the limitations and determined to achieve a great little six second story.

I’m not so sure this will happen on Instagram. Instagram is first and foremost a photo-sharing app. Video seems like an added feature but not a focus as it is on Vine. Lightt has a focus on just video sharing and provides an interesting approach where all the clips stream one after the other. Effectively, over time, a whole movie can easily be created with this app. Because of this Lightt has interested me and is certainly an app worth exploring.

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app review of Stop Motion Studio for iPad

I came across the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Stories on Screen competition and forwarded the details to the Early Years Leading Teacher, also the early years ICT leader. She expressed an interest in participating this year with the younger students creating stop-motion animations  inspired by children’s books.

In the past couple of years the school has been purchasing iPads to be used at school. At this stage, the younger years are using the iPads and grade five/six students have helped with reviewing some apps for education. However, they havent been satisfied with any of the stop motion apps. As a consequence I decided to investigate apps for iPads with a focus on creating animations and films. I located a few stopmotion apps and identified Stop Motion Studio to investigate along with the iMovie app.

The aim was to determine:

  1. Key features of the app and how to use it.
  2. How easy the app was to use by younger children

In this activity I downloaded Stop Motion Studio, iMovie and Extras4iMovie to my iPad. I then asked two children (my daughters) if they would like to create animations with paper cut-outs. They were both very keen on the idea of creating animations. The process of planning and animating happened over a weekend. My involvement in their planning stage was minimal. Basically they showed me their cut-outs and asked me what I thought. Sometimes I suggested some more elements may be needed.

On the second day, my involvement was geared towards setting up the iPad to capture the stop motion clips. We did not have a iPad mount to firmly position the iPad to a tripod. Consequently, gaffer tape was used to hold the iPad in place on top of a silver case, on top of a table. The paper elements were on a black cloth on the floor. Little LED lights provided the lighting source.

Once this was set up, each child continued without any assistance. They were able to work out how to use the app without many instructions and even taught me some of the features such as the scrolling back and forth to see the overlay of the animation image.

The animation process took a while involving constant movement between the iPad to shoot frames and the paper elements to change them as part of the frame by frame capture process. They completed the animation with Stop Motion Studio but are yet to edit the final animations in iMovie. They photographed close ups of elements that will need to be edited into the the animation along with the final sound and titles sequence.

During the process, I documented with my iPhone by filming and photographing. I then edited the documented photos and clips with the animations the children made using the iMovie app on an iPad. The titles were created with Extras4iMovie. This video forms the app review that was exported to Youtube and subsequently embedded in this post. By creating this video I was able to test the iMovie app in the process.

This week I will be sharing this review with the school in support of the initiative to use iPads to create animations and films for the CBCA competition and for future projects. Being able to identify the information, curriculum and technology needs is an incredibly important function of a librarian in a school. With this activity, I have been able to provide curriculum resource ideas and support with technology to enable successful outcomes. By working with the children to assess ease of use, I am focussing the needs to the target group and this is very important.

What I learnt is that you definitely need an iPad mount to enable an effective and steady support for the iPad. This will make filming and animation easier. I discovered the app is a fantastic app for the targeted age group and feel confident in transferring these ideas to the teaching and learning community. In working with children to assess the app, it is much easier to demonstrate the ease of use by the target audience.

The next stage involves working through the editing process with the iMovie app and assessing how easy post-production is for the target audience.

 

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13 Project ~ Cyber Safety for Global Citizenship

Click on the image to go to the website and explore the cyber smart initiatives

Click on the image to go to the website and explore cyber smart initiatives

The primary school, where I currently work, is in the midst of investigating safe social networking sites for children. There is an acceptance that children are connected to technology on a daily basis, using it for educational and recreational purposes and in support of global citizenship. As a consequence, cyber safety is a significant focus. Currently, our students participate in many online environments including blogs, and posting to Vimeo.

The release of national statistics in 2012 by the minister for education, Peter Garrett point to disturbing figures of the prevalence of cyber bullying in his Be Bold Stop Bullying Facebook Campaign Launch. This is a major concern for the school community highlighting the need for constant revision of cyber safety practices. This has contributed to a greater focus by the school in assessing our current efforts and discovering where we can improve.

As part of this school-wide initiative, I investigated library based initiatives in support of schools’ efforts to promote cyber safety. I discovered the 13 project via a thread on the OZTLnet list serve and then investigated further. 13 Project was launched on 1st March 2013 by school library associations across Australia in recognition of the important role of school libraries and participation of school library staff in schools’ efforts to help keep their students safe online.

As a librarian, in a school based environment, being able to locate resources and provide access to these resources is of primary importance. This professional learning activity enabled a connection with the information needs of the school community and the library in resourcing those needs. Via the 13 project, some of the resources mentioned were areas our school identified for investigation, namely social networking sites that are safe environments for children in this age group. I evaluated the suggested social networking site Skooville. After the initial evaluation I shared the online resources from 13 project with teachers in our school and provided a recommendation of the Skooville program to be considered for implementation across the school. I attended the morning briefing during Cyber safety week and discussed this resource with staff thus saving them time in investigation of this important area.

Discovering a national library-based advocacy initiative, with a focus on cyber safety, was the most significant learning from this activity. With the networks to library professionals accessed via OZTLnet I can transfer the learning and extend the library into the school. This affirms the importance of the library for school based initiatives with a focus on curriculum and community needs. One of the tools particularly useful to school administration is the Safe Schools toolkit  as it provides an online audit tool to help with school prioritisation in this area. This information was shared with the leading teachers.

At this stage, I can see there is more that can be done by the library and staff in this area. Prior to this, our library had no knowledge of 13 project and the Skooville site. This activity has enabled the beginning of this knowledge and connecting with the wider school as a result.

The next step in this professional learning will be to involve the school in some of the other suggested initiatives as part of the National Cyber Security Awareness week. This will be explored for the next year.

Cybersafety is an ongoing learning curve needing constant evaluation and awareness raising. 13 project is a great starting place and resource.

 

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The Inky Awards ~ Young peoples book awards

Inside A Dog

Outside a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a Dog, it’s too dark to read ~ Groucho Marx.

The website Inside a Dog is an initiative developed by the State Library of Victoria targeting a teenage audience. As the website states it is

“All about books by young people for young people”

The website is structured to incorporate forums where young people can have discussions, enter competitions, review books, join online book-clubs, chat to a current author in residence, find out current literature-related news, or vote for books to be awarded an Inky Award.

There is a very useful teachers section with links and resources that are mapped to curriculum standards. Suggested activities and resources provide useful online activities-based programs. The main focus of the site is user-generated book reviews, thus forming a great addition for any literacy-based activities and promoting conversation as part of the learning process.

This post will focus on evaluating the Inky Awards for inclusion in the celebrated Book Week in August.

The Inky Awards

In the Library we currently celebrate the Children’s Book of the Year Awards by the Children’s Book Council of Australia as part of Book Week in August. This year, the school library would like to extend this by incorporating the Inky Awards amongst the books celebrated. The short list for the Inky Awards is announced online via the Inside a Dog website on August 26th, coinciding with Book Week. The shortlist of books that students can vote for, is decided by teen judges. To become a judge a young person submits an application via email. Once selected the judges read 20 books in a two-month period and reach a consensus on the 10 shortlisted books. This shortlist is then open to other young people to vote for a book to be awarded an Inky award in one of two categories.

Gold Inky for an Australian book

Silver Inky for an International Book

As part of Book Week, a prominent display of nominated books is created, author visits occur, activities are programed related to the books and readings of the shortlisted books take place. By introducing The Inky Awards to the Book Week program, the students can participate in voting for a children’s book awards. Hopefully this can continue for years to come.

Because the website is focussed on participation and engagement of young people in online environments, it promotes empowerment via digital literacy and citizenship by encouraging connecting with wider groups. It extends literacy development beyond the classroom and school to include other young people and to the wider community, in forging links with the State Library of Victoria. This is a great basis for the promotion of life-long learning beyond the school.

As a librarian in a school setting, this resource is a great addition to any program in literacy development. It fosters a love of reading by encouraging reading as a social activity. Thereby linking in with Piaget’s constructivist approaches to learning grounded in developmental needs (Garhart Mooney, 2013 p.79).

By evaluating websites, children’s book awards and potential programs with curriculum links, I am able to provide resources in support of the school curriculum and the teaching and learning needs of staff and students. This is supported by standards of professional practice for teacher librarians (ASLA, 2004).

This website is geared towards an older age group in children, predominantly teenagers. Whilst this can be useful to the Grade 5/6 demographic of the primary school, I would like to investigate something similar for the younger children in the school. Consequently, the Inky Awards will be geared towards the older children in the school. It may be interesting to initiate a school based book awards for younger grades as a lead in to the Inky Awards when they are in Grade 5 and 6.

ASLA (2004) Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians, retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Garhart Mooney, C. (2013) Theories of Childhood, Second Edition: An Introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget and Vygotsky, Redleaf Press, Minesota, USA.

 

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Outback Colours

On the Murray River

On the Murray River

Over a six week period I have been on the road across three eastern states of Australia and the Australian Captital Territory. During this time I did not blog and arriving back to Melbourne just over a week ago has presented a challenge of catching up before my studies commence in March. Often my internet connectivity was not good enough on the road and all I could manage was to upload a photo or two to Instagram with my mobile phone. This proved difficult as network speeds were very slow and sometimes non-existent, thus highlighting some of the connectivity issues in Australia and particularly when travelling on the roads less travelled.

However, despite connectivity being less than desirable, for our information age,  it was delightful to stumble upon artwork upon the way. From a yarn bombed tree, large sculptures in a small town, Lister in Bryon Bay and the Woden drains in Canberra, these are the artworks that are visible to smaller audiences.

In cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, people can chance street art on a daily level and audiences are larger. In the outback, Street art is viewed by fewer people and stumbling upon a work feels special indeed.

Artists such as ROA have left works in very remote areas, such as the Pilbara desert and it’s a very fortunate experience to stumble upon such a treasure. More information about Roa in the desert can be found on The Pilbara Project. However, I didn’t have the opportunity to traverse the Pilbara and stumble upon ROA’s work but I did stumble upon other wonderful works on the roads less travelled and the places less visited.

Following is a gallery sample.

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For more photos from regional areas you can view my Flickr set on Regional Street Art

 

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Tintype photography and preservation

This past week, as an activity for my studies, I investigated one photographic process and I chose the tintype process. I now need a medium format camera as I just want to dive in and start taking tintype photos!

The tintype was discovered by Adolphe Alexandre Martin, in France, 1853 and patented in the USA in 1856 by Hamilton Smith (Martin et.al. 2008). Use of the tintype spread quickly and has an interesting history. As a process, the tintype was predominantly in use from 1853 to1930 (Lavédrine, p. 38). The process delivered photography to a wider audience, was a precursor to what is now known as street photography and a precursor of the photobooth (Martin et.al. 2008). The faster process, than the daguerreotype, contributed to more candid images and experimentation, as no longer did a pose have to be held for such a long time (p. 2). In the USA, the tintype process is responsible for collections of photographs taken during the civil war. For the first time photography was faster, portable and tintypists travelled with their portable darkrooms, unlike the studio setting of the daguerreotype. Furthermore, having an iron support made the photographs less fragile and people were able to mail them to each other or keep them in books whilst away (Lavédrine et.al. p. 37).

A tintype is a positive monochrome image on metal (Lavédrine et.al. p.4). The other two positive image processes of the 19th century are the daguerreotype (on copper plates and encased) and the ambrotype (on a glass plate also encased) (Reilly, 2009 pp. 51-52). The tintype is also known as a ferrotype, melainotype or melanograph (Lavédrine p. 38). The metal support has a thickness of approximately 0.15mm (Lavédrine et.al. p 35) and the sizes of the tintype were commonly 2.25 inches by 3.5 inches (Martin et.al. 2008). However, it was possible to produce multiple images, the size of a stamp, on one sheet. This is where the idea of the photobooth is born. Unlike the daguerreotype and ambrotype, which were housed in cases with a glass cover, the tintype mostly wasn’t. However, some were and when cased it is difficult to tell the difference between a tintype and an ambrotype. Reilly (2009) suggests a magnet being the only way without needing to remove the case (p. 52).

Lavédrine et.al (2009) elaborates the construct of a tintype. It consists of a metal sheet of iron as the support. The sheet was lacquered, often with darkened shellac. The metal support is then coated with a binder consisting of collodian mixed with bromide and/or iodide. This is bathed in a silver nitrate sensitiser causing the collodian solvents to evaporate. This plate is placed in a frame and inserted directly into a camera where it is exposed. The exposure time of a tintype varied from 2 to 10 seconds (Martin et.al. 2008). The sheet is then developed in a solution of ferrus sulphate and nitric acid and fixed. Finally a varnish is usually applied to the image. (Lavédrine et.al p 36). The whole process was complete in 10 to 15 minutes. The tintype process of creating the image is similar to the wet-plate collodian process. However, the darkened tin layer produces the effect of a positive, with the image remaining laterally reversed (Lavérdine et.al. 2009 p. 34).

The Tintype process appears to have experienced a revival in recent years with a few people currently working with this process including Keliy Anderson-Staley, who exhibited a mixed media installation titled ‘imagined family heirlooms: an archive of inherited fictions’. This installation incorporated Tintype portraits and found objects. Robb Kendricks had Tintype portraits of a Cowboy series featured in a National Geographic issue in 2007 and published books with his works. Alice Blanch is an Australian photographer that works with alternative photographic processes including the tintype. Gold street Studios in Victoria, Australia provide workshops in alternative processes.

It is interesting to locate a commercial portrait studio called Photobooth, in The Mission area of San Francisco that is dedicated to creating portraits specifically with the tintype process. Michael Shindler, the owner of Photobooth, utilises a medium format camera to create and sell tintype portraits to people who walk in for this purpose. Shindler describes the process of his work and, like others currently working with the tintype process, there are modifications to the original process. For instance one modification relates to the support utilised, which is a plaque made for trophies, sized 4 inches by 5 inches. As it is already black on one side this eliminates the need to coat the metal sheet with dark shellac. Shindler applies collodian, also a modified mixture, directly to the plate and proceeds with the rest of the process. Shindler sells the portraits for sixty dollars. The following clip, by Tested, has Shindler discussing his tintype process.

In a museum or archive setting, the George Eastman House, as well as being a Museum of Photography housing collections, delivers courses in the tintype process. As the tintype process documented much of the Civil War period in the USA, collections have developed in other museums or archives including The Black Archives of Mid-America; housing a tintype collection specific to African-Americans in the Mid-West. In Australia, Picture Australia produces a result for tintypes housed in Australian libraries.

Because most tintypes were not provided with a protective glass there are some specific preservation issues that distinguish it from daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. Initially, not having the glass encasement contributed to their robustness, which is why they were so portable (Lavédrine et.al. p 37). However, this portability has meant that they are often scratched or bent. Being metal they can easily rust in humid environments and this contributes to the image layer and lacquer to blister and even become detached from the support. The chemical components of tintype photographs are sensitive to light and can be damaged if displayed under strong light.

In light of this fragility of tintypes, Lavédrine et.al (2009) recommends keeping tintypes in storage envelopes and protected from light and humidity with a sheet of cardboard to prevent further changes or deformations (p.38).

Lavédrine, Bertrand & Gandolfo, Jean-Paul & McElhone, John P & Monod, Sibylle & Getty Conservation Institute (2009). Photographs of the past: process and preservation (English language ed). Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, Calif.

Martin, A.A., Smith, H. & Wallis, B. (2008) The Birth of the Snapshot, American History, 43(5); 48-53.

Reilly, J.M. (2009) Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints, Kodak publication, no. G-2S. Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak Co.

 

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History of photography (The quick version)

I’ve been fascinated with photography since a very young child. My father was an avid photographer with a darkroom set up at home where he would develop photographs and experiment continuously. It’s no surprise that I developed the passion for photography and this later translated to teaching photography in a highschool a few years ago.

As the school had a darkroom set up, it enabled the opportunity for many students to benefit from the learning process. From making pinhole cameras, creating sunprints and moving through the history towards a final assessment of planning, shooting and developing photo essays to be exhibited at school, the students discovered their own passion for photography. I even found that once engaged in the analog/chemical process, students preferred it to digital photography.

However, the expense was always an issue at the school, and the darkroom was under constant negotiation to be turned into a computer lab. Digital photography was, and continues to be, much cheaper. I’m no longer teaching and today I wonder if the school, where I taught photography, is still teaching the subject…

leaving memory lane aside, I am now finding my passion for photography as relevant in my current studies. For the next couple of months I am studying Photographic Preservation via San Jose State University, as part of the WISE program offered by my home university. As a consequence, my posts for the next couple of months will most likely be centred on all things photography.

To kick start, this post will provide a brief history of photography. You can view a timeline of photographic processes from the Graphic Atlas of the Image Permanence Institute (highly recommended!).

Or for a shorter version the following two clips sum up the history of photography briefly and nicely…

 

 

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