Sunday, February 28, 2010

Geocaching...from your computer?

I am trying to stick to a bi-weekly posting on this site.  Last weekend found me away from home from Saturday through Tuesday, and I forgot.  So here is a quick post featuring an online friend of mine, ErikaJean.  Erika has put together a rather interesting blog that combines several of her various interests, including geocaching.  It's obvious to anyone reading her blog that the keyboard loves her.  But today, we focus on a YouTube video she put together that definitely fits into the Creative Caches site. It's called Interactive Geocaching, but there's just one problem.  There's no actual cache to find.

If you are a fan of computer games, you've probably played a game inspired by Myst.  Myst was an graphic adventure game released in 1993, most notable for it's "Choose Your Own Adventure" like method of story telling.  You were in control of how you played the game, with the ability to explore at your own free will.  You clicked on a spot in the game and it would either move you in that direction, or you interacted with something in the game world.

Erika has created a YouTube video that plays out just like Myst.  The collection of videos give you the opportunity to try and find a geocache from the comfort of your computer.  Now while none of our readers will be able to claim a find from the video, I have an idea for how to turn this into an actual cache. 

Required Materials
  • A micro or small geocache, ready to go
  • A video camera
  • A computer
Find a decent location to place a geocache.  For this cache, a good location will have a variety of possible hiding spots nearby.  If the spot you choose has a limited amount of spots to look for that size container, you should probably choose another location.  This is important for the overall design of this cache.  Once you've hidden the container, step back a bit and survey your surroundings.  Find a good spot to start and mark that location, both in your mind and on your GPSr.  We'll call it Waypoint A.  It might be a good idea to physically mark the site with something so you remember where you started.

Now, pick a collection of different items within your view: bushes, trees, man-made structures, etc.  You want a good collection of a least 10 different items.  Try to make the items viable hiding locations for your container (this works best if you are using a micro or small container).  Shoot a short introduction video of the scene with you speaking in the background.  If your camera has the option, make sure to stop each time you shoot a scene so you have easy reference points for later editing.

Once you've shot the intro, begin shooting video of you walking towards the various objects you noted earlier.  If your hand comes into view as you move things about in a fake search for a cache container then don't worry about it.  Play it up a bit.  Add commentary as you film.  After you film the various objects, pick a couple of random points that may seem like obviously unlike locations, but film them anyway.  It will provide more options for viewers.

Once you're done filming, and you have both the starting coords for the video and the final location's coords, head on home and go through the process of editing.  You'll need a collection of short videos encompassing all of the random points people might choose, including the correct location.  Edit them however you want, but in the clip that leads to the actual cache, post the coordinates for Waypoint A into the end of the video.  This way, when people find the correct location in the video, they will get the coordinates for the video's starting location.  Once they arrive on scene, they should see a view just like the video.  They already know where the final is located at, so the find will be easy from that point on.

Now all you need to do is upload the videos.  YouTube provides an easy, free option for doing so.  Once they are uploaded, you'll need to add linked notes to the video.  YouTube calls them "annotations" and they can be added by going to "My Videos" after logging in, finding the starting video, and clicking on "Annotations".  When you do this, make sure you have a second tab open so you can get the URL's for each video.  Pick the point in the starting video where you want to give people the option to pick their choices.  Pause the video there and add a notation.  Spread the annotation out over one of the areas people can choose, switch it to the "Notes" type (you can use "Speech Bubble" or "Spotlight" if you want), then click on the chain link icon to create an Annotation Link.  This is where you paste the URL for the video that explores that particular spot.  You'll have to be organized at this point so that all of the annotations link to the proper videos.  Once done, you'll have a video much like Erika's.

Yes, it's an easy find for anyone who completes the video.  But it will also be a fun find.  Due to the nature of the design, it should probably be listed as a puzzle cache.  This means that even cachers who don't like puzzles would be hard pressed to complain about this.  And if they automatically ignore puzzles without even looking at them, this is a shining example of why that practice can backfire.  This is also a kid friendly cache design that any geocachers with kids in your area will enjoy.


PS: And a thanks to ErikaJean for letting me highlight her video.  The starting video is below:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Decorating the Logbook

Not every creative cache has to be only about the container.  Sometimes it's about the presentation of the cache.  Telling a good story.  Taking the cacher on a hike through the story.  Making the cache fit the story.  It's all about the presentation.  Cache of the Lost Sunglasses is an example of such a cache.  It told the story of a geocaching family, the father of which lost his sunglasses on the trail.  The cache took you on a lengthy hike through a park, visiting different stages along the trail where the family encountered different situations during their hike.  Over the course of the hike, if you read the story that went with it, you gained clues for finding the stages.  The stages weren't spectacular, the hides weren't elaborate.  It was the story, the mood, that set the level of fun for that cache.  Unfortunately, it was archived in 2008.

Designing a good story is not something you can really tell someone how to do so we won't focus on that.  One thing we will focus on is the logbook.  Now the logbook might seem like an unlikely part of the overall cache to focus.  Yet with the right cache, it can be a valuable part of telling the story.  Decorating a logbook works best with caches where the log has a book form to it, be it a pocket notebook for a small cache or larger book in an ammo can.  So today, we are going to look at one of my own caches, Necronomicron Ex-Mortis.  In particular, how the logbook fits into the design.

If you've seen The Evil Dead movies, you might recognize the name of the cache.  It was the evil Book of the Dead in the movies, the cause of all the horrors that occurred.  Bound in the human flesh and written in the blood of souls tortured by a group of Dark Ones.  An interesting example of B-horror films that has developed a cult status among horror movie fans.

For this cache, we need a few supplies:
  • Liquid Latex
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Hot Glue Sticks
  • A logbook (preferably a hardbound notebook)
  • Fake Blood
  • Q-tips
  • Paint (or stage makeup...preferably skin tones)
  • Brushes/makeup sponges
  • Spray Adhesive
The Liquid Latex and Fake Blood will probably be the hardest items to get your hands on.  Sometimes, you'll find stores that will sell them year round.  If not, you either have to wait until Halloween supplies hit the stores or order them online.  For the paint, I happened to use stage makeup.  It sticks well, easy to apply, but a applying it takes a bit longer.  Use of a make-up sponge really helps with this.

The logbook is something else.  A basic notebook might work fine but for selling the cache you might have to splurge a bit and get a nicer notebook that is hardbound.  When you get a notebook, think about the fact that you are applying hot glue to the cover when you pick one out.

Once you have your supplies, it's time to let your imagination run wild.  It's best to do one side of the cover at a time.  The basic steps to follow:
  1. Plan out a pattern for the cover to be laid out with hot glue.
  2. Apply the hot the pattern you choose.  Pay attention to how thick or thin you apply the glue to best achieve your goal. 
  3. Let it dry, then carefully apply a thin layer of liquid latex using the Q-tips.  You can pour a small amount in spots and spread it out if desired.
  4. Let the latex dry, then apply a thin later of make-up.  Pick a skin-tone and carefully stipple it onto the cover. For those unfamiliar with that term, stippling involves patting the paint onto the surface as opposed to brushing it or smearing it on.  For stage makeup, this helps create a more natural effect on the book.  The makeup doesn't have to be fully even, opaque layer.
  5. Once the paint has dried, repeat steps 3 and 4 once more.  At this stage, begin applying any additional colors you choose to use, or even some fake blood in spots if desired.
  6. Let it all dry, then repeat the procedure for the back cover and spine.  
  7. Once finished, add a thin coat of spray adhesive.  Remember to not hold it so close that it creates weird bubbles on the cover.
So what does this look like when done?  Here is a shot of my logbook after almost completing the front cover:

This was designed to resemble a vision of the book from one of the movies.  You can see the eyes, the nose, an ear near the spine on the left, and the mouth if you look near the bottom center.  Teeth were designed into the mouth, and I later applied white makeup, some darker lines to separate the teeth, and some fake blood coming from the mouth.

Now, for a few steps that I did not have time to get too.  In the movies, the pages of the book are written in blood, containing weird languages, symbols, and drawings.  I had hoped to use the fake blood to design some similar pages inside but never got around to it.

The point of this post is to show how even the logbook can be part of making a creative cache.  Does it have to be a design out of a B-Horror flick?  Not at all.  This design was used for a night cache at my Halloween event last year, hence the horror theme.  This particular design works best with a regular size cache, but even a small cache can have a creative logbook.

If you are looking for something different to do, think about a cache with a story.  Then see how you can fit every aspect of the cache design into the story, including the logbook.