This Semester

At long last this semester has come to an end. Last year, I decided I would push myself to new limits this semester. Throughout my experience at college, I have found that I lack a certain amount of discipline and mental fortitude — I always gave up too easily. So I put myself in a situation in which I could not give up; I took twenty credits including two upper level writing classes and worked two different jobs. With my obsession with grades, I was trapped and was forced to work harder than I have ever done in the past.  

I am never going to do something like that ever again, but I am extremely glad that I did do it this semester. I broke a lot of bad habits. For one, I could not afford to procrastinate at all. Because of this,  by the end of the semester, even if I had time, I did not want to procrastinate; I knew how good it felt to finish all of my work and to have it completely out of mind while relaxing… I just hope the habit won’t come back when my workload lessons. On top of breaking bad habits I also improved upon many things. My discipline and mental fortitude, the things I hoped to improve, did increase significantly and along with those, the part of my brain which wanted to give up became smaller and smaller. Without the option to give up, I eventually stopped even thinking about the possibility of taking things easier.  

I am taking a significantly easier course load next semester, but I will be working hard on other areas in my life. This semester has taught me how to work harder, to complain less, and to do more. It sucked but I’m happy I did it.

Finished – What Next?

Creating a video on learning something has been an idea I have been mulling over for a long time and this class allowed me to act on that idea. Through experimenting with video on experiment two and the final project, I learned that I really enjoy it. Mainly because of all the new factors that are at my disposal in creating a narrative or story that I haven’t experienced before. Also I really enjoy photography so videography seems like a place I would branch into eventually, anyways. 

Although I ran into many problems while creating my final video — missing clips, bad audio, noisy footage, I had a lot of fun making it. I solved many of the issues I ran into in post; the narrative was still coherent even though I missed some key moments, the audio was easily adjusted, and videos weren’t actually all that noisy. I found myself taking breaks from my other classes by spending time editing the video; it was strangely relaxing. In the end, there are still some parts I would like to put a little more time into(I assume no matter what the video looks like there will be parts I still want to change), but overall I am really happy with what I have created and what I’ve learned over this semester. After this entire experience, I can confidently say, I will be creating more videos in the future–whether they will be public or not is a different story.

What to do better next time

While making and editing my video, I ran into a number of problems which could easily have been avoided. Hopefully, the next time I decide to make a video, these problems won’t be the ones I face. 

  1. I was really bad at checking over my footage. I discussed in a previous blog post. I’m used to photography, in which checking an image on a camera is relatively sufficient; you can zoom into the image to check for sharpness, and you can see data on white balance. For film, at least on the camera I was using, these options were not available. Thus, I ended up with a lot of grainy footage. This would have easily been fixed by transferring the clip onto my computer and looking at it.
  2. My audio was very lackluster. A dedicated mic would make the audio significantly better. In this video, the sounds of the camera lens focusing are very jarring, and the audio is very piercing in general. I had to do a lot of work in post adjusting levels to make the focusing sound more bearable; in other situations, I just cut out the focusing sound completely. In the next video I make, I will have mic. 
  3. Shoot in more locations. This was something I found in my genre analysis for project 2 and 3 but I did not execute it to a high standard for my own video. There are a few location changes, but more would have increased the engagement factor of the video. I was lazy and didn’t do this. Next time I will
  4. Finally, make sure the camera is actually recording.

Those are the main things that came up while filming the video, but there are many other small problems I ran into as well.

Working in Adobe

 

Editing in the project done using the adobe suite, specifically Adobe Premiere Pro, and Adobe After Effects. I barely used aftereffects for this project (aftereffects is a visual effects program in the Adobe Suite). Most of my editing was done in Premiere, another adobe application used for basic video editing (sound modification, cutting clips, color correction, etc.). I found that Premiere had a much lower skill ceiling than aftereffects. By the end of the editing process, I became well oriented with the workflow on Premiere even though there is still a lot of things to learn. I believe by the end of the project, I had achieved a basic understanding of what Premiere has to offer. 

Aftereffects, on the other hand, is still almost a complete mystery to me. I can confidently say aftereffects has a lot of depth — more depth than premiere pro. I barely scratched the surface of what is possible in Aftereffects. Although, my perception of aftereffects may just come from the fact I didn’t use it all that much for this project. Then again, there are things I have seen people do in aftereffects that I have no idea how to accomplish; on the other hand, at this point I can pick out what people are doing in an editing software like Premiere, so there probably is a great deal more depth in aftereffects than Premiere. This brings me to another point; after spending time editing this video, I am much more cognizant of what other people are doing in the editing process now; it is no longer such a mystery to me.

Most Effective Work Conditions

There are three main things which allow me to work effectively.

  1. Some level of interest 
  2. The ability to fail 
  3. Production of a product 

There is a lot of bias in those three things because the only thing on my mind right now is school which means these three things come from a perspective of what I find lackluster in school. Although, these three ideas are generated through my experience in school, I’m sure they have some carryover into other aspects of work. 

A level of interest is a baseline to me. Without interest in a subject, it becomes significantly more difficult to spend  time on it. Throughout a semester, I am almost always interested in the subject matter at the beginning but towards the end, I am burnt out and lose a lot of that interest. There are a number of reasons for this but, essentially, I have found the extrinsic motivator, a good grade, crowds out the intrinsic motivator, curiosity. However, after taking a bunch of writing classes this semester, I am now aware that I am significantly less inclined to burn out in classes in which I must write an essay or create a product than in classes centered around test taking. In test taking classes the extrinsic motivator, a good grade, is more salient than while writing an essay. While studying for a test, I am really only thinking about getting a good grade on the test, which is why I burn out and the extrinsic motivator crowds out the intrinsic motivator but during an essay, the grade feels more distant and thus less salient.

I have also found that the ability to fail is wonderful to me. If not clear from before, grades are very important to me, for better and for worse. This means, I never allow myself to fail — I can never experiment on different ways to study, or attempt difficult projects in class. When the ability to fail is open, I am able to produce much better work; without that fear, I allow myself to tackle larger projects and experiment with new ideas. 

Finally, production of a final product, or at least working towards some kind of product, allows me to work better. I found this out, as described above, because in classes in which I create something, burnout tends to be less of an issue. Other than having the grade more distant, creating something simply feels more substantial than studying hours for a test and then getting a grade for 2 hours of performance. 

On Filming

Turn on the camera. Make sure it’s filming. In my current state more footage is better than too little footage. This was a lesson I learned throughout my week of filming and practicing the Rubik’s cube. As the week went on, I progressively filmed more and more because I realized I wanted more freedom in the editing process. Especially because, for me, I didn’t know what would turn out good quite yet, so having more content to work with would allow me to experiment with more possible scenarios. This need for more content, became even more apparent when I started editing. I became frustrated with a lack of available film from the early stages of learning. I was satisfied with what I had towards the end — I almost always had the camera on during the last few days of practice. 

The reluctance to film came from a number of different sources. Firstly, I was worried about space on my SD card. This was a case of pure laziness; I didn’t want to transfer the videos to my computer when the SD card inevitably got full, so I assumed I would only film the key moments in my progression. However, it is difficult to know when you will have a “key” moment so I missed a couple of moments I should have captured. I was also definitely film shy. It was extremely awkward being in front of a camera. Along with being film shy, while practicing, there was strong pressure to perform which at times caused me to perform worse. I got a couple of good solve times while not filming; it was often easier to practice without the camera on. 

As the week went on the pressure from the camera began to lesson. To get rid of the shyness in front of the camera, I talked to the camera for a long time as if it were an actual person, which is reflective of the final state of the video because I will be talking to other people through the video. After this session of spouting off at the camera, the awkwardness began to disappear. Also after I started to film consistently, the pressure to perform started to lessen; it wasn’t even close to disappearing completely but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as there is always a certain pressure when it comes to performing.

On Reading

On Reading

I have been reading a lot more recently. I think I’ve read around 10 books in the last month; most of which are fantasy or sci-fi novels. There are some nonfiction books, but I find reading fiction preferable in my current state because it provides a good break from hectic business of the semester. I’m already learning enough as it is from school. 

My standards have definitely risen when it comes to writing this semester; I realized this after refusing to finish a book I had already started. In fact, this refusal to finish happened a few times in the last month. Although, this might seem like a normal thing to do, in the past I have almost never refused to finish a book I had already started regardless of how bad it was. A large reason for this is because, while reading novels, I feel like my brain is turned off for most of it. I’m not thinking about what the author is trying to do. Or I am but it isn’t at the level where I am consciously aware of it; in other words reading garbage was okay because I wasn’t consciously processing why it was garbage. However, this semester,  in which I am taking two upper level writing courses along with gateway, has brought the unconscious processing of garbage into consciousness. I have audibly said “what the fuck is this author trying to do,” and proceeded to put the book down while attempting to permanently remove what I had read from my memory.

While this inhibits my ability to enjoy reading some books, I believe this higher cognizance of writing also allows me to appreciate literature to a greater degree. Instead of only thinking a book was good because “oh the writing was good and the story was intriguing,”  my enjoyment can stem from many more aspects of writing; why the story was good, what made the characters intriguing, why was the dialogue good, and why was the writing good. 

How to Solve a Rubik’s Cube Quickly

There are a number of different ways to solve a Rubik’s cube. The easiest is a method called the “beginner’s method.” This is how I first learned to solve a Rubik’s Cube a few months ago. It is possible to solve very quickly using the The beginner’s method but there are better methods for speed cubing. The beginner’s method is easy because there are only a handful of algorithms to memorize. On the other hand more advanced methods require more algorithms or other sources of mental load. 

CFOP is the method I decided to learn in my weeklong quest to see how quickly I could solve a rubik’s cube by the end of it. This method consists of 4 steps. 

  1. Solving the Cross
  2. Solving the First 2 layers (F2l)
  3. Orient Last layer (OLL)
  4. Permute Last Layer (PLL)

I didn’t even learn real cfop. CFOP in its entire form has something like 80+ algorithms to memorize. I learned a watered down version which separated OLL and PLL into two different steps: so called 2-look OLL and 2-look PLL. Furthermore, I also used an intuitive version of F2l instead of the algorithmic version; this meant for F2L instead of learning 41 algorithms, I just had to memorize what I had to do in 3ish different cases. Overall, I only had to learn 13 different algorithms, all from 2-look OLL and Pll, which was not too hard to do over a week. Although this aspect was not too difficult, there were a lot of other sources of mental difficulty in the task. Most of the mental load from learning CFOP came from intuitive F2L. This is because there is a lot of information that I had to keep track of in order to solve F2L intuitively. 

Ignoring possible technical issues because it’s easy

I still have a lot to learn when It comes to video. A lot of my clips turned out to be extremely noisy. I assume the issue came out of a high ISO setting; however, the same ISO setting for photography is completely usable with almost no noise and no post processing necessary. At this point I can only hope to edit them in post. But I have learned a valuable lesson for the future; just like photography, good lighting is absolutely essential. Also I should really check my video, on a larger screen, soon after filming so I can change conditions if necessary; however, it is way easier to assume the video is fine which is what I did. While taking pictures it is possible to check the sharpness and focus of the image by zooming into the photo on the display that comes with the camera. With video this is not an option, so although the video looked sharp on the small camera display, it really was not when played back on a computer monitor. Also I really thought my camera would be able to handle the conditions but apparently not. I assume that video is more sensitive than photography. I’m not really sure about factual truth of that statement but I’m going to go with it. 

Far but Meaningful (close): Classical Music

For art to mean something, it has to be close to you in some form; at least that’s what I think. It’s much harder to care about someone that you don’t know compared to someone you are very close too. That’s why this prompt is interesting. It is asking for art to be far away but for it to mean something as well. I interpret this is the art must in some aspect be far away from me but in another be extremely close.  On the other hand it can also mean out of all the art that is so far distant from me, which of those mean anything at all. I don’t really want to write about art I don’t care about so I will write about art which is close and far. 

Classical music immediately comes to mind. It is close because I have a long history with classical music. However it is distant because it’s so very old. In the fifth grade I started learning violin as a school requirement. Soon after, I started private lessons. I toured Europe, had an amazing high school orchestra experience, then after high school I stopped practicing. It’s a classic story I hear from many of my friends who played instruments, string, woodwind, it doesn’t really matter what, throughout their precollege days.

Although I don’t practice violin anymore (I would really like to start again), I still regularly listen to classical music. As life continues and I experience more things, classical music increases in meaning. As a kid it’s hard to sit through an hour of classical music. And at least for me, it didn’t really mean much. Playing was fun but listening … not so much. There was no weight behind the music; no emotional connection. Some of it sounded good and some of it sounded bad. The connection was very monotone. Throughout college, classical music has begun to take on some weight: some emotional value. It’s easier to connect to feelings of grandeur, pain, sadness, wonder, and all the other emotions. With age hopefully comes experience. With experience hopefully comes understanding. With understanding means a greater enjoyment of classical music (for me).