Behind the scenes

Digifest diary

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One of our session hosts made a great session intro video using an online animated presentation software Powtoon, and it looked so good that I thought I’d dab my hands into it and give it a go.

The editing layout is quite straightforward and easy to navigate, although I did take some time playing around with it before I fully grasped the formatting and processes.

Snap 2014-09-16 at 20.00.50


Basically Powtoon works like the usual presentation softwares, only with more flexibility in slide length, presentation and animation styles and with cool icons to boot!

You can either add more slides, or increase the length of one slide, which was what I did. I only had about 5 slides, but they ran between 5-15 seconds each. I also had fun choosing different backgrounds, colours and fonts to make it more interesting. On top of that you could also add music to complement the animation, making it seem like a video instead of a normal presentation.

Here’s the final product, which is basically about what I do with digifest:

Powtoon is free to use online, although there are some options that require an upgrade to a premium paid account. Have a go at it and show it off to friends for one of your presentations!


Community planning meeting #5

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On  Sept 8, the digifest team and a bunch of devotees had an intimate community planning session on UCL campus. We had some fruitful discussions over coffee and biscuits, joined by some enthusiastic digifest newbies and a couple of veterans.

Some of the themes we were particularly focused on are online privacy and security, and there was a collective interest in having a panel discussing the issues in these topics. It’s also worthwhile for students to be aware of these issues as their online footprint and profiles can affect employability. Check out our digifest blog for posts regarding online privacy and digital footprint for a brief introduction to these topics.

Aside from that, we also had some great ideas from attendees, some of which we are already implementing in digifest, for example:

  • Geocaching of UCL campus for a fun treasure hunt
  • Using citizen science in technology or digital media
  • Crypto party (it’s happening!)
  • Using QR codes as a promotional material or in treasure hunts
  • Using “awesome box” as a feedback mechanism
  • Exhibiting student posters on Showcase Friday
  • … and lots more!

We are hopeful for more exciting community discussions such as this, so you are welcome to join us!


Behind the Scenes: Mobile Video Teasers

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Last week, two of us digifest devotees went guerilla around UCL in search for some cool people to hear their thoughts on techy things. In true spirit of digifest, we were armed with only one tool – a smartphone. Being amateur videographers, basically what we did was point and shoot, but there is so much more to mobile video making than we thought.

Orientation: You might scoff at this but a large amount of self-proclaimed videographers suffers from Vertical Video Syndrome. Shooting videos in portrait mode might be the most natural way to go, but landscape mode is actually more viewer-friendly. The logic behind this is:


Reddit: Mungo9000

Two things to pay attention to are lighting and sound – always let the subject face the light and try to film in a relatively quiet place with little background noise that could interfere. We steered clear of head-pounding drilling going on around the campus, although we still had the occasional rustle of people walking around, but that’s nothing a video editing software can’t fix!

Once we’ve got the footage we wanted, it was time to cut and edit them to suit our theme. Video editing softwares like iMovie for Mac or Windows Movie Maker are enough to do simple editing jobs. A recent update in Youtube has even allowed in-site video editing that you can just publish afterwards.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 16.58.51

iMovie editing layout

We then added some text, transitions and music (beware of copyright!) to spice it up into a multimedia video before uploading the final product on YouTube:

It doesn’t take a lot of technical skills to do this, just a little tinkering with some tools that are readily available. The difficult part in making this video is actually in approaching people to film them. In this case it’s about finding the right people – people who are waiting around or sitting in one place, who doesn’t look to be in a hurry… – and approaching them with a big smile and friendly attitude. Fortunately, the people in UCL are a cool bunch, and our gratitude goes to them for making this project a success.

Community Planning Meeting #3

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On a warm July afternoon a bunch of digifest enthusiasts got together for our latest community planning meeting. It was really fantastic to see so many faces, some veterans of digifest and some who’ve just joined us.

Diligent digifest-ers diliberating
Diligent digifest-ers deliberating

There was massive range of topics discussed and some great ideas, too many to list but I’ll try to give you a flavour of them. Some of the ideas for sessions we had included:

  • A maker session with 3D printing, possibly joining up with other hackspaces and makerspaces
  • The tech industry and employability, maybe running a session with UCLU Business Society and UCL Careers
  • e-publishing
  • virtual experiments in medicine, engineering and beyond
  • Language learning through social media as well as tools like Memrise, Duolingo, and Live Mocha

Another area we were focusing on was evaluation and feedback. How do we know if people are enjoying digifest and what they’re getting from it without sending out hundreds of surveys no one likes to complete? As well as discussing how to gather feedback we also talked about what it is we want to actually want evaluate: the festival overall? How well we’re building a community? How people change the way they do things after digifest? Individual sessions? Once again we had some really interesting and innovative ideas, often based around the theme ”Fisher Price for adults’:

VoxBox – it’s a TARDIS of feedback!
  • We’ve already got the VoxBox team on-board, isn’t it pretty! (powered by Engduinos which we also want to run a session on)
  • A crowd sourced Spotify playlist – we’ll ask people to describe sessions with a song
  • Lego!
  • Monitoring social media channels
  • A feedback photo booth
  • Could we turn our big red bus into a whiteboard?
  • Fridge magnets feedback
  • 3D printing tweets or other responses
  • Heard Words, machines dictated feedback on to reams of paper
  • Digital guest book

You can find much more detail and all of the other things we discussed in the minutes available on the Google+ planning group.

Community Planning Meeting #2

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Isn’t it cute! UCL’s Engduino

We had a really useful session on the 17th of June and digifest is now really starting to take shape! Once again we had some fab ideas for sessions. One of the most interesting suggestions was to get in contact with the team behind the Engduinos and see if they’d run a session with us. UCL being what it is, some of our academics wanted to build on the great work being done with Arduinos and the Raspberry Pi and make devices like those even better and even more accessible to beginners and so the Engduino was born. We thought maybe we could involve the UCL Academy in this too, all very exciting.

Another big topic of discussion was copyright, creative commons, and open resources. We talked about the importance of copyright in research, how to navigate copyright and IP as a user, the pros/cons of different licensing systems (CC, GNU, etc). All of this lead us onto the idea of running a session around open source software, which would include some of these issues but also give the participants something practical like new tools and pieces of software to use.

#riotwombles are probably digifest’s favourite kind of Wombles

All that talk of licensing got us thinking about digital things and the law, and ethics more generally. Particularly the role social media played in Arab Spring and, even closer to home, its use for organising student and other kinds of activism in the UK. It was also widely used in the both the riots of 2011 and the subsequent clean up effort by the #riotwombles, exemplifying the opportunity these tools provide to do good but also the ways in which they can be abused.

From there we chatted about digital art and getting in contact with some of the creative people over at the Slade to show off some of the incredible work they’re doing. One of the people we contacted wasn’t keen on joining the G+ community we’d been using due to privacy concerns and this sparked another lively debate about people’s digital footprint and right to be forgotten. One idea was to air our digital dirty laundry by getting people to display their online footprint on a washing line.

Then we discussed how we were going to promote our amazing festival. Projections onto buildings, video diaries, social media campaigns, pop up events, posters, branded beer mats were just some of the ideas we had. But what would be put on these branded beermats?  We need a logo! We pondered what our logo should be and represent; should it be in four colours to represent the four themes? Would that look a little too much like Google or Microsoft? The questions and debates were endless so we decided the best way to proceed would be have a competition. Everyone tinkering and making their own designs (very much in the spirit digifest!)  and then the community voting on the one the liked best. We had a ton of entries, some a little whacky and some a little more sombre. Have a look at all the entries below, did we make the right choice? Let us know in the comments.

As you can see it was a really packed session, and we haven’t mentioned the talks on surveillance, Jeremy Bentham, digital death, gender in social media, digital health, crowd sourcing we had too! To find out about those, have a look at the minutes on our G+ community. We’d love to see you at our next planning meeting. So join the conversation and join our newsletter or G+ group to find out more.

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