Audio Narrative Project: IM Insanity
by Priscilla del Castillo (MIT '04) [] & Nick Hunter (MIT '06) []

View the Project

The Design of IM Insanity

The general premise behind IM Insanity was to take a number of every day computer sounds, with a particular focus on those associated with the AOL Instant Messenger program, and remix them in a way that had narrative potential. To further define this potential, we also decided to associate it with a series of images that lined up with the action going on in the audio track.

From a technical standpoint, the project was completed using Macromedia Flash™ 5.0. The track initially starts with a single layer of sound; however, as the piece progresses a second audio layer is laid on top of the original track, followed eventually by a third audio layer. Correspondingly, the complexity of the displayed image is driven by depth of the audio track. As the piece's cacophony rises, the composition of the image becomes more and more cluttered.

To briefly describe the storyboard of the project, we began by having a Windows load scene, followed by some brief typing activity. The first AIM message ensues with the appropriate messaging window popping up, followed shortly by a second window. We achieved a rise and fall in the first stage by having users “log off” and their associated windows disappear. However the second and third stages of the piece are characterized by a rise in pace that doesn't slow down, and hence the third stage is differentiated from the second stage by having a faster pace.

One of the lessons learned from this project was that while it was at first difficult to make the image's interface look professional and eye-grabbing, it eventually came together by playing with the various interface pieces Windows and AIM associated with the sounds we chose. Eventually, we began to play around with the visual imagery by rotating it to “unnatural” angles, which really helped to reflect the auditory chaos. Another major challenge was to figure out how to make the computer sounds interact with the AIM sounds, which were relatively easy since we were more programmed to the flow of an AIM conversation. Once we began to develop our narrative though, things seemed to fall into place as following the logic of the contexts we set up to their natural extent created opportunities to insert sounds from our selected library.

While at first we were going for a slightly more complex creation, involving voices and a few other things, we eventually felt that the overall simplicity of the composition was what gave it a more universal appeal and cohesive structure. All in all, we are content with the outcome of this project.