Capt. Johnway

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Capt. Johnway - by Amanda Lucek


Concept

When my friend Rachael orders out at a restaurant, the waitress will say "I'll be right back with that ma'am."  But when she orders pizza over the telephone, the order jockey will tell her "Ok, that'll be about 20 minutes, Sir." 

(Humans have developed a great sense for determining the gender of others.  It's not something we generally give any conscious thought to whatsoever.  But the "ease" with which we categorize people by gender belies the complex system of gender cues that we subconsciously take into consideration in that fraction of a split second.)

My original idea for a video-remix was to stage a sort of re-enactment of Rachael's experience with pizza delivery: starting with a blank black screen, we would hear 2 voices: a male and a female.  Then suddenly the video would kick in and we would see that person we assumed to be male was actually female and vice versa.  Using footage from a classic video portraying strong gender stereotypes would call into question those stereotypes.

But this struck me in the end as too simple, too plain, too much an echo of all the other overt critiques of gender stereotypes that we've seen before.  Thus, despite my resolution following my previous project's critique (i.e. to try to communicate a message), I decided to purposefully create a piece with a more ambiguous meaning.

My new plan was to choose footage from a film or show that was generally considered to have taken a risk in breaking down stereotypical gender roles and then use discordant voiceovers to subvert the subversion, so to speak.  I decided on the TV series Star Trek Voyager, in which the role of captain is played by a woman. 

What would it mean to masculinize Captain Janeway?  I see the act as having numerous possible interpretations.  It could be a misogynist's way of "correcting" the overly-liberal producers of the show.  It could be a feminist critique of the series, showing the alleged pro-female stance of the show to be undermined by its portrayal of the person in power as overwhelmingly masculine, regardless of actual sex.  Trying to pin down the authorial intention of such a project would require a good deal more reflection than my original concept, and making viewers ask questions is more important to me than giving them answers.


Process


Not having ever edited video before, and trying to learn different programs on the fly, I would not recommend following my methods, but here's how it all broke down:

I obtained iso images of various Voyager Season 1 DVDs. I used WinX DVD Ripper to create avi files for manipulation. After watching a fair amount of footage, I decided I wanted to use clips from the first 20 minutes or so of the first episode, where Janeway is first introduced, to create my project. I used the program AVS Video Editor to cut out all the scenes that I found unnecessary, leaving me with an approximately 4 minute long clip. I then realized I'd need a more sophisticated program to deal with audio. I downloaded a trial version of Adobe Premiere.

To the right you can see how I divided the clip into numerous sections in order to isolate every instance of Janeway's speech. I then tried applying all sorts of audio filters to the isolated audio clips in an attempt to digitally change Janeway's voice into that of a man. After testing practically every option available, I deemed the following adjustments (shown at right) to be the best. However, upon asking advice from others, the best simply turned out not to be good enough. The resultant voice was too robotic. I scrapped the use of audio filters altogether, and decided to create a wholly new recording of Janeway's lines with which to dub the video (which actually had been my original plan). Although I would lose the perfect synchronicity between video and audio, I would gain the ability to alter the dialogue spoken by Janeway, allowing me to include the clip in which she introduces herself by name.

I typed up a transcript of the dialogue in the clip, borrowed a USB microphone from a friend's Guitar Hero game, and beggged a male friend of mine to help me out. I had him watch the original clip with the speech unchanged and then had him record all of Janeway's lines. I set the volume to zero for every clip of Janeway's speech and added my friend's recordings in a separate audio track, moving them about so that they were as close as possible to being in sync with the video.

I was finally ready to export a finished file! However, I was unable to figure out how to create a small file using Adobe Premiere. I tried different settings, but the smallest file I managed to create was still over 800 Mb for a 4 minute clip! So I took the 800+ Mb avi file, opened it in AVS Video Editor, and created a new project containing simply the unchanged video file and then output the project in a still relatively high quality format and wound up with a new avi file that was under 25 Mb.

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