Using Prezi for a linear narrative and visual representation of ‘twists’
For the ‘repackaging’ part of our assignment, I chose to retell parts of the story about the fictional character we created in 160MC, John McGrath. It is a very peculiar character, and his story follows a linear narrative, so I think the use of Prezi is justified here. The content I am reusing is mainly the workbook we produced (to be honest, most of it was made by Michael Abley – wonderful work!). It was quite an experience to design the Prezi – since a big part of it is made of text, I tried to make it easy to read (typography and spacing), plus I wanted to represent the linear narrative with movement. So the ‘path’ the Prezi follows is a straight line when the text tells the ‘facts and figures’, but when the story comes to a twist or some significant event, the Prezi changes direction.
When we initially presented the character in an early 160MC workshop, we received good feedback on the decision to show our creation process. So I included it in the Prezi: it shows how a pile of objects could lead to a narrative. It also shows the importance of brainstorming + selecting ideas: it doesn’t make sense to just add facts and try to make the story ‘interesting’ while having internal contradictions. So even though we had lots of directions we could have chosen for the character, we had to stick with the strongest storyline.
Anyway, back to the process. Initially, the Prezi only contained the screenshots of the script we used for the audiodrama (well, to be precise, this is an embedded PDF – but I doubt it makes any difference). Still, I thought it looked a bit dry, and wanted to include the audiodrama in a more vivid way. However, Prezi doesn’t allow embedding audio neither in its main content nor in the comments – so I had to do it in some other way. A good thing is it allows for YouTube videos embedding – so I decided to add some visuals to the soundtrack, to make it more compelling and worth watching. No one is particularly excited to watch a black screen with a soundtrack, not even me. For this part, I decided to make use of yet another web tool: Wordle
Using Wordle to visualise a script
When I was first introduced to Wordle, my initial thought was: Oh, this tool is too simple, and in the same time it runs on Java – bulky and too static! I am a big fan of tag clouds and visualising text patterns, so I had seen much more ‘exciting’ tools, which add movement, allow dynamic change of size etc… But sometimes less is more. It would have been too much to have an ‘all words’ audiodrama running, and at the same time overwhelming the viewer with even more words on screen. So I chose to copy and paste parts of the script, pimp the layout a little (removing less relevant words, choosing colours and fonts, etc.) and just make a couple of screenshots.
Then, I imported the screenshots and the audiodrama in a new Premiere project and started playing with motion and zoom. It is a bit like Prezi, yes, but then again: I like typography and clean designs 🙂
The first part of the video is a visual word cloud of the ‘diary entry’ – and the second, the dialogue itself. I tried to copy and paste the whole script, but the meta information was going in my way: instead of the main content, Wordle would syndicate and visualise INT HOSPITAL, JOHN, and other irrelevant words, so I had to strip it to the main lines. It also has the wonderful function of [Right click -> Remove word], so I could remove word such as ‘things’, ‘interesting’, and others that don’t add to the meaning and distract more.
There are a couple of moments in the video where the words work very well together: words that belong to the same sentence or theme are next to each other on the screen, which made me quite happy 🙂
Here is the finished video:
Last touch: a bit of Google Maps
At one point of his life, our character John McGrath goes to a journey with a travelling circus, and he makes tattoos to remind him of the people and places he visited. So I thought it made sense to show them on a Google Map, where each marker is the tattoo relevant to the place. I also added a paragraph of information to each place (from the workbook; again: thanks Michael!), to give it more context. Since the tattoos are basically symbols, the map can also be used to show our preconceptions of different parts of the world (because, after all, the story was invented by us) – that we associate China with hieroglyphs, Africa with lions, Australia with kangaroos, etc. It also shows that we know more about Europe than Africa + Asia combined – although Europe is dozens of times smaller 🙂