The Commuter Challenge

2 July 2016

The July 2016 Challenge

by CC @ 13:42

Over the years, the Commuter Challenge has docused on three major media: words, images, and music. (And pretty much in that order.) This month, your goal is to bring all of those together in an apotheosis of creative expression. In short, make something that incorporates words, images, and music.

Record a song with vocals and an accompanying illustration. Film a short video with an original soundtrack. Write a poem with an illustration and a musical accompaniment. Or something else entirely.

The words, images, and music should be all your own creation, but as usual you can get help from other people and/or computer programs in order to properly execute your ideas. Using found poetry/sound/images is okay, as long as it remains true to the spirit of the challenge.

Optional additional constraint: Your work should include reference to sunlight in the words or images, or both (And/or the music, if you’re the kind of visionary who can express sunlight in sound.)

The Results

Ryan Finholm

Good Luck Charm

Mike Hamrick

Trash Panda

Brian Raiter


1 comment

  1. I really enjoy how everyone did something completely different in character for the visual aspect this month. This is exactly what I love about the Commuter Challenge.

    As for my entry, well, my natural instinct with words is offset by my later-acquired, less impressive abilities with images and music. So, this challenged definitely put The Fear in me.

    The words I finished first, of course. About halfway through the month I had them in something pretty close to their final form. Had this just been a run-of-the-mill poetry challenge, I would have continued refining them into a sonnet form, or something similar. Since I didn’t have that kind of time, I had to leave them in their half-rhyming, half-prose state.

    I got the idea for the video format early on, as a cheap way to make a video without having to actually shoot real video. I have a roll of old-fashioned adding-machine tape, so figured this would be easy. But when I actually looked at the logistics, I realized there were some technical issues to overcome. I didn’t have anything that could hold the camera (i.e. a smartphone) up off the ground to point downwards, or at least not without blocking out too much light. So instead I used a little phone holder that keeps it at an angle. I perched it at the edge of a small drawing table and then pulled the paper strip up from beneath. But to keep the paper from sagging, which caused the image to violently wobble and oscillate, I had to keep the paper strip under tension during the entire shot. And in order to avoid having it list up or down, I had to keep its motion carefully controlled. By the time I was done, I had jammed a couple of dowels into the table’s leg struts, the tape roll was in a cardboard box being fed out through the handhold in its side, and I was very carefully winding the tape onto a glass bottle, upon which I had painted little dots so I could keep the rotation speed relatively even. Really, I spent far more time shooting the video than I did drawing the actual illustration. (Which, by the way, was done using a bunch of colored pencils I’ve owned since college.)

    And then when I finally got a complete shot, I discovered that the video was horribly out of focus. A proper video camera might have been able to capture a clear image, but without a zoom lens it just wasn’t going to happen. In the end I moved the camera as far away from the tape as I dared, and then cropped out a tiny rectangle of video from the raw footage. (That’s why the result is a nonstandard size.) It’s still pretty blurry, but at least you can make out most of the objects.

    The music was composed in what I’m starting to think of as “my usual way” — basically, fiddle around on a piano keyboard until I have a couple of short melodic lines, then enter them into a music-editing program and try to modify/augment it until I have enough material to fill the requisite time. The music was the hardest part for me to come with workable ideas, and I was trying to flesh it out right up until the last hour. The cycle became: edit the music text file for a given instrument, run one program to render that into a midi file, run another program (this one GUI-driven) to render the midi into a high-quality sound file, and then import the sound file into the mixer project with the other instrument sound files. There are probably easier ways to write music, but this is what I have at hand. I had planned to add another instrument, a melodica to provide some held notes to counterpoint all the other percussive instruments, but I ran out of time. Still, I think the music as it stands has one or two inspired moments, so I gotta count it as a success.

    by Brian — 3 August 2016 @ 10:20