Video Project

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The final assignment was to create a two to four minute video. My team created a promotional video of the Naughty Pines, Laramie’s roller derby team. We filmed the team’s first game of the season. The Naughty Pines played against the A’Salt Creek Roller Girls, a team from Casper with players from surrounding areas. We collected interviews from the players and the coach.

This was an interesting project for several reasons. It was my first venture into any kind of real video recording or editing. It was also the first time I’ve seen a roller derby. Several parts of the project were challenging, but I enjoyed learning how to use the video editing software and getting a better feel for what types of footage are desirable.

Knowing next to nothing about video, naturally I was surprised by many things. First, I was surprised by how difficult it is to take good shots, especially of something as fast-moving as roller derby. I was also surprised by how similar the professional video editing software was to sound editing software and to other, more basic types of video editing software I’ve used in the past.

This project presented many learning opportunities. As I said, simply shooting video, and viewing the shots I had taken, allowed me to learn about video recording. This seems to be a skill, like photography, that comes with practice. The other huge hurtle in this project was the video editing. Fortunately for me, Chase Harmelink, the other half of my team, is very skilled and knowledgeable in video and video editing. I learned a lot from him.

There are a few things I wish I could have done differently. I wish I had gotten better shots. If I had it to do over, I would have taken longer shots so that I could have missed less. I also would have become more familiar with the way the game is played before shooting. This way, I would have had a better idea of what to expect during the game, and I may have better anticipated where to shoot.

I may or may not use video in my career. If all goes as expected, video will not be a part of my career. Still, it was worth learning about, and may be something I peruse recreationally.

Twitter

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For the social media assignment, we were asked to live-tweet an event. Our project was to include pictures, direct quotes from interview sources, and updates from the event. I covered Take Back the Night, an anti-violence campaign.

I did not enjoy anything about the assignment, and I loathed everything. I approached this assignment incorrectly. I tried to write it as I would a traditional story, and then squeeze it into the parameters of Twitter. This did not work. I couldn’t simply assemble a story and then break it down into 140-character posts. Consequently, every post felt choppy and confusing.

I understand that this was partly because I was using a platform I was unfamiliar with, but it is also partly because this particular platform requires that content be of low-quality.  I don’t understand Twitter. I don’t understand the value of leaning about something instantly, when it comes at the expense of detail, fluidity, and context. Also, the idea of sitting in on an official event and being required to be “doing things” on my phone is repulsive. No matter who you are, or how you present yourself, it will look unprofessional. This will be received negatively, by almost all audiences, under ALL circumstances.

Since I’ve never used Twitter, in this assignment I learned how to use Twitter. The thing that surprised me most was how much I hate Twitter. If this is journalism, I suppose I ought to get out fast and run as far as possible.

I am not sure what I wish I had done differently. I still don’t understand Twitter. I guess I wish I had understood Twitter, and I wish I hadn’t lost half my notes.

In my career, I suspect I will use social media to find information. I will use it to track trends and events, and to contact sources. The turnover for social media websites is so rapid, that when I enter the job market, I imagine there will be an entirely new set of social media with an entirely new set of possibilities at my disposal.

SoundSlides

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The purpose of this project was to work together with a partner to present a multimedia project that incorporated both visual and audio elements using SoundSlides. SoundSlides is an excellent program that makes creating this type of presentation surprisingly easy.  My partner, Ashlee Williams, and I chose to do our project on the Laramie Animal Shelter.

Since there is really no effective way to edit photos or audio collaboratively, at first I didn’t think this type of assignment was well suited to be a group project. Then, my partner and I started to put our project together, and I saw how the combination of our different skills made the project even stronger than it would have been had it been created by someone whose skills lie primarily only in audio and audio editing, or primarily only in photography and photo editing. I think this is worth thinking about when creating any multimedia project. While I think it is important to become well rounded and to develop a wide range of skills, I think it is also important to recognize the potential value of matching people with different skill sets and knowledge to produce the best possible result. This is especially likely to be especially true in multimedia projects.

Again, SoundSlides is truly quite an impressive program. I would continue to familiarize myself with it. I can see it being an appropriate means of presentation for several sets of material.

The major struggles that my partner and I encountered in creating this project did not come from troubles with the actual creation of the SoundSlides project, but in a series of setbacks we encountered while trying to collect the initial interview and photos. For this reason, the only piece of advice I would give myself if I were creating an individual SoundSlides project would be to give myself more time to edit. I am happy with the finished project, but I think a little more time editing could have yielded an even more compelling, interesting piece.

Edited Interview

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1.) Recording my own audio on my own devices presented new challenges, some of which I was not able to solve in the editing process.  I have some practice editing audio, but never audio that was recorded in very poor quality to begin with. It was frustrating, but over time, I think I could learn to improve my editing skills to tackle these challenges.

2.) I learned that I probably do not want a career in editing interviews for radio, or any medium with rigid time constraints. Once the interview was edited in the way that I wanted it, I still needed to trim about a minute and 30 seconds. I went through once more, taking out everything unnecessary, and cut the piece by a little less than a minute. The piece was still at 2:46, so I started at the beginning again, cutting every fraction of a second of silence, every unnecessary phrase. It took me nearly an hour to cut off another ten seconds, and it was still running quite a bit over time. I had to become ruthless, cutting away important information and compelling moments; still without successfully cutting it to the desired length.

3.) I enjoyed getting to work with audio, but I didn’t enjoy butchering the poor interview. I felt that the final product was best when it was running at 2:45, and declined drastically with every cut I made past that point.

4.) I was kind of surprised by the amount of time it can take to cut only a few seconds, and by how difficult it was to decide what to cut.

5.) I wish I could have recorded better audio initially, because that would have made the editing process slightly easier, as would a shorter raw interview.  Overall, I am satisfied with the product.

Raw Interview

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Recording an audio interview was more difficult than I expected it would be. The most difficult part was obtaining a good interview about something school appropriate, not intensely unsettling, from someone who was coherent, and where the audio did not completely fail (or, where I did not completely fail the audio). It took four tries.

I learned a lot of things in the process – both about audio and about interviewing. I leaned how important it is to remember to sample the audio before you go through an entire interview. The other thing I learned – and was most surprised by – was that the interview was incredibly awkward on my end.  The first time I played back an interview, I cringed when I heard myself speak. However, I think just being aware of what I sound like and trying to minimize some of the more bizarre things I was doing helped improve my interviewing skills. Even between my first and last interview, I can tell a difference.  I think I will start recording more interviews rather than taking notes.

I really enjoyed getting the change to practice interviewing people and learning about audio interviewing – which I learned is quite different from interviewing someone and writing notes. My final interview subject had a lot to say and was good at presenting complete thoughts, so that made things go smoothly.

Aside from wishing I was a more skilled interviewer in general, my biggest regret was that I did not work harder to obtain a clearer raw interview, with my subject and me at equidistant and at a better distance from the microphone.

Here it is:

The Sounds

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I’m not sure if there is a way to say this without sounding insincere, but I really, really love ambient noises. Recently, I’ve also started to really enjoy audio editing. This assignment was to record 10 tracks of ambient noise. As I expected, I had a lot of fun completing it. It was interesting to think about everything that goes into the creation of an audio project or a project that incorporates audio. Minor details, like the strategic use of ambient sounds, could be used to subtly evoke a range of emotions in listeners and add to the richness of a project. The following are six ten-second clips of ambient noise I recorded on a laptop.  Please picture me holding a laptop up to each of these things, especially the first track.

1)      Walking on Snow – This is the sound of footsteps on snow that has fallen, started to melt, and frozen again. I recorded it in front of my apartment. This could be used in a weather-related story, or a profile of an individual who works outdoors in the snow, or whose life is impacted in an important way by snow.

2)     Water Running – This is the sound of water coming out of the faucet in my house. It could be used in a story about water contamination or excessive or wasteful water usage. It could also be used in a story about water shortages.

3)     Water Boiling – The third track is of water boiling on my stove. This sound could be used in an interview with someone who cooks in their home or an exposé on how inadequate methods of sterilizing medical instruments have led to the spread of disease and infection.  I think this clip would work well as the intro to, or sound bed under speech in a motivational video.

4)     Writing – This is the sound of writing on paper with a graphite pencil. It could be used in stories about school, studying, writing, or writers.

5)     Cafeteria in the Classroom Building – At about 8 a.m. in the Classroom Building, you can hear chairs and tables being moved, and people talking, working on computers,  and studying. From the cafeteria, you can hear the sounds of food being prepared, coffee being made,  and transactions at the cash register. It sounds like breakfast. It could be used in a story about schools, student life, or in an interview with a student if he or she talked about school.

6)     Coffee – The last track is the sound of my coffee maker spraying hot water onto fresh coffee beans.  It could be in a story about US trade with South America, about a coffee bar or diner, or in a health-related story about common habits and their impact on the body. I would use it in a story about how great coffee sounds.

The second part of the assignment was to count to ten out of order, an edit the clip so that the numbers are in order. Here it is:

Photojournalism

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The Laramie Jr. Cowgirl Cheerleaders perform after the first quarter or the Laramie vs. Air Force game in the Arena-Auditorium, 2/27/13

I learned about this game on the UW calendar. It was difficult to shoot here because I could not get close enough to the action to get a good shot. I was able to get slightly closer during this intermission, but still not close enough to get a great shot. The shape of the court provides a natural frame, and I tried to place the two pyramids along the rule-of-thirds lines.

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Laramie Blues Club Bootleggers’ Ball, 2/23/13

For a reason I don’t remember, I am on the Laramie Blues Club e- mailing list. Since soon after I started going to school here, I have been receiving e-mails about upcoming events sponsored by the Laramie Blues Club. I received one such e-mail informing me about an upcoming “Bootleggers’ Ball,” a swing and blues dance with live music and a 1920s theme. It was relatively easy to get good shots, because the action was very close, the lighting was decent, and the people were not generally paying attention to anything other than their partners and the dance, so the photos look natural. One creative device in this picture is contrast. The subjects are in the light and stand out against the darker background.

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Laramie Blues Club Bootleggers’ Ball, 2/23/13

This picture was also taken at the Bootleggers’ Ball. As seen in this picture, there was a live band. There was a lot of energy and the crowd was really into the spirit and theme of the event. Trying to catch dancers in action provided a lot of opportunities for great shots, but the movement also presented a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong with the shot. For example, I frequently caught people at strange angles or facing in strange directions. However, I really enjoyed this aspect of shooting the Bootleggers’ Ball. The main creative devices in this photo are color and background. The dark background and the blue dress help the subjects stand out.

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Dan Freije delivers his original untitled poem at the UW slam poetry night, 2/27/13

I read about the poetry slam on the UW events calendar. This event was difficult to photograph  because the light was low and oddly colored. Additionally, I couldn’t find a great angle to shoot from. I used the rule-of-thirds and balancing elements (with the painting and the audience). I also think color is an important element in this picture. _________________________________________________________________________________

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Keenan Montgomery performs his original piece, “Black Bastard” at the UW slam poetry night, 2/27/13

This photo was also taken at the UW poetry slam. The lights during this performance were a little more neutral so that made the photo turn out a little better. It also made the colors look more natural, and color and contrast are two of the creative devices used in this photo. This event was fun to photograph. The event itself was very interesting and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture the most expressive moments in each performance.

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While taking pictures for this assignment I think I got a better feel for taking pictures of human subjects. I was actually surprised to find that a few of the photos turned out fairly well. The one thing I wish I had done differently was to take more pictures of everything, and to be less timid taking them. I’m still scared of photographing strangers.

Creative Devices of Photography

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Household waste pit at the Laramie City Landfill

Dominant Device: Viewpoint

The use of viewpoint as a creative device in this pictures draws attention to the subject, the signs, because provides context.  In the full-sized image, you can see that the signs say “HOUSEHOLD WASTE PIT” and “CHILDREN AND PETS MUST REMAIN IN VEHICLE.” This captures the viewer’s attention because most viewers are not usually inside of the household waste pit. The use of this viewpoint adds aesthetic quality to the photo because it shows an unusual angle. Other devices in this pictures include framing and background. The signs are framed in the clouds. This photo also has a fairly plain background. Everything other than the signs (the sky and the ground) is neutral and not distracting.
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An unused train car

Dominant Device: Rule of Thirds

Positioning this subject in the top right portion of the frame makes the photo more dramatic and makes the train car stand out. Using the rule of thirds captures the viewer’s attention by engaging the mind and forcing the eye to move over the entire photo.  This also makes the photo more pleasing to look at because it appears more balanced. Another device used in this image is leading lines. The tracks and the train along the same line give the photo a sense of direction and allow the viewer to imagine what may be outside of the photo.

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Buddy the cockroach learns valuable communication skills

Dominant Device: Symmetry and Patterns

This photo shows Buddy, the most patient model in the world, posing on a communication studies textbook. Since the text is not the subject of the photo, it no longer appears as words and instead becomes a pattern, providing a consistent, neutral backdrop that is not distracting. This brings attention to Buddy. The symmetry formed by the two pages makes the photo more attractive. These things aid in capturing the viewer’s attention because it is a pattern they might not expect to see with a cockroach. This photo also applies the use of leading lines. The several parallel lines of text all lead to Buddy. Another device used in this photo is the rule of thirds. Since the center of the book is off-center, it adds balance.

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Truck at the Laramie City Landfill

Dominant Device: Depth

The use of depth as a creative device in this photo draws attention the subject, the truck, because it provides context and shows the viewer what is happening. It captures the viewers’ attention by illustrating the size of this landfill pit and the showing the amount of garbage that this truck carries. The fact that the garbage is outside of the truck makes it more interesting. This photo also employs the use of leading lines. The side of the pit, the tracks on the ground, and the direction the truck is facing all point in the same direction, making the photo more symmetrical and consequently more esthetically pleasing.

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Pines on Happy Jack

Dominant Device: Balancing Elements

The tree in the foreground is the main subject. This tree is off-center along one of the lines of the rule of thirds. The tree in the background balances the photo by filling up dead space. This draws attention to the subject by making it the most important among several important trees. This arrangement is appealing because it fills most of the picture without creating too much distraction. This photo also uses color and depth as creative devices. The colors in this photo are dramatic because it was taken in the early morning.

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This assignment was particularly difficult for me because I have almost no experience in photography, and exactly no natural aptitude. With this in mind, nothing surprised me about the assignment. Still, I learned a couple of things. Focusing on the creative devices described in this assignment while I was taking photos, and then analyzing these photos with these devices in mind forced me to think critically and be more aware of what makes a good photograph. I also learned that my weakest point is taking pictures of human subjects, which is why I didn’t include any pictures of human subjects. This is the thing that I most wish I would have done differently. I should have focused more on taking good pictures of human subjects. I suspect that this will likely be one of the main subjects I will photograph as a journalist and I need more practice.

Rough Day? Have an Ear Examination.

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Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response

Still from Heather Feather's video "Ear Examination Role Play for Relaxation (ASMR)"

Still from Heather Feather’s video “Ear Examination Role Play for Relaxation (ASMR)”

A YouTube search query containing the acronym “ASMR” yields thousands of results including videos of people tapping on blocks of wood or softly, gently pretending to be your otolaryngologist – who speaks only in a low whisper. One video features one full hour of the sounds of typing on a computer keyboard, along with a few mouse clicks and the occasional human voice narrating the event. Another is a relaxing napkin folding tutorial. 

These videos all aim to induce a sensation known as ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR is a term used to describe a relaxing sensation that usually involves a “tingling” sensation beginning in the scalp that can travel to the spine and extremities.

ASMR can be induced by a wide variety of stimuli, and the specific triggers vary from person to person. Some common triggers are:

  • tapping
  • scratching
  • soft, slow voices or whispers
  • certain accents
  • repetitive sounds or movements
  • certain smells
  • light touch
  • crinkling sounds

Television host and painter Bob Ross, photo courtesy of the Bob Ross Wikipedia article.

People are drawn to ASMR for several reasons. Many claim that experiencing ASMR can help with insomnia, anxiety, stress and even headaches. “It’s about relieving tension from your daily life. It’s like going to the doctor’s office without paying a dime,” says a creator of ASMR content who goes by handle “Tony ASMR” on YouTube.

Even for people who don’t suffer from anxiety or sleep disorders, ASMR can be useful for inducing relaxation and sleep. ASMR content creator “Heather Feather” says she uses the videos as a sleep aid. “It helps me shut off my brain at night. The feeling is really nice and it just stops everything. You just get immersed with this nice feeling and then you conk out.”

Often, people who experience ASMR, (some people may not be able to experience the sensation) experienced it long before it made its way into public discourse. Most remember experiencing ASMR from a very young age without knowing what they were experiencing.  Aside from content created for the specific purpose of inducing ASMR, a variety of triggers that people experience in their daily lives can elicit an ASMR response. Perhaps the most commonly referred to example is Bob Ross’  show, The Joy of Painting, that aired on PBS.  

The Creation of ASMR

ASMR video creator “JustAWhisperingGuy,” a graduate student working on his PhD, explains that he began creating content in order to give back to the community that has helped him through stressful times in his own life. “There was one time in particular as I was going through my comprehensive exams that I was really stressed out. I’m generally a pretty psychologically grounded person, and I don’t experience a lot of stress or anxiety, but this was the closet I ever came to legit anxiety. I was feeling panic symptoms and stuff. The people making these videos and the videos that I found helped me out a lot in terms of just kind of bringing me back down to a place where I could actually get work done.”

This kind of philanthropic approach to creating content is commonplace in the ASMR community. Many creators cite the desire to give back to the ASMR community as their primary motivation in making videos.

It is also not unusual for ASMR creators to speak of deeply caring for or loving their viewership. This claim seems entirely believable, considering the amount of time and hard work many of them put into their work.

Heather Feather says she spends an average of 20 hours preparing for, recording, and editing a single video – each about an hour long. However, she describes the process as being enjoyable.

“It’s kind of like you get into a zone almost, and It’s just super calm, so it becomes rewarding on a personal level, and you’re helping out, so that’s rewarding too.”

Though most ASMR creators concur that self-induced ASMR is less common than the externally induced variety, it is possible. Heather Feather says she has triggered herself by tapping objects. “If you’ve seen any of [my] sound videos, you can see there’s certain times when I’ll glaze over. That’s when I’m triggering myself,” she says. In other words, it is more common for ASMR creators to self-induce ASMR with non-vocal triggers than with their own voices.

JustAWhisperingGuy offered one possible explanation for the difficulty of self-induced ASMR.

“I think it has something to do with the expectation,” he said. “You know what’s going to happen, and you’ve experienced all of it before so there’s no surprise there. I think a lot of, or at least a component of what triggers people as far as ASMR goes is the unexpectedness of the trigger itself.”

ASMR: A Very, Very Brief History 

Despite the fact the the ASMR community has been growing rapidly in the last few years, (that video about folding napkins has upwards of 200,000 views!) almost nothing is known definitively about the sensation except that it feels good. The growth of ASMR awareness has taken place almost entirely via the internet.

A thread entitled “Weird Sensation Feels Good” on SteadyHealth.com in 2007 is generally regarded as the first documented discussion of the topic. The original post on the thread describes a pleasant, nameless feeling and asks what the feeling is. Though no one could identify this feeling, several people responded reporting similar experiences. The term Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response comes from the use of the phrase in a Facebook group created in 2010 for people who experience the sensation.

“It doesn’t mean anything, really. It’s a pseudoscience term. But one person used it and it sounded really kind of good and fancy and it stuck,” explains JustAWhisperingGuy. 

Efforts to Understand the Phenomenon

While no substantial ASMR research has been published, there are a few ongoing efforts to gather more information. A website called asmr-research.org provides basic information about ASMR and aims to collect new data that could help provide a better understanding of the phenomenon.

According to “The Unnamed Feeling,” a blog that provides updates of ASMR related news, a study is currently taking place at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The researchers will take MRI scans of participants while they are experiencing ASMR. The results of the study are expected to be published in May of 2013. This will be the first study of its kind.

The blog also discusses an ebook that is due to be published by “Whisper Hub,” the creator of whisperhub.co.uk. This book aims to shed some light on ASMR and provide resources to people interested in learning more about ASMR.

Because so little is known about this sensation, and because everyone has a unique experience in ASMR, it can be difficult to understand exactly what it is until you experience it first-hand. Different triggers work for different people. The response itself can also vary in intensity and nature. If you’re curious about whether you can experience ASMR, why not try out a few common triggers and see what happens?

100 Gallons

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When I arrived at “100 Gallons,” a video occupied most of the page. The image on the video was difficult to make out, but it definitely had bubbles. Text at the bottom of the video said “100 Gallons” and “click on the video to explore each moment.” The universal triangle-inside-of-a-rectangle “watch” button beckoned to be clicked. So I clicked. I watched a short video made up of 3-6 second clips all involving water – things like washing a cat or watering your plants wearing only sandals. At the end, the video became more sinister. I still had no idea what the story was about, but I was intrigued.

When the video is over, it turns into a picture gallery. Moving the cursor over a picture brings up text describing the content that the picture links to. Clicking a picture brings that story to the front of the screen without directing the user to another page.

Next, I noticed that there is a feature at the bottom called “how to view.” When I clicked on it, a short text explanation of how to view the site appeared. It instructed me to do exactly what I had done, but also informed me that I could have paused the story at any time to learn more about a clip. The video progression bar at the bottom shows white “bubbles” under the points that can be clicked for more in-depth content. I tried it. Yep. Pausing the video at any point brings up text at the bottom of the screen explaining the clip and the significance of water relating to that clip. Pausing at a point with “bubbles” brings up the stories from the picture gallery. When I finished reading a story, I could close out of it and return to the picture gallery. Two of the pictures linked to external pages, but these pages opened in separate tabs without taking me away from the picture gallery. I loved everything about this feature.

Overall, navigating this page was fun and easy, but there was one notable problem. The “how to view” option should be one of the first things a user sees. It is often helpful to know how to do a thing before you do it. The option is currently placed under the video at the very bottom of the part of the page that is visible without scrolling.

I got lucky when I tried to find a way to contact the creators. I tried clicking the “100 Gallons” logo at the bottom of the screen, but this only refreshed the page. Next, I clicked the “about” option. At the bottom of the about description, there was a colored link to a staff page. The staff page opened in a new window.  At the bottom of text under the heading “About the Project,” there was an e-mail address. This only took a couple of seconds.

I conducted the usability test again, this time using my friend Mike. His experience was much like mine. He began by watching the entire video. When the picture gallery appeared at the end of the video, he scrolled down to the about section and read the entire about section. Then he clicked the “Why 100 Gallons” button and read it. Next, he clicked the “How to View” option. He said “Oh. I guess I should have clicked that first.” After reading that section, he clicked one of the white bubbles and was directed to the “Giving Way” story. He watched the entire video and read the text.

I asked him to locate the creators’/producers’/reporters’ contact information. He tried clicking on “Powering a Nation Presents” logo. When that was unsuccessful, he tried clicking on the “100 Gallons” logo at the bottom. Next he deleted everything from the ulr bar except the main address in order to get to the site’s homepage. He looked over the page, but found nothing. He was disappointed that contact information was not readily available on this page and commented that there is usually a “contact” tap on a website’s homepage. He asked if he had to continue, and I thought it would be weird if I said yes.

Things that should change:

– The “How to View” option should be more visible

– Contact information should be easier to locate

-“Click on the video to explore each moment” did not mean to me what it meant to the sites’s creators. To them, it was a concise explanation of how to use their interactive content. To me, it was an awkward way of telling me to click the play button part of the video once so that I would be able to “explore” all the moments of the video…only “explore” was used in a more figurative sense.

Things that should not change:

– Links that do not direct the user away from the main page

-The variety in the types of media

– The general format

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