Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Think Continually of Those who were Truly Great

by: Stephen Spender

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. . . . .
. . .
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Coalition of Historic Trekkers
In the footsteps of history

Sunday, November 1, 2009

EPJ: Multimedia Critique 2

The Marlboro Marine - Mediastorm

Photojournalist Luis Sinco’s project on a marine’s life who had been in Iraq and back from the war in 2004 is presented in a simple and beautiful multimedia project in Flash on Mediastorm website. The project is 16 minutes long, which for some might be very long, but the theme of the story justifies the length of the project.
The overall design of the project is kept consistent with the design of the Mediastorm website. When the thumbnail for the project is clicked, the pre loader appears, showing that the project is being loaded. Soon after, the main screen of the project in the form of an image appears. The video and images of the project cover the central part of the screen. The large size makes the visuals pop-out and that is what the designers must be looking for viewers to focus on. The images move very quickly, almost video like initially and then as the audio starts, the images gets slower.
Navigation is kept simple. All the buttons are kept right below the images. The progress bar slides smoothly as the project proceeds. Next to the bar is a timer which shows the time where the project has reached. Along with that is a text showing the total length of the project. There is an email button and full screen button as well below the images. These are great for making the project more interactive. The viewer can view the slideshow on full-sized screen and leave comments through the email button. There is no play button and the slideshow starts on its own as soon as the project is clicked up in the menu section. All the navigation buttons are in grey, and when one hovers over them, they change to blue which makes navigation easy. The positioning of the buttons in one line makes it easier for the viewer to control the project without having to search for buttons.
The audio is kept low, keeping the theme of the story in mind. The project starts with eerie silence and then the voiceover of the subject begins. As the project proceeds, different audio, like slow music begins, which helps to separate the content of the story. There is a button for audio as well for the viewer to control the audio.
One of the negative points of the flash project is that there is no gallery where the viewer can view each image individually and read the captions. Also, there is no heading in the project, except for the intro underneath. A clear, short heading would have made it easier for the viewer to know which project he is viewing rather than having to look in the menu section.
The font is not given much emphasis as it is kept consistent with the font of the Mediastorm website. This makes the images get all the importance and that is the focus of the project anyway. He banner on the top shows the different projects and the home tabs which makes it user-friendly. The viewer can click any project or go back to home page without having to search it.
Overall, the focus is the images and thus the Flash project is kept simple which works very well for such viewer interest stories. I think I have learned how to make simple flash projects work by looking at the multimedia projects on the website. This will be incorporated while I design my Flash projects for my website.

Monday, October 19, 2009

EPJ: Multimedia Critique 1

Washington Post - Sen. Kennedy's Life and Career, 1932 - 2009


The project I have chosen for the multimedia critique is the Washington Post’s tribute to Senator Edward Kennedy at his death in September 2009. Overall, the background color of the project is kept dark, in shades of black and grey only. This enhances the mood of the story being told as it’s a commemoration of Kennedy’s life and a sense of mourning is evident in the project’s design and also the fact that the images are in black and white. The design follows the simplicity trend evident in all Washington Post’s multimedia projects. The project, done in Flash, is simple, clear and can be easily navigated. Since the story is for general news readers, the use of Flash makes sense as it gives a visitor the power to choose what he or she wishes to see and what to skip. Most newspapers’ multimedia projects are designed keeping in mind their user-friendliness. And making elaborate Flash designs work more for creative or art projects as they have more time to be created. News items need to be put up immediately so simple Flash designs, like the one this project uses, works best.

The project begins with the loading bar and there are buttons to either go to the gallery and see each image with a caption individually or go through the audio slideshow. The buttons are plenty which gives enough options to the viewer to control the project. The buttons options, fonts, color and layout is consistent throughout the multimedia section of the Washington Post’s website. The use of shades of black, few and consistent fonts and navigation buttons in one place, (placed in a row under the images) makes navigation easy as a viewer does not have to go from one place to another to search for buttons. The navigation buttons include view thumbs, credit, play slideshow, previous, next, and timeline bars. All work, except the audio bar or the audio icon next to it. The project has been up for quite some time now so the audio bar should be fixed as viewers notice if the website updates its content and check for errors or not. This builds credibility. All links and buttons are in blue font and when a viewer hovers over any one of the buttons, the color of the button change to white, which makes it easier for the viewer to know where he or she is at. Only three colors have been used for the font. This makes the content balanced and nothing is highlighted which helps in keeping the focus on the images, which are the main content. The images are proportionally sized and their placement is also proportional to the layout. The gallery has two pages as the number of images is high. Placing them all on one page would make the layout look too unnecessarily busy.

The introduction of the project has a prominent heading, but the paragraph is written in a very small font, which can be ignored by a viewer. A bigger font would add to the whole theme of the project as that one line is an introduction to the project.

The only audio used is the voice over in which the project creator narrates the life story of Kennedy. This works well as the project is basically the life history and there is no better audio for such project than this. Some mellow music in the background would have helped in creating an ambiance which would have added to the overall theme of the project and enhanced the content.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

EPJ: Photographer's Website Critique(2)

Critiquing Steve McCurry's Website


Steve McCurry is a highly reputed photojournalist who has covered numerous international conflicts. His website provides a glimpse into the diverse world we live in, through his magnificent photography. His website is simple and inviting. The URL of the website is logical as the photographer's name can be easily searched on the Internet and one is immediately directed to his website. The website takes a few seconds to load, but the wait does not seem too long as the theme and color of the website appears immediately, giving the visitor a taste of things to come.

The home page of the site opens with a dark maroon background color, and there is a menu column in the same color on the right side of the page. It has the content of the menu centered on it. On the left hand, the best work of the photographer cascades in a slideshow, practically taking the entire page and drawing the visitor's attention to the maximum. The maroon color gives a regal touch to the website, enhancing the work of the photographer as most of his images are from the culturally rich parts of the world like the subcontinent.

Since the home page seems full and appears in one screen, it makes the page simple for a visitor to view in one go. The different shades of maroon separate the content, without overwhelming it, and provide a balance and professional look to the page.

The first link in the list is 'home page', which has a simple title, and when it opens, the only thing that changes is the news and infomation under the menu bar. The slideshow keeps going on, which becomes a bit boring as a visitor expects something new and exciting. The biography of the photographer is way down, which is a negative point as visitors would like to know about the photographer before they get to see his work.

The website has made interesting use of crops of themes in the picture galleries. Since they are so many, they have been divided into nine themes per page. Each theme is marked as thumbnails, making navigation easy. As you click, you get to see the image in a theme and the arrows, when clicked, takes the viewer to the next page. A similar trend should have followed when clicking each photograph as well. The pictures are not used as thumbnails – most visitors won't want to scroll back and forth or click the arrows which are away from the image, to see if they've missed any photograph.

In the menu box, by mousing over each section, a different page does not appear which makes the site boring. If a new page appears when mousing over each section, this can be a very inviting way to take the visitor further into the site. It would make for an interesting navigation system -- it shows creativity and piques the viewer's interest.

The website has made creative use of thumbnails to introduce the great photographer’s work; it has each picture 'framed' with a one pixel border to set it apart from the background, added links along one side to use for navigation, have a page each that introduces the photographer and his work and the upcoming workshops. It has one photograph per page, with a little information about each picture on the bottom and on the right side. The caption below is just a two word introduction to the image – the place and date. This makes the image very powerful that does not need any text for explanation. The right side shows the caption for the theme. That caption is an interesting quote or poem, which is a very artistic way of showing one’s work. Font is kept consistent throughout. A blog and comment section is missing. This would have made the website interactive. Overall the website design is simple, has an impact on the viewer and enhances the work of Steve McCurry.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

EPJ Project Proposal

For my final project, I plan to do a multimedia story on how Eids (Muslim celebrations following Ramadan and Hajj) are celebrated among the Muslim community in St. Louis and Columbia. Both cities have huge Muslim immigrant populations where members are highly involved in religious activities. This keeps them attached to their culture, origin and religion. To strengthen ties with their home countries among their children, Muslim immigrant parents go to great lengths to incorporate a feeling of community. This includes holding of colorful events, participation in cultural and religious activities, cooking authentic meals, wearing traditional clothes, going to the Islamic centers and arranging home open houses for the community.

For an outsider, all this would be alien and at times, baffling. Despite living side by side, people of other faiths and ethnic groups and the white American population does not know much what goes on in the Muslim community of these two cities. My objective is to bridge these gaps and create a better understanding of Muslim culture among the American people. This is a small step towards a greater long time project in the future.

The slideshow will consist of stills, both colored and black and white aided by audio. The audio will include short interviews of people at the Eid festivals, music, and commentary and background noise to provide an overall ambiance of these religious celebrations. The slideshow will last 2-4 minutes, have an introduction and an end note and will be sewn together by the images. The images will follow a chronological order of events. A total of 20-30 images will be used. Few more will be added depending on the need.

EPJ: Multimedia Website Critique

Observation, analysis and opinion of the Mediastorm website.


The Mediastorm website narrates human stories in a powerful and thought-provoking manner against a simple black backdrop of its design. This simplicity enhances the 'diverse narratives' published on the website and is the core of the Mediastorm philosophy 'speaking to the heart of the human condition.' The URL is appropriate and can be easily searched on the Internet.

The positive attributes of the website include clarity, cleanliness and quick upload time which attracts a visitor to dig deeper into the different features and stories it offers and its interactive. The opening page is nicely laid out, the menu navigation is simple, content is well-organized and the pages are consistently aligned. Font is consistent too. Navigation is great as one can easily hop from one link to another without having to click the browser over and over again to go back and forth on the site.

The color choice is nice - it’s pleasant, not harsh. But the body font color is grey, which is very soft and a bit light for readability. Also the lonely blue on the home page makes it a bit boring and monotone. More so due to the fact that the successive pages carry multimedia projects on depressing issues. The design in the title is the same as in all following pages which is a positive attribute.

The effects are dramatic due to simplicity and black background, which is required for a site showcasing dramatic stories and visuals. Any "flashy" elements would be secondary and not needed. The site provides enough information without becoming cluttered or confusing. Its layout is logical and organized very well, with eight categories to direct the viewer. Each category displays sub-categories list for ease of navigation through the large site.

The side bar with Google ads is quite annoying and gives the website a commercial appeal, which journalists and artists should avoid at all times. Some projects take a while to load which can irritate a visitor. One big negative point I have noticed is that the body appears right under the container in a window. This can be a distraction for someone who is really interested in the slideshows. Either the size of the container be increased to take the next box further down in order to take it out of the window or move the second container down so that it is out of site when a project is being viewed.

The great visuals add life to the website and there are there is a large number of projects that keep the visitor stay for long. I feel Mediastorm uses the capabilities of the web well without going overboard with extravagant tools that detract from the original purpose of the page.