so, what is this project about?

In the MS1006 module, we are assigned to create a piece of digital narration with 20 still images. 
Our group decided to focus on the lives of International students in Leicester. 
Some questions to start with: "How do you feel about living in Leicester?"

The Plan (week 1-2)

We walk all the way from Opal court (Lancaster road) to "Tai Fat Company" (Melton street) to get some inspiration for our project. This was our plan A: to interview the owner of the oldest Chinese store in town. The store is old, a bit mouldy, but vintage enough for some good shots. Unfortunately, it was difficult to communicate with the owner. We bought quite a lot of things from him (for personal reasons too haha), but we still can't make him feel comfortable around us. So we decided to switch to plan B

My flatmate is a year 2 Engineering student from Tianjin, China. Her name is Amelia Jin. As hipster as her name and personality is, she is surprisingly shy around foreigners. She told me about her Morrisons' experience (she wanted to get brownie, but ended up getting brownie mix because she thought the photo was nice. She didn't know it was just plain chocolate flour until she opened it. With disappointment.) and asked her for help. I think her story would be interesting to tell. Some of the pictures above in the album are artifacts that we collected in week 2. Her room is filled with home decorations, tumblr-like quote, and warm colored beddings. 

Writing the storyboard is one of the most challenging thing during the planning progress. Especially when we are working in a group of 3, all of us picture the story in 3 different ways. So, to get a compromise and to actually work together to create one unified story is very challenging. At last, it also depends on what Amelia will say in the interview. We can only jot down a list of open-ended questions, a basic storyflow, and an abstract imagination of the actual story. Just too much to say and too little time to tell. 

The Interview (week 3)

We made a list of open-ended questions and interviewed Amelia. Like we have expected she couldn't express her feelings smoothly in English. During our interview, she had a hard time connecting her ideas together in one sentence. After During our interview, she had a hard time connecting her ideas together in one sentence. Even though the questions were open-ended, she could only answer "yes", and "okay". After giving a few tries, we switched the entire interview to Chinese. 
Karen suggested that  we can listen to the interview and then organize the points she mentioned. Maybe we can write a script for her to narrate? We will see how it goes, hopefully it wouldn't come out too dry. Question is, are we creating a character for Amelia, or are we allowing her to present who she really is? Despite the fact that we are unable to create a story only by the interview, I still think we should leave the stage to her. 
We ended up combining and organizing all her responses into one script. The second time went so much smoother! She is able to present her jolly and silly side without worrying about the communication process. Karen was right after all. 

The selection (Week 4)

We ended up recording for 8 minutes. Our digital artefact is supposed to be 3 minutes long. We have to select the highlights and cut down 5 minutes down. This is a really challenging process because every thing she said fits our theme so well. By the end of week 4, we have successfully cut our script into approximately 3 minutes. During this process I learned that concise and clear responses are really important. Audience are not interested in listening to repeated details. 

The photoshoot (week 5)

The weather in the morning was great: blue sky, fresh air with a little bit of wind. But by the time we started to shoot (around 1pm), the weather suddenly turned bad. It was dark and the atmosphere was quite misty. We told Amelia about our story board and shoot along from Opal court to Morrisons'. But we realized she didn't feel entirely comfortable with the camera. Although she takes a lot of photos when she is with her friends, she doesn't like the feeling of an actual photoshoot. Her gesture and movement became extremely scripted - it wouldn't look good and nature. So we told her to walk and move without thinking about the camera. A downside to that though, we couldn't capture clear photos when she was moving. Since we are only using Karen's iphone and my Nexus 5, it was difficult to get some clean action shots. 
Another problem is with the display on phone. Because of the bad weather, Karen suggested that she will shoot with a darker, more contrasted whitebalance. Now, judging from her phone's display screen, the photo looks awesome. But when we uploaded onto the computer, we realized the contrast and the saturation is completely different from her phone's display. I have learned my lesson, it's alway good to start with no filter or a normal outdoor whitebalance. I can always edit the contrast, tone, or the level on the computer. 

The Edit (Week 6)

During our preproduction, we planned to provide subtitles throughout the entire storytelling. This is to ensure consistency and prevent unnecessary distraction. But until the actual editing begins, I realized there are two main problem regarding to subtitles: lost in translation and even great confusion with the distraction in the bottle. 
The first problem: should I translate/fix/and restructure her sentence so that it can convey what she attempted to convey? The most simple dilemma: she said "I don't have a phone, so I don't have google map", it's supposed to be "I didn't have a phone, so I didn't have google map". The problem is reflected in these simple grammar problems. Also, she expresses her feelings in a Chinese way. For example, she said she mistakenly bought the brownie mix and thought it was a box of brownie. So she said she "just put it there" when she was trying to say "just left it there". Well, in Chinese "put it there" makes sense. But in English, when someone said "she just put it there" doesn't necessarily mean "she just left it there". Then, in the translation, should I translate it for her and help her to clarify? But If I do that, I am changing her language and I won't be able to tell my audience that she is having a hard time to express her emotions. 
The second problem: The subtitle is distracting. It takes the focus away from the photo and her narration. 

Audio and Mash Up:
We uploaded to Youtube and showed to our own friends for opinion. We got some positive feedback and some advices as well. Digital narrative is not a common form of media in Hong Kong. Most people thought it was slide show so some of the comments are like "you should give some animation to the pictures", "the subtitle can pop up from the top, bottom, left and right. add more variation so that it will be more interesting". The most useful advice is to "add music in the beginning". I don't want to add random music just to pump up some random emotion that is not relevant to Amelia's story. So as I was editing the artefact, I suddenly thought of Keira Knightley's "tell me if you wanna go home" and "a step you can't take back".I think lyrics have to match with the theme as well. Anyhow, the foley selection was tough too. I don't want to make it sound like an animation. So at last, I chose some car horns, footstep, city park, and street noise. Just to reinforce her loneliness and change of perspective in the end.