Deer in deep grass


Deer in Deep Grass, from the Undiscovery Channel.

This is an experiment with poetic text overlaid on a video that I shot from my kitchen window yesterday. I’d be interested in hearing whether the scrolling display of text was fun and interesting, distracting and annoying, or somewhere in between.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

21 Comments


  1. That’s an interesting technique! But yes, I do find it distracting because it takes so long to read each word. What if you had the text smaller, at least to allow most words to appear fully?

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  2. I like the idea, but this attempt didn’t work for me. I wanted to watch the deer and couldn’t, really. Maybe smaller, or either before or after the video?

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  3. i liked the idea too, but i think the text has to be smaller. i’m an impatient reader so the process to read the piece took too long for me.

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  4. I was waiting for it to be out of the way, then when it wasn’t I read the text below the video – oh, you mean it’s going to be there throughout?? I can’t see the damn deer! The scroll on the bottom of TV news is bad enough! (I know, you don’t have TV.) Okay, I’ve weighed in enough. :-)

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  5. You mean you want to see the deer? Hmm, I didn’t think of that! Deer are about as exciting to me as daytime TV is to you, I expect.

    Thanks for all the great feedback so far. They say that no experiment that yields clear results can be considered a failed experiment…

    By the way, if you want to read the text more quickly, click through to the video page on Vimeo.

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  6. I would very much like to know the names of the birds in this video; that loud fellow, and then the quieter vireo sounding one. And was that a warbler in the background?

    That’s pretty squirrelly to watch in full screen mode. There is an attention-getting effect going on in the interiors of the letter forms as they passed, which I would like to have studied in slower motion. The camera seems hand held, in which case a tripod would really have helped with the scatter-jump of the background behind the constant track of the letters, though it is a lively movement and perhaps something you liked. I like that you are boarding over the scenery with text. The placement of plane of the text piqued my interest, sort of a picture plane momentarily made visible and in my face, and it added depth.

    The strongest effect was the movement of the background against the letters. I watched that intermittently, and the changing interiors of the letters, but mostly I let go and listened to the birds.

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  7. same for me: smaller text and faster scroll would work better. But I like the concept of the scrolling overlay
    Yes I tried the faster scroll – the text still seems too big in relation to the background scene. and to the words about the flies in and out of those enormous ears. maybe I thought the words should be more like the flies themselves :-)

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  8. I think I concur with the general verdict, text too slow and jerky, and a bit too big. But it was nice; I’m not familiar to contempt with deer! The birdsong was very well timed.

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  9. I think it would be quite difficult to read the text even without the deer in the background because you can only see a few letters at a time. I think the text emphasises the slight wobbliness of the camera, which is a bit distracting, and I tended to find myself concentrating on the letterforms as well.

    Which isn’t to say it couldn’t work with the right combination of text size and scroll speed, or the right video or whatever.

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  10. I agree with the prior comment — the text is too big, and gets in the way of watching the cute furry critter. Reading it a word or less at a time is especially distracting. It’d be much better if you shrank it to caption-size and moved it to the edge.

    My mom & stepfather just claimed to have seen a smaller deer species here in VA, besides the “classic” white-tail that I’ve already seen on the streets. I can’t seem to find anything on Google, though.

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  11. Thanks, y’all. I’d say this was a wildly successful experiment in garnering substantive comments! Anytime I start feeling lonely from now on, I guess I know what to do: upload something annoying and solicit feedback. :)

    Bill and Lucy – Glad you liked the placement of birdsong – the one thing I had no control over here. The loud fellow is a Baltimore oriole. There are also goldfinches, a chipping sparrow (?), and snatches of wood thrush and red-eyed vireo in the faint background. I’m not sure about the bird scolding the doe toward the end – might be an indigo bunting. I think they have a nest back there somewhere.

    The shapes of the letters was my favorite thing about this. I’m sure I could’ve sped them up by compressing the size of each line in Windows Movie Maker. But really what I’m getting from this is that I should’ve used a different style of animation, such as subtitles. Another option that nobody’s mentioned is a voice recording. To me, that would’ve seemed like a greater imposition, but maybe not.

    I’m interested in this in part because I’m planning to do something with a voice recording on July 17, when I’ll host Fiona Robyn for a blog tour in support of her new book, A Small Stone. I got her to make and send me a reading, and I’m just deliberating whether to try and incorporate it into a video or slideshow of some sort. It might work to have pure text – no other images – moving in various ways and at varying speeds while the audio runs, but I’m not sure how much is really possible with Windows.

    David – At one time, before market hunting virtually wiped out white-tailed deer in the late 19th century, prompting widespread reintroductions by newly formed Game Departments in various states, there were apparently many distinct, locally adapted populations of whitetails. I suppose it’s just barely possible that a few of those distinct genotypes have survived in remoter areas.

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  12. I agree with the two main points from others: smaller text, faster scroll.

    Personally I am dying to find one of these old reading machines my elementary school teachers used back in the day – it would highlight a line of text by scrolling across it, then *click* it would move to the next line. Do you remember those? It was just a black background with some text highlighted, and I can still hear that distinctive click in my head. I loved the time of day where my teacher would bring this machine out and let us read…anyway this idea sort of made me think of those old machines and how much I’d like to play around with one.

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  13. is it too late to shout out in favor of the big slow text? really! in terms of composition it was definately my favorite part. since so much of poetry is observation, slowing down, giving up on what may be the next thing of fleeting interest, I think it works really well to that effect.

    if you’ve found a way to help fix and mellow the saccadic rhythms through a digital medium, that’s no small thing.

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  14. Yes text too big and I was so distracted by trying to second guess each word I forgot what came before, plus the rhythm was destroyed for me (whinge, whinge *grin* )…….smaller would work fine, and that way I, living in suburban England, could coo over the wuvverly dear too.

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  15. twitches – Thanks for that vivid recollection. You know, I have no memory of ever using machines like that – and I’m older than you by a few years. (Maybe they kept them longer in the Texas schools?) Now I feel like I missed out on something cool. I’m glad I didn’t miss the era of memeograph machines, at least. I’m sure if I would catch a whiff of that purple ink again, it would transport me right back to the third grade.

    eped – Hey, thanks for the dissenting view! That slowing-down was what I was aiming for here, though clearly the other 92 percent of my readers didn’t like that it was mandatory. I think audio recodings are still a more effective tool for encouraging greater focus on a poem, especially when accompanied by a text that one can skim through more quickly if one likes.

    Jo – Go to Scotland. I understand they have the same problems with deer overpopulation there as we have here.

    Rats are pretty cute, too. I should try and shoot a rat video to make it up to y’all. :)

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  16. Dave – I felt a bit of everything already expressed here (including the dissenting comment) so I won’t belabor those points. My only original comment to add is that as a fellow blogger I really envy the quality of the dialog in your comments. It is very rare that I get this level of thoughtful conversation in my comments so you must be doing something right.

    Chris

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  17. The text was so large I felt like I was a little kid again, sounding out words. Not with a sense of discovery, but frustration. (I wasn’t hugely frustrated…but I didn’t finish the film, either…) Maybe I am a kid with AD/HD…

    Lovely bird sounds…I have never seen or heard any of those, living in the west as I do. Sigh.

    More birds, less deer? :->

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  18. I also heard:
    red bellied woodpecker
    eastern towhee
    common yellowthroat
    blue-winged warbler (I think – it’s faint)
    titmouse

    That was fun. :)

    There were still lots of sounds I didn’t recognize. And I’d never have gotten the Oriole – they don’t sing when they’re coming through here.

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  19. Chris – Yeah, that surprises me sometimes myself, considering that I’m not as gregarious as I could be on other blogs. I’m sure you have quite a bit more readers than I do at this point, but I suppose they’re more information-oriented than the folks who come here. Or maybe theyr’e just busier.

    ..deb – If you didn’t even sit it out, I’d say this is a clear FAIL.

    Yes, decades of deer overpopulation can be very bad for avian diversity, for example in forests where the understory has been eliminated – only canopy-nesting and ground-nesting species will be present then.

    Karen – Good ear! But we don’t have blue-winged warblers here, as far as I know, so that must’ve been something else.

    Can you visit in the next two weeks? We could use another set of ears to help with our point counts for the IBA. It’s gonna be damn hard to hear much over the cicadas!

    Needless to say, if I had a digital recorder with a dish antenna, I’d publish a lot of soundscape audio, but right now the digicam is the only way for me to share birdsong with y’all. Even a video camera would have a better mike.

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  20. Wish I could! :)

    Blue-wings are expanding their territory I believe, so keep an ear out… what rude birds they are, always blowing raspberries at everyone!

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  21. everytime i put words on the screen i end up taking them out. deer are very exciting if you’re from the city. crickets and frogs too. i’m not kidding.

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