Is easily created media good media?

So yesterday in class we were assigned to create a digital photo story. We weren’t given much more direction than that and Keri and Kathy are clear about how that is intentional. They want us to explore platforms and the process on our own and learn from the experience. Here are some of my thoughts on what happened.

First off, in the morning we created a small digital photo essay. Kathy listed several programs that we could use, and I chose Animoto. I had heard the name Animoto before, but I had no prior experience with it. It’s web-based and extremely easy to use. I mean extremely easy to use. Animoto is not a program. The better term for Animoto is ‘wizard’. You pull it up and a sequence of screens prompt you to first choose background animations, load pictures, load music, and then that’s it. You’re done. And like many other slick web-based platforms they remind you at every turn that more options and features are available with the paid version of Animoto. Primary among those paid options is the ability to create a video longer than 30 seconds!! The result of my effort in the morning is a 30 second long video that looks amazing. Here it is:

When the afternoon came around we set to work on creating a more substantial digital photo essay. I chose to create a larger version of the one I was working on that morning with Animoto, but this time I ended up using iMovie. Unlike Animoto, iMovie is not web-based. It is a much larger, much more powerful program that actually takes some knowledge to use effectively. While my morning video lasted for 30 seconds and took ten minutes to make, the video I made in the afternoon was approximately 2 and 1/2 minutes long and took the entire afternoon to create. Here it is:

So my reflection on this process is this: Animoto is crap. For people who don’t necessarily care about contributing new and original things to the world or have any kind of personality to speak of it’s perfect. If you care about being original and creating something that is distinctly you then choose a different platform. An obvious parallel to this is what is happening right now with digital photo sharing websites. A friend of mine commented recently to me, “I used to take really cool pictures, and I still do, but so does everyone else, and they don’t have any of the technical knowledge I had to work so hard to attain in order to take those images.” Manipulation of images is reaching a level of sophistication now that applying color filters and other visual effects is a matter of clicking a check box. And in the case of programs that produce larger works such as Animoto what is being produced looks very attractive, but is it really charged with the personality of its creator?

Here is a short and simple example of what I’m talking about. When using iMovie to create my digital photo essay I used an mp3 of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” which was about 2 and 1/2 minutes long. I set all my photos to display for a duration of five seconds and consequently had a presentation that lasted much longer than the background music. I painstakingly shaved a few seconds off of certain photos, made editorial decisions about what photos were necessary to advance the ‘story’ of my wedding day and which were pointless or redundant, and through that process I thought deeply about what I wanted to accomplish with my composition. I created a small and subtle emphasis on my wife through the piece. Photos of her are displayed anywhere from a second to a second and a half longer than photos of me. Once I was finally done, Keri noted that the piece ended neatly with the end of the music, and she asked me, “Did you press the button that does that automatically?” My response was immediate and pained, “There’s a button that does that?” I could have saved a lot of time, but had I done that, I would not have paid the level of attention to my piece that I did. And really, I wouldn’t like it as much as I do now. That’s worth something. Certainly worth the time I spent. When our media is produced so easily, is it as meaningful to us? I wonder.


3 Responses to “Is easily created media good media?”

  1. Allison Kauffmann Says:

    I love your final question. As I have stumbled through these projects this week, I have found a little more worth in the process. Now if I could get past the frustration and learn to embrace it…but thanks for putting this feeling into words!

  2. Julie Says:

    I did the same thing with Windows Movie Maker. I spent a good hour stretching and cutting photos to fit the music, then when I was all dont and satisfied, I saw the button that says “fit to music.”
    I’ve been getting really frustrated this week, but at least I am getting it out now and I can do it with more ease next time!

  3. Megan Collene Says:

    I saw Keri’s tweet about your button comment, and see an instance where sometimes being concise isn’t worth the time saved–both in the actions of your story and the telling of it.

    I agree with your comment about today’s photo manipulation and how easy it’s become. I will always consider photography “art,” but nowadays, I hardly consider any photographers who simply layer filters “artists.” Do they still take pride in their pictures when it’s becoming so easy?

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