The Great American Ballad #1 game page

•January 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The Great American Ballad:

1. Overview (could be read out in class, for example)

Names like ‘King Arthur’ and “Hercules” are well-known. But scholars still debate whether these refer to real historical individuals. The same mystery has even attached to heroes in modern times. The first in The Great American Ballad series is of this nature. It is a song about a hero who lived in the modern era of pictures. People in modern times were tape-recorded who said that they knew him but there are only clues remaining to suggest that this was a real historical person.

The same can be said of the composer of the Ballad. The composers of many famous ballads have left no historical record. Indeed, the song may have evolved from a number of sources and there is no single person to whom we could attribute the song. It may have had many ‘co-composers’.

This is common to many things in history and science. For instance it would be hard to nominate the very first reptile or the very first bird – their parents would have still been classed as amphibians or dinosaurs. At some point their family tree became reptiles and birds.

The same logic applies to music composers. The ‘parent’ or ‘family tree’ of a famous ballad is typically a folk tune. At some stage a new set of words is added to the tune and gradually it becomes the familiar hit song that we know as an ‘oldie’ ‘campfire song’ or ‘children’s song’.  In such cases the ‘oldie’ may actually be hundreds of years old!  So the composers of the tune are long lost to history. There is no copyright, no royalty to be paid. We call it ‘public domain’, meaning we the public can all use it. But someone at some time wrote the tune and lyrics. Together those folks are ‘the Lost Composer’.

2. Clues

  • (click):  Clue 1a refers to this as being Game ‘1’ and the first clue as being ‘a’, hence ‘1a’
  • Clue 1b follows
  • then Clue 1c
  • and finally 1d is the ‘answer’ (the actual full song)

A text accompaniment to the videos is below:

Text of Video Clues to Ballad #1 as read by the avatars in the MovieStorm movies:

“He worked with steel but was not called a steel worker.  He spent his day driving but actually stayed in the same spot while doing it and was called a driving man rather than a driver. He dug into rock but was not called a miner. He is revered as a hero but he didn’t save anyone. He gave his life to a cause. Yet we have embraced the opposite cause to his and it has become our way of life. His story has inspired a novel and stage musical. A cartoon version of the story was nominated for an academy award-nominated. He even inspired a comic book superhero.  But the real man who inspired the legends remains an enigma. There are people who were tape-recorded in interviews who said they had known him. Some researchers claim they have found his name in documents. Most agree he was a real person. Who was he?  This crossword puzzle gives clues. It lists the names of most of the musicians who have recorded this famous ballad.”

The Great American Ballad #1: Crossword Clues

(printable pdf version: ballad_1_crossword)

This crossword consists of the names of the artists who have recorded this particular Great American Ballad #1

crossword for great american ballad

ACROSS DOWN
3.     bruce7.     jerry lee

9.     leon

10.   fiddlin’ john

13.   joe

16.   The name of this Great American Ballad

17.   johnny

18.   pink

19.   pete

 

1.     huddy2.     paul

4.     drive-by

5.     woody

6.     gillian

8.     ramblin’ jack

9.     big bill

11.   J E

12.   uncle dave

14.   harry

15.   van

 

Created with freeware: www.eclipsecrossword.com

printable version: ballad_1_crossword

Demo Mystery Game: The Great American Ballad

•January 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Objective

This demonstrates a simple format for an online or intranet mystery game.  The same format can be applied to most educational topics. The purpose of this demo is merely to give teachers ideas of how to do it simply. This format is cheap, easy to produce, customisable, and can be scaled to any size from a single classroom to an international competition. This entire media set was created with software commonly used in schools such as animation, midi, text-to-speech voices and archival movies.

Those teachers wishing to apply the format to other topics are referred to these resources:

This game consists of three video clues in decreasing order of difficulty. I picked a topic ‘The Great American Ballad’ that teachers should find particularly easy. The very title implies that only the most famous songs would be used as examples in such a series.

The purpose of the exercize is to demonstrate the principles of transforming a task into a game. The game version differs because of the introduction of certain elements:

  • Task – the overall lesson here is not so much ‘music’ but ‘game-making’. By playing this game you get ideas for games you can create for your own topics.
  • Levellers –  ‘level the playing field’ for participants through chance components such as cards, dice, and competitions. The levellers used here are the historical versions of the songs which only professional music historians would likely have ever heard. Most players will have to search the web based on the clues. The game can also be levelled by having players produce their own versions of the song. This spreads the skills over ‘general knowledge’, ‘research’ and ‘artistic’ realms.
  • Contaminants – multimedia elements can enhance or even distract from the main message. Used strategically they can bring life to the exercize but sometimes at a price of adding too much cognitive burden. Examples include elaborate game aspects that add nothing to the topic being taught. This game keeps initial clues to brief 1-2 minute movie vignettes.

To play through the game

Follow the brief movie sequence on the MovieStorm site.

  • Clue 1a refers to this as being Game ‘1’ and the first clue as being ‘a’, hence ‘1a’
  • Clue 1b follows
  • then Clue 1c
  • and finally 1d is the ‘answer’ (the actual full song)

By playing through the above clues then going online to the search engines (or a library) the intention is for participants to follow the ‘Hero’s Journey’:“ A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man ” (Campbell, 1949).

This is a time-proven model for adventure: taking ordinary tasks into an extraordinary context. A single line can set the adventure “A celebrity is coming to town … “,”Scientists warn of danger …” “A lost treasure awaits …” . The Great American Ballad game uses a newsdesk, for example to set the stage. The ‘trials’ then consist of the teacher’s intended curriculum exercises. The Internet provides a “region of supernatural wonder” as participants look up the clues presented as a ‘mystery’, in this example identification of a particular Great American Ballad. Class presentations, reports, debates, and video uploads bestow the boon to others.

A text accompaniment to the videos is below:

The Great American Ballad: Overview (could be read out in class, for example)

Names like ‘King Arthur’ and “Hercules” are well-known. But scholars still debate whether these refer to real historical individuals. The same mystery has even attached to heroes in modern times. The first in The Great American Ballad series is of this nature. It is a song about a hero who lived in the modern era of pictures. People in modern times were tape-recorded who said that they knew him but there are only clues remaining to suggest that this was a real historical person.

The same can be said of the composer of the Ballad. The composers of many famous ballads have left no historical record. Indeed, the song may have evolved from a number of sources and there is no single person to whom we could attribute the song. It may have had many ‘co-composers’.

This is common to many things in history and science. For instance it would be hard to nominate the very first reptile or the very first bird – their parents would have still been classed as amphibians or dinosaurs. At some point their family tree became reptiles and birds.

The same logic applies to music composers. The ‘parent’ or ‘family tree’ of a famous ballad is typically a folk tune. At some stage a new set of words is added to the tune and gradually it becomes the familiar hit song that we know as an ‘oldie’ ‘campfire song’ or ‘children’s song’.  In such cases the ‘oldie’ may actually be hundreds of years old!  So the composers of the tune are long lost to history. There is no copyright, no royalty to be paid. We call it ‘public domain’, meaning we the public can all use it. But someone at some time wrote the tune and lyrics. Together those folks are ‘the Lost Composer’.

Clues to Ballad #1 as read by the avatars in the MovieStorm movies:

“He worked with steel but was not called a steel worker.  He spent his day driving but actually stayed in the same spot while doing it and was called a driving man rather than a driver. He dug into rock but was not called a miner. He is revered as a hero but he didn’t save anyone. He gave his life to a cause. Yet we have embraced the opposite cause to his and it has become our way of life. His story has inspired a novel and stage musical. A cartoon version of the story was nominated for an academy award-nominated. He even inspired a comic book superhero.  But the real man who inspired the legends remains an enigma. There are people who were tape-recorded in interviews who said they had known him. Some researchers claim they have found his name in documents. Most agree he was a real person. Who was he?  This crossword puzzle gives clues. It lists the names of most of the musicians who have recorded this famous ballad.”

The Great American Ballad #1: Crossword Clues

(printable pdf version: ballad_1_crossword)

This crossword consists of the names of the artists who have recorded this particular Great American Ballad #1

crossword for great american ballad

ACROSS DOWN
3.     bruce

7.     jerry lee

9.     leon

10.   fiddlin’ john

13.   joe

16.   The name of this Great American Ballad

17.   johnny

18.   pink

19.   pete

 

1.     huddy

2.     paul

4.     drive-by

5.     woody

6.     gillian

8.     ramblin’ jack

9.     big bill

11.   J E

12.   uncle dave

14.   harry

15.   van

 

Created with freeware: www.eclipsecrossword.com

printable version: ballad_1_crossword

Christmas Movie O Holy Night

•November 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This TV-Tom.Com segment was prepared as a showcase for ‘integrated media’ – the term I coined for combination of animation with traditional material such as puppetry, miniatures and live footage. This particular segment highlights the 3D animation programme from Moviestorm UK in the format of a ‘music video’. The Christmas theme was chosen to be a ‘Holiday Spectacular’ like those we see at this time each year on TV. In Australia the Carols by Candlelight (Melbourne) and Carols in the Domain (Sydney) have become season traditions. Each attracts thousands who pour into the park for hours to hold aloft their candles while local celebrities and musicians perform with full orchestra and choir.

This segment sought to re-create the atmosphere of these large scale events from a desktop computer using only software and public domain archival footage. The running theme idea was ‘Elvis does Carols in the Park’, hence the Nashville musical arrangement and vocal style. The original idea had been a ‘Bing Crosby and Enya meet the Fugees’ arrangement of Silent Night but it wasn’t quite sounding right so I changed to the more conventional O Holy Night.

The crowd shots were actually daylight still images. They were blue-filtered to turn them into night shots then animated and overlaid with candle images. The idea here is to suspend disbelief with familiar image techniques portrayed quickly enough that the rough details don’t spoil the illusion.

Even though this was quite time-consuming it would have been impossible with most alternative methods. The live footage was essential as a 3 minute presentation of animated figures alone can quickly become boring. The intention here was typical of musical videos since the MTV era to make the visuals a bit of a surreal blur so  that the sound track stands out.

Below are links to the video and discussion notes for any teachers who might like to use the video as a resource.

Merry Christmas

http://www.moviestorm.co.uk/community/index.php?page=videos&section=view&vid_id=107694 

alternate link

http://www.moviestorm.co.uk/community/swf/player.swf

O Holy Night performed by Tom Benjamin Christmas 2011

http://www.moviestorm.co.uk/community/index.php?page=videos&section=view&vid_id=107694 

Discussion Notes

Issues –

Project Management: what is required to create a simulated ‘big event’ video?  Software is mentioned in the credits of the film. Techniques are overviewed in examples on www.movie-tom.com and www.tv-tom.com

Religious sensitivities – Gospel has been long-accepted as a format for hymns and songs of praise. What alternative styles might breed controversy? For example a hip hop or rap version? Is any disrespect shown by using non-traditional forms?

Big Events – what other educational/community topics might benefit from ‘big event’ simulations? Sporting events, period dramas

Messages – what messages might be suitable for ‘big event’ simulation? political statements, causes, rallies, local news

Avatars v live – do digital announcers with their text-to-speech voices give the production a studio look or detract with a ‘zombie’ quality? Would live-action (blue screen etc) be better or worse?

Self-promotion – does the ‘big event’ seem pretentious, humorous, serious, …?

Period dramas – could the technique recreate historical scenes like the Roman Coliseum? What software blending would be required?

Copyright – suitable archival movie footage, royalty-free sound clips, original or public domain music

Film-Making

Northern Hemisphere – how could O Holy Night be modified to give a Northern Hemisphere Winter look? .. snow?  clothing? Editing out people wearing shorts, trees without leaves, colours of landscape …

Sound libraries – commercial royalty-free, digital archive (www.archive.org) , free sound effects

Text-to-speech voices – these can do adult voices, robotics, etc but may need editing and permissions

Additional scenes – realism could be enhanced with supplementary scenes such as a video production room with the sound stage appearing on the ‘studio screens’ some free sets are available for this

Crowd scenes – what effects are needed such as perspective, reverb, sound clips, visual effects?

Miniatures – Could realistic crowd scenes be done with avatars, puppets or miniatures ($2 bags of toy soldiers, paper cut-outs … for example)

Musical

Modern alternatives – This song used a Nashville (Elvis) style. What other styles would suit O Holy Night?

Traditional styles – what traditional styles and instruments would be suitable (choir, violins, guitar etc)

Vocals – would harmonies or multi-tracked harmonies be preferable to a solo voice?

Alternate songs –  other ‘big’ Christmas songs from public domain such as The Holy City (1892) Angels We Have Heard on High (Eng 1862)  Could digital choir samples do ‘The Hallelujah Chorus”?

Tempos – which public domain Christmas songs might lend themselves to modern tempos? Jingle Bells …

Visual

Integrated media – combining live footage such as crowds and old movies with cartoons, avatars and special effects using common denominators such as putting them on a TV screen and ‘switching channels’

Animation tools – 3D animation to create avatars, voice-synch (Moviestorm, CrazyTalk, Poser …) animated .gifs with transparencies used in PowerPoint scenes. Animating still shots.

Illusions – suspending disbelief with realism touches such as announcers, sound clips

Perspective – candles getting smaller in the distance), colours, use of sound effects, reverb

PDF version of above notes for printing: O Holy Night Tom Benjamin notes

Your Online Multimedia Presence

•October 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Thank you for attending our BigMarker Conference Your Online Multimedia Presence.  The .pdf below gives details of software and links to relevant sites. 

DigitalPortfolio

 
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