PBS Digital Studios

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Explore top selections from the PBS Digital Studios library. This content is edgy and engaging, educational and thought-provoking — designed to grab your students’ attention. Explore our collections curated towards design and innovation, social studies, and even popular culture, with many more subjects that highlight the cross-disciplinary, exciting topics that have made Digital Studios such a powerful classroom resource.

  • Are Mashups the End of Music Genres As We Know Them? | PBS Idea Channel

    Some of the best things to be found on the internet are music mashups! It's a strangely pleasing experience to listen to totally unrelated artists commingling on the same music track. Mashups are awesome because they break genre expectations, which makes us think: why have genres at all? With so much cross-pollination in music and art, does genre matter anymore?

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Is Sad Music Actually Sad? | PBS Idea Channel

    Be it Elliott Smith or Queen, classical or dub step, there's usually a clear understanding that some songs are sad, and some songs are happy. But what is it about the music that makes us feel these feelings we're feeling? You might think it has something to do with the notes or how our brain's natural response to these sounds, but you're wrong. Or at the very least incomplete in your thinking. We've just been culturally trained to respond to music in certain ways because if you ignore the lyrics, music itself doesn't actually contain any emotion at all. Watch the episode to find out more!

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Is Community A Postmodern Masterpiece? | PBS Idea Channel

    Though the TV show Community has never achieved huge ratings, it has a passionate cult following, including us here at Idea Channel. The show plays with genre and narrative in such a creative way that it brings to mind the cultural and artistic theory of Postmodernism. Previous TV series have been self-referential and culturally reflective, but none so successfully as Community. The show flips traditional expectations so consistently that it questions their importance in the first place. And it has brought the word "meta" into the cultural vernacular, to boot.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • How Will The Animated GIF Affect The Presidential Election? | PBS Idea Channel

    The animated GIF has had a long and fascinating history, but the GIF took a giant leap forward this year when it became part of the 2012 Presidential Election! This election season, GIFs of Obama, Romney, Biden and Ryan, populated not only Tumblr and Buzzfeed, but also media heavyweights like The Atlantic, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. It became the perfect vehicle to capture a reaction, a gaffe or hilarious election moment and stream it ad infinitum. Will the Graphics Interchange Format swing the election for Obama or Romney? Probably not, but it's a pretty bold step for our pal the GIF!

    Grades: 9-12
  • Heartbeats of Fiji | Beat Making Lab

    Meet Ben and Masi, two Fijians brought together by the Beat Making Lab and their insatiable apetite for music. After learning from the Lab's DJs about techno music and production, these two form an instant bond through art and expression. Together they learn to build music that represents their dreams and culture, and return home with new ambitions to pursue music within their home communities.

    Grades: 7-12
  • The First Beat Making Lab | Beat Making Lab

    What is Beat Making Lab? Take a look inside the origins of this PBS Digital series at UNC Chapel Hill, 2011, where students learn to make techno, dance, and rap music using technology as their instrument. Associate Professor Mark Katz and Adjunt Professor Stephen Levitin (also known by his DJ handle, Apple Juice Kid) explore a new method of teaching music, targetting tech-savvy students without formal training in the arts and teaching the backbones of music production.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Get Your Drums Right | Beat Making Lab

    A crash course in mixing tracks, recording sounds, and expressing your creativity through electronic music with the PBS Beat Making Lab DJs. Using local sounds from Senegalese musicians and sampling real Sabar drummer recordings, watch as these professional DJs transform a bland track into a colorful and exciting new beat. It's Mixing 101!

    Grades: 3-12
  • Why Music Moves Us | It's Okay to be Smart | PBS Digital Studios

    Why does music make us feel happy or sad? Or angry or romantic? How can simple sound waves cause so much emotion? Joe Hanson, host of It's Okay to be Smart, went from his comfy chair to the streets of Austin to investigate how it might be written into our neuroscience and evolution. Modern neuroscience says our brains may be wired to pick certain emotions out of music because they remind us of how people move!

    Humans are the only species we know that creates and communicate using music, but it's still unclear how or why we do that, brain-wise. Is it just a lucky side effect of evolution, like Steven Pinker says? Or is it a deeper part of our evolutionary history, as people like Mark Changizi and Daniel Levitin argue?

    New evolutionary science says that we may read emotion in music because it relates to how we sense emotion in people's movements. We'll take a trip from Austin to Dartmouth to Cambodia to hear why music makes us feel so many feels. The connections between movement and music go far beyond dance moves!

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Frame By Frame: The Art of Stop Motion | Off Book

    The magic of stop-motion animation has enthralled audiences for over a century, but with the advent of CGI, many thought it was at risk of extinction. Yet despite these fears, animators all over the world continue to manually create unique stories out of physical materials, be it clay, sand or paint, puppets or people. The amount of time and meticulous effort these animators commit makes stop motion uniquely impressive and refreshingly organic in a digital age, and have driven the art form's resurgence in film, commercials, and even on Vine!

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Art of Portrait Photography | Off Book

    Humans have been creating likenesses of each other for thousands of years, but with the introduction of photography, a new language developed for capturing the human image. Photography created opportunities for not just for biography and documentation, but also depth, empathy, and experimentation. Many portrait photographers today elevate their work from mere photo to art, communicating ideas and capturing the human subject with dignity, all while exploring the meaning and potential of portraiture.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Lego Art | Off Book

    Off Book examines the growing popularity of LEGO art, and the role of LEGO versitility and simplicity as a visual art form. LEGO blocks are one of the most beloved toys in the world, playing a role in many a person's childhood. But for some creators, LEGO has evolved from toy to art form. In this episode, we talk to three LEGO artists who have made beautiful mosaics, amazing stop-motion videos, thoughtful sculptures, and have turned these tiny building blocks into a true artistic medium.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Tattoos: The Permanent Art | Off Book

    Off Book explores the diverse social history of tattoo art, and the creative forces that drive three of its most unique artists. It seems that no matter how far we advance into the digital age, our bodies remain a place where we want to express ourselves. This episode of Off Book profiles the diverse talents and philosophies of three modern tattoo artists of vastly differing styles: Vinny Romanelli, Kiku, and Stephanie Tamez.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Animated GIFs | Off Book

    Off Book explores the visual artistry and appreciation of one of the oldest image formats used on the web: the animated GIF. Throughout their history, GIFs have served a huge variety of purposes, from functional to entertainment. In this episode of Off Book, we chart their history, explore the hotbed of GIF creativity on Tumblr, and talk to two teams of GIF artists who are evolving the form into powerful new visual experiences.

    Grades: 6-12
  • James Brown on Conviction, Respect and Reagan | Blank on Blank | PBS Digital Studios

    "Black is not a color; it's an attitude. It's the attitude of independence, respect and dignity." - James Brown, in a previously unheard interview. Blank on Blank has transformed the vintage interview tape by pairing it with a new animation.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Dave Brubeck on Fighting Communism with Jazz | Blank on Blank | PBS Digital Studios

    "If I told you all the stories about what happened to people if they were caught listening to jazz." - Dave Brubeck, in a previously unheard interview from 2008. Blank on Blank has transformed the vintage interview tape by pairing it with a new animation.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Psychological Landscape | The Art Assignment

    Take on the assignment and create an art piece focusing on perspective and three-dimensional figures. Discover the beginning works of landscape painting, dating back to cave paintings in 3000 BCE. This historical account of one of the most widely-used artistic techniques today is described by Robyn O’Neil in her explanation of the Psychological Landscape.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Intimate, Indispensable GIF | The Art Assignment

    Artist Toyin Odutola takes a new stance on portraiture, bringing a novel and ingenous approach to the classic art technique. Through this video, learn how culture and identity can be the driving inspiration for intimate artistic creation, and how a new emerging medium—the animated GIF—can be used to reflect these classic, high-cultured ideas. See how the history of the GIF and early cinema animation reflects a significant evolution in early 20th Century portraiture.

    Grades: 6-12

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