Monday, May 10, 2010


Well, it's that time of year again and I'll do my best to sum up my experiences with my Media in the Digital Age class over the course of this spring. Going into the class, I knew I was probably going to know a lot of the things being discussed. I had the benefit of film, media, and technology classes throughout primary and secondary school. That said I am well aware that this is not the case for everyone working their way through FILMP 150.
Because of this, it was mostly refreshing past material for me as I worked my way through the semester. I didn't mind; I think it's always good to reacquaint yourself with old skills as often as possible to keep them sharp. Web design and HTML never seem to stick completely in my brain, so I need to continuously work at it in order to remember it. That was something this course definitely helped with.
From an evaluative perspective, I think this course does a good job of brushing over the broad strokes of what is going to be required of workers in the film and media industries these days. Most of the basics of just about every field within these two concentrations were covered to give students a taste of what they could expect. We didn't get to go into too great of detail on anything, but that wasn't the point of the class. We can always take a more focused course later.
One of the great benefits of attending a school in this city is that we have the local resources to work from. One of the highlights I can take away from this class was visiting the Museum of the Moving Image. Being only a subway ride away tempts me to go back for a more extended look.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Disguised Beauty

(You might wanna have this map open while you read: )

One of the few designs that sticks out in my head that I actually like is the map for New York City's subway system. With twenty six individual train services operating in four of the five boroughs, it is no small task to map each one's path in relation to the other twenty five. While the original map design is over thirty years old, it has remained more consistent than the trains we ride on.

At first glance, the map is something like multicolored spaghetti overlaying New York. Lines are criss-crossing everywhere and moving in seemingly geographically impossible ways (see: Verrazano Bridge). However, this is where one of the map's rather unique features comes into play. With the exception of Staten Island, the geographical shape of the city has remained intact. This contrasts with many other city transit maps that simply provide lines and stops. If you have the vaguest idea of where you are in New York, you can use the map to find a station.

Once you find a station, you can trace routes till your heart is content thanks to the color coding of the system. Coloring service by what physical track a train passes through in Manhattan greatly helps the tourist crowd while keeping clutter away from what could be the most intricate network of trains below the island. Veteran straphangers (subway riders) make sense of the soup and can easily point out stops and trains when they need to stray off the beaten path.

No one would deny that the subway map follows function more than form, but it has just enough color and aesthetic shape that it's also not an eyesore to look at while you're trying to find your way back from Bensonhurst after a few drinks at three in the morning.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky is a good filmmaker, there isn't much debate about that. His usual subject of choice is about hopeless characters and their spiral down into insanity. Requiem for a Dream, for example, while a good film, is a piece I can only watch a handful of times over several years. I saw the trailers for The Wrestler, though, and thought it might be a departure from his usual stuff. I was wrong, but I still think it's his best film yet.

This is another film that's chosen to shoot prodominantly with a handheld camera. The look makes it feel like a documentary and that you are actually following this guy around through his daily life. It makes everything more gritty, but also more painful to watch when you feel like you're in the room when he has his heart broken several times throughout the movie. The world of the working man (and woman) is dripping from this film in a way that can only be found in rural New Jersey. It's dramatic, sad, heartfelt, but real.

One exemplary scene is in the beginning of the film when we first see the main character living in his mobile home. The camera never strays more than a few feet away from him. Because it is handheld, it has the freedom to stay at a medium or close up shot and move around with the actors. This also sets up how uncomfortably close the audience will be with this man for the following two hours.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Museum of the Moving Image

Several weeks ago, I visited the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens with a few members of my class. Had the streets not been covered with slush and ice cold water, I would have enjoyed the trip more, but I still found it very interesting. The museum, which is currently undergoing some renovation, houses a brief history of moving pictures from zoetropes and nickelodeons to television. Our group didn't have enough time to cover everything at the museum, but what we were able to get through was very interesting. I have some background in film, so many of the things we saw was old hat, but it was still cool to see these processes in action.

One of the activities I participated in was a rudimentary animation short. We were given paper cut outs on a background and a camera that took stills. As with traditional animation, we moved the cut outs around frame by frame so that when they were played one after another, they created the illusion of motion. I've always been interested in animation, despite the fact that I lack the patience to create an entire movie that way. The animation activity allowed me to indulge that interest.

One of the often overlooked components of creating a motion picture is the moment of rest. While this was glazed over in courses I had taken in high school, one of the major highlights at the museum was a demonstration on how the moment of rest worked. Using a spinning sculpture and a strobe light, the presentation provided a perfect example. When the strobe light was off, the sculpture was nothing but a blur. Once the strobe light was turned on, however, the “moment of rest” created by the intermittent darkness tricked our eyes into believing the sculpture was moving.

Weather aside, the trip was both educational and entertaining. I hope to visit again when I have the time to spend the better part of a day there.