Contemporary adaptations and applications of philosophical concepts

Right after the last meeting with Orhan Kipcak, I unpacked a freebie I got from the nutritional supplements company Biogena. It was a DIY kit to plant some seeds and grow your own plants, accompanied by the following text: One is never too little to be great. Sounds familiar? It reminded me a bit of the initial saying everything you need is already inside you that’s the conceptual background for my animation project and has its roots in ancient philosophy.

So One is never too little to be great would as well be derived from the same philosophical roots, whether Biogena chose that consciously or not. But not only the text has the same origin, but also the floral metaphor is a key element to this freebie. The correlation between the text and the action itself (planting seeds and watching them grow / become great) is nothing less than “plants symbolize humans”, a metaphor that’s not only used in my animation project, but also the core to the symbolic hybrids I wrote about in the first blog posts.

This demonstrates that symbolic hybrids as well as philosophical concepts in general not only find applications and modern adaptations in animation, but also in contemporary media and brand marketing.

Now why is this important? At first I thought I’d focus solely on human-nature-hybrids in animation and my own animation of course. But after we talked about being “off-topic” in today’s meeting (“Die Schilderung einer Abschweifung”), I thought why not wandering off a bit from the focus of my master thesis as well, and why not also including some contemporary examples of human-nature-hybrids. While the focus stills remains in animation, giving short examples outside that field would provide a sense of context for these animation hybrids in our current contemporary culture.

But I might ditch that idea again later. Then this whole blog post was just yet another digression.

Theoretical approaches to a practical project

For the practical part of the master thesis, I’m working on an animated short film. Before diving into the specific visual and technical execution, I’d like to give some insights into the thought processes and theoretical approaches to its concept.

Initially, I planned the concept based on the saying “everything you need is already inside you”. From the early beginning on, I wanted to include floral elements, their growth and bloom motions, and having all that as a visual metaphor for us humans.

When I talked to my family about the concept, my cousin (who is quite into philosophy) told be about that philosophical idea where in every seed lies the power to become the most beautiful flower. That saying is a translation of the philosophical concept coming from the nicomachean ethics by Aristotele and the broader idea of eudaimonia.

Eudaimonia as a term translates to “good spirit” and describes the highest good one can reach in life. It’s about doing and living “well”, striving for excellence and living up to one’s unique potentials. In other words: becoming the best version of yourself – or the most beautiful flower.

He gifted me two books (Nicomachean Ethics and De Anima from Aristotele), which I’m currently reading (it’s quite difficult to read even the translations to english). However I did some extensive research online where the ideas are described in an easier digestible way.

With all that new knowledge I could not only broaden my own horizon, but also the background of my animated film, and finally articulate more clearly what it’s about in the most recent synopsis:

The animation film from within pays homage to one’s own, inner strength or the belief in it. With abstract storytelling, it invites on a multifaceted, visual journey.

A journey that shows that a single seed can become the most magnificent flower. A journey that impresses with the most diverse flowers and plants. A journey that might make you wonder whether it this is still just about plants or whether the plants could be symbols of something human. A journey that reminds you once more: everything you need is already inside you.

The animation film from within can be understood in many different ways, but in one way for sure: as a call for optimism.

On a personal note: Having just very limited knowledge in philosophy myself, I was quite astonished that the concept for my animated short from within could be described with nothing less than one of the most fundamental ideas in philosophy. While I only had one sentence (“everything you need is already inside you”), I learned that I actually have a whole philosophical concept as a background for my animation project.

One final thought that surely isn’t relevant, but came across my mind at some point because it stretches the whole philosophical background across the philosophy in my film’s concept itself: Could it be that this initial sentence translates to the seed and that the philosophical background translates to the most beautiful flower?

Unusual Storytelling with Animation

Through a wide variety of digital tools, there are seemingly endless possibilities to present one’s stories, messages and brands in a strong way. On the one hand, this means that today almost every company uses these tools and there is an ever-growing sea of content. Many wonder how they can still stand out.  

On the other hand, it also means that you can create your own trend through creative and innovative use of these tools. While this is a constant challenge for designers, I don’t think it should be equated with constantly having to reinvent yourself. After watching countless tutorials from animation artists, videographers, and creatives, one message stood out to me: find your own style. And that comes with time.

To create a new trend and stand out from the crowd, sometimes you have to break the rules. Push aside the conventional, the classic, and follow your own path. 

That’s why I would like to show a few examples of unusual storytelling. It’s always about an animation that stands out because of the style and the deliberate unusual use of the artist in any case.

Text as a Character

This animation shows perfectly, how text doesn’t only tell a story, but can become a character or the protagonist itself. It plays with the visual and informative parts of text. I really love the minimalism in it. 

Words by Ende Li & Liz Xiong

Surreal Animation

Since Salvador Dali at the latest, surrealism has developed into a dynamic substance. It wants to blow our minds with incompatible combinations in a surprising context – as we can see from this example. 

Controlled Substance by Jay Sprogell

Reversibel Prose

A beautiful example that there are always two sides of a story. 

Lost Generation by Jon Reed

Sources:

https://medium.muz.li/from-unusual-storytelling-to-new-minimalism-6-innovative-animation-trends-2eced0c18a80

https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/reversable-prose-lost-generation-video-portrays-different-storyline-forward

Storytelling – an introduction

Storytelling is important, whether you are a filmmaker, marketing specialist or animation artist. 

The mere enumeration of facts doesn’t grab us humans nearly as much as an exciting story that appeals to the head and heart. 

One of the most important factors in storytelling is emotion. Because every emotion is a strong feeling that, linked to experiences, memories, situations or even good stories, stays in our minds. And that is ultimately the great goal of storytelling. We don’t want to get lost in the endless, ever-growing pile of information and bland stories. We want to be remembered. We want attention. We want to change the world – or at least we should. And you can’t do that with stories that get under your skin.

Stories are as old as people. Over the centuries, therefore, various ways of conveying stories have developed – from cave paintings to sagas, songs and fairy tales.

The term “history” describes in German usage “Vergangenheit” (history), but also “Erzählung” (story). History is a review of the real and historical developments of mankind or of a certain period of time that lies in the past. A story is a narrative form, a narration that depicts different events from the past, present or future and has much more scope, as it can be real or fictional. (Sammer 2017, 20f.)

However, history and narrative are equally about “how people deal with and in particular circumstances.” (Sammer 2017, 21)

Storytelling thus combines both terms and can be seen as the art of how to reproduce actions and experiences from the past on the one hand and how to narrate real or fictional events – which are independent of time – on the other. (Sammer 2017, 21)

But what is the classic recipe for successful storytelling*?

Basically, there are five building blocks: 

1. every good story has a good reason for being told.

If you want to tell your story successfully, you have to clearly state your motives and explain the meaning behind them. 

2. every good story has a hero

A protagonist with whom you can identify is an important aspect of successful storytelling. 

3. every good story starts with a conflict. 

Because if everything is fine from the beginning, it’s hard to create tension. We must not only be able to identify with the protagonists, but also empathize with their emotions.

4. every good story arouses emotions.

Real enthusiasm and motivation can hardly be achieved by pure facts and data. 

5. every good story is viral.

Virality has not just existed since social media – stories like Hansel and Gretel have been told for a very long time. But through the Internet, there is an incredibly powerful platform for this, with which one can tell transmedial. (Sammer 2017, 49)

So, in summary, the classic ingredients for a successful storytelling recipe are:

  • A meaningful brand
  • A hero
  • A conflict
  • Emotions
  • And multimedia (Sammer 2017, 50)

Is it possible to break these rules? How can you do storytelling in an unconventional way? I will address these questions in my next blog post. 

*in this blog post storytelling refers to companies and brands

Sources:

Sammer, Petra (2017): Storytelling. Strategien und Best Practices für PR und Marketing. Heidelberg: dpunkt.verlag GmbH

Hybrid Animation: Problems combining 2D & 3D assets

Combining multiple media can lead to various problems along the way. It is important to work out a pipeline and document the steps and figure out the issues. The following steps might help with that:

1. Style matching

In previsualization stage, it is important to experiment with different styles, methods and combinations of media. An try out multiple software and drawing methods and effects to compare and see which combination can achieve the style you are looking for.

Ideally everything should be documented well enough to retrace every step later on. Something that doesn’t fit the current project, may still become useful for the next one.

2. Registration

When one object touches another one in a scene it is called registration. In the case of hybrid animation it is a 2D asset touching a 3D asset, the registration line is where they have contact. Each combination of elements requires a different pipeline to obtain the best registration. It depends on which element “leads the movement”, this will decide if the 2D or 3D element need to be done first.

3.    Frame rate and image format

Frame rate and image format seem very obvious but shouldn’t be overlooked. With combining media, there are different softwares used and all should agree upon the same frame rate and format of the images throughout the pipeline.

4.    Timing

When animating a character holding an object it is difficult to make sure the object moves in sync with the hand. In traditional hand drawn animation the object would be drawn on a seperate piece of paper and an x-sheet(exposure sheet) or timing chart is used to know the timing and where the keyframes are. Because this method is rarely used in 3D it makes the process easier when combining 2D and 3D.

5.    Image sizes

The last concept for a 2D/3D pipeline is the image size. When combining various media like scanned images, rendered images, digitally drawn and maybe photography, they all should have the same resolution and image size. Sometimes throughout the production, in the rough stages of animation, different file sizes are used to speed up the workflow. But even then it is important to use the same smaller res sizes to have the correct ratio so the registration stays consistent. This will increase the productivity.

In production, at least three file sizes can be used, depending on the studio there may be more:

1.    Final res. The final render of animation assets that are then composited together (for example, 1280 x 720, image ratio 1 : 77, pixel ratio: 1).

2.    Mid res. Used for double-checking registration and getting animation approved (for example, 960 x 540, image ratio 1 : 77, pixel ratio: 1).

3.    Low res. Used for initial scans and rough animation. This allows for memory savings and ease of use in 3D animation packages as reference (for example, 512 x 288, image ratio 1 : 77, pixel ratio: 1).

http://what-when-how.com/hybrid-animation-integrating-2d-and-3d-assets/hybrid-animation-the-main-problems-hybrid-animation-integrating-2d-and-3d-assets-part-1/

http://index-of.co.uk/Animation/Hybrid_Animation_Integrating_2d_and_3d_Assets.pdf

underwater filmmaking part one

Underwater filming

As with filmmaking on land, the right gear is also very important on land, and the right setup of this gear is even more important. Underwater image systems have two main components, the camera and the underwater housing for this camera. If the filming shall take place deeper, lights should be included, otherwise it will be very disappointing to see that the footage looks washed out. The deeper a diver goes, the more they will see that colors will get less and less vibrant, because less light from the surface goes down into the depth. Mounting video lights on the underwater imagining system allows the filmmaker to bring those lost colors back. 

Lights are also needed when shooting in the night, as those are the only light source underwater that time of day. Light Absorption: There are multiple reasons why it gets darker underwater, one is that particles block the sunlight which is penetrating the water, as I previously mentioned water itself also absorbs light, and light also gets reflected of the waters surface. All of that reduces the amount of light we have underwater. With the light absorption the colours dissapear, First red, then orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The longer the distance light has to travel through water, the less light comes through and the more colours will be lost. This can make underwater images look very unappealing. Red loses its vibrance at around 4,5m, orange at 15m, yellow at a 30m, green at 76 followed by blue and violet. Most underwater camera housings come at a very high price, so it is best to research for some time before deciding on one housing. Those expensive housings for the most part also only fit one specific camera model, which means not only the choice for the housing manufacturer should be thought through but also which camera system will be used. For the beginning waterproof action cameras, soft plastic housings or even phones in waterproof cases can be used. Those options are much cheaper than a professional underwaterhousing for the film camera of your choice. But of course the price difference is visible. Cheap soft plastic housing are also not meant for deep dives.

Suspended Particles: Suspended particles in the water affect the sharpness of the image, and can also cause backscatter (little particles which appear on your image) Sometimes there is nothing a diver can do about those particles swimming around in the water, but they can also be caused by the diver, if she/he gets to close to the underwater environment and touches rocks, plants, the ground or walls, if that happens little particles can get loose and start swimming around. A very good bouncy is key to good footage. Not only because it can cause an unclear picture but also because the camera needs to be held still in order to create smooth footage. No matter in which clarity of waters footage is filmed, light is deflected by particles in the water trough which it comes. Because of this process, sharpness is reduced, the more light travels through the more sharpness gets lost. If the goal is not to film macro, better not use a long lens, use a wide lens and get as close to the object which shall be filmed as possible. This way the distance between the lens and the object is shorter and less light in-between. 

Another way where particles are made visible is through the video lights on the camera, if they placed to close to the lens. The light coming from your system will reflect on the particles and cause the snowstorm effect called backscatter. The solution for this problem would be to mount the lights far enough away from the lens, and to aim the strobe in the direction of the subject, but only minimal light is between the lens and the subject.

One camera setting which should not be forgotten about is white balance. This setting is as important if not even more important underwater than on land, especially when filming without lights. When filming in raw, this is not a huge issue, but cameras that film in raw are very expensive and need a lot of memory card space. If the camera allows it set the white balance manually, it is easy to bring a white card underwater or use white sand or a slate as reference. Another way to get the right color underwater is by using red or pink filters. They can be screwed on in the front of the lens or housing. Red filters for blue water, pink filters for green water. 

Intercultural Communications 11

This Blog post is about some parts of the “Handbook of intercultural communications and cooperation” written by Alexander Thomas. It begins with an interesting conversation between two colleagues, discussing about whether to read a book about to do’s and not do do’s with Chinese people. One of them is convinced with the idea that people are all the same and these books are unnecessary and another person claims that cultures can differentiate people from each other. 

Firstly, it is good to describe the meaning of culture. Cultures could be described as different human interaction developments in different countries. These rules are nonnegotiable and applying wrong rules in the host country, can cause big misunderstandings. Kroeber and Kluckhorn found more than 150 different cultures in the year 1952 (Schroll-Machl, Thomas and Kinast, 2018).

Different researchers and psychologists agree with this term that cultures can cover vast area of important humanist factors in different places such as, language, philosophy, values and different interactions between subjects and objects (Schroll-Machl, Thomas and Kinast, 2018). 

If an individual’s life is under a “normal” circumstance, which means that the individual has kind of grown up in a society that the norms are taught in everyday life and understood with other members of the society in addition, they are interacted with other people. On the one hand, appropriate behavior can lead to an acknowledgment on the other hand, inappropriate behavior can be a failure in the society. However, when two individuals with two dissimilar cultural backgrounds interact with each other, it can happen that their actions seem alien and unknown for the other individual and cause unexpected behaviors and unknown situations (Schroll-Machl, Thomas and Kinast, 2018). From my point of view, this situation is called as a culture shock. 

Research and witnessing of German-American work group (Zeutschel, 1999), has found five different cultural indicator standards, that are almost similar in different places (Schroll-Machl, Thomas and Kinast, 2018). The majority of the society members share a similar pattern that could be seen in the way they think, judge, communicate, interact and percept, which are normal and typical behaviors in that specific area. 

  • Native or unfamiliar behavior is judged by the native cultural patterns.
  • Using cultural standard provides us a mastering and regulating behavioral pattern to deal with different people in different situations.
  • Personal or group cultural standards within a group can only fluctuate in a range of tolerance.
  • Different cultural patterns out of the standard form cannot be accepted.

When two different cultures meet each other and in some cases it leads to misunderstanding or difficult situation, better to say when a cultural overlap happens, they have to build a third culture to enhance their way of interaction (Breitenbach, 1975).

Schroll-Machl, S., Thomas, A. and Kinast, E., 2018. Handbook of Intercultural Communication and Cooperation (Handbook of Intercultural Communication and Cooperation). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

The most important innovations in the history of music

The history of music is the history of music-making technology – they are inevitably linked and have been since the first drummer banged a couple of rocks together back in the Stone Age. From Pythagoras’s experiments with hammers and anvils to Bartolomeo Cristofori’s pianoforte, new and innovative ideas and technologies have consistently provided musicians with inspiration.Instruments like the harpsichord and piano were high tech revelations in their day – same like the amazing hardware and software we currently use. Here is some of the technology that inevitably changed how music developed:

1. Guitar Amp

The first electric guitar amplifier was likely made by Leo Fender. His early guitar amplifiers had no controls and simply amplified the electric signal produced by early magnetic pickups. Although early prototypes exist, the first commercially produced guitar amplifier was made by Fender in 1947. Early guitar amplifiers were used primarily by pedal steel guitar players in Hawaii. The amplifier as an integral part of a guitarist specializing in playing electric guitar probably didn’t begin until the late 1940s.

3. The Sampler

Analogue synthesizers ruled the electronic music scene throughout the 1970s. As that decade wound to a close, musicians were looking for something new. The Fairlight CMI I was the world’s first commercially available polyphonic digital sampler. Sampling would eventually evolve into the very digital recording we take for granted today. It’s hard to imagine a world without samplers – and we wouldn’t want to. Back to the page you came from, click here for all the latest music videos.

4. Soundcard

The earliest known sound card used by computers was the Gooch Synthetic Woodwind, a music device for PLATO terminals, and is widely hailed as the precursor to sound cards and MIDI. It was invented in 1972. AdLib was one of the first manufacturers of sound cards for the IBM PC. Creative Labs also marketed a sound card at the same time called the Creative Music System. Sound Blaster cloned the AdLib and set the stage for dominating the market. The Sound Blaster line of cards ushered in a new era of multimedia computer applications that could play back CD audio, add recorded dialogue to computer games, or reproduce motion video (albeit at much lower resolutions and quality) The widespread adoption of Sound Blaster support in multimedia and entertainment titles.

4. MP3s

The first portable MP3 player was launched in 1997 by Saehan Information Systems, which sold its “MPMan F10″ player in parts of Asia in spring 1998. In mid-1998, the South Korean company licensed the players for North American distribution to Eiger Labs, which rebranded them as the EigerMan F10 and F20.

6. Electric Guitar

Stringed instruments have been with us for at least two millennia – the Harps of Ur were discovered back in 1929 in what was once ancient Mesopotamia and proved to be over 4,500 years old. The electric guitar was and is far more than a musical instrument – it’s an iconic symbol of modern (and youth) culture. Early adopters included Les Paul and T-Bone Walker, and it would come to epitomise rock ‘n’ roll, giving teenagers a voice of their own.

8. Multitrack tape recorder

The foundation was laid by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a French librarian who invented the phonautograph in the late 1850s. There existed some far-fetched possibility to use it as a telephone repeater. So, it sat inanely without any real purpose for the ensuing decade.In doing so, he created a DIY sound-on-sound recording device that could nullify the erase function of tape recorders.They assigned their entire team of seven engineers to the task.Les Paul worked with Ross Snyder from Ampex, who helped him achieve his dream of a reliable multitracking device.

9. MIDI

MIDI- musical instrument digital interface, technology standard allows electronic musical instruments to communicate with one another and with computers. The first synthesizers using MIDI debuted in 1983. A live performer may use MIDI to simultaneously control several instruments onstage. In a recording studio a MIDI composition can be edited, resequenced, sped up, slowed down, or adjusted in numerous ways without costly and time-consuming rerecording. This versatility made MIDI composition widespread in popular music as well as in film and television scores. MIDI message sets have also been written for such wide-ranging purposes as directing stage lighting, controlling amusement park rides, and producing tones for mobile telephones.

10. The DAW

It is difficult t find accurate information, but some sources point to the company Steinberg as the father of all DAWs. Despite selling fewer than 50 copies in the beginning, the program laid the foundation for a dynasty that continues to this day. Multitrack Recorder became Pro-16, then Pro-24, Cubit and eventually Cubase. Commodore 64 development shifted to the Atari 520ST, then the Commodore Amiga, then eventually the Apple Mac and Windows PC. Until the early 90s, the software did little more than control external MIDI devices via a suitable interface.

11. The Microphone

In 1876 Emile Berliner invented what could be considered the first modern microphone while working with Thomas Edison. Berliner, a German-born American, was best known for his invention of the Gramophone and the gramophone record, patented in 1887. After seeing a Bell Company demonstration at the U.S. Centennial Exposition, Berliner was inspired to find ways to improve the newly invented telephone. Hughes’s microphone was the early prototype for the various carbon microphones still in use today.

Resources:

https://www.musicradar.com/news/the-21-most-important-products-and-innovations-in-music-technology-history

https://ourpastimes.com/who-invented-the-first-guitar-amplifier-12187920.html

https://www.musicradar.com/news/early-daws-the-software-that-changed-music-production-forever

https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-microphones-1992144

https://www.britannica.com/art/MIDI-music-technology

https://producerhive.com/ask-the-hive/history-of-multitrack-recording/

http://www.computernostalgia.net/articles/HistoryofSoundCards.htm

Focusing on MA-thesis part I – general idea

For the last semester of the master program it’s time to focus on the master thesis.

So far I got an overview about various fields of analog and digital philosophy, methods and production.

My plan is to write a thesis giving an idea of analog and digital media showing their characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. While the theoretical part deals with media history and theory, the practical part will on the one hand show a digital approach (like an instagram account) and on the other hand display analog processes and products (like printed posters and/or the book of the thesis itself).

For the analog part my all analog print experiment of last semester is already a good base to start with, while still I’m thinking of how to present the digital equivalent.

Processing of action and non-action sounds

The human brain always amazes with every single research that is done about it.

Our perception of the whole word depends on how the information we receive is processed in it.

A study I recently read deals with an interesting aspect of how the sound of actions is processed in our brains.

Research on this topic began with the suggestion derived from neuropsychological researches that the brain does not process all sound events in the same way, but that it makes a distinction between the sound produced by one agent (actions) and all others.

The research started from the analysis of audiovisual mirrors in the brains of monkeys, and some more recent experiments on humans suggest the existence of two different brain mechanisms for sound processing.

Action-related sounds activate the mirror system (with, in addition, a motor action program, to represent how the sound was produced.) Non-action-related sounds do not.

In one experiment, Lahav [2] played some non-musicians to listen to a piece of piano music they had just learned and showed that their premotor areas of the brain were activated, whereas it wasn’t when they were listening to a piece they hadn’t learned.

This not only triggers a representation of how the sound was produced, but could also prepare a listener’s reaction.

 “Cognitive representations of sounds could be associated with action planning patterns, and sounds can also unconsciously trigger further reaction from the listener.” [1]

This mirror system is also activated when the action can be seen, so it could be interpreted as an abstract representation of the action in our brain.

Resources

[1] T. Hermann, A. Hunt, J.G. Neuhoff –  The Sonification Handbook

[2] A. Lahav, E. Saltzman, and G. Schlaug. – Action representation of sound: audiomotor recognition network while listening to newly acquired actions.