George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Youth Portrait: Justin

This teenager learns advanced 3-D modeling, simulation, and animation at school. As a hobby, he combines his obsession with gaming and a passion for filmmaking to create animated movies made with recorded gameplay.
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I'm Justin. I'm sixteen years old and I use technology because it allows me to express myself like, to the fullest extent. Maybe six or seven I got my Game Boy,

Where I had the original Pokemon and yeah, that was the beginning for me.

Clyneice: He was introduced to technology fairly early. Because I was consulting in technology, I had my own computer, so the home computer became his computer. So he was a second and third grader with his own computer and I think that helped a lot.

Justin: If it's an A day, I have two tech classes. So I'll do programming and my interactive media class, three D modeling animation.

Christopher Dasenbrook: This class is about using mind to create the assets for video game simulations and informative pieces.

Computer voice: You're on my side of the arm rest. We're not gonna have problems, are we?

Christopher Dasenbrook: He's actually one of my best students. He has a very deep understanding of how things physically interact, but not only that, characters, dialog, story creation. He does very well.

Justin: One of the interesting things about animation is that it's not just animation. You need to know a lot of different things, like biology, to see how things move so you can make them move correctly. So he's trying to sneak. I still have the little kinks in it, but... So, you know, timing is essential. This is what actually controls pretty much all the animation. So I have my timeline and, you know, all this right here, all these little circles and the arrows and these, they're controls that you use to animate him.

Gideon Sanders: First things first, I want you to take out a piece of paper. I want you to answer this question.

What do you see as the greatest divide between East and West?

Justin: I love history, 'cause it's almost just like a storybook.

There are important people and heroes and bad guys and, you know, all that good stuff.

Gideon Sanders: Okay, I want you to go to www dot Nation Master dot com.

Justin: Nation Master.

Gideon Sanders: The great thing is that the students have an acumen for technology, if it's tapped into. Luckily, our students here have the opportunity and some of the resources at their fingertips in this school to really work with the technology.

And what I want you to do is click on the tab that says statistics. I think it's the second--

David Pinder: Bill Gates once said, "It's difficult to prepare kids for the next five years jobs, because they haven't been invented yet."

And so what we said in our vision was, we want to become the highest performing school in the nation, through the use of STEM technology education, science, technology, engineering and math, innovative master teaching, and then obviously a curriculum that changes to prepare kids for the competitive global market.

Gideon Sanders: I think if we don't tap into the technology resources and skills that the students have, we're missing the boat as teachers. So I try to foster it as much as possible. Giving them opportunities to do projects that use their technology skills, such as putting together videos and then uploading them to YouTube.

Student 1: This place is where we come to make a difference.

Gideon Sanders: I like trying new things. It stretches me as a teacher and it really does provide the students with a different kind of experience.


Justin: You know, we just kinda pick a place, we just spar.

Sometimes you need to let out a little anger or frustration.

Much bigger than me.

It's fun, 'cause I just love proving that I'm better than these two.

Justin: Hello, family. What are you making?

Woman 1: Cookies.

Justin: So, this game. This is a great way to just kind of blow off steam, but it's not something you would really obsess over. Not like World of Warcraft.

I played it because I've just heard so many good things about it, and everyone's like, "Oh my god, this game is wonderful."

And I was thinking, "You know, maybe I'll just try it out."

You know, I've kind of--

I'm kind of into the whole MMO thing.

But the reason definitely why I quit is 'cause I got nothing done. I didn't write scripts.

I didn't read. I didn't do anything. I'd just get home have to do my homework, just jump on this and just play it till I had to go to sleep.

Clyneice: Pretty much, I just talked to him about how important it was to not spend six hours and eight hours

And I think I talked to him about that kid somewhere in Asia that played forty eight hours straight and then died.

Clareice: It's tough.

Clyneice: So we talked about, "You don't wanna go too over focused. You don't wanna be too extreme." And he'd go, "Mom, you know, I really have this balance.

I got everything covered." So and I do feel that he has that.

Justin: This is Spore, and in this game, you model your own little alien creature and you kinda live through the stage of civilization.

So this is my creature right here. I can manipulate him as much as I want. I can grab hold of his spine, move his arms and do all sorts of things with him. It really is a good way to kinda teach the very basics of modeling.

Clareice: You try to get a balance between, how much are you, you know, micromanaging their lives?

Especially since they don't want you there. You know, when they start hitting seventeen, eighteen.

Justin: This is Michael.

To the dungeon.

Michael: Ah, bang.

Clareice: I think as a parent, you still have to make sure, because the digital opens the world.

Clyneice: Yes.

Clareice: It is just so all encompassing that if you stand back too far, you-- they'll get lost.

Justin: Well, that's crap.

My Xbox is definitely the most important part.

It's where I play the games that I film

For my machinima purposes.

The secret is turning pure game play into something that looks kind of like a movie and, you know, you'll have shots. You'll have music, you'll have, you know, dialog, actual dialog. I've written scripts for these sort of things.

What I have right here, it's a camera, kind of a camera, and through this

I can view everything that we just recorded.

And I can pause the action

and I can rewind it and whatever. I edit it,

you know, mix it all together, add special effects, add the sound effects.

You know, anything I need to amplify the cinematic experience. I can upload it and people will look at my stuff and you know, there are actually some decent film critics and I think of myself as one too, so I can look at my work and be like, "You know, that cut right there, that wasn't a really good one. Maybe if I'd gotten it from an angle." But I feel that I do improve over time

Clyneice: I do feel that, especially for Justin, technology is a good thing. I think it helps him to find something he can be passionate about, something that potentially see him in a career in. And so I do feel that as long as you've got some oversight and you're not allowing them to be totally kids and get into dangerous areas, that it's one of the most wonderful things for them, because this is the direction that the world is going in.

Michael: This is RPG Maker XP. It's a program that lets you build your own RPG.

Justin: And RPG is a role playing game.

Michael: Yeah.

Justin: So it kind of gives you like the standard kind of setup. And you can add in your own sprites or sound effects. He customized this and made it really unique.

Michael: Yeah, so you just pour all your dreams out right here. It's mainly for us.

Justin: For us, yeah. There isn't really a crowd of people out there waiting for us to-- give us our [inaudible].

Michael: I mean, this is a little community.

Justin: I mean, it's enjoyable to just do this and then kinda play through. It's like, you know, "I made this."

Michael: Yeah.

Justin: It's just a good feeling.

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Coordinating Producer

  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Karyne Holmes

Camera Crew

  • Brian Buckley
  • Brett Wiley
  • James Pride
  • Ken Ellis

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Senior Video Editor

  • Karen Sutherland


Machinima: A term derived from machine and cinema that refers to filmmaking created through the real-time recording of computer games, virutal worlds, or any already existing three-dimensional digital environment or virtual world.

MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game): An Internet-based role-playing computer game that allows for millions of players to simultaneously engage in game play within a single online virtual world.

Maya: A three-dimensional modeling, animation, visual-effects, and rendering program.



Discussion Questions

1. Is Justin typical of kids in your community? Why, or why not?

2. Justin had his own laptop at a young age. Is this a good idea? Why, or why not?

3. Would you want to attend or teach at a school like McKinley? Why, or why not?

4. How would you describe the attitude of Justin's mother toward his digital lifestyle?

5. Is machinima a valid art form with learning potential? Or is it just kids goofing around?


Digital Youth Q&A: Justin

I'm Justin. I'm 16 years old, and I use technology because it allows me to express myself to the fullest extent. When it comes to games or digital media, within those, you create things, and that really resonates with me -- the fact that you're making a game, you're creating a world, almost. How does technology allow you to express yourself?

Justin: Through my movies, I can show people my vision of the world. I mean, other people get the same feeling I get from making music or all different sorts of things. It allows me to express what I'm feeling.

What's a typical day for you in terms of the digital technology you use?

I'll wake up, I'll listen to music. I'm a big fan of music, and I just get ready for school, then I go to school. If it's an A day, I have two tech classes -- programming, and my interactive-media class.

But when I get home, I do all sorts of things: I'll write scripts for my projects. I'll do a little shooting. I'll call my friends, kind of coordinate to see what's going to happen. But a lot of the time, I'll plan shooting or kind of mess with something, trying to figure out how I can make something look the way I want it to look.

What about your core classes?

On A days, I have physics and AP English. I'm getting A's in both classes. I kind of like those classes, because in physics, you do simple math, and math isn't that hard. So I do it, and I get an A easily.

And I love English, because it allows me to get into the fundamentals of English and try to improve my writing skills, and so I definitely take every opportunity to write something interesting. The teacher will say, "OK, do a compare-and-contrast essay." And I'll compare and contrast two of the characters from one of my films. And it allows me to expand on my films, and I really love the class for that.

On my B days, I have no tech classes. I have AP U.S. history, world geography, precalculus, and Spanish. My first two, the history classes, I'm big fans of those. I love history because it's almost like a storybook. I mean, you're sitting there, and you read, and it's just kind of like a story, almost. There are important people and heroes and bad guys -- all that good stuff.

But I'm not a big fan of precalculus. When it comes to Spanish, I can pronounce well, but I don't have comprehension. Those classes can be a little rough sometimes, but I still get good grades in them.

Can you describe people who are important influences in your life?

I have to say some of my teachers have been very, very good. Mr. Dasenbrook definitely is one. And we're good friends, so we just talk about all sorts of things. I had a math teacher last year who had a strong impact on me.

But when it comes to my creative skills, there wasn't anyone who really did that for me. It was just kind of my own reading and playing video games and then kind of coming up with it. I think, "That would appeal to me," and then I just try it out, and it's even better.

Definitely, when it comes to machinima, machinima was a completely different medium in the sense that it was just some stupid people. They would get up and have this little thing. The voice acting was terrible. The editing was terrible. Everything was just terrible, and you might get a laugh out of it, but it wasn't really worth your time.

But digitalph33r really strived to make it a serious cinematic genre. And his stuff isn't the best quality, but he did a good job, and that's kind of what inspired me to try it myself.

What digital technology do you use?

Definitely for my machinima purposes, my Xbox is the most important part. It's where I play the games that I film, and also the features that it has makes it really easy to make machinima. Probably the second most important thing I have is a Dazzle video recorder, and it captures what I have on my television, and it turns it into media files that I can edit.

My laptop, if I can get to use XP, will become very important as well. Even without it, almost everything that I have to do with digital media I do through my laptop. I play my games and listen to my music and pretty much everything besides make my movies.

Software-wise, I've worked with Sony Vegas a little bit, but I'm trying to get a real purchase copy that I can actually play and use. That definitely makes editing my films a lot easier, and it gives me a lot more choices.

When did you first start using digital technology?

My first was a video game, and I've been doing those all my life. At six or seven, I got my Game Boy, and that was just the start of it right there. I had a Game Boy Color. I had the original Pokémon, and that was the beginning for me.

What excited you about it? Why were you so interested?

When it comes to games or digital media, within those, you create things, and that really resonates with me -- the fact that you're making a game, you're creating a world, almost. You're creating characters. You're creating all these different things, and that's what appeals to me. I want to show people what I've created, in that sense.

How much time do you spend online, and where do you go?

I spend maybe two or three hours a night. I talk to other people who make movies. I have my friends who I talk to online if they live in different places. I play online games, and that definitely is where I spend most of my time online.

What games do you play?

My favorite right now is called Fallout 3, and it has in the game a kind of an alternative timeline, a world that's become a complete wasteland from nuclear war. And so you're just a random settler, and you live out your life, and it's almost just like you're a real person in this world, and that's what really interests me about it: You're living your own life inside of it.

I've played World of Warcraft. I just got off of it. And right now, the online game I'm playing is called Ragnarok Online. I run around and I socialize, and I do all sorts of things on that, too.

What are your favorite movies, television shows, or books?

Oh, there are so many. My favorite TV show is Firefly. I love that show, a fantastic show. The characters and the world that they made and the culture of it all, it's just fabulous. I have to say probably my favorite movie right now is Pulp Fiction, or The Prestige. I say Pulp Fiction just because you can see the roots of so many other movies in it, and that's really fascinating.

How about books?

I love reading. If I'm not doing anything else, I'm definitely reading. I spend a lot of my time reading. The books I usually read are thick fantasy novels, sci-fi, that sort of thing. It can change your outlook and your own stuff, too. I've definitely been influenced by the books that I've read.

Give me an example of a favorite book.

Probably the Black Jewels trilogy. The author was able to mix fantasy with this dark everything. It was very interesting. The characters are fantastic, too. Another one is the Wheel of Time series. That's fantastic, too. It's huge, thousands of pages each book, and there are 13 of them. Those are just fantastic novels. Everything is just so original.

So, tell me about cell phones or iPods.

Pretty much all my friends have one. There's been an interesting set of events. One of my friends ended up selling his cell phone, and he still hasn't got a new one. It makes things irritating. I definitely use my cell phone to communicate with people. I'm always texting, calling people. My calendar is in it. I set little notes for myself if I don't have pen and paper. That's definitely important to me. I always have my cell phone with me.

And my iPod is important to me, too, because I use music to visualize what I want to make, and so whenever I have time by myself, I have my iPod in and I'm listening to music, and I think of new scenes, new ideas, new characters. Music is very important to the whole process of filmmaking for me.

What do you listen to?

I listen to Muse and Radiohead and mostly a lot of the bands that mix rock with electronica. And I also listen to a lot of classical music and music from other videos.

Do you compose?

No, I do not compose. I have a few friends who do compose for me. I have a stepbrother, and he makes beats, and I've had him make a few beats for some of the live-action films that I plan on making, but, no, not by myself. I've thought about it, though. I might dive into that.

Do you think you have a different relationship with technology than adults do?

It depends on the adult, but for the most part, yes, I think I have a different relationship with it than most of the people I know, because I don't know anyone else who makes films and does what I do. Most people use it to see other things -- to view movies or play games. But I don't know really that many people who use it to actually create.

What's your future? What do you see?

I'll probably be a script writer or a director. I've even thought about doing some game design, too. I need to be in a place where I can tell other people what I want done, tell them my vision, and also, I need some control over it.

Tell me about the mentoring you do on Saturdays.

I'm a mentor for Be The Game, from the Institute of Urban Game Design. High school students are teaching younger, underprivileged kids how to do what we do in the sense of basic modeling. We have a game maker, programming, and all sorts of things like that.

And how that works is, we have the main teacher, and he tells five or six mentors what they need to do, and then the mentors pick individual students or pairs, and through that, we're able to teach a lot more effectively.

It's kind of confusing when you see people who pay to go here, and they're not taking it seriously, and it's also kind of disheartening. But there are always the kids who are really into this sort of thing, and you feel good when you're able to teach someone something and they're so passionate about it.

Do you make online tutorials or use online tutorials for anything?

I use online communities and online tutorials for when I step into new mediums. One of the first things I did, because I used to be into game design, was join a big community of other people who were into game design.

When you have other people who are doing what you're doing, everything is a lot smoother. You go up, and it's like, "Oh, I'm having this problem." And there's probably going to be someone else who has your problem, and there's going to be someone else who knows how to fix it. It just makes the whole learning curve completely go down a bit.

I always join communities, always. And tutorials, if I need them, I'll use them. I haven't made any. But if there ever is a person who needs my help, and they ask for it, I'll give it to them.

Talk about online learning communities.

Everything is a lot smoother when you're with people who are learning what you want to learn, you're learning, or you have learned. And they are completely focused, because when you're doing something on your own free time, you're not going to do something necessarily that you don't want to do.

There's little distraction, and you can always find someone who knows the help that you need, and so everything goes a lot smoother, and you learn things faster and sometimes even better than if you are just with a group of people who aren't really interested in what they're doing. So interest is key.

What I'm learning out of school, I learn at a much faster pace and more effectively than what I usually learn in school, and it all has to do with the community and the interests that I and other people that I'm learning with have in the subject.


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