Inside Los Angeles Apparel

Three years ago he was ousted as CEO of American Apparel. These days, Charney is running Los Angeles Apparel. He created the company after a telepathic chat with his dead grandfather, who told him to start over. Many American Apparel factory workers followed Charney, and even lent him money.

Explainer fun with Character Animator

For the past few months, I've been thinking a lot about how we can make better quick-turnaround video explainers.

Today's quick-turnaround social media explainers lack personality and aren't character-driven. The second problem: many long-form stories make concepts feel complicated and unapproachable for their audience.

California had a much-needed wet winter, but now that record mountain snowpack is starting to melt.

Adobe has new beta Creative Cloud program called  Adobe Character Animator. It allows you to quickly and easily bring a 2D character to life using your webcam and microphone.

It's so fun to play with!

This software got me thinking about making character-driven explainers that make a complicated concept approachable and fun for our audience.

 
 

Check out a pitch about this that l presented at KPCC.

I originally called this idea "anthropomorphizing the news," but my co-workers told me that sounded creepy.

Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just a Bill" is a perfect example of transforming what could have been a dry explainer into a character-driven narrative.

You keep watching because you're rooting for the poor little bill!

 
 

The explainer at the top of this post has been a small side project for the last six weeks. To make this a minimal-effort project, I used wire and file images, and voiced it myself.

Software/equipment: The character was designed in Adobe Illustrator. I recorded a separate audio file in the KPCC studios. The facial expressions and auto phoneme lip sync were recorded in Adobe Character Animator. The arm movements were key-framed in Adobe After Effects. The whole video was cut together using Adobe Premeire Pro.

This video is the first of further iterations. I'd like to simplify the production process even more.

I'd love to hear your feedback!

#AudioHack: vocoder via Facebook Messenger bot

This weekend, the Come & Play Audio Storytelling Hackathon in San Francisco brought together more than 50 artists, storytellers, producers, developers and designers to think up new and fun ways to tell stories with audio.

During our team's initial brainstorm session, we identified this user problem: how can we make anyone an audio creator?

In today's audio storytelling environment, there are creators and consumers. We hoped to challenge that divide.

A brainstorm Post-it note read: "Voices can be boring." We identified two elements of voice: the audio itself and the personality behind the voice. We agreed that in today's system, both can be boring.

Our six-person team built VoxAnon, a vocoder tool using a Facebook Messenger bot. The vocoder allows users to submit stories anonymously in response to prompts.

We were inspired by journalist Yusuf Omar, who used Snapchat's face filters to mask identities of sexual assault victims sharing their stories:

He handed them his phone and stepped away. The girls spoke individually to the camera and told their stories, without the intrusion of a reporter, cameraman and crew.

Another note read, "the world is more complicated than a story." In today's audio storytelling environment, creators tell other peoples' stories. We wondered: how can we give everyone (even those who want to remain anonymous) the opportunity to tell their own?

Logo and color palette for VoxAnon.

VoxAnon is a platform for submitting anonymous, optionally masked audio. Users contribute audio content via a Facebook Messenger bot and choose from a range of vocal filters to share their story anonymously or modify their voice for fun. Think decim8 for audio!

The VoxAnon website would store and categorize content – suggesting storytelling topics for users. But it's essentially an open platform like PostSecret.

Check out our pitch deck and see the repo on GitHub.

VoxAnon team members: Ted HanMiko LeeCyrus NematiRobert OchshornEmily Saltz and Maya Sugarman

What is slime and why are we so obsessed?

Do you make slime? We're obsessed with this gooey, weird substance, so we invited a friend to show us how to make it. All you need is glue and laundry detergent. Before you get started, make sure you have an adult helping you. Learn about the science behind slime on Brains On!

Pay close attention to the percussion of this original slime song by Steph Alexander (hip hop artist P.O.S.). Notice anything? The sounds are made from slime!

Big rigs, big risks

Every day in Southern California, tens of thousands of commercial trucks — tractor-trailers, tankers, semis and 18-wheelers crawl — barrel along congested freeways. Crashes involving these vehicles, which can weigh 40 tons, are the deadliest and costliest, and they are on the rise. See KPCC's report.

Museum of Ice Cream

It's not really a museum – the Museum of Ice Cream, which officially opens Saturday, April 22, 2017 is better described as an art installation of treats and photo ops. Need to sweeten the deal? Admission includes samples from local shops like McConnell's and CoolHaus.

The audacity of 'woke'

The meaning of the word "woke" used to be so simple before modern culture co-opted it. In some circles, "woke" has taken on a deeper meaning. Listen on kpcc.org.

Girl At The White Horse

Girl at the White Horse003.JPG

Girl at the White Horse, a new bar in East Hollywood, is set to open on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. The spaced used to be the famed Los Angeles dive bar, The White Horse Inn. The new venue is owner Reza Fahim’s second Los Angeles bar. Fahim owns Tenants of the Trees in Silverlake.

Broke

tumblr_okmdxmS2xk1s0udyvo2_1280.jpg
tumblr_okmdxmS2xk1s0udyvo1_1280.jpg
tumblr_okmdxmS2xk1s0udyvo3_1280.jpg

Interest in solving homelessness has intensified over the past year. But there’s a side to the crisis that hasn’t garnered as much attention — entire families are slipping into homelessness. There are more than 16,000 homeless families in Los Angeles County alone.

Hear the full story at kpcc.org/broke.

Photos by Maya Sugarman/KPCC.

The Hairstyles of Key & Peele

Amanda Mofield, department head hairstylist for the Comedy Central show, “Key & Peele,” did 32 different looks for the first East/West College Bowl skit.

We did three of those [sketches], so I had [96] of those characters that they had to be,” said Mofield. “So whatever hair I could find, we would throw it together.
— Amanda Mofield