Trover: Location + Narrative (Thesis)

My thesis project at Parsons was called Trover, which is a platform for the iPhone that enables immersive, site-specific storytelling. New York filmmakers create brief video vignettes tied to specifc locations within the city, and these form an invisible layer of narrative content, ready to be harvested by users who have the Trover App installed on their location-aware iPhones. Contrary to other channels for user-generated video content, Trover is curated in order to ensure a rewarding experience for the user. The narrative is contextualized by the location and space, and both story and environment are then interpreted and experienced in new ways.

A wealth of information about the project, including research and prototypes, can be found at my thesis website here.

Thesis Webpage | Symposium Presentation | Trover Webpage | Interface Screencast

How to Peel an Orange

How to Peel an Orange, and Other Skills Required for Thesis is a book I wrote and designed as part of my final thesis deliverable. It chronicles the 15 month journey I took, and documents my thought process and research during that time. The book itself embodies my approach to narrative, in that it is a fragmented and multithreaded account, containing not only my commentary, but notes from sketchbooks, doodles, and email conversations. The book is currently being formatted to be printed at; in the meantime, you can download the complete book as a pdf below.

Download: PDF (33 mb)
Don't Look Down

Pitchfork TV: Don't Look Down

Don’t Look Down is a live concert series on Pitchfork TV, featuring a band playing a selection of songs on a rooftop (the working title, “Roofies,” was unfortunately not used when the project went live). This bumper also doubled as my final project in Motion Graphics II at Parsons, which I figured was a fair deal considering I was an unpaid intern at Pitchfork at the time. I shot and animated every part of this piece; the great audio was provided by Jeff Curtin and Juan Pieczanski. The animated parts were incredibly tedious, a process that involved rotoscoping in Flash, printing out all of the frames, tracing them by hand on a light table, scanning them in, and then altering them in Photoshop. Apparently I had never heard of a Wacom tablet. The bumper in context can be viewed here.

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Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box

Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box

Packt Like Sardines was the final output I produced while studying abroad in Düsseldorf, Germany, during my Junior Year of undergrad. My intention was to visually represent the mass consumerism that I had been observing (in any country), as well as hone my editing skills in an attempt to marry sound and visuals. Everything was shot and editing by me, music by Radiohead.

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Texas A&M Intro

Texas A&M Visual Studies Introduction

This project was essentially my first full on foray into After Effects. As my final studio project as an undergrad at Texas A&M, the assignment was to create a promotional piece for the Visual Studies program at the university, in the School of Architecture. This included designing a poster, an animation for the introduction to a promotion DVD about the program, and the DVD artwork. I created every part of the animation (those are my arms in there) as well as the audio, which I made using Garage Band.

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The Arrival

The Arrival of a Train to the Station

'The Arrival of a Train to the Station' is a miniature Alternate Reality Game that I constructed as a prototype for thesis experimentation at Parsons. It is meant to be a fragmented, multimedia, and non-linear experience, although I feel it holds up as a conventional short film as well.

I will briefly walk through the narrative experience: to launch the project, I sent a cryptic email containing a puzzle to theBruce, a maven (to use a Malcolm Gladwell term) and prominent poster on the UnFiction forums, a community interested in playing Alternate Reality Games. As expected, he created a thread about it, and had solved the first puzzle, leading others to This webpage contains a single video clip on a blank html page. In the video, a man enters a hotel room, bloody. He struggles to clean himself, makes a phone call, and then dies. We see the number that he dials, and when a player calls said number (866-596-4450), he hears the main characters voicemail, which contains a bit of morse code at the end. The morse code is decoded to letter.html, which leads the players to the next page. This webpage contains an image of a letter from the main character to another, discussing some problems he is having with his experiments. A puzzle using a Rot-10 decryption algorithm is contained in this letter, which leads to the second video clip. In this clip, a man is working on an electronic contraption in a hotel room. He makes a phone call, then hooks the device up to himself and flips the switch. In this video, a QR code image is contained on a single frame of the video, which decodes to onelastnote.html, which leads to another letter. This webpage contains a hand written note, which is neither addressed nor signed by anyone. The solution here is simply the last line of the letter, ‘this is the start of what was,’ which leads to the last video clip. The thread following this adventure on UnFiction can be found here. I also did a launch on the Something Awful forums after the game was already in progress, found here.

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Narrative Map: View
Facebook Business Solutions

Facebook Business Solutions

Facebook Business Solutions was the final project for Major Studio during my first semester at Parsons. It was birthed out of the desire to offer a commentary on the privacy issues that have been surrounding social networking sites on the web, especially Facebook. My solution for this was to create a “hoax” webpage, mimicking the layout of the Facebook Business Solutions page, serving as a warning to the slippery slope Facebook has started down regarding user privacy and interaction with third party companies. The website uses humor and satire as devices to illustrate the current problems with Facebook, as well as a “what could be” scenario if Facebook continues on their current trajectory. The website is designed for people familiar with Facebook, and I feel the humor is inline with the demographic that largely comprises the users of Facebook: college aged students. Creating this webpage allowed me to explore some techniques and design problems that were somewhat new and exciting. I had to learn some CSS in order to format the page as closely as possible to the original Facebook Business Solutions webpage. The logo and icon design was also something I had very little experience in dealing with. Furthermore, I employed several techniques new to me in order to achieve a higher Google index, and spread the word about the page throughout the blogosphere.

The webpage was picked up on several blogs, including Valleywag, the Art of the Prank, and Anti-Advertising Agency. Perhaps most notably though, at the height of it’s popularity, my hoax page was indexed higher on Google than the real Facebook Business Solutions.

As a result, I received this letter:

Dear Mr. Provost:

I am the in-house intellectual property lawyer for Facebook. Based on your website, I’m sure you are familiar with our site.

We like to think we have a good sense of humor here at Facebook, and have no problem laughing at ourselves every now and again. As such, we have no problem whatsoever with people parodying or satirizing our web site or our services within the bounds of the law. However, it becomes a problem for us when users are confused as to whether we are actually affiliated with a parody site, or when a site is using our intellectual property rights for commercial purposes.

As you can imagine, we have expended significant amounts of time, money and effort in the development and promotion of our trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights. In order to protect our intellectual property rights, we have no choice but to vigorously enforce them against third parties who make confusing or commercial uses of such rights.

We are writing to you because we believe that your site has crossed the line from being simply a parody site to making unlawful use of our copyrights, trademarks, trade dress and other intellectual property rights. For example, your web site uses our logo, encourages users to login using their private Facebook credentials, includes numerous links to the actual Facebook site without explaining to users when they are transitioning from your site to our site, and includes a copyright notice attributing the copyright in your site to Facebook (which is not true).

Facebook is aware that you likely did not intend to infringe Facebook’s rights when you registered the domain name or designed your site. Nevertheless, your website does unlawfully infringe our intellectual property rights. Therefore, we request that you immediately: (1) remove any and all infringing materials, including our logo and the inaccurate copyright notice; (2) remove all links that direct users to the Facebook site; (3) remove all scripts that allow users to input their Facebook name and password; and (4) make it clear that your website is not authorized, sponsored by, or affiliated in any way with our company.

We greatly appreciate your anticipated assistance and look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Michael Richter

View Webpage | Launch Presentation

Brand+ Flash Animation

This animation was a one-off freelance gig for a branding agency that was re-designing its webpage. The purpose of the animation was to inform a viewer about their branding philosophy while maintaining a whimsical and lighthearted aesthetic. The animation in context can be viewed here.

Watch: SWF

Pitchfork TV: Maxell

This piece was originally created as flash banner ads displayed on Pitchfork Media to promote Pitchfork TV, which would launch April 7th, 2008. The idea was to parody the classic Maxell cassette tape ads from the 1980’s, seen here. However, we ran into some legal trouble, so I added in the face melting bit to set it apart a bit. Also note, the Ride of the Valkyries wasn’t featured in the banner ads. It was a fun piece to see come alive, and is one of the more traditional animations I have created (much more frame by frame than keyframe and tweening).

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Seventh Moon

Seventh Moon Film Poster

While working as an intern at ClickFire Media, Haxan Films (Blair Witch Project) contacted the creative director to create a movie poster for their newest film, Seventh Moon. He decided to turn it into a contest, where the interns and designers would come up with concepts to submit, and the best concept (as selected by the film producers) would be developed into the poster. My design was ultimately selected, and I shouldered the bulk of the photoshop work for the final poster. As a side note, Hersey's Chocolate Syrup looks just like blood.

View Poster


‘Recess’ was my final project for a Videography course I took Senior Year of Undergrad. Influenced by Christopher Guest films and ‘The Office,’ The video documents a boss’s initiative to allow his workers 30 minutes of recess each day, “in a effort to create synergy, increase productivity, and boost morale.”

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2008

Pitchfork TV: Pitchfork Music Festival 2008

I created this bumper to be played on before each Music Festival 2008 segment. I had done some experimentation with using fabric and stop motion in college, and wanted to play around with it more for this piece. I also felt that the logo (which I didn’t design) had a kind of “crafty” feel that worked well with this style of animation. I took all of the photographs in reverse order, to make the process (relatively) painless. The bumper in context can be viewed here.

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Dwight's Speech

Dwight's Speech

This motion graphics piece was an assignment in my Motion Graphics II class at Parsons. The assignment was simply to animate text in some way. The audio is from an episode of the American version of The Office, “Dwight’s Speech.”

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Project Alive

Project Alive

In 2004, the Beastie Boys released a live concert documentary entitled "Awesome... I F'in Shot That." They handed out 50 minidv cameras to members of the audience, who documented the event, and everything was edited together to offer a unique perspective of the show. After seeing Pearl Jam live in Madison Square Garden on June 25, 2008, I couldn't help but notice all of the digital cameras and camera phones that surrounded me. It seemed like a similar experiment was taking place, albeit in a less official and organized manner. I searched message boards, video hosting sites, and online communities in an effort to track down as many different perspectives of this specific performance as I could. The result is a "fan video" in the truest sense of the word.

I don’t agree with the statement that with the proliferation of camera phones and digital cameras, “everyone is a filmmaker.” Perhaps everyone is a documentarian, and it will be interesting to see what effect this will have regarding documentation of important events.

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Subway Prank

New York City Subway Prank

During my first semester at Parsons, I took a class called “Internet Famous,” taught by James Powderly and Evan Roth of Graffiti Research Lab, and Jamie Wilkenson of Rocketboom. The goal of the class was to become famous on the internet, plain and simple. Along with Facebook Business Solutions, the NYC Subway Prank was one of my more successful efforts. Late one night I printed up some subway stickers, and embellished a few train cars on the L line. The story was picked up by Boing Boing, Make, and the Gothamist, and got a few Diggs as well. Check out the pics below.

View Slideshow

Pitchfork TV: Daytripping

This is one of the first motion graphics pieces I did for Pitchfork. I didn’t design the logo or the audio, I just did all of the animation and the rotoscoped hand slap and peel off. The bumper in context can be viewed here.

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Faces in the Crowd

Pitchfork TV: Faces in the Crowd

Faces in the Crowd is another original series from Pitchfork TV, this time sponsored by Southern Comfort. What is notable about this project is the fast turnaround; the time from the style frame design to the show being live online was only about two weeks. The bumper in context can be viewed here.

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In the Studio

Pitchfork TV: In the Studio

Another stop motion piece for Pitchfork TV. We wanted this one to have kind of a retro vibe, a la Out of Control. I was also inspired by Stefan Sagmeister’s recent typographical work (Things I Have Leaned in My Life So Far). Everything was shot at Treefort Studios in Brooklyn in one evening; time is money so I only had one shot to get it right. I didn’t bring anything to the studio besides a still camera and a light, everything else I found there. Audio by Jeff Curtin. The bumper in context can be viewed here.

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Pitchfork TV: Interview

This short animation was created for the ongoing Interview segments on Pitchfork TV. It needed to be short and sweet, and easily be able to swap out the different band names. I also enjoyed the play on words that I stumbled upon (inter[view]). I added the sound to this piece as well. The bumper in context can be viewed here.

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Paper Transition

Pitchfork TV: Paper Transition

Here is a very simple animation I created for transitional elements on Pitchfork TV. All of the paper tearing was done using stop-motion, and the AV plug flourish was created in After Effects. The animation in context can be viewed here.

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