Friday, November 18, 2011

Final Thoughts

I stepped into this module with little knowledge of photographic, Photoshop, and Flash Catalyst techniques and skills. I stepped out of this module a better photographer, a better Photoshop and Flash Catalyst user, as well as a better team member.

The individual assignments in this module were a test of our skills, but the process was fun and educational at the same time. Assignment instructions were clear, and not restrictive, as much of our interpretation and imagination was needed for every one of them. Theories and lectures given were comprehensive, engaging, and applied to the exercises and assignments. The skills were taught comprehensively, and hands-on exercises were given to us, helping us "get used" to the skill instead of just dumping knowledge upon us without real practice. The final project was a further test on teamwork. Even though the members within our group are diverse in artistic styles, we managed to compromise and learn many things and techniques from one another. This group project promotes self-learning and cooperation in the midst of challenging our photography and editing skills with software like Adobe Photoshop and Flash Catalyst. The process was enriching and tests us to the best of our abilities.

Credits: (for the final project)



Early settlement:









Merlion Fantasy:


Kampong/ Stamford Raffles



Assignment 3 Revisited

For Assignment 3, I tried changing the positions of the various buildings and cityscapes to alter the perspective and make the "attacking" of the city more convincing, but changing the positions just made everything awkward and contrived. So I scrapped all the buildings and started with just the glow, the spiral and the background. I searched online and looked through movie posters and stills from the movie Inception, where my initial idea and inspiration came from.

From the stills and posters, it can be seen that the movie defies what people view as "common sense", altering their sense of reality by having buildings as walls, and streets as ceilings. I could incorporate that element of surrealism into my collage, so I looked online for images that depicted busy and empty streets. I also got some premade fantasy backgrounds:

Using filter functions like Overlay, Colour Dodge and Soft Light in Photoshop, I created a an image like this, where the busy streets are walls leading to a glow of unknown, which can signify hope, or a spiral out of control and mass destruction. Is the fast-paced life that comes with urbanisation a road to success, or doom? Nature makes way for progress and high-rise buildings, becoming a sacrificial pathway.

But it is not urbanisation without buildings! So I cropped out some pictures of buildings, overlaying them repetitively against the "street walls" to alter the perception of viewers. the finished collage is as below, where 10 images are manipulated and used.

Urban Fantasy


Assignment 2 Revisited

The feedback I got from the Keitai Phenomena assignment was that my message of voyeurism was not strong enough, especially for the last two pictures of the series. But I didn't want the theme and message to be in-your-face; I want it to be subtle, I want it to evoke the feelings of discomfort and even eeriness that comes along with voyeurism. And so I kept a lookout for situations that might suggest an act of intrusion, using my mobile phone to capture scenes of my daily life and editing them to see if they fit the theme. I tried taking pictures from behind blinds, and across my hostel block to capture the feeling of someone watching unsuspecting people. I tried to capture the act that suggests peeping into other people's lives, and these were some of the pictures I have captured, as part of my experimentation:

And then I spotted the peephole on my room's door, and it struck me. A peephole was the perfect example of how one can remain hidden while spying on the lives of others. The essence of voyeurism can be captured through the world that lies within the peephole. And so I took pictures with my mobile phone plastered against the door, taking shot after shot of the outside as seen through the peephole. The girl on the opposite end remains unaware, acting however she liked, unsuspecting that I was spying on her.

Voyeurism 3

Voyeurism 4

The dark areas around the hole, as well as the "fish eye" effect of the pictures adds to the feeling of claustrophobic anxiety one may feel while looking at the pictures. The black and white treatment of the picture also increases the feeling of eeriness that comes with voyeurism. Taking pictures through the peephole may be risky, but it provides a unique, innovative technique of showing a particular theme of intrusion.

Assignment 1 Revisited

Taking in the feedback and suggestions given in the second tutorial of this module, I decided to redo the pictures for Shallow Depth-of-Field (SDOF) and Freeze Action. I found out recently that the point-and-shoot camera I had was not ideal for taking shallow depth-of-field shots depicting a wide area, as such camera tend to put everything in focus. Therefore, to capture the essence of shallow depth-of-field, I needed to take something up close. I immediately thought of my guitar, so I experimented with it, taking pictures of it at different angle, changing the distance with every shot, and adjusting my camera's aperture value. After several shots like these:

I finally captured a satisfactory shot. Change the Colour Balance of it a little via Photoshop, and the final outlook is this:

Shallow Depth-of-Field/"Soldiers of Tension"

The main point of reference for this picture is the pegs that hold the guitar strings down on the guitar bridge. It creates an emphasis on them, as the background is blurred.

Besides Shallow Depth-of-Field, I also needed to redo the Freeze Action shot because my previous picture was simply not up to standard. I searched online images, looking for inspiration, and chanced about Freeze Action photography with fruits and water. Inspired, I grabbed an orange, adjusted my camera's shutter speed to a maximum high (1/1000 sec) and experimented taking shots of the orange in the kitchen. I wanted to capture the effect of the running water from the tap gushing down upon the orange. Due to the extremely fast shutter speed, the pictures often turn out too dark because the lighting in the kitchen wasn't ideal. But I kept changing angles of the shot, trying to capture more light, as well as adjusting the shutter speed, slowing it down bit by bit. After shots like these, where shutter speed was too fast,

And shots like these, where shutter speed was a little too slow,

I managed to capture this shot.

Freeze Action/"Orange"

Despite the orange being hidden in the dark due to underexposure, the emphasis is on the water droplets, where the water is not shown gushing down in a blur and individual droplets can be seen. In a way, the high shutter speed allows the water droplets to be "frozen" in air. A little alteration to the contrast and colour balance of the picture adds to the dynamism of the picture.

Reading Week/Final Project Consultations

Difficulties: As the deadline for the final project approaches, my group launched into full force Flash Catalyst experimentation for our interactive collage. With no knowledge of Java and other programming coding, we had to explore the options we had with Flash Catalyst, searching and learning from online tutorials from Youtube and Adobe. Our biggest challenged proved to be the state transitions.

Our initial idea was to have the first collage zoom out (become smaller) while the second collage zoom in (become larger) at the same time, giving rise to the transition from one scene to the next. We tried to use state transitions within Flash Catalyst to achieve this effect. However, several problems arose with this effect. The method only worked for two states, and the program automatically adds effects which cannot be deleted. As a result, undesired effects like "resizing" and "shifting" of the images would occur when the program is run. A smooth transition between the collages also proved to be difficult because the compositions of our collages are not uniform. We decided to scrap the idea and went along with just having the second image zoom out to the users, but the problem with this was the whole interactive collage appeared flat. It was like images were just thrown at the user, and the sense of traveling through time is lost. Besides that, because the size of our collages are too big, Flash Catalyst would often crash, unable to handle the many state transitions. Buttons were not working because there were too many layers of images in each collage. These issues prompted us to arrange consultation sessions with Jing.

Consultations: The consultations proved to be extremely helpful. There, Jing showed us methods and videos that would help us make our collages more 3D. She also helped us solve the issue with the buttons by suggesting we move the buttons onto the top of the layers panel. The issue with the state transitions was also solved because we decided to incorporate several images within one state. The "flatness" of the interactive collage was also solved by having Alice shrink in size as she travels through the portal, before resizing to the original size and position as she appears in the next scene.

Other Problems: During the course of our project work, we also encountered problems like having Flash Catalyst crash because the interactivity of the individual collages, combined with the interactivity between the collages, proved too big for the program. Thus, we had no choice but to show the interactivity of the different collages in a separate folder. Besides that, the difference in artistic styles was also an issue. My group members' artistic styles varied and that showed through the collages. This issue was also brought up by the class during one of the critique sessions. The difference in style would result in the overall collages looking disjointed. To solve this problem, we settled with a single member's style, and using her collages as a point of reference, tried to modify our individual collages to fit her style. The idea of making Alice the main button for navigation was also impossible now because making her a button would mean she cannot be resized. A separate button at the bottom right hand corner of the finished collage had to be created.

Despite these problems, we managed to work as a team and finish the task on time, uploading it into the server folder. The first scene of our final product, as well as the finished collages are as shown below:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Week 12 & 13/Final Project

Research and Progress: After the first presentation, my group realised that we severely lacked the knowledge of Singapore's history, having no experience whatsoever of these historical periods. As a result, we didn't have a clear idea of what to put or portray in our collages specifically. Thus, intensive research was done online about these historical periods. Articles, websites and images were searched to better our understanding the situations then, to help us know what symbolic images to put in our collages, as well as to aid us in conveying the emotions of those periods more clearly. Having no time or the skills to create convincing and aesthetically fantasy images, one of my groupmates, Sheryl, sourced for fantasy backgrounds online (Deviantart). Examples of images used from Deviantart are shown below:

The images found online proved to be unsuitable in some cases, be it the size or the composition of it. This is especially so for those depicting the modern aspects of Singapore, such as the Merlion and Universal Studios Singapore. Therefore, Sheryl and I had to go to these areas to take photographs by ourselves. Bad weather conditions on our photo-taking days proved to be a challenge too, but we managed to get the pictures we wanted, including these:

In the meantime, Kris continued to work on the main character design, tracing it out in Adobe Illustrator and refining it to make it look less flat. The second draft of Alice looks like this:

In preparation for our second presentation, Yin Lam, Sheryl and I created more collages and refined our existing ones to come up with these:

Feedback: Presenting our progress to the class, they felt that the styles of our collages felt very different. The main issue was brought up once again - making the collages 3D to make them appear less flat. Several suggestions were brought up, including making our collages have a more 2D "feel" so when traveling through the collages, the issue of the collages being flat would no longer be an issue. Other suggestions were using Photoshop to make the collages 3D, or to make the main character become smaller and smaller as she travel into the portal. At the last moment, the next collage would zoom into the screen. The problem with this would be that the flow of travel would become very rough. But the feedback given was valuable and helped my group better our project immensely.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Week 10 & 11/Final Project

By the end of the critique session for Assignment 3: Urban Fantasy, we were split into groups to work on our final project, where we had to create an interactive collage that brings out a message, concept or issue. The skills and techniques we have learnt so far have been preparing us for the final project, where the message, issue or concept of the collage is to be conveyed through its interactivity. Having little skills in even Photoshop, the idea of incorporating moving images, sound and text in a collage scared me. Fortunately, Jing had a lecture on using Flash Catalyst, a software we could use for incorporating interactivity to our collages. The videos shown during the lecture were comprehensive, and a class exercise was given out during the lecture to let us have some hands-on experience with the basics of Flash Catalyst. Buttons, adding interactions, as well as state transitions, were not so scary after all.

Brainstorming: In the meantime, my group spent some time brainstorming on the concept behind our final project. There wasn't a theme set for this project, so we could do anything we want. After throwing around some ideas and searching online for interactive art montages, we decided to have collage after collage present themselves to the user in a first-person perspective with a "zooming-in effect", as though the user is traveling into a world of collages. This idea was inspired by the fact that my group found an example of such interactivity in the module forum, as shown below:

Abandoning the idea of allowing the user to click anywhere in the picture to enable the zoom-in, we went decided on including a portal in every of our collages. A click at a specific area would transport the user through the portal and into the next collage scene.

Deciding on a theme for our project was the next step. We initially decided to opt for a surrealistic approach, rather than a realistic one, because we felt that with surrealism, the collages would be more intriguing and allow more surprising and unpredictable interactions. However, after much consideration, we agreed to merge realism and surrealism together, where fairytale and fantasy elements were to be incorporated within scenes of Singapore's history. The Singapore context was added because the sense of familiarity would heighten the experience of using this interactive collage, and so Kris, one of my groupmates, suggested using "nostalgia" as the main concept of this interactive collage. Through the navigation of our collage, users would feel nostalgic as they see images of past Singapore, including the kampongs and Samsui women. This can even result in users feeling a sense of emotional attachment to this piece of interactive collage piece.

For navigation through the collages, we felt that users needed a sort of "guide", and therefore a main character was suggested to be the one leading and walking users through all the collages. We decided on using Alice from Alice in Wonderland, because to us she was to most recognisable fairytale character. We also agreed to have interactions within each collages, so it wouldn't be just traveling through the different collages. For example, the mushrooms would glow with each mouse-over within a particular collage, and clicking on it would result in more mushrooms appearing:

At the end of our brainstorming session, we decided on ten collages, each depicting the following: a Jungle from the myth of Sang Nila Utama, Singapore Kampongs, Singapore's HDB flats, the Samsui Women, the Merlion, Sentosa, the Esplanade, the Singapore Flyer, as well as the Early Settlement period of Singapore. We purposely put them in a non-linear arrangement in terms of time period, so users wouldn't feel like this is an educational trial instead of an interactive collage piece.

Finally, because this interactive collage is some sort of a reminder of Singapore's past history, my group decided to name our project "Singapore Revisited".

Feedback: In the next tutorial session (28th October), my group presented our project concept to the class. We showed some basic collages we did, as well as the main character design that was done by Kris.

The class was fine with our idea of juxtaposing fantasy elements with historical and modern aspects of Singapore, but were concerned with the zooming-in effect we intend to include in our collage. They expressed that by zooming-in, the perspectives of each collage would have to change with the movement of Alice, or the zooming-in effect would just make the interactive collage flat. We took in their suggestions and feedback and arranged for another meeting the following week.