Student Reflection – Worth Striving For (8.1)

By Blake Washington

Although it took much more brainstorming, planning, composing, and time than the majority of the projects I’ve completed in my time here at the University of Michigan, I am very excited about and proud of what I was able to produce.  As someone studying computer science, video production is not necessarily a skill I’m an expert at, but because I have a bit of experience using Windows Movie Maker from various projects I composed in high school, I was confident in my ability to put together a good video to go along with my spoken word performance.

Before I get into anything else, I would first like to clarify the meaning of the term “remix” as associated with this project.  In the course for which I originally composed this project, English 225, I was required to take one of the three essays I had written at the time, and remix it into a multimedia project.  It could be a performance, a PowerPoint presentation, a documentary, and endless other possibilities. I decided to make a passionate poem, or spoken word piece (basically a piece of poetry that’s given significance not just by its words, but also the voice behind those words).  I was excited about this, because in addition to composing videos on Windows Movie Maker, another one of my hobbies was slam poetry.  In the previous year (my sophomore year), I won second place at UM’s slam poetry competition and qualified for the official slam team (to which I, at the end of the day, could not commit because of my commitment as a University of Michigan varsity track and field athlete).  So, it was a no-brainer that I put those skills to use. As mentioned in my previous reflection, which was made before submitting my video to THEJUMP+, the lyric writing and performance recording were not the hard parts, but rather it was the video composition. I had such colorful and expressive ideas for my video, including explosive on-screen lyrics for my increase in intensity and background images which go along perfectly with my words.  However, I unfortunately did not have the time to make such a video, so I went with one still image. Nonetheless, the project was still loved by my professor and adored by my classmates when I presented it on the day it was due, and I ended up receiving a perfect score.

Flash-forward to the revision of this project and I still had such expressive ideas to transform single one still image into a captivatingly beautiful and mentally challenging lyric video.  However, I was once again reminded that I was simply a video composer out of hobby. I searched up countless websites for instructions on how to make a captivating and animated lyric video with flying colors, background images, varying sizes and fonts, and different movements.  (For a basic idea of what I was trying to go for, check out this lyric video of the spoken word “That’s My King.  Unfortunately, after countless attempts, I reluctantly decided that this was something that was outside of my area of expertise.  I’m not someone who gives up easily so I almost decided that I was just going to go ahead and teach myself, but I then realize that I simply did not have the time.  So I changed my plans and decided to tone it down a bit.

The most frustrating part of this project was finding seemingly legal and free-to-use images and video clips that were captivating and went perfectly with the message I was trying to convey, then seeing that I had to pay HUNDREDS of dollars to even touch them.  The search for legal and free-to-use stills and clips was most definitely the second-hardest part of composing this project, but like I said before, I’m not someone who gives up easily, so I worked through the countless letdowns of moving my mouse to the “download image” option and seeing that this image was not something that I could use.  But, surprisingly, this was not the toughest part.

Ironically, and admittedly a bit humorously, the part that I thought would be the easiest ended up being the toughest.  I toned down my project from my initial expectations so much that I thought my new plan for the video would be quite easy.  Goodness gracious, how wrong can one individual be? The fine-tuning, clip searching, clip splitting, image matching, font creating, and music syncing felt like it took ages.  Granted, I was using an outdated program in Windows Movie Maker, but in spite of all of the frustrations, I still enjoyed the process and I am thoroughly happy with the finished product.  I hope that others can appreciate the video, whether they are enlightened by the call to action, challenged by the unspoken truths, or simply entertained by how much I strain my throat with my nonstop screaming.  Thank you THEJUMP+ for this wonderful opportunity to express myself to the world.