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2009-07-15 Multimedia System Support Documentation

posted Jul 15, 2009, 4:55 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 6:29 AM by Eddie Woo ]
For consolidation purposes, this has been identified as my final submission in response to ASSESSMENT COMPONENT 3B: Support Documentation from Mini-Assignment: Multimedia.

Design specifications

"Design specifications for further audio and video products that would complement the final multimedia system, and incorporate more expansive or difficult goals than are practically possible within the assigned time frame"

My final multimedia system is one that advertises the benefits of mathematics as a subject by providing opinions from both teachers and students about the subject. It stresses the importance of excelling at the subject (although the audio component also advertises other components of mathematics at James Ruse AHS, such as enrichment). My final multimedia system also presents a tour guide to advertise the work environment provided for mathematics students at James Ruse AHS.

Audio - interviews

In addition to the interview with Mr. Woodhouse, a large range of other people should be also interviewed, as a wider range of opinion sources would strengthen the point of view being presented (that mathematics is an important subject to excel at). These people would include:
  • Students from every junior year level
    • These students should be asked questions that are relevant to their current studies, such as favourite topic, reasons for liking maths, and number of units planned for HSC
  • Students from every senior year level
    • These students should be asked to give advice for junior students regarding number of units, and good exam practice; they should also describe their own experiences from being juniors
  • Ex-students
    • Ex-students should be asked to describe how studying maths at James Ruse AHS have helped them in later life
  • Other teachers
    • Other teachers should be asked to evaluate the current performance of the students of the school; they should also be asked to describe the benefits of doing well in maths.
  • Parents
    • Parents should be asked why they believe it is important to succeed and excel in mathematics.
This is a goal that is both expansive and difficult beyond practicality given the assigned time frame, as it would take too much time to find such large number of willing interviewees from such a diverse range of groups, in addition to the time taken to prepare for interviews, carry out interviews, and write project register entries describing the interviews.

Video - maths lesson (not interviews)

It would showcase the dedication and talents of the James Ruse AHS teachers and students respectively if it were possible to video them teaching actual mathematical concepts, such as graphing, or solving equations. Showcasing the talents of students would demonstrate the efficiency and enjoyability of mathematics.

However, this is not practical within the project timeframe due to the complexity of finding people willing to be part of such videos; I actually did try to produce this video, but there was simply too little interest for being part of such an endeavour. A few students showed willingness to be filmed teaching, but only if the lessons were prepared for them. Planning lessons for people would inherently involve a lot of time - an amount of time that is simply not available.

A note about the social and ethical issue of speed vs. sincerity in choice of media

All the interviews mentioned in the "audio - interviews" section above could also be recorded and presented on video instead. Audio adds a layer of complexity above text, in that different tones of voice (sarcasm, happiness, sadness, et cetera) can express what mere words (text) cannot do as naturally; similarly, video adds another layer of complexity above audio, in that body language can express what sound alone cannot.

The decision of which medium to use depends on the context, and whether or not the communicator believes tones of voice and body language will help to express the desired message more effectively.

Record of the 7 information processes

"A record of the 7 information processes should be maintained as the multimedia system is developed, including relevant discussion of issues related to software/hardware constraints and design decisions (e.g. organising data: compression levels applied to images, audio and video data)."

This record has occurred throughout my project register, particularly in the entries for 2009-07-16, 2009-07-08, 2009-07-07, 2009-07-06, 2009-07-01, and 2009-05-21.

Gantt chart

"The original major project Gantt chart should be updated to include a projected timeline for the development of this information subsystem."

The newest updated Gantt chart is here. Please note that the greyed-out sections reflect the portions of the original plan that are no longer within my control, as that time has already passed.

Case studies

"Research three comparable multimedia systems (e.g. websites, television broadcasts, radio programs etc. that align with the chosen genre of your multimedia system) that are professionally produced and designed, and write a case study of how each uses its particular medium effectively."

Apple "Get a Mac" video advertising

N.B. Snapshots used in this case study are the intellectual property of Apple, Inc. They have been used for research and study, as well as criticism and review, deemed "fair" usage under Australian Copyright law as such usage is relevant to the text and does not adversely affect the copyright owner's ability to profit; this addresses the social and ethical issue of copyright.

The "Get a Mac" advertisements are the components of a professionally produced system (definition of system: a collection of parts that work together to achieve a common purpose) designed to encourage people to purchase Apple's computer products.

This aligns with the genre of my mu
ltimedia system, which is also a system that advertises something; although, in my case, the thing being promoted is not a commercial product, but rather, a faculty at James Ruse AHS.

Although the video presentations may or may not be entirely factually accurate, they are an example of effective use of the video medium. They feature human actors Justin Long and John Hodgman as personifications of Apple's computers, "Macs", and generic computers (generally portrayed as running Windows operating systems), "PCs", respectively. They are distributed through a range of communication systems, including:
  • Television broadcasting (as advertisements)
  • Via the internet, officially though Apple's own website, as linked to above
  • Via the internet, unofficially, through video-sharing websites such as YouTube
The relatively short duration of the videos - generally half a minute - makes them more resource-efficient for such a wide range of distribution methods, as shorter advertisements are cheaper to pay for (in terms of television broadcasting) and use less bandwidth and storage space (in terms of distribution via the internet). This compensates for the problems of the video medium, as a medium that is overall more costly to use for advertising, and more demanding on network and storage resources.

The audio encompassed by the video medium is used effectively, as the actors use variations in vocal speed, tone, and pitch to communicate with the viewer in a way that is difficult to replicate with simpler media such as text. These variations are used in conjunction with sound effects that aid communication - for example, the sound effect of a buzzer was used in "V Word" was used to comically sensor instances of the word "Vista", a technique that cannot be replicated with the same effect with a simpler medium like text.

Audio is also used in the form of background music, which serves to make the video presentations more engaging to the viewer; this music also sets the mood as one of jocular jest as opposed to serious comparison and contrast between "PC" computers and "Mac" computers.

The animation (definition of animation: a sequence of images, usually displayed rapidly in order to give the illusion of movement) encompassed by the video medium is also used effectively. Effective use of visual communication is found physical characterisation; the "PC" and "Mac" are both characterised in ways that reflect the message that is being conveyed. The non-Apple computer is characterised as physically inflexible, old-fashioned (with the use of a business suit), and overly intellectual (with the use of glasses), while the Apple computer is characterised as slim, casual (with the use of a simple blue shirt and jeans), and youthful.

Visual communication is also used in the physical placement of the "PC" and "Mac" characters to further strengthen the portrayal of "PC" as logical and "Mac" as intuitive. The "PC" always seems to be on the left side of the scene, while the Mac always appears to be on the right side of the scene, a placing that can be construed as a reference to the lateralisation of brain function.



Additionally, the actors use body language to convey expressions and concepts. For example, in "Network", the initial holding of hands is used as a visual metaphor for a point-to-point network topology (pictured above on the left), and the way in which the "digital camera" actor physically shows the "Mac" actor a photograph is used as a visual metaphor for file transfer (pictured above on the right).

 

Finally, every video advertisement concludes with a pseudo-photograph of an Apple computer, the product being advertised. This visual component also includes a very small amount of text: "Mac", is superimposed onto this pseduo-photograph. The novelty of this term to those that are not familiar with Apple's products serves as a way to instill curiosity in the viewer, encouraging them to find out more about the product being advertised.

Bing Lee virtual tour

N.B. Snapshots used in this case study are the intellectual property of Bing Lee Electronics. They have been used for research and study, as well as criticism and review, deemed "fair" usage under Australian Copyright law as such usage is relevant to the text and does not adversely affect the copyright owner's ability to profit; this addresses the social and ethical issue of copyright.

The Bing Lee Electronics website has a section that features professionally-produced virtual tours of stores that effectively use the image medium. These appear to have been designed with the purpose of encouraging people to visit stores in real life, and subsequently purchase items at said stores. This aligns with the purpose of my multimedia system, which also uses a virtual tour of a location in order to promote what the location represents.

The image medium is highly suitable for the purpose of a virtual tour, as it shows the viewer what the text or audio medium alone cannot adequately describe. It is more efficient than the video medium, which is generally more demanding on financial (cost of video recording devices is greater compared to image recording devices) and technological resources (file size, processing requirements, et cetera).



The virtual tour for each store consists a single panoramic photograph, most likely (although not necessarily) produced by the process of panoramic stitching. The use of panoramic photography is an effective use of the image medium because it depicts a large amount of physical details, and how these physical details relate to each other in terms of spacing and placement; it is certainly a more effective use of the image medium than separate images depicting details in segments, which would certain encompass the same large amount of physical details, but would not effectively show how these physical details relate in terms of spacing and placement.

As is made evident by the snapshot above, Bing Lee's virtual tours require the end user to use a pointing device (e.g. mouse, tablet, touchscreen) to pan the image, instead of showing the end user the entire image at any given time. This has two high significant advantages in this case:
  1. It makes unauthorised copying of the image more difficult;
  2. It masks geometric distortions that may appear
However, these advantages did not apply to my equivalent product, because:
  1. As the copyright owner of my product, I do not mind if people make copies of my product;
  2. The geometric distortions in my product are a novelty that give what could be described as (literally) a new and unusual perspective of the subject to an audience that is familiar with the location; this is different in the case of Bing Lee's virtual tour, where the intended audience is not familiar with the location
In the snapshot above, some parts of the image are so bright that the detail of the areas affected is very low. This is evidence that, at some point during the production process, the exposure of the final image was influenced in such a way that the image would be overall brighter than level of exposure that the camera had determined to be ideal. This could have been done by the photographer (by adjusting factors such as aperture, shutter speed, and sensor sensitivity) or by someone during post-producing process (using software such as Adobe Photoshop).

The purpose of this photography technique was to give the impression that the location is extremely well-lit, making it seem aesthetically attractive. This technique is an example of image manipulation, and is an effective use of the image medium to portray the location positively and optimistically. Indeed, I personally used this technique in the product of my own virtual tour, as was explained in detail on 2009-07-08.

Creative Commons website

N.B. Snapshots used in this case study contain material by non-profit organisation Creative Commons and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY-3.0).

The Creative Commons website serves to promote the Creative Commons licenses offered by the organisation. It is an example of effective hypertext use, and aligns with the genre of my multimedia system - both systems are used for promotion, advertising, and persuasion.

The Creative Commons website has a style that could be described as elegant and simple. The selection of hypertext for navigation means that the site loads faster than a site that uses Flash or images for navigation, further emphasising the effectiveness of hypertext as a navigation tool.



The typeface used for the hypertext is a simple sans-serif typeface, and consistent throughout the website, as shown by the snapshot of the home page above. A very important design decision made by the system developers of this website is the decision to adhere to the standard of using blue hypertext when there is a white background, making the site more intuitive for new visitors.

The site does not simply use hypertext effectively for navigation, it relies on hypertext; while the images present are all hyperlinks to new material, the main navigation tool - the green bar at the top of the page - uses text for navigation. The navigation system is clear and does not require the end user to learn new skills in order to browse the site.

Finally, and very notably, there is a description of the purpose of the organisation next to its logo near the top. This description is followed by hypertext that provides more information. The text and hypertext is styled very similarly in this area, with the only notable difference being that the hypertext is in bold; the juxtaposition of text and hypertext in this area encourages the viewer to follow the link and indeed "Learn More" about Creative Commons.

Constructive critique

"Write a constructive critique of a peer’s multimedia system, assessing it and assigning an appropriate mark based on how competently it achieves the two stated purposes."

Introduction

Christine's multimedia production is a learning resource produced for Junior Science that compliments the Science Focus textbooks used by junior students at JRAHS. It communicates information about a variety of practical exercises, such as demonstrations of convection currents and the "pop" test.

Effectiveness of communication, creativity, and professionalism (2/3)

Information is relevant and presented informatively: the experiment is illustrated through the use of animation, the main concepts of all practical exercises are described, and in sections regarding chemistry experiments, a balanced chemical equation is usually present.

Additional information is also presented for trivia and entertainment; an example of this is found in Part A of the "Convection Currents" section, which notes that "potassium permanganate is also known as Condy's crystals and is used in rural areas to remove the rotten egg smell from water". The presence of this type of information keeps the user of the system engaged and interested.

The presentation is very creative in that it uses a number of interface metaphors, such as the bookshelf metaphor used for Year 9 practical exercises. However, interface metaphors are confusing in some places; for example, on the opening page, it is not immediately clear what is meant by the instruction "click one". This could be remedied with the inclusion of additional visual cues, such as arrows.

Professionalism is generally excellent throughout; however, it is compromised by occasional readability issues. For example, it is extremely difficult to read the white text on the fin of the yellow fish on the Year 8 area, due to the relatively low contrast between white and yellow. Readability could be improved by consistently using text colours that contrast well with the background.

Medium: Text and hypertext (3/3)

The text medium is used to scientifically describe what is happening during the practical exercise in question, and in some instances, elaborate on specific scientific concepts. Text is found in the "What's happening?" part of every section, and is accompanied by audio narration that can be switched off.

The unique strength of text as a medium that is showcased is the fact that users can read and comprehend the information at a speed that they find comfortable, as opposed to a set speed that may be too slow or too fast for them. This is showcased by allowing the audio narration to be switched off at the user's discretion, demonstrating that text can, in certain cases, be superior to audio for presenting factual information.

Hypertext is used throughout the presentation for the purpose of navigation. This showcases the unique strength of hypertext as a medium that provides interactivity in a multimedia presentation by allowing the end user to select which practical exercise they would like to receive information about.

Medium: Numbers (2/2)

The medium of numbers is used to identify pages in the Science Focus textbook that elaborate on concepts presented by the practical demonstrations mentioned in the presentation. Numbers are also used extensively in chemistry topics, where they are used to identify the quantities of certain elements, and to state the concentration of a substance with a numerical value.

These uses of numbers showcase the unique strength of numbers as a way of providing precise and quantitative data and information.

Medium: Audio (2/2)

The audio medium was present in the form of narration for textual descriptions of practical exercises. By making use of variations in speed, tone, and pitch, Christine's voice showcased the unique strength of audio in conveying expressions that would be difficult or impossible to replicate with transcriptions.

However, there are other strengths of audio that were not showcased in her use of the medium. Notably, audio can be used to convey sound effects that could only be approximated (through onomatopoeia) with text. This could have been incorporated in the section about the "pop" test, where an actual popping sound could have been conveyed in the audio narration. Nevertheless, her usage of the medium was still considerably effective.

Medium: Images (1/2)

Images were used to showcase the unique ability of the image medium in visually depicting physical subjects - in this case, the subjects were various scientific apparatuses. However, the quality of her presentation could have greatly improved had she used more realistic imagery, such as photographs.

Conclusion (overall: 10/12)

Christine's multimedia system is a learning resource of a very high standard, and would undoubtedly serve its purpose of teaching students very well. It has informatively communicated relevant information in a manner appropriate to its genre, and showcases the unique advantages of a variety of media types in a creative and professional way. In particular, it should be commended for its originality and relevance to the junior science course.
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