Stop Motion Storytelling

We, at Ahimsa Media, have so much respect for the patience and attention to detail required of stop motion storytelling! I recently had the opportunity to view an educational display of props and characters used by Laika Studios in some of their very popular feature films including, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Coraline, and their most recent release, Kubo and the Two Strings. With it taking approximately 5 years to complete an animated feature of this genre, you can imagine the journey involved, and the effort to keep the story fresh and engaging for those working on it.

Coraline props

Coraline’s house from the movie Coraline. This is the actual model used during production, as are all the others shared here.

 

Laika Studios stop motion

A scene from ParaNorman. Look closely at the details of all the tiny props. Each one is made by Laika team specialists. We were shown a video of a tiny lamp being made using real glass blowing techniques and very steady hands!

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

This is a working set from Kubo and the Two Strings, notice the lights which add authenticity and shadows. A stop motion film has more depth to it, because there actually is depth with the characters being in real constructed rooms.

Laika has mastered the blend of technology with the age old technique of stop motion by utilizing 3D printing to create replaceable character heads with expressions more realistic than has ever been done before. A main character, such as Norman may have a face made up of over 78 individual pieces, with thousands of those needed to produce different looks. The protagonist from Kubo for example, has 66,000 face pieces for a total of 48 million different possible facial expressions. You may be starting to see why it takes so long to complete storytelling on a project like this. Just the 3D printing alone takes years to complete, with it taking so many hours for each piece.

stop motion character faces

A few of the removable character facial pieces from Kubo and the Two Strings depicting different expressions.

24 facial expressions are needed per second of filming, with an equal number of photos! No video is ever taken, an entire movie is made up of over 5 thousand images alone. Laika does also masterfully blend CGI elements to make wires disappear or add rooftops to buildings that had to be open, plus some necessary special effect needs that come up.

stop motion

This boat from Kubo and the Two Strings has over 200,000 hand glued paper leaves on it. Not sure why the security guard is so sheepishly hiding behind it!

Knowing how long it takes to complete one of these storytelling projects has us wondering how many stories are in the works right now that we can look forward to in the next 5 years! Can’t wait to enjoy them with our enlightened knowledge of the craft.

Nike Training: A Workout App to Keep You Active on the Road

Busy professionals and traveling storytellers are often on the road, which can disrupt attempts to remain loyal to a workout regime. This has happened to me too many times! I will get into a good groove of working out and then leave to travel, abandoning my trips to the gym only to have to start all over when I return. Being active is extremely important, especially when you spend a lot of time sitting behind a computer. I recently discovered the Nike+ Training Club App (NTC), and have resolved my workout commitment issues!

There are always at least 30 minutes in each day of your travel schedule that you could squeeze in one of the workouts right in your hotel room, or at a nearby park you might find. There are workouts as short as 15 minutes though, so there really are no excuses for not getting one in! I actually really like the style of the workouts as well. Most of them will have you do a particular exercise for about a minute straight and then move on, rather than a series of reps. You can sync your iTunes music to the workout as well, which makes it so much more fun!

Nike workouts

Personalizing Your Experience

When you first use the App it will ask you a series of questions to help get you started. You can input how often you would like to workout and what you have access to. This includes whether or not you have any weights, or a yoga mat for example.

workout plan

Deciding on Your Focus

You have the option to set up a plan for yourself where you would be using the Nike+ Training App at home, as well as on your travels for a period of 4-6 weeks. I have actually done this and found it really useful because as a working mom, getting to the gym is often a challenge. Working out around the house also allows your kids to see you being active and sets a good example. (In my case, it provides entertainment as they love to laugh at my struggles to keep up!)

workout app

Individual Themed Workouts

You also have the option to just select a single workout to do. You can peruse hundreds of them and pick one that fits into the amount of time you have and an area of your body you would like to focus on, even if you would just like to stretch. No excuses remember?!

Nike App

A Glimpse Into the Breakdown of a Workout

In addition to the workouts, Nike offers community interaction, both digitally and in person. There is a feed within the App displaying current informative fitness blogs by Nike and another with featured hashtags to participate with. If you’d like to get out and meet new people, you can search up live classes led by Nike trainers taking place wherever you may be with the option to register for the class through the App.

NO EXCUSES!

Quizlet ~ A Handy Study Tool

I’m past the point in parenting where I need to search and find tools to help my kids with their studying. They find innovative ways to help themselves! When I saw my daughter on her phone, I’m pretty sure I said something to the effect of, “Hey Missy! Shouldn’t you be studying?!” To which she gave me the stink eye and replied, “I am!” She has been preparing for her tests using an App called Quizlet.

Within Quizlet, you can create your own flashcards and then use them in a variety of ways to practice. I think this could be a great tool for any of us taking professional development courses.

digital flashcards

You can create your own flashcards by entering the terms and definitions you are trying to study.

Once your flashcards are made you can study them in a variety of ways, but another great feature of this App is being able to search general topics and study off of flashcards and study sets other users have made.

Quizlet

If, for example, you search ‘Computers’, you will find a list of already made study cards to choose from.

 

ready made flashcards

Once you select a set of terms to learn you have the option to read through them all and learn the concepts. You can then practice in the variety of ways shown on the top tabs. These same methods are available to you within your own study sets that you create.

 

study tools

This is an example of one of the study games where you need to click on matching squares.

You can use the test mode as many times as you like until you feel confident. I regularly see my daughter running through terms on her phone in the backseat of the car on the way to school. You have the option to join the App as a teacher where you could create your own study sets for students of yours to use. They have even launched an interactive feature called Quizlet Live! This has been a great study tool in our house so I wanted to pass it along to you. No intentions of putting the cue card people out of business! If you have other go-to tools we’d love to hear about them as well.

iMovie Tutorial: How to Rotate a Video

On more than one occasion, I have been so excited to capture greatness on video, only to discover upon playback, that I have held my phone improperly and recorded an upside down or sideways video! This makes the video virtually useless for sharing ~ or so I thought, until figured out how to fix it. In case this has happened to any of you, or should it happen in your future, I thought I’d share an iMovie tutorial on how to rotate a video.

I have been able to do some basic editing to videos right on my phone within the iMovie App, however the option to crop or rotate does not exist that I have been able to find. Determined to fix my most recent upside down video, I uploaded it to my computer and imported it into iMovie there.

upside down video

As you can see, everyone on my subway ride is hanging from the ceiling. That would have been cool if this was an amusement park ride, but instead I had some editing to do. Here’s how I did it…

iMovie Tutorial

Once you have imported your video in iMovie and have started a new project with it, click on the clip you need to adjust and then from the window menu select Cropping, Ken Burns and Rotation.

editing in iMovie

Click on the arrow icon in the direction you want your clip to flip. Each click will rotate your clip a 1/4 turn. Sometimes your video is sideways and not all the way upside down so the 1/4 turn option is great.

break dance on the subway

Voila! Now it is only the talented subway dancer I captured who is upside down. Once your video is right side up, simply select ‘Done’ and return to editing or finish your video.

I hope you have found this iMovie tutorial to be a welcome relief for those pesky times you simply hold your phone the wrong way and have an upside down world to deal with! Here is my edited video of a breakdance on the subway in its entirety for you to enjoy.

Nuzzle: A Social News Reader

Most of the time when we are using social media to engage with family, friends and followers, we don’t really want news stories or articles in general mixed in there. There are other times however, that we would just like to see those stories without other interactions intermingled. We have discovered an App for that! Meet Nuzzle, the social news reader.

 

Nuzzle

 

Nuzzle provides a clean layout of news from your friends and people you follow on Facebook and Twitter. What you see then are blog posts and articles only, without any status updates. An ‘options’ tab provides you with the following viewing options :

  • News From Your Friends
  • News From Friends of Friends
  • News You May Have Missed
  • Recently Read Stories
  • Your Custom Feeds (lists you have made within Twitter)
  • Featured Feeds

You are also able to build a network within Nuzzle by finding and following friends within the App. If you select to receive it, Nuzzle will send you a daily digest to your email highlighting top stories! To make your own social sharing easier, Buffer, Pocket and Instapaper can be signed into on the App so you can share right from a story as you read it, or save it to be read later allowing you to enjoy the read without an internet connection.

This is a free App that offers a de-cluttered experience, which is always appreciated!

 

Video Optimization Services for Digital Video Success

Video is increasingly becoming a powerful and effective tool in marketing businesses online. A video can only have an effect on an audience though, if it is seen. There are many aspects that go into putting video content online, which is why we are now offering digital video optimization services.

If you properly optimize your videos to target your desired audience through search marketing, your business will have the competitive edge it needs to get your videos viewed and drive traffic back to your site and your services.

YouTube Art

An artistic interpretation of the various YouTube icons found among websites. Photo by: Webtreats

Why are so many companies creating video content? Because:

• It tells a business’ story in a visual way;

• It connects potential customers with the personalities and culture of the business; and

• Video gets preferential traction online by search engines, as Google owns YouTube, and now Facebook is giving video preferential treatment within it’s feed too.

Take Dinologue for example, one of our clients whom we have built a successful YouTube channel for. They wanted to tap into an adult dinosaur fan base and present them with material that would be relevant and scientific, yet engaging and entertaining. In creating an engaged community and storyworld for Dinologue, digital video played an important role to accompany Dinologue’s blog posts and social media.

dinosaur video

This is a screen shot of a Dinologue video in action with popular science writer, Brian Switek.

Beyond creating a video that will appeal to your target audience, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in ‘pre and post video production’. In order to gain traction to your video, reach your target audience and attract views to your video, we can help you with the following services:

  • Taking the time to look up the keyword phrases that your target customers are searching online;
  • Researching which of those keyword phrases you can be competitive with, in reaching your target customer;
  • Optimizing your video’s title, metadescription and tags to target the competitive keyword phrases that your preferred customer is searching for online;
  • Including a call to action and draw back to your company site in the video; and
  • Creating compelling video thumbnails that capture the attention of viewers, so that they click to watch them.
custom thumbnails

Creating customized video thumbnails gives your YouTube channel a uniform look and makes your video brand immediately recognizable when your videos appear under search terms.

Properly optimizing your video will help your desired customer find you online and will lead to increased traffic back to your website. Please contact us to discuss a strategy that is best for you. This is something we can help you with at any stage you may be in with your videos – whether you have never made a video before and need guidance on where to start or if you already have a catalogue of video that needs to be optimized for what your target audience is searching online, giving those videos fresh views.

Jumping Photos: A Tutorial Video

taking jumping photos

We once did a professional photography session to get some fun jumping photos of our family. A while back, when were all at the beach, we decided to try our hand at it because there was a little ledge of sand that we thought would help make us look like we were jumping higher. It turned out to be really easy to photograph and we got some amazing shots! Jumping has now become our family’s signature way of capturing scenic memories. It’s contagious too! People who pass us while we are taking these photos want us to photograph some jumping photos of them too, on their own devices!

So that you can enjoy such an experience as well, and have a new way of capturing memories and telling your stories, I have created a tutorial video to demonstrate just how easy it is.

Warm up those leg muscles and get ready to catch some height and add an element of creativity to your shots. Really though, you don’t need to have any athletic ability to do this ~ just have fun!

Peace Fund Radio ~ An Interview With Lori on Technology and Education

Our own Lori Yearwood answered a call from actor Adrian Paul and next thing she new she was putting on her educator cap, technology cape and flying down to LA Talk Radio to do a one hour radio show for Adrian’s charity The Peace Fund! Ok, she calmly accepted the offer to converse with Adrian on the topic of technology as it relates to education today, and being that she works out of our LA office, she drove 10 min to meet him for his Peace Fund Radio Show.

Peace Fund

Ready To Jump Into Action

Adrian, best known for his role as Duncan McCloud on the Highlander Series, founded The Peace Fund to focus on small, under-funded and hard-working charities who are determined to make a positive difference to the lives of children living in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Every Wednesday he hosts the Peace Fund Radio show discussing relevant current topics with expert guests and featured heroes who are making a great difference.

Peace Fund Radio

On air

The content of Lori’s show flowed like a great conversation discussing whether technology in our school system is beneficial or detrimental to our students.  Listen to a recorded archive here:

How might you have chimed in with your thoughts on some of these topics?

  • Teachers’ abilities to implement technology
  • Technology being used as a bandaid solution for underperforming schools rather than hiring more teachers
  • Should all schools receive equal technological resources?
  • Effects of technology use at home
  • Students losing creativity and the ability to solve problems on their own
  • The continuing pattern of grand educational movements that always dwindle out and disappoint

Please feel free to comment below with your own thoughts and experiences, we’d love to keep the conversation going.

TEDxWarsaw Talk: Erica Speaks on Transmedia Character Development

Erica

Erica in Action

 

Our own Erica Hargreave was fortunate to enjoy an enriching experience as she spoke to a group of enthusiastic storytellers at a TEDx event in Warsaw.  Now we all have the great fortune to enjoy what she shared!  Both entertaining and informative, Erica created a mini storyworld right on the stage as she enveloped different characters to demonstrate her unique brand of transmedia character development, and the permission we must allow ourselves to be creative.

 

 

About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Genius Scan: Apps for the Busy Professional on the Go

As someone who has a mobile office, I was initially unprepared for the amount of times I would receive ‘urgent’ requests for documents to be printed, signed and scanned back. There have also been times when paper sources of mine have had to be sent to someone immediately.  Of course, as a working mom, and busy professional on the go, this most often happens when I am nowhere near a computer, printer or scanner!  I have come across a couple Apps that have solved this dilemma for me: SignEasy; a Digital Signature App which I discussed in a previous post, and Genius Scan.

Genius Scan is exactly what its name suggests, a brilliant scanning tool! If you have a printed document that needs to be sent, but no scanner, this App give you the ability to take a photo of each page, make general enhancements and send it off!  It will save each page into the same document so you don’t need to send each page off separately.

Genius Scan scanning App

Cropping Your Document

After you take a photo of your document, a grid overlay comes up for you to crop and determine exactly which parts of your page to include. This is handy if you have smaller receipts where a lot of your table shows up in the photo.

Genius Scan document enhancements

Finishing Touches

Once you are finished cropping the page, the App enhances it for you. You have the option to select No Enhancement, Black and White, or Colour. Once you save the page and add any other pages to the same document file you can choose your format to send it in. I usually choose PDF and it gets sent off as a proper printable document, not like a photo you took and emailed off.

I have been using this App for a long time now and I believe there have been a few upgrades along the way providing an enhanced user experience with even more options than I have described above, and this App is free.  As someone who is always juggling work and family, I have been extremely grateful for the time and headaches I’ve been able to avoid!