Public Information Film Project: Persuasive Narratives (part 2)

Continuing with a bit of research then some experiments. As my practice which involves persuasive narratives in technology, here I’m documenting, though very briefly, issues related to violent narratives in video games.

Many of the public information films I watched on the telly in the 1970s and 80s were generally aimed at children, raising awareness to ‘outdoor’ dangers such as playing near ditches, building sites, railway lines and talking to strangers etc. However, in the past 20 years, due to the social platforms we use, the dangers are now  ‘indoor’ activities- playing video games or ‘gaming’ as it’s commonly referred, being one example. As this issue is extremely broad, I’ve picked out an argument for and one against. Steven Johnson’s book, Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, is on my to read list.

Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter- Steven Johnson.

Published in 2005, it is based upon Johnson’s theory that popular culture – in particular television programs and video games – has grown more complex and demanding over time and is making society as a whole more intelligent. The book’s claims, especially related to the proposed benefits of television, drew media attention.[1] It received mixed critical reviews.

Johnson states that he aims to persuade readers of “two things:

  1. ‘By almost all the standards we use to measure reading’s cognitive benefits — attention, memory, following threads, and so on — the non-literary popular culture has been steadily growing more challenging over the past thirty years’
  2. ‘Increasingly, the non-literary popular culture is honing differentmental skills that are just as important as the ones exercised by reading books’


From Wikipedia- Video game-related health problems  

‘Console game-related health problems can induce repetitive strain injuries, skin disorders or other health issues. Other problems include video game-provoked seizures in patients with epilepsy’

Research has found that kids who spend too much time playing video games may have more trouble paying attention in school. Researchers found that children who had more than two hours of game time per day were twice as likely to have trouble paying attention.

Video games have also been linked in some studies to aggressive behavior and violence or fearful behavior by its players in the short term although other studies have not supported this link.

Physical signs linked to excessive video game playing include black rings in the skin under the eyes and muscular stiffness in the shoulders, possibly caused by a tense posture or sleep deprivation.

Existing literature on gaming is inconsistent, and studies occasionally produce contradictory results. Some studies show strong correlations between gaming and psychological issues like increased aggression in males, and increased depression in females. Whilst another study claims that girls who gamed were less likely to experience depression but were more likely to get into fights.


Watching my son and daughter playing on their Xbox with their virtual friends sparked my attention. At around 6:00 p.m. , the lounge becomes an amusement arcade. In this instance, it is a constant noise of gunfire, you know, the sounds you hear when a BBC war journalist is reporting news from Baghdad. As they’re engaged in battle, I’m allowed to shoot some of the coverage.


Sound: The original sound is stripped and replaced with some ordinary battle sound bites from freesound. org

Footage: Not done a great deal, just slowed down footage after a killing incident. The graphics display, wording such as WASTED, pulverised you or shotgunned you.




Ended the sequence with the credit Killing for Fun? Not really any impact visually.




Switched to widescreen and lightened the footage exposing more graphical elements. Added more titling with overlays  in heavy block impact font.



Blank screen with audio merging to visuals. Visuals cut to 15 seconds




More emphasis on sound and negative space as opposed to visuals and blending sound/visuals. The cuts being sharper with the intention that the persuasive message is now more succinct.





Public Information Film Project: Persuasive Narratives (part 1)

Public Information Film Experiments

Back to work on the blog and hopefully I can kick-start some momentum again now that all the mayhem has quietened down over here.  Yesterday was spent looking back at clips of footage I had taken over the past six months. I came across this rat trap clip which was meant for an    Objects of Disobedience   post but decided I could make better use of it which would be relative to my project. Off we go.

The process:

1/ Video clip (unedited) filmed with a Pentax Q7 . I’ve not done much in the way of filming with this camera and was impressed with the high grain resolution.

2/ The video clip after experimenting with film speeds, notably the trap ‘snap’. Windows Live Movie Maker is better than I thought

3/ I thought about doing something fancy with the footage. Even though I quite like the  harsh minimal edge detector effect, it radically affects the persuasive message I’m trying to convey.

4/ The audio: This smashed glass soundbite was taken from then amplified in Audacity. I was pleased with the result.

5/ The narration is provided by me, “Are you aware of your child’s online activity?” (I couldn’t think of anything else at the time!) Anyway, again edited in Audacity (merged, reversed and echoed). No, doesn’t work. If fact, a narration isn’t needed, in my view.

6/ The final edit. Yes/No? It looks a bit 70s retro

Overall, I’m looking for an end product which is succinct and minimal, a bit like the persuasive narratives in  Broken Glass (1973)  I’m far from that yet but this experiment has been worthwhile.

UWE: Bob’s Day Out (1994)

A lot of my artistic inspiration is triggered by old projects either from college days, university or simply working independently. I tend to forget that I’ve been a practicing artist now for over 25 years, an old rocker. Also, I find reviewing previous projects are helpful not only for inspiration but to continually keep a dialogue going between the past and the present, which enable me to see transitions in my practice over the years with more clarity.

This old Super 8 film hasn’t been viewed for years. I thought it was lost forever and would remain in my ever-increasing, hazy imagination. However, recently my sister informed me that she had found some old Maxell VHS tapes of mine in her loft. Oh no! Nothing incriminating, I thought. When seeing the title, I was chuffed to bits. After finding someone to transfer them from video to DVD, I tweaked the picture brightness, added credits but other than that, the footage largely remains the same as its original cut. The film title comes from a boat trip organised for 2nd Year and 3rd year U.W.E. Graphic students by one of the tutors, Bob Burn. I think we were all doing projects based on Bristol and its surrounding environment and old BB thought that this trip would fuel us with more ideas and inspiration. It did.

It was a particularly hot day and as you can see, everyone was armed with sketch pads, pencils, pens and cameras. I took along my Super 8 camera and a few cassettes of film and spent most of the day panning scenes of interest without any particular aim.

After the film came back from the processors, I toyed with the film speeds, playing the footage backwards and forwards. When reversing the film, I was instantly attracted to the anti-narrative and its similarities to the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields video. Using my dinky Agfa Super 8 editor, I got the scissors out and began cutting it to pieces. A process  commonly know as editing. At this stage of film making, I had not learned of Eisenstein’s montage techniques. Ignorance is bliss? Super 8 film has a unique translucent quality. There are scenes especially on the riverbank which are just atmospheric and dream like.

I was so nervous when presenting this to the graphics group. I managing to get past the Q & A session unscathed and fortunately it was well received. I don’t know how Sergei Prokofiev’s Dance of The Knights ended up as the accompanying soundtrack. I think it works though and Youtube haven’t objected to my theft….. yet.


Rotoshop experimenting: Step 3

STEP 3: Designing. Over the past week I had been designing the background and considering colour schemes. Originally, the shower area and figure would be white. However, as I will probably animate white water, I altered the shower area to an ash grey. The figure’s hair will be expressive, gradients of chrome auburn red, cobalt blue or emerald green. The colours are not yet decided.

Psycho Shower Scene (frame 1 blue read chrome shower area) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 1 grey chrome shower area) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 1 grey shower area) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 24 multi-coloured hair) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 24 red hair) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 64 blue hair)

Today I rotoscoped about 5 seconds. Below is a test

Rotoshop experimenting begins (Steps 1 and 2)

STEP 1: After finally deciding that I would choose the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho (1960), I scanned various sites to find a HD version of the footage. A HD version helps me during the rotoscoping process as I can map the outlines of the form with more speed and less difficulty. At this stage, I don’t get bogged down with having to improvise objects and movement. From experience, that part of rotoscoping can really slow down the process and the outcome might not be the desired result. On the other hand, improvisations can create unintentional digital masterpieces! Considerations. Below is an audio version of the Psycho shower scene. Time: 2 minutes, 36 seconds

STEP 2: I will be animating at 1 second per 12 frames so my next aim is to edit the footage down to around 1 minute 20 seconds (960 drawings approx. ). I’ve not done very much in the way of film editing since my university days. It will be interesting to see if I can still maintain the impact of the scene though it’s not a pre-requisite. From analysing the footage, I note framing composition, visually very clear and the manner in which the tension builds; subtle edits from animate objects (woman) to inanimate objects (the shower head). The tension manifests in a series of close-ups and montage. I keep track of times, shots and areas in which I could exploit, distort, exaggerate during the post-edit phase. Time: 1 minute, 29 seconds