Dear Future Media Student

You have a taken a good choice in studying media studies, it's going to be fun. However, there will be some difficulties ahead. Its possible to avoid these problems if you listen to advice to a student who has already overcome the humps in the road. In the upcoming sections, I’ll list my shortcomings, and my development, so you can learn on how to avoid them yourself.

Radek

First of all, you are going to learn how professionals produce magazines, and the traditional conventions of magazines. Learning the features of magazine is easy, implementing them successfully is harder. What we done at the start of the course we copied several magazine in our own mock ups to get through our head. That might have been too successful, in the end my magazine followed a lot of established conventions, the weren’t a lot of original ideas, aside from the usage of constructivism. I think I should have should have spend more time thinking about the layout, rather than simply copying the first image on the search results. I should had take a look at other copies Make sure you think about the stuff you’re designing, otherwise you might come up with another generic magazine.

One think I certainly learned is that when choosing a genre and designing a star, is to make sure to create a recognisable star and brand. I went for the alternative genre, as at that time I was listening intensely at that time. In contrast, due to my rampant Russophilla, I designed a star quite contrary to genre, he looked like straight out of the rock genre. Also, the alternative  genre is quite hard to define and thus harder to create imagery associated with the genre. Halfway through production, I realised that my magazine is quite contrasting as the star is intimidating and bold, while the alternative genre does not stand for those themes. The masthead of “Wavelength” did not fit, it was not only terrible, but inappropriate with all the the green and lean font.  After some thought, I decided to change the genre, although thanks to my star, the only extra work I had to do was to make a masthead and change some for the coverlines to be more rock oriented. To make my masthead more rock oriented, I implemented a grunge and urban style, with a bigger emphasis on being bold. This certainly made more recognisable with the rock genre.  The process would gone much more smoothly if I had visualised my final magazine and worked towards it, rather than choosing an unfamiliar genre and trying to cram a genre I like. If I also checked my work on whether I had reached my intended goals, I would have spotted the faults much earlier. The lesson here is go with something you’re familiar with rather than going out into the unknown, after all, you are student, not a professional designer, not yet anyway. Lay out your core goals, and frequently check your work whether or not if you’re reaching your goals.  

In the future, I’m going to lay out clear design goals at start. Since I’m going to make a music video in the next course, I’m going to make sure I’ll use this advice.

One thing I learnt is that when planning for photoshoot, make sure you have thought about all the possible the poses you can cram in 40 minute period, otherwise you’ll spent some of the time thinking what to do next, which wastes time. I originally thought the poses I thought of would be great, what really happened is that most of the images came up terrible, due to wrong focus. One thing I should have remembered from my GCSE photography is that make sure to take several shots of the same pose, as chances are most of them are not up to scratch due to an out of focus image, especially if you’re hand holding the camera instead of using a tripod. Using tripod might have been to use for my shoot as the would be less chances of getting bad out of focus image. The unsteadiness of human biology increases the chance of getting an unfocused image. I eventually had to do a reshoot to get a wider range of good photographs would be good enough for the magazine, which took an another lesson. When planning for the photoshoot, think of a wide variety of poses, as well as the costume, props and lighting etc.  

For the next photoshoot at Guernsey’s Castle Cornet, I checked out the place on its website, and found a wide range of places. This allowed to plan some ideas on what to do while there. This resulted in less time wondering on what to do next, which meant more time to shoot, and an increased chance to get good photographs, which got plenty. I took several shots of the same subject to increase the chances of having a focused image.

Planning is essential, especially when it deals with events with have little available time, such as the photo shoot.

I think I used the camera well to communicate ideas. I wanted an imposing, militant star. So I made close up shots of him wearing his glasses, a sharper focus on his frowning face, and a medium shot of him aiming his guitar as a rifle. I think I should have went for more low angle shots, that might have communicate my ideas better. Maybe I should had a list of techniques and their effects at my hand during at the photoshoot so I don’t forget anything, or at the very least, check the techniques right before the photoshoot.

For the next photo shoot at Guernsey’s Castle Cornet, I managed to get a bigger range of variety, because this time I used a wider range of techniques, such as canted angle (communicating chaos, excitement) and low angle shots (communicating power and authority) . With confidence, I would say that the second shoot was better than the second shoot, with the images communicating more. This time the idea didn’t rely on just costume and pose, but on camera techniques as well. The reason on why the photo shoot went well is that I revised camera imagery before the day of the shoot, resulting in the ideas being stuck in my mind. I would strongly recommend you do this as well.

When we’ll start doing filming our music videos, I’ll make sure I’ll do that again, and whenever I’m taking photographs.

Photo Editing Skills

Before I started this project, I had slight experience in photoshop, I could do cropping and similar skills. Unfortunately, I haven’t learn any major design skills, I think I stayed within my comfort zone, and stayed with techniques I’m familiar with. The only time my skills were truly pushed to their limits was I was trying to put one of my images into a Soviet constructivism style by implementing a combination of intense saturation and contrast. However, at first it was riddled with stray pixels, and did not have the contained shape of the style I’m copying. I had to manually get rid of them using the eraser tool. At the end this resulted in the most complicated picture, a hint of what I could have done if I went outside my comfort zone. This ended with less variety of images, which would certainly decrease my overall grade. While I did not learn any major techniques, I did develop a better way of cropping out images. While I was placing my images of my stars onto the magazine, I found out several stray pixels encroaching  the rest of the page. After doing an investigation, I found out the magic wand tool did not cut out everything. I developed a way to get rid of them. After using the magic wand tool, I had replaced the cut background with a contrasting colour. This would highlight any loose pixels,which were missed by the magic wand tool, and allow me to find them an get rid of them. Otherwise, the loose pixels would appear on the front on the page and make it look terrible. When you come to cutting actors out of the background, make sure you’ll do that, otherwise there will be a stray pixel floating about the page. With this new system for cropping out images, I can save time and avoid blemishes. While I can’t actually transfer this new system into any current subject, but if in the future, I become a business prefect and must update the notice board, there might be a possibility of putting images on their so the new system I developed could be used.

Before this course, I’ve never used InDesign, let alone heard of it. I’ve struggled with it a bit, but I managed to find to some similarities to Photoshop, such as the layer tab, which helped to organise my work and compare to two designs, such as two different masthead designs and see which one looks better. However, I did struggle with moving frames around the place, even with layers enabled. I wasted a bit of time trying to move several frames, as I had to correct the indirect changes caused. Using Layers did reduce how many objects were being accidently moved, so there was progress in learning a new skill. Looking back now, if I had looked up on something like beginner’s guide to indesign, I certainly would spend less time on trying to put frames back together. Such as a way to move objects would affecting other objects, like an anchor tool. Aside from the object issue, I feel that I’m very experienced in it. I can do things such as effective text wrapping.

I would like to compare my first work and final version of my magazine on InDesign. The first had terrible usage of font, too much of the colour grey and certainly not bold. In contrast, my final draft of the magazine is bold, has a few selection of fonts. This was achieved to rigid practice and many scrapped drafts.    

One thing I deeply regret was my reluctance to use Adobe Illustrator. Due to how completely different it is handling it compared to the other Adobe programs, I avoided it, despite knowing the potential of what it can create, such as professional made boxes, as shown by my friend who’s into using Illustrator. I eventually managed to get the basics of it due to my tutor showing me. Unfortunately it was too late to mess around with the options to create anything amazing for the magazine except for the badly needed redesign of the masthead.  This is another example of avoiding to go out of my comfort zone. I strongly suggest to get used to Illustrator early on, as its the best way to create imagery on a professional scale.

The aforementioned subjects are good examples of the importance of reading a user’s guide before diving straight into unexplored territory, otherwise I’ll bumble about the place. I should take heed of this advice, as now that technology and software is big part of my life, and new software is being developed rapidly, I really should read manual guides before attempting anything. I should also check out websites that offer advanced design tips in these programs so I can improve my skills. In the next course we going to start using WeVideo for editing, so reading a tutorial for it we be the best way to start.

In this course work, using technology was mandatory, and an in every aspect we use some form of technology. The only time we didn’t use technology was creating mock ups of magazine layouts. Being a digital native, I’m used to using technology in all forms, I had no trouble exporting files, copying, etc. However, I did start using programs such as Illustrator and InDesign in the process, which at the first had little experience with either of them. This led to difficulties when moving converting files to another format to be used by another program. For example, I had problems getting .ai files from Illustrator to be presented when exported as .pdf in Indesign. The .ai file, which was the masthead, which when exported had different colours then compared with original. This resulted in the Masthead having some of the dashes to have a slight brown colour, which did not work with the already established black font. This slightly ruined the masthead. Also some of the exported .pdf files did reduce image quality, but some didn’t.

I also heard that it were possible to convert images from Photoshop into vector files, but I failed how to do it.

Again, I’m certain I would have avoid these problems if I had thought of using a Beginner’s Guide for both of the programs. I strongly suggest you look at one in your independent learning time, otherwise you going to look at one during an important lesson, which would result in less time working at lesson time.

However, while it not may happened to me, several students in my class had severe technical problems, with one missing a few days worth of work as one computer refused to stay on without the blue screen of death appearing shortly after. Unfortunately for her, all her files were stuck on that computer. If she had any backups on a USB, she could have easily moved to another computer and continued to work. From this event alone, I should really bring a spare USB stick to backup my files to prevent this from happening to me. I should do this to anything computer related. Our computers aren’t made to last.

I already had some skill in the writing department, not only have I written several news articles, but some feature articles as well. However, it's wrong to say I have not learnt anything. Thanks to peer feedback, it helped to me realise several writing faults of mine, which I didn’t spot before. This included using language inappropriate for the genre, such using formal language and descriptions straight from a sci-fi novel, such as “materialised atom by atom”. If it weren’t for my peers, such mistakes would have gone unnoticed. This reinforced the idea of asking feedback, even in an area I considered myself experienced in. The lesson here is to always ask for feedback at several stages. I’ll hopefully keep this in mind for future use. I think if I read my aloud work aloud for proof reading, I would have certainly spotted some mistakes. If you can’t have feedback, make sure to proofread. I wonder how many faults have slipped past me because I didn’t ask for feedback nor proofread. With this in mind, I should from now on ask for feedback on any written work, such as essays in this and other subjects, or future feature articles.

Organising the project is an important matter, as ineffective management would waste precious time. Since most of our work was on the computer, and me being digital native, I thought that my file management would be great. I made backups of my works in progress right before I did a major design change, such as replacing an image. I named them appropriately to determine which is which. However, looking it back now, my file names were determined by the spur of the moment, which would mean that my future self would find it puzzling. What does “articlefix”mean? I moved the article or did I change the text? This system would also confuse others when it came to compare work. The system was faulty. What I’m trying to say is name your files appropriately, and consider others and your future self while naming them. I’ll definitely keep this mind for future projects. Wasting 2 mins per lesson finding files can add up during the long term. Name files along the lines of Draft 1.0, Draft 1.5, Draft 2.0 etc. I can transfer this new system to other parts of my file, such as files on my Google Drive.

I would say my action planning was good for the most part, as aside from the fact that some part of my blog is not in chronological order, since I did them a few late, and some quite early. This would make any outsider, who are unfamiliar with my coursework, quite confusing. I think that might reduce my overall grade, as they would . This reason for this chronological mess is that instead of doing blog posts as they come along, I did the easiest ones first before the harder ones first. I would strongly suggest against from doing this, as when you come to write your own final evaluation questions, you will find it a bit confusing, and you’ll waste time rearranging the blogs. For the next media coursework I do, I should attempt the blogs chronologically, not easiest to hardest.  

My evaluation was good, but as mentioned before, it would have been better to proof read and ask for more feedback at severely different stages rather than the tutor forcing us to do at a particular stage.

To be honest, some of these aforementioned lessons I touched upon, however, these times it was much more critical to stand by them, as by not sticking to it, serious consequences arose such staying after lesson time, and producing less good quality material. Due to the severity of these consequences I would feel the wrath of, the lessons would be imprinted into my mind much more strongly. I suppose this a good thing, as making these consequences out in the real world are much more dire, so its better to learn them now before it’s too late. And since these ideas are currently fresh in my mind, I can certainly apply them now to several subjects. And if I continue to apply them, I the things I learnt in this course can stay with me for a long time to come.