Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Process of Planning an Animated Infographic

The funny thing about creative projects is it’s very easy to do one of two tings: Jump right into creating something or feel overwhelmed by the blank page in front of you. The problem with both of these scenarios is there is no planning involved. And as we learned in our Pre-Production class, lack of planning costs more time, money and includes more roadblocks.

That’s why when I sat down to work on my latest Post-Production assignment, an animated infographic, I decided I was going to invest in the pre-production process before jumping into creating it. And it really made things go smoothly, and I’m very pleased with the outcome.

Everyone has a different process, but I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about the planning process through completing my assignments.

Step 1: Understand the concept and choose a topic

We were given an assignment to create an animated infographic based on a topic we chose. An infographic is a visual way to represent information. I began planning for my project by watching several animated infographics to get a better understanding of what they were and get some ideas. I chose to create a self-promotional infographic. I thought it would serve a dual purpose of showing future employers I could make a video like this and also present information about myself.

Step 2: Gather, Group and Organize the Facts

Now that I knew what an animated infographic was and had a topic to pursue, it was time to gather the facts. I tried to quantify facts about myself since much of the infographics I saw included lots of statistics. I wrote down how many blogs I’ve written, how many social media accounts I’ve managed, years of experience I had in certain fields and more. I then took my long list of facts and grouped them into categories and put those categories into an order that seemed logical to me. In the margins I made a few notes and thumbnail drawings of the images and animations I thought I might use.

Step 3: Storyboard the video and choose a visual theme

At this point I was feeling very good about the project. Ideas were coming to me, and I could see it staring to form in my head. I drew a storyboard in my notebook of the different panels I would create. I jotted notes on the animations I would use to move from panel to panel. I chose a color scheme and the fonts for the video.

Step 4: Create the Graphics

Based on the storyboard, I knew what graphics I was going to create. Some of my graphics I was going to need to create in Photoshop before working in After Effects, where the video would be put together. This step was very helpful. If I had jumped right into working in After Effects, I would have been jumping between After Effects and Photoshop, creating the graphic once I got to that part in the video. While this would have worked just fine I assume, the workflow went much smoother.

I should also mention that this is when I created a folder specifically for this project. All my files went into this folder. That way, I wouldn’t have trouble finding where my files were and if I needed to move the project to another computer or storage device, it would be very simple to do so.

Step 5: Create the Video

When I opened a new project in After Effects, I imported the graphics I made in Photoshop. I followed the storyboard I made earlier. I made a few changes as I began to put it together, but there really wasn’t much trial and error like you have when you jump right into making something without planning.

Even though this project was complicated, by researching and planning I didn’t feel overwhelmed. There was no staring at a blank project, getting stuck part way through making the video or starting over because I didn’t like what I made. I think I ended up with a video that has a well thought out and has a consistent look. I’m glad I invested in the planning process.

How do you plan creative projects? Please share your tips and thoughts in the comments.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Have We Really Come This Far Already?

It wasn’t until I saw a post on my Facebook newsfeed that I realized how far along we are into the semester. The post was from Moraine Park reminding those who will be graduating this December to fill out their graduation candidacy form ASAP if they haven’t already. When I read that I realized that message pertained to me. I’m earning my Audio-Video Certificate this semester. With classes, the holidays coming up and making plans for the future, it’s easy to forget something like that.

At this point of the semester I’ve completed quite a few projects for my classes. I’m really proud of this last one. I incorporated four or five elements from scratch to create a promo graphic for the IMD (Interactive Media Design) program. I based the design on elements I’ve seen used in the news graphics I’m fond of. I also found this assignment to be very practical. I could see myself using something similar to this in the future.


In my Pre-Production class we have determined crew requirement and equipment requirements for a TV commercial. Next, we’ll be researching actual talent (the actors in the commercial).  In order to better understand the pre-production process, the commercial we chose at the beginning of the semester is the one we base all our assignments on. I am at the point right now that I feel I could actually film this commercial for real (well, after we finish the last few lesson plans that are important parts of the pre-production process, of course).

Besides focusing on my projects for homework, I’m also working on projects at my internship. Recently I’ve created a 3-D rotating sphere with a logo, which will be placed in the bottom corner of one of their TV programs. While editing some green screen backgrounds, I was taught how to manipulate the image for a three-point camera set up. I’m excited to see what that will look like once the footage has been added.

In between putting in some internship hours, class and work, I decided to stop in on an IMD/Graphics Club meeting to see what they were up to. Right now they are working on getting things in order for their annual poster sale. Students in the club create posters and they raffle them off.  It sounds like a great way for students to improve their skills and use their talent to raise money for the club. I got to see a few examples one member was working on and they looked great! I also heard the club may go on a trip to a comic convention in Chicago. How fun!

It’s been a really great semester so far, and I’m looking forward to finishing the semester the same way. Good luck to my fellow schoolmates who are also working hard these last few weeks of the semester.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Opportunities for Photography Lovers on Campus

I was kindly invited to the first-ever Photography Club meeting by a fellow photography enthusiast. I was curious to find out what kind of expectations the potential members had for this new club. Fortunately, I was able to go to the meeting, and I’m really excited about the possibilities of this group.

A photo I took while out for a nature walk
Everybody who came had great ideas to share. The club would like to contribute to our college by taking photos of events on campus, such as the pinning ceremony for the nursing students. The club may invest in some t-shirts so we can be identified as photographers during these campus events. Weather pending, we could go photo-hiking and capture images of nature in Wisconsin. We also spoke of the possibility of offering family Christmas portraits for students and their families. Along with taking photos with a purpose, we may have an educational aspect to the club so we can learn more about cameras and software.

If you’re interested in joining the club, our next meeting is Tuesday, October 28 at 11:30am in the West Bend cafeteria. Bring your ideas and your camera.

Other new clubs have been formed this semester besides the Photography Club. If you’re interested in extracurricular activities for fun or for your resume, ask your instructors, fellow students or see your Student Involvement Specialist. There’s something for everyone, and if there isn’t, you can help create a new club that suits your interests or career goals.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

How I Answered the Question, What Should I Go to College For?

Photo credit - Ashley Kaul
I think it’s pretty rare for someone to know exactly what he or she wants to be when they grow up. No matter what stage you are in life– an 8th grader, a high school senior, a college student or 40-something– that question can be difficult to answer.

Technology makes it even more complicated because old job positions become obsolete, and new job positions are created all the time. In middle school I was taught that computers were going to be very important in our future jobs, but there was no way of knowing then that the job title, Social Media Manager would be something you could hold. Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist then– if you can even imagine!

So, how do you choose what to major in or what program to pursue when there seems to be so many possibilities and they are changing all the time?

Through my own experiences I have a few suggestions that may lead you down the right path in choosing a major or program when you want to go to college but you don’t know what you want to study.

Ask Yourself What You’ve Taught Yourself to Do in Your Spare Time

I’ve heard advice similar to this. Whatever you like to do in your spare time, that’s what you should be doing as a career. Well, I like watching TV in my spare time, but I can’t really make a career out of that, can I? That’s why I think the real question to ask yourself is, what have you pursued in your free time that required effort, learning and practice? This is the question that’s helped me on my current career path. What was I actively learning to do in my spare time? Was there a new skill I was teaching myself?

After watching YouTube videos I was inspired to create my own videos. I opened up the editing program that came with my computer, and I followed tutorials. I investigated the software, tinkered around with it and found out what it was capable of doing. I looked to forums when I had questions. I was learning without realizing I was learning. I was learning on my own without someone telling me I needed to learn it. That was a good sign that I had the drive to pursue video editing. What’s also great about learning some things on my own is that I was already slightly ahead of the game when I started taking my audio-video editing classes.

Visit the Career Center

Photo credit - Ashley Kaul
I think the most helpful thing you can do if you really have no idea what kind of job you want is to visit the Career Center. If you aren’t sure what kind of job would be interesting to you or aren’t sure what your strengths are, they will be able to help you figure out both in the most tangible way possible.

At the Career Center, you can take a series of aptitude and interest assessments. Some of these assessments include the MBTI (personality preference), Strong Interest Inventory (career personality/interest), CareerScope (interest and aptitude), EDITs (CAPS - aptitude, COPES- values and COPS-interest), Values assessment, Motivated Skills and more.

When you merge these types of assessments, you find out where your interests and abilities overlap and are provided with a list of jobs that are likely to suit you. The people in the Career Center will print out this information and discuss it with you so you can understand what it all means. They will help you choose the appropriate program to enroll in so you can pursue specific careers. They have the tools for you to research these careers as well so you can narrow down the list.

Photo credit - Ashley Kaul
If you are interested in this option, I recommend taking the Career Assessment Course. It only takes a few hours of your time during one day to complete. I took it, and I think it’s a great way to learn more about yourself, your interests and the skills you already have that can be applied in the classroom and in your future job. It’s available at all three Moraine Park campuses (Fond du Lac, West Bend and Beaver Dam) and it’s FREE for everyone – students, prospective students and the general public.

The Career Center is an invaluable resource in any stage of your career life. I recommend checking out their other workshops: LinkedIn, Dressing for Success, Interview Tips and Practice, and the Job Search, just to name a few. To find out more information, visit the Career Center’s webpage.

Look at Programs

Look at the list of programs MPTC has to offer and find one that is interesting to you. Click on the list of required classes and their descriptions. If you think you’d like to take the majority of those classes, it may be the right program for you. I did this when I decided that I wanted to learn more about video editing. I clicked on the Audio-Video Certificate classes, read the description and I wanted to take all the classes. I wanted to learn how to do everything that the description said was taught in those classes.

Conduct Informational Interviews/Job Shadow a Professional

Talking to someone who’s currently working in the field you’re interested in is a great way to see what a career is like from the perspective of someone who’s living it. You’ll be able to ask questions about what they like and don’t like about the job, what their job duties consist of and what a typical day for them is like. This is also a great way to network and/or find a mentor.

Volunteer to Get a Feel for the Atmosphere

Do you think you’d like to work in a hospital? Do you think you’d like to work in a school? Find a way to volunteer in the work environment where your potential career is located. It’s also a good way to find out what kinds of people you’d like to work with such as children, the elderly or some other demographic.

By following the above suggestions, I was able to really narrow in on the kind of career I want. I took assessments to find out what I liked and learned what skills I possessed. I discovered a hobby that was more than just a hobby. I’ve volunteered different places to see what atmosphere suited me. I learned what age group and type of people I was most interested in working with. I learned about the job market and how to make myself more employable. It’s a process, but it is well worth it when you get to enjoy the outcome.

If you have other suggestion for how you chose your program, major or career, please share in the comments.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mud, Camera… Action!

My friends participating in a Tough Mudder jump
We live in a time where people want to share their experiences with more than words; they want to share them in photographs and videos. And they want to share it with more than just their friends and family; they want to share it with the world. Technology has allowed us to do just that. This was evident to me when I was a spectator at a Tough Mudder event recently.

I saw several participants with GoPro cameras attached to their heads. No doubt they were going to share footage from these small, HD cameras on an online platform such as YouTube or Vimeo. I think that’s pretty cool, especially since I would never participate in such an extreme event, to see what it’s like to complete these mud-covered obstacles from their point of view.

I spot some GoPros!
I also saw some other cool video and audio technologies on my first day of my internship. After filling out some paperwork and signing in, I was shown around the offices, storage rooms and studio. There were cameras, computers, microphones and switchboards. There was a lot of things new to me, too, so I don’t remember what all the equipment and systems were called. I haven’t done any work yet, but it sounds like I will be doing some editing soon.

In my Post-Production class, we’re learning how to work in 3-D space in Adobe After Effects. You can create layers, say, with city skylines, and zoom through the space between them. You can also take flat images, give them depth and animate them. I’m working on a project with an After Effects icon I built in the program for practice. It’s really awesome to picture something in your head and create it in a program exactly how you imagined it.

Speaking of brining a concept to reality, we’re learning the beginning stages of how to do just that in my Pre-Production class: Taking an idea and turning it into something visual. During our last meeting, we looked at commercial scripts and learned how to line them. This is what you do to plan what shots you need. From that, you can build a storyboard. Our assignment this week requires us to do these activities on our own.

Between homework, classes, the internship and work, I’m trying to get some friends together to play disc golf at the West Bend campus. I played for the first time last year and it was a blast. I figured we should do it now while the weather is good enough to enjoy being outside. Let’s hope I can squeeze it in soon because it looks like Mother Nature might race through the fall season.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Labor Day with the President of the United States

Ticket to see the president's speech
I had the whole day free. No class. No work. So when my dad invited me to march with his union in the Labor Day parade in Milwaukee, I said yes. And after I said yes, something exciting happened.

It was announced on the news that President Obama was going to be speaking at Laborfest. How awesome, I thought, but I was sure that people would be lined up for miles to get tickets. I probably wouldn’t see him. But then I heard on the radio that those marching in the parade would receive tickets to hear the President speak… That meant me! I was going to hear the President of the United States speak in person. Wow.

We left early that morning because we figured security was going to be tight. We wore shirts with the union logo and carried flags. They provided us with ponchos when it started to rain right before we lined up. But as it was time to start walking, the rain let up and we were able to take our ponchos off and march down the streets of Milwaukee. Our marching took us down to the Summerfest grounds where the President was to speak at one of the stages.

Lining up for the parade
As the ticket had explained, we went through airport-like security. They checked our tickets, our purses, and I walked through a metal detector. Surprisingly, we got there early enough to sit on the benches. I was glad to have a seat after marching quite a distance in what had now become a very hot, sunny day. We weren’t very close to the stage, but not very far either. In fact, we were near the cameras that were set up on a platform. Since I am studying video production, I took notice of the camera crew getting situated while we waited two hours for the President. We knew he was on his way soon when we saw his airplane fly over.

It was an exciting day and well worth the sunburn across my face and arms.

Taking my seat before the speech

The camera crew setting up

The president speaking on stage

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Bread of Video-Making

You know that part of the story maybe about three-fourths of the way through the book? It’s the part that’s the most exciting; you just can’t seem to put the book down because you are smack-dab in the middle of the action. I feel like that is my life right now. I am at a climax.

It is my busiest semester and it’s also my last semester at MPTC. While I am not a full time student, I am taking two 3-credit classes this semester on top of my full time job and an internship.

Yes, I just mentioned I have an internship this semester! I will be working and learning at WBCTV. I haven’t started yet, but I think it’s going to be a wonderful learning experience that will help me reach my career goals. I will be working with professionals and professional equipment. My instructors are always looking for ways for students to get real-world experience, so I very much appreciate my instructor brining this opportunity to my attention. Thank you!

After attending the first week of class, I can see there is still much to learn in the classroom about making videos in addition to what I have learned already and will be bringing to my internship. I am taking both Pre-Production and Post-Production, which I refer to as the “bread” of the video-making process (with production – the actual filming – as the meat).

Pre-Production is the planning part. We only had an overview of what pre-production is in class, but from what I remember this includes the script, storyboard, delegating roles and responsibilities of crew members, equipment needed and deciding what you may need to create in post-production for effects. I’m sure there is even more to it than that, and I will have the rest of the semester to learn more.

Post-Production is the editing part of video-making, to put it simply. It includes sound and video editing, title sequences, special effects, sound effects and touching up errors that may have occurred during filming. Your job in post-production is to mesh everything together into one cohesive story. As I learn more, I’ll be sure to share my class experiences with you. I’ll also be sharing my internship experience, and whatever else this semester brings, in my blog. Keep reading to find out what happens next in the story of my life, my future and my MPTC.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This Summer

This summer is going by quickly. Summer always does, especially when it’s busy. But I’m okay with that because I am looking forward to taking my last two classes. Along with Pre Production, I have recently signed up for a second class, Post-Production. That means I will be earning my certificate a semester earlier than originally planned. I’m really looking forward to Pre-Production where we will delve into storyboards a bit more. I love coming up with stories and planning them. Storyboards are a great way to show your ideas to others and make sure everyone involved understands the plan.

I’ve been working overtime every week this summer, but I have managed to have some fun outside of work, too. I went to Summerfest where a friend and I shared a paddleboat ride. A half hour paddling will sure earn you some muscle! I also hosted my annual Peep Roast. My friends and I have been roasting Peeps for several years now. The sugar melts and turns into a crunchy, golden glaze. It really is the best way to eat a Peep.

I’ve managed to carve out some time for career-related things as well. Since I have several more items to add to my portfolio, I’m working on updating my portfolio website. I’ve had to refresh my memory on a few things, which is why I’m glad I’ve kept my notes from when I was enrolled in the web design courses at MPTC.

Helping others is something important to me, so I’m pleased to have the opportunity to do so for two events this summer. One, which already took place in June, was an event to honor and help veterans; another one, which is happening this week, is called GISHWHES. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up. It’s a scavenger hunt that raises money for charities and encourages participants to do random acts of kindness.

For my friends heading back to class this fall, enjoy the rest of your summer vacation. With the slightly-cooler-than-normal temperatures we’ve been having, I’m hoping for a mild fall. And if you’ve never roasted a Peep over a fire, I highly recommend trying it before summer is over!