The Cogs of my MA

To accompany my application and other promotional materials that I intend to exhibit at our Masters exhibition, I have created a piece I have titled “The Cogs of my MA”.  This piece is a chance for me to show and look back at a lot of the things that have informed my MA projects and a lot of the things that I have created.

Although this is a very busy piece with lots of information within it, it still does not encompass my entire Masters study but it is a good visual interpretation of the many things, including considerations, acquired information, productions and conclusions that have been moving like cogs in my head throughout the past twenty two months.

I hope it shows the breadth and depth of my inquiry, whilst also showing how a design is influenced by many considerations that all are important.  The version below is a small low quality piece, to gain a proper consideration for the piece you will have to attend our exhibition.

Screen Shot 2013-08-04 at 21.50.40

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The Great Map Problem

Since quite early on in this project, I have had the desire to add an interactive map i.e. Google maps into my application, to be used in two different specific ways.  The first of which was to be a map which allows users to attempt to locate places with Viking names (i.e. ending in ‘by’, ‘thorpe’ or ‘thwaite’) near the city of York, which was an area of England that was densely populated by Vikings during the Viking age.

The second was a map showing the location of museums related to Viking heritage.  So users could then take their knowledge of the Vikings and any interest in the subject, from the application outwards into the wider world to investigate further.

My original plan was to incorporate Google maps, as I have prior experience of working with the Google maps API in my Hull History Viewer application.  Unfortunately a potential problem arose when it was announced that the Google maps API for Adobe Flash was been depreciated.

After searching for alternative map options, I noticed that a lot of people where recommending MapQuest as potential solution to the loss of Google maps for Flash.  I had a quick look at the MapQuest website and it seemed ideal; it said it had a Flash maps API and it uses the term Flash maps repeatedly across the website , so rather stupidly I bookmarked the site to come back to at a later time when I was ready to develop the section where the maps would be featured.  Recently that time arrived and I revisited the site in question, only to find out that all was not as it seemed.  On closer inspection, MapQuest is designed to be used within a piece of software called Adobe Flash Builder (formally Flex builder) and this is not the same software that I am using for my project, I am using Adobe Flash Professional which may sound like it does the same but that is not the case.

So what is the difference between Adobe Flash and Adobe Flash builder?

A good description has been provided by an individual going by the name of “heavilyinvolved” in answer to this question on the Stack Overflow website:

“Flash Professional doesn’t “do” what Flash Builder “does” (or vice versa)… however, there is some minor crossover in that they are both tools that enable designers/developers to compile swf’s.”

Both pieces of software have advantages in differing scenarios but the problem is that they are not really compatible, so ultimately the possibility of using a MapQuest map in my application was looking increasingly unlikely.  I contacted MapQuest directly to ask if there was an appropriate option that I could use within their product range.  In reply I was informed that “Most of our sample code for the MapQuest Platform is for flex” but I was directed towards the link below:

http://developer.mapquest.com/content/as/v/mq/samples/samplesexplorer/index.html#

Unfortunately, despite there been a basic source code available on the MapQuest website for a “Flash map”, it is not the mobile version that incorporates the mobile functionality that people are used to using and expect to use on mobile devices.  This makes it not ideal for my app but with little other choice I decided to give it a go but unfortunately I have been unable to get it to work.  There are lots of tutorials and information available for the Adobe Flash Builder version but not for the Adobe Flash Professional version and I cannot find a solution to my problems, despite posting on forums and contacting MapQuest directly.

With the option of using MapQuest maps within my application now not looking like a feasible possibility, I decided to turn my attention back to Google Maps.  This once again was not a long term solution due to its deprecation but as a short term possibility for my hand-in and exhibition I though this may be the answer but alas again my progress was halted due to a difference between Adobe Air for Android and Adobe Air for ios.  Most functionality crosses both platforms but there is a problem with displaying Google Maps for ios

I have been unable to resolve this problem as well and unfortunately I have decided that this is now not a practical resolution to my map problems.

I have been searching for another solution to the “The Great Map Problem” but unfortunately I have reached a point where I need to concentrate on other things, in order to have a presentable application for my hand-in and exhibition.  I have not given up hope of adding these features to my application and this is beauty of the medium I am working in; my app can be released without these features, with the potential to be added at a later date via an automatic update, should I find a solution.  The updateable nature of the medium means that all aspects of my app can be changed in various ways, to incorporate new content, fix possible problems and improve aesthetics and functionality, in the event of new or improved skills, knowledge and ideas.

One issue that does concern me is the wave of momentum to move away from flash based technologies in favour of a move towards technologies such as HTML5 and Javascript, although I have a knowledge of these technologies, my preferred medium is Adobe Flash and Actionscript 3. I like the visual nature of the interface and the animation functionality, it suits me and the way I like to work and although I am relatively new to my practice I am in danger of becoming outdated in the near future, if recent developments are indications of the future.

As a new media practitioner there is a requirement for me to evolve and keep up with current technologies and one of my priorities upon the completion of my master’s study is to investigate, learn and re-enforce other methods of development such as HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript.  Due to my recent iMac purchase, I can now also attempt ios native development using Apples Xcode software, in order to have more ways to be creative in my future endeavours.

Although it is extremely frustrating and disappointing to not be able to incorporate all the features that I have desired within my application as yet; there is still a possibility that they will be incorporated at some point in the future and I will do my best to try and make sure that my creative visions become a reality.

 

Better late than never :Vikings Documentry

I have been meaning to make this post for a very long time but better late than never I suppose.  Back in January, as part of my research I came across a very interesting Vikings documentary on one of the BBC channels, it was broadcast in the early hours of the morning and I more or less come across it by chance.  The documentary was the third of a three part series and I was a bit gutted to have missed the first two episodes but since then I have managed to find two of them on YouTube and I thought I would post them below:

Although these documentaries are not perfect for my target audience, I would love to be able to add high quality video like this from the great locations visited but presented in a more child friendly manner.  Unfortunately, I do not have the financial resources to visit these places, nor do I have the finances or technical skill to produce videos of this quality on my own.  I feel that it would definitely not be worth adding sub standard video to the app, so unfortunately my app will not be featuring any video but it would have been a nice addition.

What Happened to the Vikings

In the What Happened to the Vikings  section of my application, I explain that “we need to remember that most of the travelling people from Scandinavia who we call Vikings, would not have called themselves Vikings.  In the Old Norse language, the word Viking means ‘a pirate raid’, and few of these Northern people actually participated in raiding.“. This sets the basIs for why their dominance of their era came to an end. The vikings did not really change, it was the world that changed around them and they were simply no longer the big bully who could dominate and cause fear in the way they used to, as i explain “European countries had new leaders who were more organised, with well trained armies who could defend against Viking attacks.”  I have created an image to reinforce this idea see below:

Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 16.02.35

I have also created a short swipe-able story to show how the viking age came to an end and the Norman age began in 1066, when William the Conqueror invades England with his Norman army and kills King Harold, see video below:

Viking Burial

Image

As part of the Viking beliefs section of my application, I explain what Vikings believed in regarding death.  I explain how it was a Viking tradition to bury some people in their boats, alongside some of their belongings and their favourite things.  Below is a mood board and the imagery that I created for my application.

viking_burial_mood_board

burial_boat

Creating the Creatures of Vikings Belief

As with the Viking gods I have been able to operate under a rather substantial amount of artistic licence in my representations of the creatures that Vikings believed in.

Vikings believed that there were nine worlds connected by the ash tree yggdrasill.  Each world was home to its own inhabitants and Vikings told many stories featuring these (as far as I know) fictional beings.  See my mood board and representation of the map of yggdrasill and the nine worlds below:

My artwork once again is based upon written descriptions and pre-existing visual representations of the creatures in question.

Below are my mood boards and visual creations, alongside some of the reasoning for my creative decisions.

Giants 

Giants or Jötunn’s as the Vikings called them, were very big and strong.  They ate animals and fish because they lived in the world Jotunheim.  I decided to keep my giants very similar to humans, just bigger but I have given my giant big ears as a fond reflection of a favourite childhood story of mine, Roahl Dahl’s ‘BFG’, illustrated by Quentin Blake.

giants-mood-board

giant

Dark Elves

Dark Elves were ugly, tricky creatures who lived underground and liked to cause problems for humans.  Due to living underground my elves are pale skinned and I have tried to capture their mischievous essence in my drawing but whether or not I have succeeded is open to the interpretation of the viewer.

dark-elves-mood-board

dark_elf

Light Elves

Light Elves were considered to be like “angels” by the Vikings, they were beautiful creatures who inspired music and art.  I have tried to make my light elf similar to my dark elf, in order to see the connection that they are both elves but I have given my light elf  a skin tone that is more reflective of somebody who lives above ground and I have dressed him in a more elegant manor.

light-elves-mood-board

light_elf

Ogres

Ogres were large, monstrous creatures; the Vikings thought they were nasty, strong and dangerous beings who would kill and eat people.  I have created my ogre to look dangerous and grotesque, with a large belly to show that he is capable of consuming a person.

ogre_mood_board

ogre

Dwarfs

Dwarfs were small with oddly shaped bodies, they lived under the ground in the world of Nidavellir. Dwarfs were very good at making things out of metal. I have created a small person with a body shape that is similar to people who have the medical condition dwarfism, as I believe this mythical creature is probably derived from a misunderstanding of people who suffer this condition.  In Viking myths, dwarfs are skilled metal workers which I have tried to display in my drawing, through the characters decorated armour and weapons.

dwarfs-mood-board

dwarf_01

Sea Serpents

Sea serpents were giant monsters that the Vikings believed lived in the sea.  My sea serpent is based on the traditional depiction of a long, snake like dragon creature that lives in the sea.

sea-serpents-mood-board

sea_serpent

Below is a video of this section from within the application.

Creating Asgard and the Æsir

Recently, I have been working on the Viking beliefs section of my application.  As part of this segment I shall be delivering information about the Viking’s religious beliefs; the Vikings had their own pagan religion.

To accompany the written information about the Norse gods I have created some images.  Nobody knows for certain if these beings exist and to the best of my knowledge nobody has met one or even better taken a picture that I can base my artwork on, so a certain amount of artistic licence can be afforded in the production of my designs.  I have been producing imagery based upon my research and previously produced media featuring the individual’s deities in question.  The main sources of information regarding these beings are the old Norse written accounts, featured within writings such as the Saga’s and stories depicted on Rune stones and within other carvings from the Viking period.

I started by researching the home of the Viking gods, followed by the creation of a mood board (see below).

ASGARD_MOOD_BOARD

How do you design the mythical kingdom of an ancient race of gods?  To answer that quest ion I began researching Asgard, in order to identify any identifying features of that realm that would hopefully inform my design.  My research indicated two main areas that I felt would be important in my depiction of Asgard and those were:

Vallhalla

Vallhalla is a great hall where fallen Viking warriors go to feast after their death, until they are called upon by Odin to battle again at Ragnarok .

In front of Vallhalla stands the golden tree Glasir.  The hall’s ceiling is described as being thatched and adorned with golden shields and spears.  Valhalla is the home to some creatures, such as the stag Eikþyrnir and the goat Heiðrún amongst others.

See my Vallhalla below:

valhalla

Bifrost – The Rainbow bridge

The rainbow bridge is an important identifying feature of Asgard but I have also used the fact that the route to the realm of the gods is a something that is seen in the sky, as the logic to set Asgarde floating above the clouds in the sky but out of view of those below.

The rest of my production was open to a lot of artistic licence but I tried to base my design on things that the Vikings may have encountered in their lives.  As we know the Vikings where intrepid travellers, who will have seen different forms of architecture in many different countries but there is a constant in most societies.  Castles and palaces have been built around the world to house those who are considered or consider themselves to be of importance.

I tried to base my art work upon a castle structure, constructed from materials known to the Vikings like stone and wood, the roofing is based upon precious metals like copper and gold.  I have set my castle structure upon a floating mountainous island, that floats amongst the clouds connected to Midgard via a rainbow bridge. See Asgard Below:

asgarde_02

The Menu

To access information about the individual Viking gods, I have created an interface that features a bottom up menu that auto hides to create more space for the information on the screen.  The menu background is based upon Viking carvings and the buttons are framed headshots of each god with their name displayed on a scroll (see below).

gods_menu_bg

btn_god_balder btn_god_loki btn_god_odin btn_god_sif btn_god_thor

 

 

 

 

 

 

To create the Viking gods, I once again researched each individual god and created visual mood boards of pre-existing imagery.

Below you can see my mood boards and my interpretive creations.

Odin

Odin is described differently depending upon whether he is in Asgard or in Midgard.

One important distinguishing feature of Odin is that he only has one eye, due to him sacrificing the other to drink from the fountain of wisdom.

The descriptions of Odin whilst travelling in Midgard, are believed to have heavily influenced the descriptions of Gandalph the wizard in J.R Toilkin’s, Lord of The Rings and this is evident in mine and other people’s representations of both characters/beings as you can see below:

odin_mood_board

Viking_god_odin_earth

Viking_god_odin

Frigg

Frigg was Odin’s wife and the queen of Asgard, she was the goddess of marriage and motherhood. Frigg is often depicted as wearing blue which is something I carried into my depiction, see below:

frigg-mood-boardfrigg

Thor

Thor is the Norse god of thunder, strength and war.  Whilst creating Thor I felt it was very important to stick to the written descriptive accounts, where he is described as a mighty warrior with great strength, red hair and a beard.  I tried to include his three main weapons:

  • Megingjörð – a magic belt that doubled his strength.
  • Járngreipr – a pair of iron gloves that were needed to handle Mjölnir.
  • Mjölnir – the mighty hammer that could crush mountains and create lighting flashes across the sky.

Many people may not know of the written description of this deity, due to the Marvel comics character Thor created by Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller Jack Kirby.  Marvel’s Thor is based upon the Norse legend but the character’s visual appearance is different to the recorded accounts, as he has long blonde hair and the only weapon he carries is Mjolnir the mighty hammer. It is hard competing against such popular incarnations but as I mentioned earlier nobody has seen the supposed entity in question, so any visual creation is open to interpretations, that ultimately cannot be wrong or right with no accurate visual record existing.

Below you can see my mood boards and my interpretive creations.

Thor_mood_board

viking_god_Thor

Sif

Sif is Thors wife and most depictions feature her adorned in blue clothing, which I have also done.  The main description that stands out in my research of Sif is her long golden hair, which I have tried to incorporate into my imagery see below:

sif_mood_board

Viking_goddess_sif

Loki

Loki is considered to be a Norse god although his parents were actually giants.

Loki is known as the Norse god of mischief.  He is a trickster with magical powers who is often naughty, causing problems for the other gods which is why I have based my design upon a jester, which also is a theme in older imagery of Loki.

Loki is often described as being handsome but he is a shape shifter, so he can change the way he looks.  He appears in the form of men, women and animals and to show this I have created a simple shape shifting animation, that you can see below:

loki_mood_board

viking_god_loki

Balder

Balder is often described as being very popular amongst the other gods, due to his invulnerability and his good looks.  This is something that I have tried to capture in my imagery, see below:

balder_mood_board

viking_god_balder

Below you can see a short video of my completed ‘Viking Gods’ information section:

In order to make best use of my time, for university grading times and constraints, I have not as yet included or produced imagery and information based on every god but I feel I have produced enough to provide a strong indication of how this part of the application will look and operate.  If time permits I will add more to this section before the end of the project.