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  • Writer's pictureMakalla Shernick

Visual Culture Production

This project, compared to the other assignments, was the most open-ended. Our assignment was to create a video that represented some aspect of our own culture. I knew immediately that I wanted to explore ideas surround domestic migration for this last project. As a child, I moved around within the southern United States a lot. This aspect of my cultural identity shaped me immensely, and it is one that I share with select groups of people. Migration is, and always has been, a fundamental trait in human nature. Further topics I wanted to explore in this project were the cyclical nature of migration in and out of rural and urban environments. Also, I wanted to depict the fluid relationship these two environments have.

During this Spring 2022 semester, I have also been taking Motion Design. In this class, I have learned the basics creating digital visual effects by using the software Adobe After Effects. Although I have no prior experience in animation or cinematography, I thought it would be a fun personal challenge to attempt to create an animation overtop of video footage in the real world.

After drafting a storyboard for my project, I began by filming the footage I would use for the project. The rural environment scenes were all filmed in the State Arboretum of Virginia. All the urban environment scenes were filmed in downtown Raleigh, NC. I used a Hoya R72 filter over the lens of my camera and a tripod for filming. I wanted my footage to look distorted and unique to reflect the individuality of perception. In retrospect, while I do not regret this decision, I should have done some practice creating this type of footage before committing to it. Since I had absolutely zero experience using this unique type of lens, the post-processing of this footage in After Effects was the most time-consuming portion of the entire project.

Continuing the theme of my prior projects in this course, I decided to animate a green frog in these environments. This idea arose out of one of the peer-review sessions in class! Here are my initial character design sketches.

I took these sketches and imported them into Adobe Illustrator to transform them into vector shapes that I would be able to easily manipulate in After Effects.

In my research about animation in After Effect, I found the artist Ben Marriott. Marriot is a motion designer and animator. While he used to do freelancing full-time, he now teaches online through platforms like YouTube and 8-week online courses. This is an artist that I would use to introduce motion design in my classrooms. His animations are fun and dynamic; they would hopefully be very engaging to a younger audience. Since motion design is an emerging field, I would facilitate an activity in which my students find current motion designers that appeals to them personally and share that work with the class.

What to use for the sound of my video took me the longest to discover. While searching a site I have used in the past for free sound effects called, I would sometime come across sounds including the title “morphagene reels.” Subsequently this led me down a rabbit hole of a part of music and the sound world that I did not know existed. A company called Make Noise—founded in 2008—in 2017 began launching some of the most innovative sound modules in the world. There most groundbreaking modules is called the Morphagene. This is a description of their product quoted directly from their website: “The Morphagene music synthesizer module is a next generation tape and microsound music module that uses Reels, Splices and Genes to create new sounds from those that already exist. Search between the notes to find the unfound sounds.” Microsounds exist below the level of musical notes. These sound particles last less than on-tenth of a second. The Morphagene allows composers to explore this realm with an endless variety of sounds.

This led me to a sound created by audio engineer and producer Carmelo Pampillonio. He created the sound reel “Geophysical Vibrations” for the Make Noise Morphagene. His artist statement on the sound is as follows: “The chaotic vibratory ecologies of electromagnetic fields emitted from all the technological instruments and interfaces involved in this project. These ambient broadband measurements were taken with various EMF sensors, where the discharges of imperceptible energies are rendered sensible as symphonic microsounds which impart the extent to which our surrounding spaces are not simply passive backgrounds. The art of magnetic field recording is intriguing precisely because it makes us privy to vibrations of an inhuman axis, making it a form of non-anthropocentric art.” I found this to be the perfect sound to use in my video as it relates to both to the nature of the frog being a non-human animal and to my exploration of the distortion of individualistic perception.

Here is my final video culture production:

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