Warts and All: This Digital Composition Failed

This past weekend, I had this concept in my head about trying to make a statement about how the technology we use hems us in as much as it broadens our possibilities. I could see the pieces unfolding, as a series of videos told in a combination of contained tech-generated pieces that slowly move into a video piece with just me speaking in my own voice.

It looked great in my head.

I went into Tellegami and used the text option to create the first videos. I wanted that computerized voice to speak the lines about constraints (although this is no reflection on Tellegami, which I enjoy). Then, as the third piece unfolded, I would add my real voice to the mix, ending on the fourth video without Tellegami.

It doesn’t look so great on the screen.

In fact, I almost killed the whole thing after I published it because the effect for me is a big “yawn.” Instead, I figured might be valuable to figure out why it didn’t work. I’m so used to only sharing the pieces that I like and the ones that came together, but just like in the classroom where there should be a “warts and all” reality around solid writing (it doesn’t appear magically), I figured it might make sense to think about where this digital piece went off the rails for me.

First of all, I admit: I winged the writing. Normally, I would have spent more time writing what I wanted to say. Oh, I knew the “Message” of the piece but I forgot a crucial element: the rhythm of words as a whole piece so that each part is like a stanza of the poem so that each piece works off the other in a rather organic way. I was sort of rushed for time and decided to forgo writing down the “script” and the playing with words, as I so often do. So, instead, with each segment, I was inventing the lines in my head on the spot and each time I recorded (I had to do each a few times), it came out a little different. The result is something less than cohesive to me, to my ear. It doesn’t sound right. The words are not complementary to the whole.

Second, while I do like Tellegami, I was struck by some of the automated voice limitations and by the limitations of what the character looks like (I know, this is ironic, given the theme of the piece). I struggled to keep perspective on how these limitations could help the message, but I never bought it on the creative side. This push/pull nature of creating with digital tools can make for the frustrating experience of “settling for the results” as opposed to making it work the way your creative mind wants it to work. This is the tension around agency.

Third, I didn’t realize until later (or rather, I forgot) that Tellegami adds a little Tellegami tag at the end of each video. That’s what you get with a free app. Normally, it’s not a big deal. But here, where the piece is built around a hand-off of ideas from one video segment to another, that delay for advertising is jolting. Any cohesion immediately gets lost as we wait around for the ad to finish. That drives me crazy.

Finally, I used my latest favorite app (PicPlayPost) to pull the videos together into one media collage but tinkering with settings and playing with the layout never got me to where I wanted to be. I can’t explain what I was aiming for, really, except to say that the way the video “looks” is not how I “saw” it in my head, and that disconnect with the vision of the piece is why the entire composition fails for me. (And the audio levels drive me nutty, too, even though I did some tweaking with it. That has to do with my iPad, which is an older version and has some microphone difficulties).

I’d love to know what you, the outside observer, think about the piece. Be critical. I can take it.


Peace (in the piece),

  1. I have only had a chance to look over your very honest thinking out loud. It is rare to see process so carefully lined out and I think it what is needed most. All hail the big fail that now in mind doesn’t look like a big fail at all.

    I will look very closely at this tonight and give remarks that might edge up toward being thoughtful and useful. When you mentioned script and the lack of it I was reminded how they are necessary but that there must be something larger in a truly engaging piece–a story, verisimilitude. Your story of ‘failure’ here is a total success. Maybe it points on to something else even better. I promise to look more closely tonight.

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