When You Have A Cutout and Time, Use It

Ricky Cutout.jpgAn impending snow storm put a kink in my plans this week when astronaut Ricky Arnold was preparing to liftoff to the International Space Station.

The forecast called for over a foot of snow on Tuesday heading into Wednesday, meaning that I wouldn’t be at work at Frostburg State. I couldn’t readily share a replay of the actual launch not knowing when NASA would post the video to download.

We’re all about celebrating Ricky at FSU, where he is alumnus. He graduated in 1985 as an accounting major, realized after graduation that his calling was a teacher, so he came back to earn his teaching certification in 1988 as he was preparing for graduate school.

He would have a winding route to becoming an astronaut after earning a  master’s degree in marine, estuarine and environmental science at University of Maryland, and teaching all over the world.  Fast forward to 2009, and he installed some of the final parts  to the International Space Station during a brief mission. Now, he’s in space for over five months completing lessons Christa McAuliffe intended to carry out on the Challenger, among other experiments and duties.

I wanted to create a good luck video, but time was running out on Monday. Fortunately, NASA sent us these foam cutouts that are about two feet tall of Ricky in his space suit.

It hit me when I was getting ready for work that day that I should use the cutout in a video. A very, very, low-tech video.

I called up a faculty member who was able to open the planetarium and project the image of Earth on the screen. That in itself is a miracle considering it’s spring break and most faculty are off and away (and a lot of staff take off, too.) I was expecting some more ambient light, so I borrowed Bill’s cell phone as a makeshift flashlight, so we could see launching Ricky into space.

If I had even more time, I might have attached him to a fishing rod with some line, but instead, my puppet hand did the trick.

Amazingly, it was pretty warm on Monday. It was around 50 degrees, sunny and no wind. I took little Ricky out to our Clock Tower to shoot the scene for launching from Earth, with the Compton Science Center in the background. I wish I could tell you I planned that from the morning, but it was something that came to me that felt like it would make more sense as I was walking to the planetarium.

When I returned to my office, I planned to do a landscape and a portrait version for different platforms, but time was ticking. (I don’t have a laptop that could handle the Creative Cloud suite at home.)

NASA has a great media library and a sound library and cell phone ringtones. I downloaded a liftoff countdown for Discovery and trimmed it, then added a rocket sound effect from the library.

I didn’t like how short the video was, especially with the rocket effect of him immediately going into space. We have a subscription to Videoblocks, which is a great website for lower thirds, graphics and animations. They had the perfect animated space rocket shooting flames to serve as a transition to feel like you’re on a little journey.

Here’s the result:

 

I’ve also completed several other videos on Ricky and his connection to FSU. You can check those out below:

(Voiceover by student Rosemary Wehberg)

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