Last week was the part of ds106 where (cue the John Williams score -ba da ba da ba da) we approach maybe the most treacherous waters of creativity (underwater shot of woman swimming, legs kicking).


As our teaching of ds106 evolves, I”ve found it useful to start each new (new to the syllabus) media with an observing activity, and so as in years past, we have students cue up Ebert”s essay on How to Read a Movie and ask them to look in detail at a scene from a movie.

Notching it up a bit, the twist added this year really worked well, what I called “Look, Listen, Analyze”. We provided links to a few YouTube playlists of “great scenes” from movies, and askd the students to choose one (without watching it). The task was then to watch it 3 times, 3 different ways:

  1. Before watching the first time, slide the volume on the clip (or on your computer) all the way down. Take notes on the visual aspects of the clip. Look for camera angles, cuts, how many times the camera switches view, the quality of light. Look for the ways the camera tells, guides the story.
  2. Now turn the volume up, but play it without looking at the screen; just tune into the audio. Take notes on the pacing of the dialogue, the spaces in the the audio, the use of music or sound effects (think back to our work earlier on listening to audio).
  3. Finally, watch the scene with the audio as normal. Pay attention to something you may have missed the first time or how the elements you saw in the first two steps work together.

I was impressed with my students’ observations, remember these are not film students nor am I a film expert:

The thing I like most in these observing activities is reading how students see/hear elements they never noticed before. One student also cleverly noted how well it works to be focusing on a single scene rather than trying to do an entire movie.

I also think that the more you can view something in short segments the more you are able to take notice of exactly what is going on. I saw more facial movements, the shifting of props, and was a little more aware of audio cues.

But amongst all this was a clip that was the starting point for this post, which as usually wanders off track like a dog running in the woods.

One of my students analyzed the closing action sequence of Jaws, a movie always powerful to me because I remember seeing it in the theater when it first came out in June of 1975, my sisters taking me about a few weeks before out annual summer vacation to the beach in Ocean City, MD.

There could maybe not possibly be a worst quality clip of the scene- it was shot by someone holding a camera up to their TV screen, there are kids chattering away (talking about Call of duty), then riotous cheering when the shark goes, um… (well you know what happens, right?) BOOM. This clips has over 170,000 views, and the video SUCKS… but it’s almost like an un-intended mashup, and rather than being a purists perfect piece of cinema, it captures the moment of watching a movie with people.

It’s imperfections are what makes it interesting.

Look at the annotation note in the beginning

I will be uploading a newer video of this without the kids in the background… it will be uploaded once I get a new camera.

That was in 2008, and luckily fiendtiger73 never re-did their classic “work”.

I don”t know why, but to me what could be called sloppy, crap, is its way a fascinating bit of accidental creativity.

And from here I fall down the related video wormhole finding the Lego version of Jaws

I am far from the first person to marvel at the creative output one finds in the YouTube crevices… Finding these gems, done by people for what I am guessing is the sheer joy or challenge of making media, always thrills me. They are not seeking credit, badges, or job advancement.

This is not part of some class. This is just creative expression, in the open, and the re-assuring antidote to a lot of the crap that flies around out there, even worse when it is labeled “ope.”

If this kind of stuff has any value, please support me monthly on Patreon or a one time PayPal kibble toss
Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *