Monday, May 17, 2010

Road to the Finish Line

So, as I mentioned before, I am OCD. Things have to be a certain way for me otherwise I get stressed out and even physically get sick. I can't "half-ass" anything because even the thought of it makes me lose sleep at night.

That being said, the caliber of work that I produce has to be always above and beyond what is expected. Needless to say, Windows Movie Maker didn't quite "cut" it for me. I went and got Adobe Premier Pro to work on the CLAM projects.

Warning to technology challenged people like me, Adobe Premier was like alien language to me... I had a friend from Turkey who sat with me on the computer for hours trying to teach me how to use it. God bless Skype :) Okay, I think slowly but surely I'm also becoming a tech geek.

The biggest challenge wasn't the video editing program though. Once I got rolling, I seemed to pick it up quickly. My biggest problem was arranging the videos. For that, storyboards helped a lot.

I don't know how many of you physically made storyboards, but if you haven't I highly suggest you do it if you ever end up doing a project like this again.

Before I even started gathering everything for the projects, I went out and bought three big bulletin board type of foam posters. My initial intention was to put materials that I would need for each video such as the pictures that I would use.

But in the end it turned out to be more than just storyboards. I put down ideas, notes, businesscards, phone numbers that I needed, scripts for my narration, video permission slips, etc. Basically, these storyboards were with me every step of the video editing process.

My friend would peek at my boards every day to see what I had changed :) She was livid when I said I would throw them out after I was done with the project because I would have no use for them. Actually, she is the one who suggested that I should give them to my professor after the project was over so he could use them as examples for his future classes.

So, I decided to also post them here. Easier access you know??

I hope this helps the future CLAMMERS!


Final Projects are Finally Here

It has been a long and to say the least, torturous journey for me to compose the final videos. Don't get me wrong, I have learned A LOT! Not only did I get to learn about the Suryanis, I learned more about photography, how to effectively record videos, and also to use video editing programs. On top of it, I also got a small job. My friend saw my videos and asked me if I could edit her wedding videos for her.

I'm going to keep this blog simple and post the videos but I'm also going to blog about the road to the finish line.

So, here goes, well, everything that I have been working on for the past four months.

This is the Personal Video. I decided to keep the Personal Video personal and just include narration and my photography. I didn't want to include any interviews because I wanted to make this video from my point of view. This video is about what I have learned and what I will be walking away with now that this project is done.

For the Professional Video, I balanced the content it with narration, interviews and photographs. I think I had the most fun with this video. It was so much fun trying to get Iso, our friend, to just sit still and be serious for a few minutes. He was sweating pearls by the end of the interview because he was so nervous.

The Public Issues Video proved to be the most difficult. As you will see in the video, I got to interview the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the US. This is a great honor. Though it wasn't easy to get an interview with him. Not that he wasn't willing, but being the Archbishop of the US and all, he is a busy man with not a lot of free time.

We met twice for the interview. The first day we got to know each other and I told him about my project and things that I would ask him during the interview. That way he would have an idea of what he would say. Also, it gave me some time to research the issues that he mentioned.

The interview ended up being more than an hour and a half.... Ever try cutting 90 minutes of material down to five? Yeah, well, it took me two days and more than nine hours of editing just the interview, not including time spent on working on the editing of the whole video.

Though, this was the toughest video, to me it has the most meaning. I am leaving to go to Turkey on Sunday and if I ever get a chance, I want to visit Mor Gabriel Monastery. I promise, if I do get to go there, I will post a blog with pictures.

The thing is, I loved this class way too much. I got to do the things that I have been wanting to do but haven't had the time to because of school and work. I cannot express how much it makes me happy to have learned about photography and film. I'm going to continue on learning more. Now I'm saving up to get a Mac Book Pro :) I think I'm addicted :)

Well guys, it has been a long and difficult journey but very VERY rewarding. It has been great to get to know you all through this class. Hope we will keep in touch and chime in on the future CLAM students from time to time!

With Lots of Love,

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interviews: What I thought I knew.

So, first off my aunt questioned me as to whether or not I was actually doing homework since I kept giggling every few seconds while watching the course videos. She wasn't at all convinced that I was really doing homework. Her response? "Why are you having so much fun doing homework?" My response? "Because I am taking a really interesting class with a really cool professor. I think I have yet to convince her =P

The videos were really insightful about how I should conduct the interviews I plan on doing for the final project. Of course, certain things were common sense like knowing about your interviewee and being prepared with a list of questions. However, the positioning of the camera was "less intuitive" as the video suggested. The rule of the thirds for the head positioning really got me. I wouldn't have thought that it would be okay to cut a part of the forehead but not the chin. Interesting... I will make sure to incorporate these hints while I'm doing my interviews. I thought that I would conduct my interview with Iso at his jewelry store and use the counters as background. It wouldn't be too distracting but at the same time, not too plain. I need to get a tripod and I need to do it soon. That way I won't shake the camera.

As for the interview with the head priest of the Syrian church, I thought it would be appropriate to do it inside the church. I visioned that it would be more intimate if I sat with Mr. Aziz Hadodu in the pews and show both of us in the frames. But, now I'm not sure of that after I watched the interview tips videos. Give me some insight on this. Is it an absolute "no-no," or should I conduct the interview this way because I'm trying to give a certain feeling?

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Not exactly the best first try for a video

Well, here it is.... I did not have the best time in the world doing this. As I have said before, I am not a technical whiz, not at all. So, I thought, hey I already have Windows Movie Maker installed on my computer so I'll just use that since Professor Nichols already gave us a link for the tutorial. Well, apparently Windows hates Apple. WHO KNEW?! So, Windows movie maker refuses to play Quicktime videos, which means that any file that is saved as ".mov" will not be edited in Windows Movie Maker. I I downloaded this "codec" thingie that it needed. It still didn't work. Youtube is a great source of "how-to-videos" by the way. After watching four videos and downloading three different software that "promised" to fix the problem, I gave up and downloaded Muuvie Reveal instead. A very easy program to use for the technically challenged people like me. I HIGHLY recommend this software. The only problem I had with it was I couldn't find a way to rotate the videos that I took.

A little bit about this video, I started out with filming my family and friends, showing what a night with my family looks like. I decided to work with the older files, like my photography and the recent "home" videos I took, because honestly, I am very very inexperienced with filming and "cutting" them to make a video. So, this video was more of a learning tutorial for me. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to add video and pictures. Figured out how to add captions and how to make transitions. The coolest thing was how to break up the film into pieces and take out the pieces that I didn't like. Here's a note for the challenged people like me: if you are using a digital camera to do your video recording because you don't have any other sources, find out where the darn microphone is on your camera before you record a 10 minute video with white noise. Seriously.... it was embarrassing when I sat down to review and edit the videos and I found out that I had no audio. Which is why there is the music in the background. I am learning.... I am having fun though! I want to figure out a few more things though. For example, how would you be able to dim the background music if I wanted to narrate the video instead of caption it?

Okay, in the past two days, I learned a lot about Muuvie Reveal and how to use it and again, I HIGHLY recommend it. I'm going to give Windows Movie Maker another try but I need help. Please, I don't know how to solve this "codec" problem. If anybody has any ideas please, please let me know.

Anyways, let me know what you think.

P.S. Here are some screen shots of how cool and easy it is to use Muuvie Reveal

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Storyboarding... You have GOT to be kidding!

I cannot draw if my life depended on it. I can make copies of drawings or paintings I see, but I am definitely not a drawing artist. So, here's what I'm going to do: I will have a "plan of action," in the form of a storyboard and the frames of my storyboard will consist of pictures and videos that I took/will take. That way, I will save myself the embarrassment of drawing.

Since I had decided on investigating the Süryani culture, I have had a few people in mind that I would like to interview. First person that I will interview is our family friend, İso and possibly his wife and children. He was so eager to accommodate me in anyway when I told him that I will be studying the Süryanis. Actually, he is so excited that when he saw me today, he asked me if I was going to church with him tomorrow and he told me that he will take me to a different church tomorrow so that I can take pictures in a different setting.

Another person that I want to interview is the Priest from the church I went to in Hackensack. The priest's name is Aziz Hadodu. He graduated from Yildiz Technical University in Besiktas, Istanbul where I am from. He was so unbelievably excited and so willing to help with my project.

I have a pretty good idea of what I want to include in my Personal Video, but the Professional and the Public Issues will take more investigation.

In my personal video I will include pictures and videos from the Süryani church services, family gatherings, and parties I went to. I even waitressed İso's daughter's engagement party so that I would take good pictures and videos and communicate with their guests and family members. I have really cool pictures from there. In fact here's me towards the end of the night, looking quite tired.

So I don't think the Personal Video will be very challenging in terms of finding material and ideas, but for the Professional and the Public Issues Videos I will need to come up with some ideas doing interviews. I am studying Finance and Accounting, so I need to find relevant points within the Süryani culture. Since Süryanis are very apt in business especially in import/export and jewelry business, I was thinking that my interview with İso, who owns several jewelry stores, would be included in the Professional Video. I would investigate about the typical businesses Süryanis are more inclined to get into and the cultural influences behind their business choices and how they conduct their business.

As for the Public Issues Video, I will speak to Aziz Hadodu about the struggles of the Süryanis due to their beliefs, especially the Süryanis in Turkey where the 99% of he population is Muslim.

So, let me know what else I should include in my Personal and Public Issues Videos since I will struggle with them the most. Give me some ideas as to what else I should add, etc.

P.S. I am getting s excited about the actual composition of the videos. I will be learning a lot technically since I've never cut or edited a video before!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Yea... No kidding. Anybody can push a button and take a photograph but it is an entirely different thing to make that photograph a picture. I think that the difference between a photograph and a picture is that a picture has a story behind it and that it is intentional (most of the time).

Last week, I had asked Professor Nichols about that week and last weeks assignments because I had a feeling that I was doing them wrong. I have been into photography for a long time so I have a good sized portfolio. However, I wasn't sure whether or not we had to practice our photography by taking pictures of our target culture or not. Professor Nichols said that it would be ideal since "you'd kill two birds with one stone."

Well, I arranged to go to the Assyrian service on Sunday, but since it was on such a short notice, I wasn't able to speak directly with the priest, only our friend told me that it was okay for me to walk around and take pictures during the service.

I felt uncomfortable to say the least. Not only that, I felt like I was disturbing people while they were worshiping. All in all, I could only take about 70 or so pictures and a few short videos.

When I got home that Sunday, I was horrified. The point-and-shoot digital camera that I was using stinks! To say the least, only about 10-20 photographs were good quality due to the lack of light and the abundance of incense smoke in the church.

Well anyways, I'm going to share a few of my photos and explain what I tried to capture with them.

Beautiful stained glass. Even though the church I went to is a small church with a small congregation, they are very tight knit. In fact, the congregation raised enough money to buy a two million dollar acre to build a new church. by shutting off the flash on the camera, I hoped to capture the divinity of every inch of this place.

The object that is seen on top of the covers in the foreground is the Bible that the priest reads in the church. It is so symbolic that everybody participating in the service kisses it at some point during the service.

Notice here that the women have their heads covered during the service in the church. This is mainly a Islamic tradition to cover the heads of the women. Many Turkish and Islamic traditions have infused into the Christian Assyrian culture.

This picture, I wanted to capture another tradition that infused into the Assyrian culture, that is the separation of men and women. In this church, the women sit on the right side of the isle while the men sit on the left. Here is a shot of the front of the church from the right side, behind a woman with a head scarf.

This is another shot showing the separation of the genders. I took a friend of mine to the church with me that morning so that she can help me if I needed anything, batteries, memory card, etc. We came in, covered our heads, and sat on the left side of the isle, the men side. After about five minutes somebody came over and told us to go to the other side. In the beginning of the service the church was half empty so there were plenty of spaces in each side. But towards the end of the service, the church was packed with people standing towards the back and side walls. More women than men came to the service, so naturally some of the women sat on the left side with the men, but no men sat on the right side. Later, our friend of the family, Iso (which means Jesus in Aramaic), told us that it is common for men and women to have mixed seating here in the US since their church is small. However, this would never happen regardless of the availability in Turkey or Europe.

The priest reading from the Bible. Singing is prominent during the Assyrian service. In fact, there were hardly any spoken words during the service. Everybody "talked" in a singing manner.

The priest blessing the altar boy and handing him the incense so he can walk around the church with it. Note the two men on each side of the altar. They have their backs turned to the congregation. Now, I've been to many churches, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, yet I had never seen a service where the attendants and the priest did most of the paying while turning their backs to the congregation. This is another Islamic tradition. The Imam and the Cemaat (congregation in Turkish) turns to the direction of the Mecca to pray. So in essence during the whole prayer, Imam's back is to the Cemaat. It was the same incident here with the priest and the attendants.

Even though this shot came out a little darker than I intended to, I really like this picture. This was right after the altar boy kissed the Bible. You can just see the reflection of the light coming in from the stained glass on the Bible.

Choir girls. I really like the angle of this picture. The photograph of Jesus is on the top left while the girls are on the bottom right. Small detail, the candles below the photograph of Jesus adds to the mood.

Here the girls are singing. I took this picture from the second row between the two women because I wanted to show the prominence of the head scarf tradition. The friend who came with me to the church that day is also Turkish and she also doesn't know anything about Assyrians. Her comment after we left was, "They [the congregation] were like Muslims in a church!" No kidding. The infusion of both religions is uncanny.

İşo, our friend, is in the middle (gray suit). This gesture of "shaking hands" is the gesture of "giving of peace." People shake hands with others around them then rubbing their hands to their face. This is yet another Islamic tradition. During the daily prayer, Muslims open up the palms of their hands to the heavens and after the prayer, rub their hands to their faces as if to rub in the blessing from Allah to themselves. Speaking of Allah, Assyrians do not address God as God but they use the word Allah. This was the most interesting part for me. In Turkish, we have two words to describe "the creator," if you will. Allah is used as the one and only creator, while the use of God is in a more general term as if to say a deity. For example, in Turkish, we would call Venus a God because she is the Goddess of love, beauty and natural productivity. We wouldn't call her the Allah of Love. I hope I am explaining this right... Please ask me if you get confused.

This was the elder lady in front of me "giving peace." I think the blurriness of this picture and the subsequent two pictures can kind of explain how determined she was to get to as many people as possible.

Here she is right after she gave peace to

Here is the last picture of the day. The service took a little longer than usual because there was a memorial service for the relative of a congregation member who passed away in Europe. The congregation member bought grapes and bread for everybody to snack on after the service. This can show you how tight knit the Assyrians are. Somebody's relative passes away in Europe somewhere and they hold a service to pray for that person in the US.

Anyways, I hope you like the stories behind the pictures and I hope that you were able to catch some of the stories I way trying to tell through my pictures without the help of my narration. Please let me know what you think.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My photography through time...

Took a while to post due to the fact that I had to get a new camera and a scanner... I had a tragic loss of data a few years ago and the victims were my pictures in the computer I managed to crash so magnificently. Thankfully, I had printed some of my photos to make a scrapbook/portfolio thingie. One would think that I would learn from The Big Computer Crash of 2007, but apparently that is not so. Friday morning I learned that spilling a cup full of hot tea on your laptop doesn't give the best results in the world. Which is why I have been thanking the Best Buy guy who made me buy insurance on my laptop.

On top of which, my 35mm Yashica camera crapped out on me after many many years of loyal service and my Nikon Coolpix 8700, that cost a fortune back in the day, decided to play hardball with me, I had to get a new camera. The new camera is the Coolpix S50; a point and shoot digital camera. When I say "new," it's used but it's new to me =]

Above you can see my Yashica in the far right, my broken Nikon in the middle and the box of my "new" Nikon. When it comes to digital cameras, I never divert from Nikon. Maybe a Canon or an Olympus.

Back to this week's blog. My dad was and still is an avid amateur photographer and he got me into photography at an early age. He's a 35mm guy though and made sure I was one too =] He taught me to pay attention and do it "right" the first time since film and developing the film cost so much money, back in the day that is. So, when I hear Pat and other photography mentors that I have had talking about "shoot, shoot, and shoot some more," it still sounds so weird to me. Other than that, I knew all of Pat's suggestions, tips, and principles or derivatives of them from the videos.

Here's some of my work.

Osmanbey - Istanbul, TURKEY
I was trying to catch the rush hour of people shopping and trying to get home for dinner.

Bosphorus - Istanbul, TURKEY
This is a 35mm black and white film but it incorporates the empty space idea to emphasize the bridge in the picture.

Bosphorus - Istanbul, TURKEY
Again, 35mm but this time the boats are emphasized.

Maiden's Tower - Istanbul, TURKEY
The infamous Maiden's Tower I mentioned in my earlier blog. There is an upscale cafe there now. I really like the angle in this picture.

Maiden's Tower - Istanbul, TURKEY
This incorporates the rule of 1/3's (sort of) and the empty space.

Back Stage - Hackensack, NJ
Talk about a tight picture.

Newbie mistake (which I shouldn't have made). Not enough light to make it a clear picture. I can probably photoshop it though.

Dr. Finley - Hackensack, NJ
Here, shutter speed was important. For example, Pat had to use a fast shutter speed when he was taking pictures of the football game, I had to use a slower shutter speed for this one.

Natural - Hackensack, NJ
These girls got caught in the act.

Nature - Passaic River, NJ

Used this as a Christmas card =] Rule of 1/3's??

Close-up. Took a lot to hold the camera still.

My student - Home
Tight picture. Not a lot of empty space.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - New York, NY
Look closely at the people in the windows. I thought that was cool. I loooooooove high resolution!! Though floating dolls in Manhattan is still creepy to me.

Hello! - New York, NY
Another tight-shot from the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Strangers in the Day - New York, NY
Natural shot of kids watching the parade.

Moving - Lincoln Tunnel, Somewhere between NY & NJ
I don't know why, but i love blurry moving pictures like this one and the hands on the piano above. It's fascinating to me but a lot of people find it unappealing to the eye... I guess whoever said that "the beauty is in the eye of the beholder" was absolutely correct.

Chrysler Building - New York, NY
Love the empty space around the Chrysler Building here.

Wannabe - New York, NY
Another oldie, but a goodie. Took my friends to the Turkish Day Parade in Manhattan. They had a blast with me =]

Mr. & Mrs. Valevaris - Nutley, NJ
I stood on the witness stand and took this picture. Good thing the court officials didn't get mad at me. My friends asked me to take a few pictures at their ceremony.

Mr. & Mrs. Valevaris - Nutley, NJ
Caught them nagging at each other moments after the ceremony =P

Mr. & Mrs. Valevaris - Nutley, NJ
"We did it!" Sometimes posing is good and much needed!

Trinity Ann Valevaris - Nutley, NJ
Cutie pie loves the camera and attention. Trying to get HER to pose was another story all together.

Pensive - Lyndhurst, NJ
Daddy was quite pensive this morning. Rule of 1/3's. I love the lighting in this picture.

Self Portrait
Had to finish off with this.

You can guess by now that I love black & white photography. There is something so nostalgic about it.

Well, now that I have a new camera with video, I'm going to have to read yet another user's manual thoroughly to take better pictures. Still can't figure out how not to get red eyes with this camera. Mind you, I've only had it for a day. I miss my old Nikon! It's out of the warranty time so I have to pay for the repairs. As for the Yashica, does anybody know a camera repair store in North Jersey? ANYONE?? Professor Nichols??? Please?!?!?

P.S. Wow.... This has been a long blog.