We rely so heavily on images in our world. We put such a huge emphasis on visuals for our understanding and communication that we often forget how crucial audio can be. Not so sure? Consider a past game of Pictionary; was the concept  immediately clear? Probably not.

Words and sounds contribute immensely to our understanding of actions, events and processes. In remembering the reports from Desert Storm, the images were often awful and indecipherable but the audio was great. It conveyed the story perfectly; from the bomb blasts to the sirens and street sounds to the reporters’ rushed and uncertain voices, it was clear what conditions on the ground were like.

While audio is often important and powerful in situations lacking good visuals, visual products with great audio are sometimes harder to come by. Many commercials rely so heavily on visuals that, without them, the message is lost. Consider the recent Chevy Sonic commercial; while totally awesome and one of my favorites, it doesn’t work without the video. Below are a few commercials that have audio components that work independently from the video.

APPLE’S SIRI

This commercial is a great example of effectively using sound to convey a product’s purpose and importance. While the product is a voice-controlled and responsive application, the audio works well to showcase all the different uses for Siri. The ad also uses multiple voices from men and women, young and old to give the listener a clear understanding that all different people use Siri. While some of what Siri provides it textual and visual, the audio works independently of the video yet the inverse is not true. The music used throughout works well because it is upbeat but there is also a build of of sorts in the tempo before the voiceover comes in. The VO is clear, short and direct which works because the voices interacting with Siri tell the story effectively. The interactions, music and VO are all cohesive in tone and style. The ad comes across as clear, simple and friendly – all probably reflective of what the product strives to be.

BUD LIGHT

The ‘Real Men of Genius’ ads all work well independently from the video. The ads employ an over exaggerated announcer voice to detail what makes these men so great and a song celebrates them echoing what the announcer is saying. These ads are great examples of simple voiceover and music used in a comedic way that’s often hard to achieve without visuals. The script is the real genius behind these ads because the details included give listeners a clear picture in there minds of these ‘real men’ and can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

AT&T

This commercial featuring a taco party is an example of audio illustrating exactly what’s happening. The listener instantly hears people talking, laughing and crunching food. The VO features a perturbed coworker (because he mentions being outside Bill’s office) that accuses the group of not inviting him. A sound effect of a phone vibrating is then heard and then clothes shuffling only to hear the VO come back in and say “oh.” Without even seeing the phone or message, the listener instantly understands that the speaker just got the message about the party. Then, an entirely different VO comes in to reinforce the message of “being left behind” and introduce the product to keep you current. The natural sounds of a gathering establish the scene and the voice of the angry left out man gives this commercial an authentic feel. The buzz of the phone and shuffling for it make this ad work independently of the video; without it, the scene might not be as clear to the listener.

Iconic. … It means different things. Inspiring. Horrifying. Interesting. Depressing. Shocking. Uplifting. Enlightening. Frustrating. Thought provoking. Empathy evoking.

It captures a powerful moment. It tells a story and stirs emotion.

It grabs the viewer and refuses to let go.

It impacts beyond its viewing. It connects in a more powerful way than words. It details the magnitude of a moment or event. It evokes further thought. It alludes to a bigger story.

It holds within it a greater meaning for the moment and for the subject. It gives perspective and shows the subject in a different light.

The best still images, they just nail you, you remember them,” Bill Eppridge, LIFE magazine photographer said in an interview.

The beauty of an image is that its interpretation and meaning is different for every viewer. Although the take away may seem the same, everyone experiences and relates to it differently.

An icon is then two things at once; it is simultaneously an image and an idea, it is both a sign and a symbol.” – from Getty Images Masters Collection

Many iconic images come from a shared event or experience. But not all. Instead, some allow viewers to experience an event in a new and powerful way.

They have an astonishing degree of universal recognition, taking on diverse meanings as they are transmitted across cultures.”   – according to Martin Kemp in a 2011 article

In a way it’s like pornography; ‘I know it when I see it.’ And this is perhaps the most fitting description and definition possible, because until I see it, experience it and am ultimately grabbed by it, it’s not an image I can safely call iconic.

Points of interests abound in the region around Elon, N.C., but for something beyond the typical mall, movie, dinner, there are a number of hidden gems worth the time. Spend a Saturday off-the-beaten path taking in Southern culture and discovering local eateries, charming towns and unique activities.

SOUTHERN CHARM REVISITED

Spend the day in historic Saxapahaw, a small former mill town located in Alamance County. Enjoy all the quaint points of interest this newly revived cotton mill area has to offer.

TAKE IN THE SIGHTS. Take a step back to yesteryear as you browse the Saxapahaw General Store. Open daily, the store offers a variety of farm-fresh products and all-natural options. Then get artsy with a visit to the Saxapahaw Artists non-profit group. Check out assorted works by local and regional artists in the gallery, which is open daily and housed in the historic Sellars building.

GRAB A BITE. The Eddy offers pub fare with a focus on the local food movement. Enjoy sunset on their patio overlooking the Haw River as you sip a featured North Carolina brew (the restaurant only keeps state-brewed beers on tap). Taste all that the state has to offer with their Local Cheese Plate ($10 appetizer) and Pulled Local Pork Sandwich with house slaw ($12 dinner w/fries).

ENJOY THE SEASON. The Saxapahaw Music Series runs May through August on Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Farmer’s Market. Bring a picnic and blanket and watch as bands perform from a hay-wagon stage.

WILD CATS, WINE, WAR & MORE

Animals, history and science oh my! Start the day with heart pumping adventure and then learn a little about North Carolina history before relaxing at a winery and scoping out the universe.

GO WILD. Begin the morning with a walk on the wild side and get up close and personal with lions, tigers, leopards and more at the Conservators’ Center Inc. The non-profit, large-cat rescue offers scheduled tours of its facility near Mebane, N.C. Bring a student ID for $7 admission.

STEP BACK IN TIME. Travel back in time at the Alamance Battleground as you learn about the rebellion that took place in 1771 between a group of farmers and the royal governor’s militia. See the relocated historic Allen House after checking out the visitor’s center for information on the battle. Pack a picnic and enjoy the three-quarter-mile nature trail and grounds at this free historic site.

SIP AND SEE. Unwind after a busy day as you enjoy a glass of wine and take in the rural scenery at the Winery at Iron Gate. At $5 a tasting, you’ll be able to sample a variety of wines during the 45-minute seating. Don’t miss their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and Rustic Blooming, which both took gold at the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition.

DISCOVER THE STARS. End the evening with a peek through the largest telescope in North Carolina for a chance to see star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, double stars, planets and the moon. Used primarily for research, the Three College Observatory does schedule public viewing nights and allows online ticket requests.

SMALL TOWN SIGHTS

Sure big cities offer all different amenities but small towns offer simple delights and make-your-own fun. From down-home diners to classic drive-ins, there are undiscovered gems, hidden history and scenic spots.

BEGIN WITH BREAKFAST. Start the day with the right way; after all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Drive about an hour up to the town of Eden, N.C. and taste the southern flavor the Railroad Café serves up. Open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., breakfast is the best bet with an artistic griddle master at the ready.  Don’t miss the pancakes at this down-home diner, which come in every shape from giraffes to ninja turtles (photos can be found on their Facebook page).

EXPLORE ANTIQUES. Stop and shop in the quaint antique stores found in and around this town before heading to a historic plantation home. Some spots to check out include: Granny’s Variety & Antiques located at 140 N. Fieldcrest Road, Belladonna Antiques & Interiors located at 646 Washington Street and Johnson’s Florist & Antiques located at 657 Washington Street.

EXPERIENCE AN ESTATE. Spend the afternoon soaking up the surroundings at Chinqua Penn Plantation. About a 30-minute drive from Eden, this 27-room historic mansion situated on 22 acres is a truly Southern experience and also features elaborate gardens, vineyards and a wine tasting room. Tours of the house and grounds are $15 for students and wine tasting is an extra $5. Special events include Great Gatsby Day, Spring Tulip Festival and other holiday activities, which can be found on the calendar of events.

MAKE MOVIES MAGICAL. Wind down the day of small-town sights by taking in movie at the local drive-in. A short drive from Chinqua Penn, Eden Drive-In is one of the few throwbacks to yesteryear, offering a historic drive-in feel while showing new releases. For $6 admission, you can usually watch two films back-to-back all from the driver’s seat. Food and drinks are offered at the snack bar but outside food and alcohol are permitted.

SHORTER IS BETTER

Time and time again we’re told the best writing for the Web is short, easy to scan and caters to SEO. To this point, this is the predominant style found across the Web.

We’re told to break text up, use subheads, list out items, use bullet points and allow white space. Hyperlinks are encouraged so users can dive deeper and seek out information. In fact, most online users are jumping around from page to page determining what information they consume.

CHANGING BEHAVIOR

In an older article, Nicholas Carr points out how the Internet has changed the way we read. With users spending mere seconds on each page, are we becoming mere decoders?

Why are six word stories so powerful? Is it because we don’t have the time or because they force us to think? Are longer articles doomed in the Internet age? A six-word story answer: Excessive words, tired eyes, less impact

LONG-FORM JOURNALISM

Although there is still a strong shorter-is-better mentality, some articles are fighting against this, pushing the limits of length and format.

Some are holding tight to old conventions, failing to take advantage of the medium and incorporate more rich media to help further a story. This can work for traditional publishers, with an established readership, such as articles by the Atlantic or New York Times.

Yet, more times than not, articles need to do more than just republish magazine or newspaper stories.

ARTICLES EVOLVED

Yet, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Some long-form journalism is thriving on the Web. By using additional media types to further a story and using subheads and lists to break up text, publishers are keeping readers interested and involved in the story.

NPR is a great example of making the most of different mediums on the Web. While their stories are traditionally in audio format, they aren’t merely posting scripts; they are rewriting stories for the Web by using subheads and hyperlinks, incorporating images and posting sidebar information.

View my interactive report, “Designing interaction for Millennials: Leveraging user psychology and behavior.”

 

As the semester winds down, I figured a look back at what we’ve learned was appropriate. It’s amazing to consider all that we’ve done in the last several months. There were even a few things I never thought I could accomplish. So, before bidding Flash class a final adieu, it’s time to look at the highs and lows of this fun-filled Fall semester.

We tweened, tweaked, toggled, tested and troubleshot it all as we figured out Flash week after week.

‘If’ and ‘else’ took on entirely different meanings as we learned a whole new language. We made timelines, infographics, maps and games. We generated numbers, kept score and timed it all.

We lived through late nights in the lab, troubleshooting until Google gave us the answers we sought. We leaned on each other and Lynda, learning even more from the failures and freak-outs than the solutions and successes.

As this class ends, the real learning begins. We now have the basics and troubleshooting tools to continue to create in the future. And as we begin the next semester, keeping our skills sharp will be the biggest challenge.

So, dear fun, fabulous, Flash, it’s fair well for December, but not forever! January will be just the beginning of our continued tormenting time together.

Pop-up video! This is perhaps my favorite throwback to the more cheese-tastic days of VH1 – not sure if it was a 1980s or ’90s thing, as it seems to bleed into both decades in my mind. No matter the moment in time (I think they even revived it recently, although I’m unsure since I can’t currently afford cable), it still makes me think of all the random comments, bizarre facts and all around useless information pop-up video supplied to the masses in the name of music entertainment.

So, as I sat in class, hearing the assignment on inserting captions into different points of a video, I immediately channeled VH1’s video series. And while mine isn’t nearly as fun, I did at least attempt to pay homage to the wacky style pop-ups used.

The in and out effect was achieved by setting two cue points – one where the movie clip became visible and another where is became invisible. While I initially thought I could achieve this with an else statement within the function that called the initial cue point, I was unable to get the behavior to occur the way I wanted. Instead of an else statement, I had to add another if statement calling a cue point to change the visibility again.

And, although I know sound (Charity and Professor Nam’s favorite suggestion) would make it even better, I left it simple for now. Maybe after final projects I can add more fun facts and sounds to my campus edition of pop-up video. Then again, my sister’s wedding video might be a more entertaining place to start.