General Relativity Explained

I recently discovered this great video from Fusion featuring biographer Walter Issacson, in which he narrates a concise explanation of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity in 3 minutes.  

One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein completed his general theory of relativity, which explains how the gravitational force works. This made Einstein an international celebrity during his time, and the theory is widely recognized as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science.
— Fusion

New Promo Video for BA in Media Comm

To help increase the exposure of the BA program in Media Communications at Webster University the Netherlands, I created a short promotional video to serve as an attention-grabber, and a visual interest tool.  This short video was developed and rendered through Adobe AfterEffects CS6 last spring.  The visual intent was to showcase the four production tracks in the program offered at our campus.  To this end the video rolls through Media Communications, Interactive Digital Media, Photography, and Video Production.

The visual assets in the video are all videos, images, and graphics that are currently in use by the department in some form.  Part of the mission of this video is to showcase not only what students can study, but to show them this by example of using images, and other assets that are actually from the department. 

Low-Poly Mask Project

Low-Poly Mask Project

This short portrait project combined aspects of traditional portriture with low-poly paper masks. The results were rather fun, with a range of portraits that evoke a variety of “personalities” portrayed by the actor under the mask.  The students that were photographed with their masks were asked to "play" a character using some props from their personal items. 

Bringing back the Flash!

Presenting for the first time on radio, the amazing interplanetary adventures of Flash Gordon and Dale Arden.
— Flash Gordon 1935

In a recent graduate course for Webster University (MEDC 5331: Communication Production Tools: Video) I was looking to create an experience for the students that would allow for a fun yet practical hands on in-class exercise that would allow them to practice recording high quality audio.  This exercise would give the students the experience recording audio in a guided low stake environment where failure or technical issues can be addressed.  What I developed was a quickfire based on recording an oldtimey radio show, from pre-television days.  This in class activity served as an active learning experience in which students needed to move quickly to organize radio performance parts, and discuss and plan out how they would record this performance all within two hours. 

Students rose to the challenge of this in-class assignment to recreate the 1935 radio performance of Flash Gordon “On the Planet Mongo”. This rendition of Flash Gordon Ep1 On the Planet Mongo was performed by Webster University Leiden Media Communication Students as part of a learning exercise on script reading and audio production. This recording is from the original script that aired on April 27th, 1935.

Project 5x5: a video vignette

What is Project 5x5?

Project 5x5 is a short and simple video project.  To shoot a 5x5 you need to come up with a story, or theme to use (this can be almost anything) and create 5 shots each 5 seconds long.  Only the original audio is to be used, no additional audio tracks etc. Further, no use of titles, transitions, or credits, just pure video.

Project 5x5 has been around on vimeo for some time.  The inspiration behind this post is the successful use of the 5x5 project to help teach video production students how to think in shots and to take a story or theme and distill it down to the bare essential components.  One of the main advantages to using this project to teach video production is the highly structured yet simple parameters for the video.  This allows students to focus on the steps and process of video production without letting the project get too big or complicated.  This project lends itself nicely to be paired with a storyboard project as again, the main parameters of the video are set and are short and simple enough that it is not overwhelming. This short project allows students to go through the entire pre-production, production, and post-production phases of video production in a short amount of time with limited stress or confusion.

For the project I assigned, I broke the assignment up into two main parts, the written portion and the video portion.  To complete the written portion, students go through the pre-production phase and develop a video "pitch" or concept that distills their story or theme into a one or two sentences.  Students will then prepare a short but descriptive storyboard to go along with the pitch.  Once completed, students move onto the production phase and shoot their 5x5.  When all of their shots have been filmed they then move onto the post-production phase to edit the final video together.  To edit the project, any non-linear video editng platform will do, for my class I had the students use Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, but any will do.


storyboard of iced coffee video
storyboard of iced coffee video

Behind the Scenes:

video camera recording coffee maker
video camera recording coffee maker

Video Tutorial:

PHOT3190 - A new Class of Digital Artists

Course Description:

Students learn the theoretical and practical aspects of photographic digital imaging. Students develop a theoretical understanding of this technology and learn to apply these principles using Adobe Photoshop. Students learn to control, modify, and manipulate digital photographic images for both corrective and creative purposes.

In this course students used Adobe Photoshop (and Camera RAW) to explore the realm of digital image processing and manipulation. This course required students to look at taking imagery from a variety of sources and creating unique digital images. Students spent a lot of time on learning the Photoshop environment and how to work with digital files to bring their creative visions to life.



For this eight week course I used a scaffolding of projects to ratchet up the technical requirements (Photoshop manipulation skills) as well as increased creative control over the subject and composition of thier projects.  In total, three course projects were used, each building upon the previous project.  The first project (the most restrictive, and most simplistic) was focused on using state of the art equipment (cameras) and software (Photoshop) to re-create the visual aesthetics of vintage toy film cameras (styles made immensely popular via Instagram/Hipstamatic etc).  The second project focused on the theme of the self portrait, but the students were to re-imagine what the essence of a self portrait is and explore ways to visually compose an image that encompasses their abstraction of the "self image".  Finally, students were given an open ended project entitled the Uelsmann Experience, incorporating some of the free flowing design and creative process of image creation influenced by the legendary creative couple Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor.  For this final project students were to come up with their own image theme and develop a creative strategy to accomplish their vision.  This project can sometimes give "too" much creative freedom in which its vital to consult with each student to ensure the scope of their project is manageable in the timeframe of the course.

Throughout the course students engaged in small activities and in-class tutorial challenges focused on having the students learn new image manipulation techniques and put them to use in a time controlled environment.  This challenge scenario was used to enforce my belief that in the creative process, especially in digital image creation the point of failure is where we learn the most about ourselves and the techniques used.  For this class I wanted to create a "safe place to fail" - meaning I wanted the students to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and to try new techniques and ways of approaching the creative process without the fear that failing to succeed in their experiment would translate into an academic failure.

Overall, the individual growth demonstrated by each student, non only in technical proficiency, but in the creative process as artists was extensive.  Students were able to demonstrate a clear and purposeful rationale behind the technical, aesthetic, and compositional elements of each of their completed project pieces.

To cap the course off on the last day I put together a short time-lapse video of the class picture I created from a series of individual portraits taken earlier in the course (under the guise of a hands on tutorial on portraiture).  I wanted to use this simple image as both a visual "thank you" to the course, but to also serve as an example of how to re-imagine the "class picture" in a way that is contemporary and fun.  A Super A3 poster was printed in class on the last day and signed by each of the students as a momento that will be proudly displayed in my office.

For more information you can checkout the open course website: PHOT3190 Spring 2013 Webster University Leiden

Star Wars Traceroute - #WookieHowl


Star Wars and TCP/IP what could be cooler?  I have been wanting to share this since I first came across this great network hack back in February.  This story made the rounds on all the popular tech blogs highlighting the work of Ryan Werber from Beagle Networks.  To see how he actually pulled off this great hack (including the code he used) checkout the original post on Beagle Networks. Unfortunately the original traceroute has been discontinued due to repeated denial of service attacks after the popularity of the original posting.  Thankfully, a new version (extended) has been posted that runs on IPv6.  If you want to run this fun traceroute yourself you still can, instructions can be found in the blog post Special Treat! New Star Wars Traceroute. Traceroute - is a computer network diagnostic tool used to trace the path of packets of information as they are sent from one computer to another.  The path of the packets are recorded at each node (or hop) in the network, relaying information on the time it takes to pas through each location.  This Star Wars hack is a great example of controlling internal networking tables to display host names of all the various hops as lines from the Star Wars screen scroll from the opening sequence of Episode IV A New Hope.

Below is the original IPv4 traceroute from back in February (so glad I took a screenshot of it since its no longer available)


Star Wars Traceroute

Award Winning Course Design

AT&T Awards CEP807
AT&T Awards CEP807

I am proud to share the news that one of the online courses I have taught and developed has been recognized with an award of excellence in instructional technology.  The course CEP807/ED870 is the capstone course for the MAET Program at Michigan State University that requires students to develop an online portfolio sharing their academic, professional achievements and essay reflections.  This course encompasses many features, but most prominently are: authentic audience, learning by doing, peer learning, and public scholarship.

For the full story and recap of the course design visit the official 2013 AT&T Award Competition in Instructional Technology site.