Final Remediation Project

For our remediating theory project, we wanted to take a closer look at the theories behind comics as discussed by Scott McCloud in his book, Understanding Comics.  However, we were having trouble coming up with any good ideas that would help us successfully convey our understanding of McCloud’s work.  One topic from McCloud’s book that the three of us, as a group, kept coming back to was the idea of abstraction within the world of comics.   We felt that this could easily lend itself to some interesting options for the project itself.  In the beginning, it was just a passing thought, but we ultimately decided it would be interesting and entertaining to create a movie based on our discussions of what our project should entail.  Quite un-coincidentally, parts of our brainstorming sessions became the framework and storyline for our actual project.

So, the main idea behind our video was supposed to be three group members trying to decide what to do for their final project on remediating theory.  During the conversation, they get sucked into strange “cartoon” worlds and start noticing how the fine details of their real life world start to either diminish or become hyper-focused.  That was supposed to be some of the debate in the video.  Whether or not that came across clearly to viewers remains to be seen.

One of the main points that McCloud discussed was the idea of “amplification through simplification.”  We felt that with a movie, we could amplify our interpretation of McCloud’s theories by simplifying our personal images and surroundings.  It would have been easy to create a comic book about our struggles, but that would have been a very simple remediation, if not a complete rip-off of McCloud’s work.  It was for this reason that we decided that a movie would work better for our purposes.  A film would also afford us more freedom to explore the opportunities for creativity that cartoons and icons have to offer.  We were able to utilize live action video along with different levels of cartoon abstraction in an attempt to demonstrate McCloud’s idea of amplification through simplification.  The musical selections served to tie everything together.

The Bitstrips app on Facebook was a decent introduction into the world of cartoons because it was not a complete abstraction of our actual images.  We each created our own avatars within the app and, while they were not necessarily accurate replicas of us, they were relatively recognizable caricatures.  The app offered a lot of options and adjustments when creating an avatar.  With enough attention to detail, it was possible to create a character that was similar enough to real life.  However, in creating the cartoon panels, we were confined to the pre-determined situations that the developers of the app offered.  We couldn’t create our own comic strip environment.  For instance, the first scene in the Bitstrips world was one where we were in a coffee shop.  We searched for the keyword “coffee” within the app and only 4 scenes were available to choose from when creating a “friend comic.”  This limited us to the random scenes that were present in our video.  Within each scene, though, the app did provide us with a substantial amount of creative freedom.  We were able to adjust everything within the scene from the facial expressions and direction in which the characters’ eyes were looking, to the text that ended up as a caption below or in various speech or thought bubbles.  There was some unfortunate misunderstanding/miscommunication within our group as to the direction and storyline of this portion of our movie, but I think in the end it turned out OK.

The third part of our movie involved an even greater abstraction from the realism with which we began.  I used the Bitstrips caricatures to design even simpler depictions of each of our characters.  Mostly, I tried to focus on a couple main features of each individual.  For instance, for myself, it was easy to focus on my facial hair and Mohawk when drawing my caricature.  Jun’s Bitstrips character had glasses and a hat.  Andrew’s was a little more difficult to distinguish because his Bitstrips character didn’t have any outstanding, distinct features other than his hair.  This portion of the movie, I also (regrettably) used a very time-consuming style of “stop-animation.”  Essentially, I re-adjusted each frame in Photoshop and saved it as a new file.  I then compiled it all in Windows Movie Maker before sending the entire movie file to Andrew to insert into the final project.  Ugh.

For this part of the movie, I wanted to focus on the minimalistic representation of everything in the frame.  McCloud talked about how we perceive different levels of abstraction based on context.  In cartoons, we are comfortable assigning identities and personalities to varying objects or concepts of objects.  I tried to convey that idea by having our characters transition from stick figures to random creatures or objects.  And even then, it was just my personal interpretation of those things.  But…by adding certain features to the objects in the cartoons, the viewer was able to identify that the personality of each character changed.  My beard and Mohawk stayed with each iteration as did Jun’s glasses and hat.  Andrew’s “hair” stayed with him through most of his transformations.  Even if those details were left out, we kept the illusion of our three separate character identities going with the dialogue tags.  We used our names when “addressing” each other in the animation.  We didn’t have to put arrows or nametags on any of the characters and the viewer (hopefully) was able to tell who was supposed to be who.

I really wanted to get more in depth into the “picture plane” concept that McCloud discussed in several parts of his book, but logistics and time constraints came to be issues. Part of me wishes that I could have worked on this project from the beginning of the semester.  I feel that given enough time and resources we could have made this an even more dynamic project.  As it stands, I am not completely ashamed of it.  In fact, this project has legitimately inspired me to pursue a further understanding of animation and cartoons.  In the end, even though this project didn’t turn out as “professional” as I had envisioned, I still believe we achieved our goals.

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Remediation Theory Proposal

Comics are known by many people as existing in a paper, or stationary medium, but we want to remediate and demonstrate our understanding of Scott McCloud’s comic theory through a transition from film to a more traditional comic strip. The main part of McCloud’s theory we are choosing to remediate is the transition from real to iconic abstraction. We will do this by at first presenting situations in our lives realistically, using some of the milder forms of comic tropes, and then transition into representing ourselves in a more iconic way, employing more of the strong comic tropes and creating animated versions of ourselves.

          Film would be an effective way to remediate the portion of McCloud’s theory that touches on real versus iconic abstraction. Comics are highly visual, so a podcast about comic theory would be difficult to produce. Comic theory also does not lend itself well to a map or to graffiti. Comics tell stories rather than try to make bold statements or illustrate boundaries. Since film is a medium that is frequently used for storytelling, it would be the ideal medium to use to remediate comic theory. We are choosing to illustrate the shift from real to iconic and since film is a medium that best mirrors reality, that would be the ideal medium to use to remediate real abstraction. The gradual shift from more realistic to more iconic imagery is reflected in McCloud’s work, where he compares faces across the spectrum from the super-detailed to that of a stick figure.

We will take our stories and film them, showing them in the real abstraction. We will then take those stories and transform them into comics, showing the stories in a more iconic abstraction in order to illustrate the shift between real and iconic, and the nuances that characterize the shift. We will also identify how ordinary situations in a real abstraction can take on more fantastical qualities through the use of the “comic” part of our video that will take the situation and turn it from ordinary to extraordinary.

In order to achieve our goal of creating a cinematic and academic masterpiece, we will make use of a couple different mediums such as live video, animated video and still graphic cartoons.  If this were a semester-long project, we might have been able to pull off Toy Story 3– or A Scanner Darkly-style production quality, but since we only have a couple weeks, pilot episode of South Park is probably more than we can expect and still be able to explain our theory.

An iPhone will be our primary means of capturing our live-action footage.  We will obtain some simple video of our group participating in simple activities such as drinking coffee at a coffee shop or sitting in front of a computer at a computer lab.  By keeping the scenes simple and minimalistic, it will be much easier to make the subtle transition to cartoon iconography.  As McCloud points out, cartoons are a “form of amplification through simplification.”  In other words, the important bits will stand out simply and boldly.  As our film progresses, we aren’t necessarily going to lose details from the video, as much as we are going to try to “focus on specific details” of each scene.

To do this, we will first edit the clips in some movie editing program such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.  Then we will slowly flatten the images to place the focus more on the characters and less on their surroundings.  There are filters and settings in these programs which can help us to start the cartoonification of our video.

As the abstraction into cartoons progresses further, we could even alter any speech or voice-overs with Audacity to add to the comic/cartoon feel.  Once we get to a certain point, the live-action video will cease to be a main part of the movie as we will have gone completely animated.  We will each draw our own cartoon interpretation of our own faces and then, using the editing program import the drawings into the movie file and animate them to the best of our abilities.  Details will become more abstracted and minimalized.  Perhaps even the audio will be replaced with comic book style speech and thought balloons.  By the end, we hope to have a creative and entertaining explanation of comic and cartoon theory.

As the conversation goes along in the film, we would like to add some abstractions more and more until it is all becoming a simple dot on a blank background. From this part, we would like to connect with McCloud’s idea that our minds are capable of taking a circle, dot, and line and turning them into a simple face image is nothing short of incredible. We also like to describe how ordinary situations in a real abstraction can take on more fantastical qualities through the use of the comic part of our video that will take the situation and turn it from ordinary to extraordinary.

As we continue to abstract and simplify our image, we are moving further and further from the original one. However, we still easily recognize what those simple and abstract images are indicating. The main question that we would like to ask the audience is asking how and when people started to recognize those abstract and strong comic features into real images. Since we will draw each one’s cartoon interpretation of face so detail will become more simplified and abstracted, we want to know how audiences recognize and translate simplified images, which one is whose. As our abstraction process is going on, we could add some comical voice over on the video so it can help audiences get a better understanding of the comic theory and also helping to engage them.

The point of our video is to show and teach audiences about a transition from film to a more traditional comic strip that our lives are closely and easily connected with the cartoons. McCloud said that our childhood was easily fascinated with cartoons by their universal identification, simplicity and the childlike features of many cartoon characters. Therefore, we would like to show how simple our real lives can be connected with those iconic and cartoon features. After showing our film to our audiences, we like to ask audiences what kind of techniques is used in our film in order to engage more audiences and share some different views on our piece. Also, we like to give clearer understanding about our piece to them.

Group Members:

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The Perils of Alcohol (video editing project)

For our version of the video editing project, Jun and I decided to remediate a 1950s Public Service Announcement video.  We tried to make it as campy and sensationalistic as we could with the footage that we had.  We tried to capture the feelings of over-the-top absurdness that the educational PSAs or propaganda films of the 1940s or ’50s had.  We watched several YouTube videos of original ’40s and ’50s educational films to get a sense of the look and feel of the editing style.  Titles like “How To Be Well Groomed” and “Dating Dos and Don’ts” and numerous others were the inspiration for our video.  We also wanted to get an idea of what the voice-overs sounded like.  Unfortunately, I am clearly not a trained voice actor, but I tried my best to sound like the stiffly animated voice actors of that era.  Back then, these films were treated as legitimate and serious videos.  However, looking back on them now, they seem completely ridiculous.  Hopefully, we were able to capture the essence of those films.

The original footage that we shot as a larger group was mostly of Kevin walking/wandering around campus doing normal “college” stuff.  Going to class.  Studying in the library.  Hanging out with friends, etc.  As a group, we planned on shooting two different sides of Kevin’s college life, so we got a lot of footage of him “passed out” in various places around campus.  We also had a lot of footage of Kevin walking around.  I feel that with all the video that we took, we could have easily made three or four different videos and had them all turn out differently.  We could have created a video that talked about the safety of walking on campus during the day versus during the night.  What Hampe said is true.  “It’s the documentary you show, not the footage you shot, that counts.”  The visual evidence that we chose to utilize resulted in something quite different from what the other group chose to portray.  

That’s the beauty of video editing.  We have the power to change the perception of a piece of video based on how it is presented.  We chose to produce our video with an open like a 1950s educational film.  Right off the bat, we announced what kind of video the viewer should expect with an old-fashioned title slate “The Perils of Alcohol.”  The music helped set the tone as well.  We researched and found some “public domain” (or as far as I could tell it was) 1950s music to add to the authenticity of the film.  Personally, I kept remembering watching episodes of Tom and Jerry while listening to the music.  

We used Windows Movie Maker to edit this film.  The program itself was pretty simple and easy to use.  However, we did run into a huge problem with it as we were editing down the last few shots of the film. The program seemed to not care for all of those really short, quick cuts.  It kept wanting to freeze up and delete entire batches of files from the project.  Eventually, we figured out a work-around and got it fixed.  There are still a few spots that I, personally, would like to go back and tighten up, but I actually think that it adds to the awkward/bad editing style of that time.  Finally, I used Adobe’s After Effects and created the random scratches and dust flecks and overall graininess common to films of that era.  I also did some color adjustments and added the slight flicker and bounce to complete the look of an old film.

I think, overall, our film was a good example of how easy it is to manipulate visual evidence to suit the producers’ desires.  Even within this video, we used the same clip of “Billy” waking up in bed two different times and each time it had a different effect.  The first time we see “Billy” waking up in bed, the music is cheerful and happy and the voice-over is explaining how he just got plenty of rest and is ready to start his day fresh.  The second time we see this footage is when the music is ominous.  The video is flipped, slowed down and shifted slightly to the left (to hopefully seem like a completely different scene).  The voice-over in this brief scene is describing how, due to his drinking, “Billy” has a habit of sleeping with random strangers he meets at bars. It is this way that we attempted to show that the same footage can be used to drastically different effects.  Most of the video in the segment where “Billy” ruins his life because of drinking, was of Kevin just hanging out and having a good time.  The pacing and timing of the edits in this section, I believe, helped convey a sense of foreboding doom and consequence.  Possibly to a comedic effect, but that’s just an added bonus.  

This video was not meant to actually dissuade people from drinking, although, we were also not necessarily condoning that lifestyle either.  Either way, I am mostly pleased with the final product that we created.

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Steam-Punk Zombie Nazi Robots…and the movie still sucked.

For this analysis assignment, I chose to look at one of the only films that I have ever almost walked out on.  I say ‘almost’ because halfway through the movie, the group that I was with ended up having a good time ripping on it and we stayed.  The movie is Sucker Punch.  It came out in 2011 and I don’t recall what made us want to see this movie.  (It probably had something to do with the fact that it had the same director of 300 and The Watchmen, which we felt were pretty decent movies.  Visually interesting at the very least.)  It’s perhaps because I’ve watched this giant, flaming pile of turds that I’m having a hard time finding a trailer that I am convinced would have enticed my friends and I to willingly go see this movie.  However, as painful as it is, watching the official trailers of this “film” I remember why we hated it so much.  Part of it had to do with how deceiving the trailers were to the actual film itself.  **I’ll put the spoiler alert at the end of this analysis**

First, watch the official, long trailer and please don’t hate me.

So?  Interesting, right?  Looks like it could be a pretty “pretty” fantasy/action movie.  Similar to other Zack Snyder (the director) films, this one has that gritty, rough and surreal look like 300.  Lots of CGI effects and lots of action.  Dragons and futuristic landscapes and samurai swords and machine guns.  Steam-powered zombie Nazi robots?  Wait.  What?  So many different things going on.  And there are glimpses of another side to this film, but only subtle glimpses that make sense (I’m struggling to keep a straight face) until after you’ve seen the movie.

The intro to the trailer is pretty literal.  It shows who the main character is as her voice-over explains that she lost everyone and has been locked away and is abused by her new caretaker. Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” plays. OK.  A little cliche, but I can deal with it because then all the quick-cut scenes and intense action takes over.  Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch” is the rockin’ song over the second half.  Boom.  Movie excitement!  There is little bit of dialogue and exposition into what the movie is supposedly about.  A quest to find 5 items…apparently.  One of them is “a mystery.”  Oooh…

OK, if you dare, here’s a differently cut official trailer.

This one is just all-out, fast-paced, quick-cut action sequences.  No talking.  Only the text: “Reality will be altered,” “Your mind will be deceived,” “Escape lies within,” and “You will be unprepared” briefly flash on the screen.  In hindsight, I’m a little upset that I didn’t originally notice that they told me my mind would be deceived, because I definitely thought this was going to be a good movie.

While these two trailers mainly showcase the action and the special effects of the movie, they don’t accurately portray what the viewer is about to be subjected to when they watch the whole film.  If I were to re-edit a trailer for this film, I would want to make a trailer that is more accurate.  This obviously would have brought even fewer people into the theater than the original trailers, but at least then I would have had no reason to complain about the film.

**Here’s your spoiler alert**

I would use much of the same footage and scenes from the first trailer.  The main difference would be that right in the middle I would use some extra footage from the movie that was left out of the trailers.  The main premise of the movie is that “Baby Doll” (that should have been a red flag) has been placed in some weird mental asylum / brothel / sex slave shop that only houses hot chicks and forces them to do dance routines against their will.  When Baby Doll is forced to dance (or do other things) she goes into her imagination where these fantastical, yet visually stunning fight sequences come from.  When the fight scenes are over, she snaps out of her daydream and apparently has just finished dancing her ass off.  I think.  I would make the brothel-asylum more of a focal point in this version of the trailer.  I want viewers to know that this is a main (albeit confusing) part of the film.  Then, I would cut back to more action scenes.  I would also throw in more shots of the weird guy (Scott Glenn), who looks and sounds like a middle-aged Leonard Nimoy (if anyone reading this has to Google that name, you are dead to me), giving Baby Doll “advice” and directing her on some pointless quest.  I would arrange and edit these clips in the most illogical way.  I would keep very little dialogue in the trailers.  Finally, slap an indie-rock version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” over the whole thing and kick it out the door.

The actual movie is a clumsy, Inception-esque, delusion-within-a-delusion mess of a movie.  I feel that the trailers should more accurately portray that theme.

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Barry Hampe

I used to love documentaries (or, at least, used to find them very interesting) and almost took a class dedicated to documentaries this semester instead of this class.  Anyway…I’ve always been hesitant about putting all my faith and trust in documentaries.  Hampe even mentions as a main point that “It’s the documentary you show, not the footage you shot, that counts.”  Are there any documentaries that you have seen in the past that made an impact on you at the time; only to have your perception or opinion of the films change later?  Perhaps because you did some research or you found out the documentary wasn’t completely accurate?

He notes that documentarians have to keep in mind that “there is no feedback channel for the audience” and they have no way to directly respond to or question what was just shown.  Why is that an important bit of advice that can be applied to our remaining projects?

I think the overall point of this reading was to show that meaning can be manipulated by what and how the visual evidence is shown.  Why is it important to also think about what is not shown in a documentary?  Or should you just take every documentary at face value and accept them without question?  (hint: the answer is no.)


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BeerCast Rationale

I chose the topic of beer for my podcast presentation because I initially thought it would be an interesting topic that I know a lot about.  And Ira Glass essentially said that if I don’t care about my story, no one will.  Well, I care about beer and beer provides a lot of good stories.  In fact, that was the problem that I ran into with this project.  I had too much information and too many stories floating around in my head on the subject.  I initially wanted to tell a story about being introduced to the craft beer culture and community.  I wanted to further explain some of the finer details about beer and its development as a culture.  I eventually discovered that this was going to be difficult to make into an interesting story for a broader audience.  If my podcast was directed solely at an audience of craft beer brewers and enthusiasts, I would have felt better about going in this direction.  But since that was not my expected audience, I wanted to completely redo the entire podcast.  Luckily, I had a lot of options to choose from within the topic of beer.  So, I chose to tell the story of my journey from hating the taste of my dad’s PBR to fully appreciating and enjoying a wide variety of beer.

I found I had the same problem; in that, I found myself having to do some extensive cutting and editing to pare my podcast down to just over 5 minutes.  Of course, there was about 20-25 seconds or so in there that was just music or sounds which, I don’t believe, would have been enough time to fully explain another part of the story like I had originally wanted.  My original audio track was around 7 minutes even after I edited out all of the “umms” and stuttering bits.  Not many people like hearing their own voice on tape and I tried to be aware of how I can affect meaning with my voice.  I recalled the McKee reading discussing the different qualities of vocal delivery such as pitch, roughness, and tension and so on.  I also recalled her mentioning how people don’t just listen to what is being said, but they also “implicitly adhere to” how it’s being said.  Unfortunately, since I am not a trained voice actor and found that I sounded fake when I tried to alter the way I spoke.  I tried to imagine myself just talking to a friend, but it still didn’t seem natural.

I should also mention that I spent entirely too much time trying to figure out how to completely remove some of the technical issues I encountered with the sound.  Extensively Googling only sort of fixed my problems to the point that I was just tired of dealing with it.  I chalked it up to the fact that I did not have studio quality equipment.  The low hum still bugs me though.

I wanted to have a musical track playing underneath my audio because I felt that it added some depth to the recording.  I also found that it helped drown out the humming sound that was driving me crazy.  Without any accompanying music, the audio mistakes (the clicks, hums, “mouth noises”) would have been more prominent.  I chose a more playful song to accompany my story because I felt that it fit my style and my topic.  I wasn’t telling a sad, mopey story.  I wasn’t telling a deeply philosophical story.  I was telling a “fun” story about beer.  I also liked the fact that the song was called “Sit and Listen” by an artist known as Wax Tailor.  I added the sound effects of the bottle opening and Homer Simpson saying “Mmm, beer.”  I also slightly re-edited the original song to just have the simple, main melody playing throughout the time that I was talking.  There were some times in the original song, when the artist sampled some movie or something and I found that it was a little distracting to the podcast.  I edited out most of the “talky bits” of this song.

The main point of this particular podcast was to encourage people who have always thought that they hated the taste of beer in general and across the board without question…to lose that attitude and open up to the new options that are out there.  The moment of reflection was, I hoped, when I showed that I went from hating the taste of beer and simply tolerating it to catch a buzz…to learning (not necessarily on purpose) to enjoy and appreciate…and even love beer.  I wanted to encourage listeners to not just simply listen to my story, but go out and experiment on their own.  There are so many good breweries nowadays that it is a shame to not take advantage.  Obviously…as long as they are of legal drinking age and don’t have any dependency issues.  I wasn’t trying to be an enabler.

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Shipka…yawn…boring…footnotes, footnotes, footnotes, citations…yawn…ooh…interesting story about her students’ projects…more boring stuff…footnotes, footnotes, footnotes, citations…OK…another interesting student project…more boring, academia-speech-type stuff…yawn…zzzzz…Oh my god I just woke up and it’s 2019 somehow!

Basically, I found the story about the one kid, Dan, and his Oblivious Ed CD word project kind of interesting.  I also was intrigued by the room project idea of Val.  Unfortunately, I think it is just the nature of this kind of academic writing (with all of the footnotes and in-text citations and all that “important” nonsense) that I found it hard to pay attention and invest myself in the broader ideas of this reading.  I get what “multimodal” means.  I get her pun with “soundness.”  It was just hard for me to keep reading.

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Podcast Questions…Beer, cuz why not?

So, since Alaina kind of gave me the suggestion and honestly, it’s an easy topic for me to talk about, I have decided to focus my podcast presentation on beer.  More specifically, why and how I have grown to love and appreciate the finer qualities and intricacies of the growing craft beer industry.  Why not?  

Questions for the audience:

1.  Would listening to stories about someone going from hating the taste of beer to being able to appreciate and enjoy many of the subtle varieties of beer keep you interested?

2.  What would make a podcast like this more interesting?  Obviously, other than being able to taste the beers I discuss…  Sound effects? Music?

3.  Do you think hearing someone discuss beer like some people discuss wine, would make a beer-hater want to venture out and try something they might never have tried before?  With guidance, of course…

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Sound poems can be annoying…or pleasant. But damn, that one is annoying.

Jorg Pringer’s stuff was stupid and annoying.  Pointless.  I’m sorry.  But that’s a good way to drive a person insane.  It reminds me of talking into a fan as a child or screaming into a bucket just to hear the sounds I could make regardless of how awful it sounds.  I suppose that’s the point here.  But as the saying goes, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”  I tried and could not find any reason to enjoy this thing at all.  The use of sounds in these “sound poems” ended up just giving me a headache.

I found Mark O’Neill’s website a little more interesting.  The sounds weren’t overly irritating and the visuals that went along with it were pretty cool.  The ambient sounds and little bit of music made me feel relaxed and anxious at the same time.  Like there was something important coming, but it didn’t really matter if I paid attention.  I didn’t even really read the poem at all, though.  Not really.

These are two drastically different examples of how the use of sound and visual effects can affect a person’s opinion.  O’Neill’s work was a more subtle and subdued piece.  It didn’t make me particularly happy or particularly sad.  But I didn’t hate it.  Pringer’s work elicited a very strong and negative reaction out of me.  And it was a very simplistic website.  It was just a white background with letters running around with someone voicing the sounds of the letters over and over.  It just kept multiplying and overlapping and became irritating.  At least to me, it did.  However, if that was the intention of the piece, then…well done.  You made me feel hate.

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