This blog post is the explanation the full on summary of everything, and I do mean everything (or as close to as possible) that went into the creation of the final project created by Agent Amari and I. So! If you haven’t viewed our final project please go do that first! Everything in this post will ruin the arch of the narrative for our story so you should head there first. So go to The Directorate’s Spy first.
Everything from now on will explore how we created the story and the choices we made.
*SIDE WARNING: This is a very long post that values depth over brevity.
Congrats you participated in Agent Zero’s search for the mission to figure out how the Directorate infiltrated DS106 with a mole. Where you surprised? I’m going to start off by going over how this project started off with our ideas and then go step by step through the different media elements that I helped to create as a part of the project.
The First Idea
When I read through the summary of the potential missions we could play out in the two weeks I got to the third mission and had to stop and read it over again.
Mission 3: Several agents were appear to have been interviewed by The Directorate. We have a report that they know who all of our agents are. We know they have a foothold on campus. And we have a report that one of our agents has gone rogue and is secretly working for The Directorate. How shall we approach this situation? What can we do about it?
The Directorate of course was referencing Martha Burtis. Martha posed as a character in our course to help create interview questions for a video interview project. When reading through blogs that week I did notice a lot of people raised questions about just who the Directorate was, since many people had not met Martha. Being in charge of the Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) and working with Domain of One’s Own Martha could in fact know who all of the agents in the class really are. She does have a foothold on campus A.K.A. the DKC. But it was the last listed element that got me “we have a report that one of our agents has gone rogue and is secretly working for The Directorate.” I immediately got super excited about this because I knew exactly who they were. It was me. I am in fact a tutor at the Digital Knowledge Center and Martha is my boss. I was also actually there when she recorded her interview and listened to her brainstorm questions. Can you get more infiltration then that? When I realized I was the mole I was excited of course I wanted to play into this narrative and see how it could be revealed to the class, thats when Amari contacted me.
So I want to start with Amari is amazing she puts hard work and effort into everything. She originally asked to group up together when I put out a post about radio show ideas. After working with a great radio show group called Agents on Air, she asked me if I would be interested in forming a video group. Then we had a awesome video group in Your Guide to Being a Spy. So by this point I knew she did great work. So when she asked if we wanted to team up together for the final I was in on the condition that we somehow involved the Directorate mission. She was game and we started a group google doc to brainstorm. We met up in the chat and discussed the mission and it was time for me to come clean to my first class mate. I explained I knew the answer to who the spy was and conceded it was me when she asked to know more. She thought it was great! We would play the narrative that Agent Zero was trying to solve the mystery of who the mole was and Agent Fawn was “helping” with the case. In the course of the narrative we would hint to the class who the mole was while Agent Zero would not find out till the very end. We were ready to get started we had our narrative.
Introducing the Directorate
I came up with a fun way to start off the project and introduce our fellow spies to the mission. Now we purposefully did not want to include a lot of information in last week’s blog post because we did not want to ruin this cool idea. Instead I suggested we create a intro video. The video would be of the mole going into the DKC and meeting the Directorate. I went and talked to Martha to ask if she would be interested in being involved and okay with us using her character, she was excited to help which was awesome. Since it is close to finals the DKC was very busy but on a quieter time I used my iPhone and recorded the scene. I then edited the footage changing the background levels and sent it out into the world.
A Ringing Call
After the intro video we created a follow up video of a ringing phone call playing over a walk through spaces on the University of Mary Washington Campus. Amari actually came up with the idea to create this transition, she thought it would be good to have a transition between the original video we released and the start of the phone call to make things more seamless. She thought it would be cool to incorporate campus in this part since it would lead up to the Directorate’s office in the Hurley Convergence Center. So I went ahead and filmed some walk throughs of spaces on campus and ended up using mostly outdoor shots. I next went to freesound to go look for a phone ring. I used a 1960s Phone sound recorded by cvp1965. I listened to a bunch of the ring sounds and decided to pick an older sounding ring because it felt a lot eerier and had a good pacing naturally with the ring. I edited the footage that I had taken and sped it up so that it flowed better and had movement.
Phone Call Audio
So the majority of the audio we produced for this project was our agents talking to one another on the phone. To get started we met up in a google doc and co wrote the dialogue. Amari started off with her introduction and I responded and we live wrote the dialogue so that it would feel like a real conversation. Once we had the dialogue written we got together to record everything in Audacity. This was actually our very last step in the project. We met up Friday and Amari first recorded all her lines then I recorded mine. Ironically the microphone we used was a headset mic from the DKC. I then stitched all of the audio together in Audacity. Each set of audio was put together as it’s own file so that the dialogue would be properly spaced throughout the project. I also went back in and used the same audio of the ringing phone and click to start off the second call for consistency with the narrative. Background sound was added to each side of the call to create atmosphere behind Agent Zero was General Traffic sounds by arnaud coutancier that created a feel of movement, while for Agent Fawn a emptier background sound was used with the sound Original Ambience Sound Unaltered by SeanSecret.
Amari was in charge of designing the first clue and footage. She decided to make the clue a movie of her walking to a mailbox to receive the clue. Then a video of her opening up the clue for all to see. She then sent me the videos she took. I stitched them together in iMovie. As a part of this I also added in the background music that plays throughout the different clip videos in our story. The song titled Spy Over There by The Ocean had a nice recurring beat that hit well with the story we were lining up. The agent involved in giving Zero the clue references Agent Reveal a character in the class narrative. Reveal was actually a agent we worked with on the radio show so someone we had already worked with previously and who Zero therefore had an established connection with.
Name Tag Hint
One of the early idea’s I had in incorporating media was using a name tag. As a actual DKC employee I have a official name tag that says UMW and everything. I decided to take a photo of that name tag and edit it to be a name tag for my agent. Of course the reveal could not be that easy! Using GIMP I clone stamp tooled out my name and put in the name Agent Fawn.
I went through a few versions of how to make it hard to see but still actually have the real name hidden. At first I actually pulled it into a program called Skitch. One of Skitch’s editing tools is a pixelating tool and I tried that but it just was not with my vision. I also tried erasing the name slightly and then pixelating but still not what I wanted.
Instead I played around in GIMP to see what my options were. Ultimately I decided to use the smudge tool and smudge a slightly erased version of “Fawn” while leaving “Agent” easier to read. If you really focus you can sorta see “Fawn.” The name tag then became part of our clues that the class could maybe get more than Agent Zero did.
The name tag of course leads Zero to think that Agent Jones is trying to frame Agent Fawn. Agent Jones was another member of the original radio group and was a part of the video show group so again she was another character that Zero had an established connection with and might have been willing to trust. (We also talked to the agent to discuss with her about the accusation of her character.)
I was also in charge of writing some of the text transitions between our media. We found that writing was a good way to switch up the flow and explain the story in moments where other medias made it a bit difficult. I wrote up these sections and shared them with Amari for approval in the google doc before we used any of them.
The Accountant Section
So the idea to use the Accountant in our narrative actually came by an accident. Last week when we were setting up our missions I ran into fellow DS106 student Cole on campus and we talked about the course. Cole asked if he could accuse my character as being a mole because he knew about my job at the DKC. (Which is when I realized a few people in the course might have been able to find that part out.) When we were talking he said my group was free to use his character if we needed. So when we were laying out our set of clues and needed a third arch we decided to use his character. Since he actually knew I was the mole already it would be playing into the element of truth in this whole project.
We decided as a part of this clue to have “Agent Zero” or the camera walk up to the Accountant at night sitting on a bench. To avoid having to inconvenience Cole for our filming I had my boyfriend sit in as Cole because from afar in the dark they have enough similarities that it was fine. I then filmed up to the bench he was sitting on and later went back in and edited the speed and then the background music.
The accountant’s physical clue was the next part. We wanted to see if we could incorporate another element of media in the project so I decided to hand make the accountant’s message and then photograph it. I wanted to to be clear and easy to see so I opted for the all caps and red letters. (Don’t all spy things have red somewhere?)
So as a part of building the tension we have a audio recording of Agent Fawn running up a staircase. Meaning I ran up the staircase at the HCC (something that I have to do sometimes anyways) and recorded the audio of myself. A weird fact I had always kinda wanted to make some sort of audio recording of footsteps in that particular stairwell. It has a interesting hollowness to it that most stairwells on campus really do not have. Plus it is usually completely empty leading to an eerie quiet feel. It is also the correct stairwell to lead into the final scene of the project.
The ending went through several media changes and plot changes between our original idea and the final product. Originally it was going to be a series of audio clips around the video in the DKC, however Amari suggested making it all one video including those audio bits in a dark space. We decided that worked best for the story and went with it. She recorded chasing me out of the stairwell. I then went back and edited the footage to add the quiet constant background music and connections to all of the elements. I also then added in the audio we had recorded to follow after and the video for the reveal. The ending was intentionally left as open as we could make it. The exchange of names and cut to the music leaves exactly what Zero is going to do about Fawn up to a bit of debate and purposefully so.
Ultimately this project was so much fun to create and enjoy and Amari and I both really loved working on it. It took a lot of work and we were perhaps a little ambitious at times but I hope the result was something that everyone appreciated and had fun watching.