Thoughtful Interaction Design

Thoughtful Interaction Design

A Design Perspective on Information Technology

Jonas Löwgren and Erik Stolterman

 

This was another eye-opening read. The more I delve into this realm we call the art world, the more I find out that I have no idea how big it actually is. You can even say it is infinite. There is so much to being an artist, a designer, than to just make something pretty.

This time, I learnt about being a responsible, thoughtful designer.

This excerpt talks in terms of digital artifacts, which according to it, constitute the environment and nature in which we live. They play a huge role in accompanying us in our day to day activities, be it at home or at work. They influence our development, the way we think, the way we manoeuvre this world.

To design digital artifacts is to design people’s lives.

Whoa.

The truth weighed in on me. I hadn’t realised how much power there is in design. In the physical world, I take a look at my surroundings. I’m in a classroom. I am using a laptop, on a table. I sit on a chair. There are lights above me that illuminate the room. The door is next to me. The whiteboard is across me. I take a sip from my bottle. I needed that.

Every single thing was invented, designed by someone. And now it’s an irreplaceable part of everyone’s lives.

Other than that, there are also interfaces. There are so many things whose way of interaction we are already familiar with. We know how to open a door using the handle, knob or even just using the act of pushing. We know how to interpret the clock. We know how to fill a bottle and use it. Similarly, there are interactions in the digital world that we learn and we are familiar with, because we’ve lived with it our whole lives.

Being a thoughtful designer: being reflective

Well at least I’m somewhere. Reflecting upon this read got me reflecting on my experience as a consumer and a user, other than as an artist.

It urges me to think about my role as an artist or designer. What are the results, good or bad, of doing design in different ways?

Being thoughtful: caring for your own design abilities, designs you produce, how the world will be changed by your design ideas and decisions. 

There is an interesting idea of understanding design as knowledge construction, where the main “products” are not artifacts, but knowledge. I can see why, since it does become information that we users learn over time.

In this knowledge construction, there is an important factor, which is articulation – a requirement so that people can actually respond to the artifact or work. Otherwise, how would people interact with it? There needs to be a degree of clarity and understanding.

Looking at how rapid technology is advancing, it may be plausible to say, what is the point of being reflective, dwelling on meaning, when things are constantly changing? New technology is being developed everyday.

However, in the midst of evolving technology, there is still an essential role of being thoughtful and reflective. The impact is still right there, having something constantly changing does not diminish the importance or influence of design on human lives. Design is complex that way.

It is more so complex especially when in this age, everyone is more open on ideas and concepts. The design of digital artefacts is largely unbounded. As interaction designers, what is our material???

Even language is considered a material, no? Novels, manuals, prayers, poems, fantasy worlds, constitutions, textbooks.

Our bodies can be materials too. In interaction design, is not the action, the moments, the body materials too?

the designer wields significant power, and with such power comes responsibility.

This is where it hit me how important the role of a designer is. But…

 

What is Good Design?

fast, efficient

understandability

user interface intelligibility

basic functions satisfy user needs

intelligent, adaptive

problem-solving capabilities

slow or fast

What are the intentions and expectations in specific situations? Are users novice or experienced? What are the ideological considerations – democratic, cultural, environmental?

To achieve good design, there is a never ending process of thoughtful reflection.

 

Core Concepts

INTERACTION DESIGN – DESIGN PROCESS – DESIGN SITUATION – DIGITAL ARTIFACT

The designer is the one who actively takes part in the shaping of the digital artifact, while the client is the one who contracts the designer, a.k.a. the money machine and the one who makes the final decisions. The user, meanwhile, is the one who will use the implemented design artifact.

 

What Is Design Theory?

Design theory is seen as a way to specify the outcome of the design process. 

Several design theories advocate an environmental approach – influencing design work in the direction of more environmentally sound products. This I feel, is meaningful because the environmental threat is a real one, if we aren’t going to take care of the world we live in, who will?

In any case, every theory is formulated with an intention and a purpose, so it is also important to discuss design in a way that helps interaction design.

A First Sketch of the Design Process

Combination of three elements: designer, resources, situation.

Every design is a change of our life world; the designer influences our overall experience of the world as a pleasant or ugly place to spend our lives in

 

“With designed artifacts, processes, systems, and structures we decide our relations with each other, society, and nature.”

 

“Every digital artifact restricts our space of possible actions by permitting certain actions, promoting certain skills, and focusing on certain outcomes. To some extent, the user has to adapt to the artifact.”

Design includes responsibility, because it deals with profound and existential issues in a very tangible way. It is something that directly affects human lives.

 

Design and Society

Every design, however small, is a part of what can be seen as the largest design project of them all – the joint design of the world as a place for human life.

In designing, there are technical, social, ideological and political consequences. These are what we should consider as a designer, as designers have the power to change and influence the development of society.

As an artist, do we have the same responsibility?

I feel that at least to a certain extent, we do. Just as humans, our actions have consequences. Similarly, as artists, our works have consequences too. Good or bad, it’s usually not up to us to decide, but at least we have the power to influence the outcome.

An example of a work which I feel reflected some points in this reading is Strawpocalypse by photographer Benjamin Von Wong.

Bringing back up some references from the Social Practice Art reading, this installation cannot exactly be said to constitute a whole social environmental movement, but to some extent I feel that it is, or at least supports an existing effort to be more mindful of our waste production, of our environment.

I feel that the process of making this installation itself reflects thoughtful interaction design. The way they collected used straws instead of using new ones itself is thoughtful. This is not new, of course, making art through recycling or upcycling.

The result of the installation is something impactful, putting humans in a smaller scale, highlighting the magnitude of this environmental issue.

Week 7: Visiting the Asian Civilisations Museum

It’s so difficult to choose a favorite object! I liked different artefacts for different reasons – the colours, the materials, the stories behind them!

Also, I didn’t get to look at everything in detail as I had to rush off for a quiz back in school. Due to that, I didn’t get a chance to take pictures either!

However, I have some memory from when I visited the ACM a previous time, and I remember that one of the artefacts that caught my eye was this box (I shall make use of the available online database)

Mother-of-pearl casket, gilded silver pins and mounts, 16th century, Gujarat, India, collection of Asian Civilisations Museum

The casket is made of teak and covered with mother-of-pearl plaques held in place by small gilded silver nails. The lock is made with openwork silver, with leaves and scrolls. The central plaque is embellished with engravings and niello, of rich floral motifs. One of the most attractive aspects of this piece is the magnificent quality of the mother-of-pearl plaques which have a natural pinkish-blue hue. The finely engraved gilded silver appliqués on the sides are later added and exhibits a strong European influences. This casket may have been made to store valuables such as jewellery, but were sometimes also used as reliquaries for religious items.

– Roots.sg website

Mother-of-pearl is a natural material that has been used since the earliest human civilisations. Famed for its unique, iridescent lustre, it has been used for various decorative, ornamental or in the past, ritualistic purposes. I personally think that it is a beautiful material, and I’ve always admired the precision and attention to detail on handmade objects/works.

The casket did not seem very Indian at all, due to the patterns and the engravings which are more reminiscent of European motifs, like the fleur-de-lis, that remind me of a coat of arms.

  

They were probably made by Indian craftsmen who were influenced by European styles, due to the trade relationships, or might even have been commissioned by the Europeans themselves, therefore the styles are adjusted to better cater to the European market, or for upper class Europeans who were living in India at the time.

Overall, I love the intricacy involved in the creation of this casket, and I think that the handmade quality gives it that much more its value.

 

 

4D (II) Project 3: Site-specific Storytelling – (Dis)connect Process

I can’t believe year 1 has come to an end! The past semester has been a great learning experience for me. I learnt so much in 4D and I have to say, it really is a journey of self-discovery.

This last project is a culmination of everything I’ve learnt in the past year. In the form of an installation, we were challenged to make use of a specific site in order to construct a narrative (hence the title of the project). We got together and discussed what topic we would like to expand on. 

IDEATION ◊ RESEARCH ◊ PLANNING

We did a lot of sharing on drive, and the bulk of our planning was done there.

This resulted in our project proposal.

The week leading up to the installation date, we did not really do much real preparation. We weren’t confident that out proposal would be accepted, and we were already anticipating on changing our ideas. To be honest, I knew that our installation idea had potential and that maybe Ruyi would want us to change just a few aspects to have more of a storytelling aspect. This anticipation made us discuss more about the storyline and fortunately, our idea was accepted.

With less than a week to prepare, we planned on how we were going to go about doing things. This is where my love for planning comes up and I am just in love with the spreadsheet Hwee Ann came up with. I mean, without it I will just waste my time and go about doing things blindly, so I’m very appreciative of the spreadsheets.


Logistics

Timeline

◊ STORYBUILDING ◊

The narrative is an important aspect to this installation. What can/would happen on the dining table? As I have learnt from the first project, character building is extremely important in creating believable characters, and ultimately, a believable story. We wanted ours to almost become a stereotypical story, but we properly made sure that the family is real.

Hence, we started off with character profiling. (Due to some miscommunication, I forgot to share the updated file with my friends, but here is the combined version:)

Since we aren’t telling the story in the traditional sense of a narrative, we knew that planning was crucial to ensure flow. The way the narrative would unfold is through the phone/iPad screens of the family members (personal narratives) and through a background audio (combined narratives). This way, we are not only showing the story by itself, but also showing it through the eyes of each character. This we hope could shine light on the characters’ personalities and give a closer look into their lives.

Again, we did it in excel to properly sync everything.

Originally, I felt that the installation should play for longer, at least 5 mins. However, after discussion, I realised that my teammates had a point about having the audience’s attention kept in check. A shorter video would mean the audience wouldn’t get bored easily.

Along the way, Debbie came up with an excellent idea of having a projection on the table that would show viewers the activities each character is going through on their respective devices. This was what I had in mind initially, but dismissed because I’d have no idea how to do it. However, once Debbie said that she has done projection mapping before, I was so elated because it would be a really cool and interactive effect! This was also to facilitate easier viewing for audiences who are in the room but are not using the goggles.

Afterwards, we realised that we didn’t have enough time to properly sync all the apps appearing on the projection table. Moreover, the table’s size didn’t allow for our ideas, otherwise they would appear too small so we scrapped the idea and decided to just show the conversation unfolding in chat bubbles. This was also to identify the characters sitting in which position on the table.

 

◊ EXECUTION ◊

 

With all said, we split the work. I focused on creating the goggles, Debbie did the projection mapping on the table and Hwee Ann focused on recording the phones/iPads usage, and editing the videos together. Check their process posts out to find out more from their side!!

Hwee Ann
Debbie

They did a really really good job on their parts and although I was hoping to help them out more on the editing side, I faced more challenges on making the goggles than I anticipated. However, I really loved how each of us brought our own strengths and experiences to the table and this I feel is the main reason why we work well with each other and could accomplish this much work in just over a weekend! I am so proud of what we have gone through.

For the goggles, I started making them during one of our meetings. I planned and started making the stands for the devices while Debbie worked on the animation and Hwee researched on how to record phone screens.

For the goggles, I had a specific idea in mind how it would accommodate the audience’s viewing pleasure and comfort. We wanted the viewers to be completely blocked off from their surroundings when looking at each screen, so I thought that simple trapeziums weren’t enough. Hence I designed a googles-attached scope… thing.

And I’m quite happy with the results! 

At first I think that Hwee Ann and Debbie expected for me to finish the goggles way faster (which I think so too), but thankfully, they understood when I faced some challenges and trusted me with the creation of the goggles. Thanks guys!


Another thing we did was sourcing the props for the installation. The ultimate musts were the table, chairs, dinnerware and goggles/stands. With the goggles done by me, and dinnerware provided by Debbie, we decided to source for tables and chairs in ADM so that it would be easier to set up.

Wonderful tables all around ADM, but this baby hidden underneath stacks of paper in the drawing room was the winner:

We found 3 chairs that were perfect with the table. And for the baby chair, thanks can 2. 

Other chairs that didn’t make it through elimination. Better luck next time, folks!

Immediately, we tested projection by covering the table with white mahjong paper and tilting it to gauge the distance needed between the projector and the table.

Since we had a normal sized projector, we started thinking of ways to mount the projector on the ceiling. We were quite innovative and thought of using a mirror to reflect the projection downwards while the projector is horizontal. However, after some testing with Hwee Ann, we realised that the size would be a problem. After Facebook calling Debbie who was at home working on the After Effects for the projection, we decided to try and hang it up anyways.

For sounds, Debbie went to visit her friend Celeste, who has a family and is currently pregnant! She recorded their voices as the mother and father, and Debbie herself acted as the teenager. We also recorded all the ambience and background sounds in school. From chewing sounds, to footsteps, chair dragging, and cutleries clinking. Overall, I think that Hwee Ann really did a good job in combining the sounds recorded to create a realistic dining room sound.

With the sound recording done and the mixing of the main background audio, it was easier to edit the individual videos and projection based on it so that everything would be synced.

Needless to say, it was hard work to put up the projector. We tried to be ingenious by hanging the projector in a bag with raffia strings, but right when we managed to get the projector in, it DIED on us. And the bulk of our set up was just to get the projector up. 

We changed strategies and with a newly loaned projector from Nevin, Mark, Brian and Nasya’s group (thanks guys omg), we tried using the mirror method, which worked because this projector’s projection was larger! Truly a blessing in disguise. Afterwards, the bulk of the work was reediting the table projection to fit the table and to edit the videos and sounds.

The projection had to be edited to fit the table set up. (And yay here are how the finished goggles look like)

After a long night during which I died for maybe an hour or so, we managed to pull through and while Hwee Ann and Debbie finished up the videos, I sourced for more things from the drawing room to set up our space. I felt that there was too much empty space since the table had to be under the projector, so I made use of existing furniture to create a living space. 

      

Us transporting props from the drawing room to 2-19

Here’s a behind the scenes of the set up:

Check out our final product in my final post!

Here are the screen recordings for the devices:

Baby

Dad

Emily 

Mom

Table Projection Mapping


◊ REFLECTION ◊

I feel very accomplished and am really happy that we pulled through this project.

On hindsight, we could have started earlier and went on with some parts of the project while waiting for the consultation with Ruyi, so that there were concrete things to comment on. We could have also improved more if we did this.

However, I also feel that we did a really good job despite the stress and pressure. We acted calmly, planned well, and overcame each hurdle step by step together. I also feel that we’ve conquered the installation and managed to address each aspect of an installation, from changing the audience’s perception of the space to taking note of how the audience interacts with our installation. I also feel that we have really put what we learnt this semester to good use. From crafting a believable story through character profiling, pursuing topics that relate to us so that we can tell authentic stories, to sound design and placing importance on the relationship between audience, artwork and artist.

I’m really thankful for this semester. I’ve learnt a lot about my weaknesses and what I have potentials to improve on. I’m also very inspired by my classmates’ works and I’m motivated to do better and better. Thanks to Ruyi and my classmates for a very fulfilling semester in 4D! I hope to use whatever I’ve learnt this sem for the future!

4D (II) Project 3: Site-specific Storytelling – (Dis)Connect

Set in the humble dinner table of a simple home, (Dis)Connect is a story of a modern family, who in their attempt to be connected to everyone else, instead forgets the most basic, important unit of connection: themselves as a family.

Combining sound design and projection mapping, our installation invites the audience into the personal and combined lives of a family immersed in new day technology.

Does technology connect or disconnect?


I’m really proud of my team for having produced this installation despite the challenges we faced and the short timing we had to fully execute our plans. I learnt a lot from this project, not only from what we had to do but also from my teammates. Without them, it wouldn’t have worked out! Many thanks to them!

For more about the process behind this installation, check out my process post!

4D (II) Exhibition Review 2 – Elysium Artists for the Arctic

When I was just a child, my favourite season was winter. The idea of ice-cold snow falling and covering the earth in white was a dreamy concept for me, having grown up in a tropical city. I’d imagine making friends with polar bears, going fishing in my fur coat and boots, and coming home to my comfy igloo.

While the fascination has worn off a little, I am still amazed by the Arctic, and would really like to visit it at least once in my lifetime. However, with global warming, my dream is threatened to stay what is is – a dream. I found out about “Elysium Artists for the Arctic” that is being exhibited at ION Art through an online promotion. It seemed to address my worries about my dream:

Elysium Artists for the Arctic began as an epic expedition to the high Arctic in August 2015. An explorer team of the worlds’ most renowned and respected photographers, cinematographers, explorers, artists and scientists, spent three weeks travelling through Norway, Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland, in an effort to both qualify and quantify human-induced climate change in the Arctic. Regarded by climatologists as one of the most enchanting and critically important ecosystem on our planet, the Arctic is not only fragile, but under severe threat from the warming of the world’s climate. 90% of earth’s most respected scientists agree that human activities are the principle driving force behind our current climate crisis.

– ION Orchard Webpage

Since I was going to be in the area anyways, I decided that I might as well visit the exhibition. After going to pick up my new phone (this is why I have my own pictures for this exhibition!!) from an aunt who helped to bring it to Singapore, I made my way to ION and headed for the gallery.

Greeted by a series of panels explaining the exhibition in short, I was excited for the films or documentaries that were said to be included in the list of works.

There were paw prints on the floor, so I followed them in. 

These two sets of photographs were on the corridor on the way into the main space.

This is what the entirety of the space looked like (there’s more on the right side of this picture) The paw prints led me in a circular path along the walls where the photos were hung, with quotes printed under them in varying sizes. 

Here were some that stood out to me:
I feel so scared for the little polar bear, clearly forced out of its elements just to hunt for its survival!


I love the pictures of the icebergs, they are beautifully captured, illuminating the deep sea.


Some evoke empathy in viewers.


I like the placement of the photographs that illustrate a story about the polar bears.

There were also two videos playing in different sections.  

Since the gallery was closing, I couldn’t stay to watch the entirety of the videos, but the idea I get is that they were showing some footage of their exhibition, with polar bears roaming around sparse snowy mounds and audio of different people explaining the Arctic’s demise. 


Overall, there were some photographs that stood out and made me wonder about the fate of the Arctic and our world in general, should we continue to be negligent about changing our destructive ways.

However, I do think that the exhibition was lacking in a number of ways that undermined its potential to stir up a more concrete response from the audience.

First of all, I felt that the usage of space could have been much better. Instead of just going around the walls, maybe they could have partitioned the space into areas that showcase different parts of the Arctic, such as icebergs, glaciers, polar bears, and seals separately. This arrangement would feel less random and would make use of the empty space in the middle better.

I also felt that if they maybe dimmed the lighting and use spotlights on the photos and quotes, it would create a darker and more serious mood, in accordance with their message.

The videos could have been much more engaging too, I feel, as they were presenting the facts in a monotonous manner. They could have played more with the use of music and not just spew out facts. I also think that the videos simply being played on the standing TVs, with no specific area dedicated to them, weakened their impact.

It would have garnered more attention if they were played with projectors on the walls.

All in all, I like the message they are trying to bring through, but I feel that the exhibition did not do their expedition justice. I understand that there may be limitations not known to the audience, and this is what they could come up with. The paw prints did bring a small element of interactivity, though.

It is hard to believe that the Arctic truly is melting and that there is a possibility that future generations may only know of it through history books.


After going for this small exhibition, I learnt quite a number of things about art presentation and how this could affect audience’s perceiving of our work. I really think that although the space was small, the exhibition could have so much more impact than it has now, if the presentation was enhanced!

4D (II) Exhibition Review 1 – Lock Route

I visited Gillman Barracks a couple of weeks ago, and just a heads up, the pictures here are taken from the internet and from the artists themselves, because I lost my phone and therefore couldn’t take any pictures myself cry.


◊ LOCK ROUTE ◊

There are quite a lot of exhibitions going on at Gillman Barracks and the one that stood out was the public LOCK ROUTE, which is accessible 24 hours a day. There were 16 works by 15 artists/collectives, and they were spread across the outdoor area of Gillman Barracks. 

Curated by Khairuddin Hori, LOCK ROUTE is inspired by the 24 km march taken by ‘graduating’ army recruits in Singapore. It also makes use of Gillman Barracks’ history of being of former military use. 

It is really interesting to see the outdoor works and I love the interactive qualities they have. Many families were also there and there were plenty of children running around and playing with the artworks or looking at them with wonder.

Spread over a large area, it is actually quite time consuming to visit every work, so for some of the works, I simply had a short look. I will write about some of my favourite ones (and include pictures of whatever I can find on the internet!)

Ok so first up here’s a random video I found on Youtube that shows all 16 works (although not very clearly)

I’ve always had a fascination for large-scale artworks, so “Land of Shadows” by Cleon Peterson really captured my attention. 

gillmanbarracks.com


luxuo.com

I love how minimalistic the style is, how the white building is being engulfed by the black figures, and how they were wrapping around the walls. It makes me think of possibilities of stories behind it, why do they look like they are fighting, what are they doing? Are they trying to protect the house? What is happening?

I also like the fact that it can conjure up such a response from me despite how simple it is. Moreover, the style is unique to the artist, just as Keith Haring’s human figures are iconic.

“Constellation of One” by Kirsten Berg also caught my eye.

both from ajugglingmom.com

Set against a natural backdrop, the mirror geometrical sculpture indeed looks out of place. It was fun to look at, as the many convex mirrors, along with flat ones, reflect an interesting view of the surrounding. The shape itself also makes me think of whether it is from outer space and induces a child-like wonder in me. (Especially with all the kids making funny faces around me)

“Kampung Singa” by Sheryo is a structure that allowed for people to go in, there was a small cosy space inside with plants hanging from a ceiling that allowed some light to pass through.

mommychuck.com

arthop.co

mummychuck.com

“Goyang Cukur” by indieguerillas also caught my eye. Apparently, during some sessions, real barbers would be there to give haircuts! I didn’t witness this, but I imagine it’d be a fun experience. I also like the colourful nature of the work and the cacophony of materials used in the sculpture/installation. I noticed that the human puppets are reminiscent of Indonesian wayang kulit puppets (shadow puppets), and it turns out that the artists that make up indieguerillas are from Indonesia!


Looking at everything, I’m not really sure if LOCK ROUTE had a specific theme or any reason why Khairuddin Hori chose to exhibit them together, but I had fun walking around to discover artworks that were around the corner, or going up small hills to look at the works in closer detail.

A particular takeaway from this exhibition is the interactivity. I’ve always liked interactivity in artworks because personally, it engages me more and makes it more memorable, and this was a memorable exhibition indeed. Interestingly, I think that I had more fun there because many kids were present. Them having fun around the artworks brought the mood up and made me enjoy the artworks more too.

 

 

 

 

4D (II) Project 2: Sound and Image – Process

< For the final video, check this post!>

Ever since I found out about the existence of foley artists a couple of years back, I have always marvelled at the seemingly effortless sound experience films produce.

This project was my first actual attempt at recording my own foley for a video, and I have to admit that it really was not as easy as I imagined it would be.

When thinking of soundtracks, I immediately thought of the soundtrack used for the end credits of Grey’s Anatomy. 

I think that it really is magical how the song fits the story, how the beeps are reminiscent of the beeping of machines in hospitals. Animations by Guldies were also the ones that opened my mind to how sound design is extremely important in any kind of film or video production: 

Euphoria (I can’t seem to post the direct video here)

The sound design really gives the videos life, and this brought light to me about how foley is extremely important to create not only believable scenes, but also bring about mood and character.

In class, Ruyi taught us about diegetic and non-diegetic sounds, and how to use these to create an atmosphere.

Diegetic Non-diegetic
a.k.a. actual sound a.k.a. commentary sound
Characters’ voices Narrator’s voice (Voiceover)
Sounds of objects in frame Ambient sounds for dramatic effect
Music if it comes from objects in frame Music to create mood
Both combined to create a dramatised but real experience to viewers

Here were some other websites where I learnt more about sound design and foley:

  • Storytelling with Sound on Vimeo
  • Storytelling with Sound Design on Musicbed
  • Sound as a way of telling stories on Gareth Stack

◊ IDEATION, RESEARCH ◊

For this project, I teamed up with Hwee Ann and Debbie. First thing we did was to list down ideas, which we did over Google docs. We researched about the different types of parallel storylines, and also possible story ideas, storylines and a script.

Some story ideas

We decided to work on Debbie’s idea surrounding an eating disorder and how it is hidden behind a façade of healthy lifestyle.

More brainstorming and initial script by Debbie

ANOREXIA

As for myself, since I have little exposure to eating disorders, I went to research more online, from its types, symptoms, to causes and treatment.

This website was quite helpful in giving a summarised explanation on anorexia.

So, out of the types, we chose to show how the character was not only cutting on calorie intake, but she was also doing everything she can to reduce and/or get rid of the calories already in her body.

CHARACTERS

A summary of Sarah, the girl with anorexia:
Obsessed with beauty ideals constantly fed to her through media such as magazines, television, and most significantly social media, Sarah starts starving herself, purging, and over-exercising in an effort to be like her idols. Her depression and eating habits are masked through the use of social media, which easily allows her to craft the persona of someone living a healthy lifestyle. This starts taking over her life, as priorities shift from academics to achieving an unrealistic figure.

A summary of Hui Xin, the roommate:
Hui Xin, in contrast to Sarah, is a happy-go-lucky girl who happens to be a foodie. She does not care about meeting beauty standards and instead focuses on truly living a healthy lifestyle with equal parts exercise and equal parts indulgence. She busies herself with school work and likes watching extreme eating videos in her free time. She maintains a close relationship with her roommate but fails to notice any at risk behaviour, not only because they spend little time together due to their own schedules, but also because she believes Sarah’s online persona.

FINAL STORYBOARD

We decided that we want to have 3 points of intersection in the timelines of our two characters.

We came up with a storyboard and list of scenes for filming. Meanwhile, we would also take note of what each scene shows/means, i.e. the subtext behind the action or shot.

Summary of our general storyline showing the parallels of the two characters

◊ FILMING ◊

Filming was fun. We did it over two days and also used a Zoom recorder to record as we film. 

SETTING UP THE SPACE

 

Sarah’s desk is filled with cutouts of girls, “perfection”, a reminder of her idols and ideals. It is also covered in beauty products such as various lotions and a hairdryer. They take up 70% of the space, with the rest being several books and a handful of photographs.

Hui Xin’s desk (forgot to take a proper picture) is filled with more personal things, but most of all food. There are also articles on food pinned up.

SHOOTING

The way we approached shooting was to capture as many angles as possible, so that we would have shots at our disposal for editing. We also took note of lighting as to describe the time of each scene.

It was quite difficult to get the room night scenes right because the footage will get really grainy, too dark, or out of focus. 

Turning off all the lights would be too dark, so we turned on one of the desk lights. However, the reflection on the bathroom door became too obvious, so in the end we covered it up with a towel.

Shooting went well. Only afterwards when reviewing the shots did we realise that many of our shots were too grainy, desaturated or out of focus. Also, since we used 2 cameras, some of the colours turned out very different. This is one learning point for future filming, to make sure that the settings on the cameras are optimal.

◊ EDITING ◊

I had my own vision of the overall film. I wanted to emphasise on the over-exercising part of Sarah’s eating disorder. I wanted to show her really pushing herself beyond her limits, but in a negative way. I also wanted to hint at how this is affecting her psychologically.

For the sound, I completely disregarded the use of any form of music, since we were encouraged to use other means of sound design other than music to create mood.

Inspired by the music video for “If I Get High” by Nothing But Thieves, I really wanted to include a dream sequence.

I thought that I could make use of it to establish Sarah’s state of mind and condition. In my version, I made use of the alarm tone to integrate the dream sequence into the real life. I included split second shots of “beauty ideals”, Sarah sitting in front of her desk filled with these “beauty ideals”, and shots of crunching chips. At first I included the sounds for all of these, but eventually decided to make it silent except for the alarm tone and a humming sound that increases in intensity.

In the end, I had to exclude some shots because my video was way exceeding the limits of the duration. During editing, I also realised that I was missing some shots I needed. Since it would be too troublesome to shoot again, I had to improvise and make do with the shots we already had. 

In line with my idea of showing Sarah’s over-exercising, I sequenced the shots in such a way that it seems as if Sarah is exerting herself, especially in running. This is done through repeating shots and using various angles to show how Sarah runs again and again.

At the end, I alternated shots of Sarah’s evening run with Hui Xin’s being in the library, studying, and then walking back while snacking. This is to contrast their lifestyles and also to give the impression that Sarah runs for a really long period of time.

I cut from the call scene to a shot of Sarah biting into the apple straightaway to highlight her lying. In this scene too, I decided to not show Sarah purging at all, but instead use a focus shot on the thrown away, bitten apple, and shots of Hui Xin and her eating videos. These are some of the shots I decided to intersect with solely the puking sounds:

Each shot was aimed to juxtapose the puking sounds.

More on sounds, it was quite fun to record my own foley. From footsteps to biting, door opening, turning off the lights, panting, and many more, I used the Zoom mic in order to record the sounds as accurately as possible. I also recorded white noise by turning up the recording level on the mic and recording silence.

Since we already had a live recording of the sounds that correspond to the shots taken by the camera, I used them as reference to decide whether the sounds I built were accurate or not. I layered the recorded sounds and controlled the volume for the white noise and recordings of the surroundings in order to weave a believable scene.

At most seven audio layers were used in editing.

For the recording, I actually recorded everything in accordance with what they actually are. Then I adjusted the volumes so that they would be very subtle and not too out of place, and I added layers of white noise and ambience sounds to make it as close to the real recording sounds as possible.

When watching the final product again, I realised how the white noise was instead drowning out all the subtle foley sounds I recorded. There were also parts in which I felt I could adjust the volume better. Somehow, it did not come to my mind at all to include sounds of phone-tapping or phone ringing when Sarah received a call. I find it quite hilarious how I missed out such a simple thing.

After watching my friends’ videos, it came upon me how I was too focused on making it realistic that I forgot to utilise sound to develop the mood more. I could have used internal hushed voices to intensify the mirror scene, or some piano tones to accentuate some scenes. I realised that by ruling music out completely, I missed out on chances to use just certain pitches and tones to describe the mood or create pacing.

 

◊ REFLECTION ◊

I think that going through this project opened my eyes on so many levels. 

MESSAGE/SUBTEXT

First of all, I feel that I’ve tried to fit in too much for a 5 min video. There were too many things going on that it becomes rather unclear what my main message is supposed to be. Also, I feel that a lot of the actions could have been more subtle.

Duane mentioned that perhaps we could have focused on the characters’ relationships with other people rather than the actions they go through by themselves, or too explicitly showcasing the “food” side of anorexia. This I find a really interesting comment as it is true that eating disorders go beyond the motions people go through, as they also affect the sufferers’ relationships with their surroundings.

HUI XIN

The three of us also agreed that we have not developed Hui Xin as a character sufficiently. After the submission, we talked about how we could have given Hui Xin more personality. Instead of simply liking food and superficially showing her eating and watching videos of eating, we could have made her a food blogger instead.

She could have been a passionate food writer who writes her own food blog or publishes articles on food in magazines. Then, instead of shots of her going through mundane everyday motion, we could have had shots of Hui Xin on one of her trips to a cafe or restaurant documenting the food, and writing about it afterwards. This we feel would give the character more depth and more chances of interacting with Sarah in a meaningful way.

SOUND

Most of all, I learnt that sound design really isn’t as simple as replicating sounds in real life. I think that for my video, I focused too much on replicating sounds of the real world that I’ve forgotten to create any distinguishing mood or feel, although this is exactly what I always reminded myself to do. I’ve sort of strayed from my original intentions. I feel that while I did a lot of research and learnt a lot from them, I did not succeed in applying what I learnt effectively.

I learnt quite a bit of new things when watching my friends’ videos. I also realised many things that I failed to notice when editing my video: 

  • Usage of internal voices to describe mental state and thoughts
  • Symbolic sounds (waves, clock-ticking, heartbeat)
  • Sound dynamics
  • Subtle music to describe surroundings

OVERALL

Although I feel that I really could have done much better for this assignment, I am glad to have gone through this project because I will definitely try to learn from my mistakes and from what I realise that I can do better. I also had a great time working with Debbie and Hwee Ann whom I learnt a lot from. It has been an eye-opening experience and I hope to improve from here then on!

4D(II) Project 2: Sound and Image – Obsessed

Another challenging project that helped me learn so many things. This time, it was all about sound design. After my group mates and I developed a storyline and shot it, we each edited the footages according to our own artistic vision.

Our story in particular revolves around the relationship between roommates, one anorexic and one oblivious. Here is my take: Obsessed.

For detailed explanation of our process, from ideation to filming, editing, and my personal reflection, check out my process post!

Also, check out Hwee Ann’s and Debbie’s versions!