Monday, November 20, 2017

Yeasayer, Emoji Renders & Movie Prop Designers

Weekly Update 2017-47: Yeasayer lays down harmonies so smooth they could butter your toast. Alongside that, the frustration of emojis rendering differently on someone else's phone and the people who design elaborate movie props.

Music: Yeasayer
I believe I first heard of this band by way of The Wedge, a now-defunct alternative programming music show on MuchMusic. They're an experimental rock band from Brooklyn, and the two lead singers Chris Keating and Anand Wilder really know how to pair some strange rhythms with their equally strange vocal qualities. Along with their third member Ira Wolf Tuton, the band produces their songs all together, a somewhat unorthodox take on composing. The band describes their own sound as “Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel,” if that helps at all. Better to just listen and see what you think.

They've released four studio albums since entering the limelight in 2006, and (no surprise) their live album from Brussels in 2013 compromises some of their amazing earlier songs along with great banter and stage presence (even if only for the ears). Check out Tightrope and Ambling Alp (my faves), and Red Cave specifically to hear some lovely harmonies.

I locked myself in a room at the library yesterday to work on the CSS for FriendCanoe. You can check out my progress here (don't judge me on my disorganized code writing skills, please)!

I also attended two client meetings through work last week (both of which required me to present something) and I think they both went quite well. There will be many more opportunities over the next few weeks to keep practicing, since the end of our engagement with this client is far from over, so I hope to continue improving these skills.

I also led my drumming band (for the first time ever) in the Newmarket Santa Claus Parade. It was so nerve-wracking! But everything went smoothly (even though it rained quite a bit). I'm waiting on my friend to send me some videos he took of us performing, it seemed like the crowd really liked us!

Being new to conducting, I picked up some good tips on how to improve my skills:
  • Hold sticks up very high for people to see
  • Say the number/beat/break while you do the sign
  • Hold sticks up straight and parallel while you mime the beats
  • Make sure you get people's attention before you make a sign
  • Try to look in people's eyes to ensure they see you (this is uncomfortably personal sometimes!)
  • Don't use thumbs up because it's confusing! (This was me trying to use positive reinforcement and just confusing people because the thumbs-up hand signal is used for a break).
This week I'd like to keep working on FriendCanoe and thinking of ways to improve the UX. I'll be consulting the Trello board to see what needs tackling next.

Random Thought:
Being someone who doesn't use a ton of emojis in their daily communication, I often wonder about the social behaviours associated with people who use them more frequently, and in different ways.

Depending on the make and model of your phone, the emoji I send to you may look completely different, or not be present at all and render as a blank square □ . On GetEmoji, you can see the differences in the ways Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft all design different emojis for their own brand, not to mention Facebook's weird designs that automatically translate from Emoji as soon as you hit send on your message.

Check out the different renderings for "singer/musician/rock star":

This may seem like a nit-pick, but Samsung really missed the mark here. The connotation of that singer looks much more "goody-two-shoes" to a North American audience (in my opinion) while I suppose someone from Asia might think of that as a k-pop or j-pop singer (more badass)? In any case, they're different. And this is only one example.

So, when I text people from my iPhone who have an Android phone, I feel apprehensive about using emojis. I never know how they will appear and how my message will be received.

Inspiration: Annie Atkins
Seeing the world through the eyes of a designer can sometimes be a chore. Not to be dramatic or anything, but I can never just sit and enjoy a movie without a million questions about little details running through my head. One of those things is a constant need to analyze all the props created for movies. I don't think people think about this as they watch movies, but feel free to correct me if you do.

Long story short, I spent two hours researching the painter who actually created the beautiful paintings (made by the character Sam) in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. It's a problem.

So who are the people making these props? Take Annie Atkins, for example. She specializes in graphics for filmmaking, including lettering, illustrations and more — she has designed all kinds of graphic props, including “telegrams, vintage cigarette packaging, maps, love letters, books, poems, labeling, passports and fake CIA identification cards.” All of the small design decisions she makes contribute to the creation of a cohesive visual world, establishing a film’s period and place.

Grand Budapest Hotel, another Anderson instant-classic, contained countless props for Atkins to pore over and create from hotel room keys to books to maps to boxes for tiny little delicate pastries.

There's something so magnetic about designing props for another universe. They make the universe seem almost tangible through their own existence, as though they came into creation when the story was written and retain some proof of that universe's tangibility. Basically, they make the story that much more believable and immersive. Not to mention, I love a good eye for detail which Atkins has in spades. Check out her website.

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