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Multimedia: Chicago, in Color

As part of the “Multimedia Shootout” held at this week’s UNITY conference, I created a project called “Chicago, in Color” aimed at celebrating diversity in Chicago. I knew the obvious story would be to go to Chinatown and barbershops to interview local residents, but I wanted to give a voice to those who couldn’t speak for themselves: the monuments and statues of the Windy City. The entire project was created in a span of 48 hours.


Here’s how I did it. There was no easily accessible existing resource on Chicago public art so I went to Flickr and searched for “Chicago statues” and “Chicago monuments.” I whittled down the list to four: The Chicago Mural, The Spearman/The Bowman, Benito Juárez and Willie Dixon’s Blues Garden. All four are mapped on an interactive Flash map (download FLA here). The accuracy of the map was created by using Photoshop to trace over an existing Google Map which was created in 5 minutes with MapBuilder (download PSD here). The icons were also silhouetted in Photoshop.

1. Chicago Mural

All the photos for the project were taken with an iPhone. Although the mural seems like one seamless photo it is actually several stitched together in Photoshop using layers and the cloning tool. The sliding element was created in Flash (download FLA here) using one of my favorite tutorials from kirupa.com on interactive image panning.

2. The Spearman/Bowman

The rotating effect used in this interactive image was created by taking one photo at a time with the iPhone and taking a step to the left or right to create the intervals. Because the photos didn’t line up accurately, all of them were layered on top of each other in Photoshop (download PSD here) and resized and color corrected to ensure continuity. All the photos were then imported into Flash and distributed over several keyframes (download FLA here).

3. Benito Juárez

The Flash slideshow of the Mexican leader was perhaps the easiest facet of the project. The photos were taken with the iPhone, only one of which was (badly) color corrected, and uploaded into Flash (download FLA here). The audio was recorded with a $450 Olympus recorder in an empty room in my hotel, but could have just as easily been done with an El Cheapo recorder. The track was edited for pauses, ums and ahs in about ten minutes using Adobe Audition.

4. Willie Dixon’s Blues Garden

The backlighting in this photo project could have been corrected with a more high end camera, but one was not available so I simply used the same technique I had used for The Spearman…click, step, click, step. The photos were also aligned in Photoshop and imported into a simple Flash slideshow (download FLA here). The music (and this is a big NO NO) was stripped from YouTube using online file converter Zamzar. It was then edited in Audition and uploaded into Flash. This is a likely violation of copyright law (even though the clip is less than 30 seconds), but in this case was only used for demonstration and will likely be pulled some time in the very near future.

Design

The design was created in Photoshop and exported as one big background image with a hole for the Flash projects (a big design no no, but less time-consuming than coding the necessary CSS). The menu on the right is actually a Flash project with transparent buttons overlaid on top of the Photoshopped background (download FLA here). The whole thing was cobbled together in Dreamweaver.

Needless to say, this was the only project of its kind submitted for the Multimedia Shootout which was both a blessing and a curse. The project, which mirrors what a mainstream news outlet is likely to produce, stood out from the other 20 entries that were simply slideshows or video. I acknowledge that everyone doesn’t have such a varied skilled set, but this type of project can be put together with the right team and the right tools.

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