Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fuzz Bucket - "duder Bucket" 5/23/2016

This video was shot at the end of a 2-day jamboree that I was calling Fuzz Camp. What was the occasion for this extended jam you ask? Well, our fearless Judge Fuzz himself, guitar player extraordinaire, head bobbing barefoot pedal stomper, Eric Maurer, was packing his house up and preparing for a move to the west coast, officially ending our 5 year run as Fuzz Bucket. But we've been jamming for a lot longer, since like 2008 or something, 8 or 9 years perhaps... Some of it has been blogged here but almost all of it is archived in a stack of hard drives 2 feet high.  I always joked that we have enough data to keep us remixing our stuff well into retirement, I guess I can get started on that stack now. Oh, boo hoo. Let's talk about this jam.

So, we invited our good friend Brian Dean who brought his Black Magic 4k Production Camera and this fancy lens: Rokinon Cine CV35-C 35mm T1.5 Aspherical Wide Angle Cine Lens with De-Clicked Aperture for Canon EOS DSLR 35-35mm, Fixed-Non-Zoom Lens
He also brought lights and a tripod and a few other amazing things.  Oh, and talent. We have the tools; we have the talent! (what movie is that from?)

After the jam session I wasn't terribly motivated to start working on the next video, I mean, that was our last jam session, man... A few weeks went by and the duder (that's what we call Brian) finally gave me a terabyte drive jam packed with 4K frames, totally filled the sucker up!  So, I had to get on Amazon.com and order some new drives so I could have enough space to start a new video project. Another week went by and I got the drives before hitting the next stumbling block, dealing with 4k footage.

The 4K footage came in 2 forms, a compressed .mov file and the original 4K images.  I started editing with the compressed videos but Brian complained about the gamma or some shit so I started experimenting with importing a 4K image sequence into Final Cut Pro X on my little MacBook Air.  Damn, that took all night and part of the next day just to transcode, and it barely played at all so I had to write out my own compressed video just so I could edit.  The new footage did end up looking nicer and I was able to crop it to full screen like the GoPro footage.  But for some damn reason I had issues with sync.  The 4k footage drifts ever so slightly.  I shouldn't have told you because now that's all you're gonna see. You can't unsee the drift!

So, this jam was pretty cool but I've listened to it so many times I'd like to rip my ears off every time.  The parts that annoy me the most are the repetitive bass lick (I've heard it way too many times, I can't take it anymore!) and some of the weak sax lines (they're just terrible).  My favorite bit is from 1:43 to about 2:05 when we just let loose. Pretty cool stuff.  That's when I think the improvisational nature of our jams really pays off.

But most kudos go to Brian for the beautiful shots of us.  This is by far the best we have ever looked in our basement jam videos.  Check out his blog here: http://www.brianpdean.com/ and send him money because he recently quit his job to pursue his dreams and apparently to play a game called Un-sharted? Something like that. Maybe he blogged about it. Check out his blog, bro!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fuzz Bucket - "Make It Stop!" 3/18/2016

This jam session which was from March 18, 2016 (I got the titles wrong on the video) was pretty special.  For starters, Jamie was in town for the weekend so we had our full lineup.  I had the 4 gopros and my vsn mobil v.360 camera so there was plenty of footage to cut an interesting video.  Since this was at Astoria Soundworks and not in Eric's basement we recorded on Eric's and my Edirol recorders, 2 4-track recorders linked  so we could get 8 tracks sync'd, which is just about right.  I'm not so impressed with the 360 footage but at least you can see the whole room in the one view.  By the way, you wouldn't believe what a pain in the butt it is to stitch that footage together. I'll have to write up a whole blog post about it.

Anyway, I'm not a fan of long jam sessions because they run out of steam pretty fast, but maybe it's just this idea I have of the short attention span of the average consumer of Internet things.  Because in reality, whenever I've worked on this video it usually went by pretty fast.  In my head it feels like a 6 minute jam but when I look at the counter I'm pretty surprised to see that it's about 10 minutes long.

So, when you listen to this try to imagine the 2 or 3 times that I was trying to steer the jam session toward a winding down sort of ending.  I tried as much as possible to use cues to wrap things up but unfortunately it's very difficult to communicate when you're playing sax.  I guess I could have stopped playing for a second but I've ruined jams that way.  So, all I can do is express myself with my eyebrows and by what I'm playing...  I think my frustration helped me lose myself a bit toward the end and play a little more playfully which I think produced some really cool stuff.

But... Ultimately what impressed me the most was the cool little lick I came up with, or is it a riff?  It's a very simple 5 note repeated phrase that once I heard myself play it once I couldn't stop trying to revisit it from time to time.  Basically, (I don't know what key I'm playing so I'll describe it in A minor since it can be expressed without sharps or flats) it is something like E C, E C, G ... E C, E C, G... Just so cool that it ends on the leading tone.  Which, now that I think of it, makes up basically a minor 7th chord.  Sorry, I'm doing all this in my head and I'm too lazy to run to a guitar or keyboard to confirm my music theory...

So, now that I feel foolish and it's way past my bedtime, I think this post is way overdue.  I might have to revisit this track later to analyze it some more...

Here's the video:

or if you just want the audio here it is on soundcloud:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Dead Pigeons at Blue Sky Studios 12/2015

This past December some friends of mine organized another talent show at Blue Sky Studios.  I have been a performer in six talent shows and each year I seem to be more involved than the last.  This past year I played in two acts.  One was a solo on soprano saxophone and the second was with The Dead Pigeons.

We call ourselves The Dead Pigeons, we have custom t-shirts, and I swear we convinced ourselves that we were a real band.  Well, *I* convinced *myself*.  We even made up special pigeon names for each member of the band.  We were only together for two weeks but I think of them as family.  I know it sounds corny but when you perform with a group and have this much fun, things tend to get corny.  Well, I didn't want thing to end after the talent show so I decided to try to get the band together to shoot some "interview" footage for a fake documentary I would be making.  So we got drunk on some christmas vodka, commandeered an empty office and kept the camera rolling for an hour (or maybe two).  Some of that good stuff ended up in the end credits of this video.

I really loved editing this video and I love watching it.  The end credits sequence cracks me up every time.  Oh yeah, the songs... We played Crash by The Primitives and Government Center by The Modern Lovers.  We also snuck in some Linus and Lucy in the middle of Government Center.  A nice little mini set. I played a Hello Kitty guitar on Crash and then I played bass for Government Center and Linus and Lucy.

Since I tend to expose the "nuts and bolts" of the things I'm working on, I should admit to tampering with the audio track to improve the multimedia experience.  When KT, a.k.a. Jowls, was setting up the bass rig he accidentally dialed the level knob on the overdrive pedal down a few notches so the bass track was pretty difficult to hear on stage and in the video.  (You can see KT checking the cable and volume knob during Crash.)  So, I cheated it by overdubbing the bass track from the comfort of my living room.  I think it sounds freaking awesome, but that's just my opinion.

It's funny how our rehearsal progressed from one song, Crash, to two, to two and a half but practically three songs as we kept on building up the second song which turned out to be a whole coordinated performance. So, in a way, the first song was like a warmup or appetizer for the main event which was Government Center / Linus and Lucy.

I think there was some magic in the performance of Government Center and Linus and Lucy. (here comes a long run-on sentence...)  For starters, during the switch between songs where I grab the bass from KT, Josh (guitarist), starts playing the whistling song from Disney's Robin Hood, then KT came up with this cool intro and the drums kick in, and the song just keeps building and building to the chorus where Karyn and Cortney sing and then the song comes to a stop which creates all this great tension, which KT milks perfectly and we all come back in (rather sloppily but awesomely), but then the song sounds like it's about to end and we go into the Linus and Lucy bit (which just happened to be in the same key), then comes a false ending with a short applause break and Bryan counts us in for the big ending. Woohoo!

Here's the video!

Echoes of Change by Sinba

In a previous post, I think it was titled "face melting guitar solo" or something like that, I posted this track, Hologram of Childhood, by a co-worker of mine named Sinba. It's a cool track with a mixture of influences and a face-melting guitar solo played by yours truly. Here it is in case you missed it:

More recently Sinba heard one of my video clips where I was practicing on the soprano saxophone. So, he came up with an idea to write a new piece of music featuring my sax playing. So here it is! It was a challenge for me to work outside of my comfort zone of free improvisation but I'm quite happy with the results.  It was also my first studio recording of saxophone.  A lot of the credit goes to Sinba for his editing which combined the best parts of my many takes into one. He also got me to play some bluesy guitar on this one as well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Fuzz Bucket - "fuzz-simile" 3/6/2016

This video is our first attempt to record a jam session in 3 passes. So, with 2 people that means I played drums, tenor saxophone, and then soprano saxophone.  Eric started on Novax CH8 (bass/guitar) and then played a lead guitar track followed by another guitar track providing background ambience.

I don't think it's one of my favorite jam sessions but it is musical enough and we didn't hit any sour notes (none that I could hear anyway), there's just nothing that stands out, except for the fact that in the video you see our clones, so I guess that's kind of cool.  It would have been cooler if Eric had shifted seats for the third pass, if the sax cam could have been rotated left to get more of the soprano playing... But the most disappointing thing of all is the fact that the vsn mobil v.360 camera failed during the third pass because the battery had drained.  We hadn't noticed that it turned off because it was plugged in.  I had to hack together a custom tripod mount that left room for the usb cable.  The v.360 wasn't designed to be charged while it is in use so I can't really complain too much.  What I can complain about is how that thing has a mind of its own and no on-off switch.  So the previous night even though I had switched it off via the iphone app I guess it decided to wake up and do summersaults all night so that it was drained before the jam even started.

I went with black and white because the colors looked pretty bad even with a heavy dose of color grading before I gave up on it.  I think wearing black was a big mistake, but also recording in the daytime created another problem.  I think the dynamic range was drastically reduced to deal with the bright hits where there was sunlight.  And that crushed the blacks and removed any definition there might have been on my black shirt. So, I'm reduced to floating head and hands and saxophones.  Well, I think it looks okay in black and white, I'm just disappointed that I couldn't get it to look good with color.

The audio mix could be better. There were too many tracks to try to keep them separate and I didn't think it was worth the time to automate the track levels to focus on individual instruments when they showed up on camera.  Wow, is there anything redeeming about this video?  Just a bunch of clones... I should have named it "gimmick", anything would be better than fuzz-simile. What was I thinking?  The next video will be much much better... I hope.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fuzz Bucket - "Los Niños" 2/14/2016

For the latest jam video I got a new camera. It's a 360 degree camera called a VSN Mobil v.360 Sports Action Camera.  I bought the camera because the specifications seemed to be pretty well suited for our jam sessions and one thing I've been trying to figure out is a way to get better coverage of all of the instruments.  With this thing I can get an alternate camera view of each instrument and it also gave us a great shot of Eric playing Novax and guitar in the same shot.

The best thing about the V.360 camera is the price. It's cheaper than a gopro.  But after running some tests, you end up getting what you paid for. Basically, it ends up shooting a lower resolution than any of my gopros.  But one limitation is actually one of the things I like about this camera.  It seems to handle low light in a clever way.  It doesn't have a very fast sensor so low light performance is pretty bad, but instead of shooting extremely noisy footage at a high fps, it reduces the frame rate and shoots longer exposures.  And this produces pretty satisfying video footage.

My favorite feature of this video is the shot of the two Erics playing next to each other.  At first I was disappointed that Eric staged himself so that he would overlap.  This meant a lot more work for me trying to composite the images together.  But I ended up having a blast animating the masks, basically frame-by-frame because the end result was just so cool.  But I did make a mistake by animating the mask for the whole video instead of only dealing with the footage that ended up on screen (which was very little).  I would have saved myself so much time... lesson learned.

It was nice having Eric's kids in the background looking silly and cute.  It's short and sweet and I love the way this came out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Fuzz Bucket - "Mongoose" 1/29/2016

Behind on my posts...

This jam happened on 1/29/2016, just a couple weeks ago... This time we tried a couple things differently. Eric mounted the gopro on the body of this guitar during his solo overdubs. Pretty cool view. I also selfishly aimed 2 cameras at myself for the sax tracks, one on the mic stand and the other mounted on the bell of the horn. I'm really digging the static mic camera but it's hard to give up the weird sax-mounted camera.

For this jam we recorded drums/novax first and then quickly recorded the overdub take on sax/guitar. My sax playing was heavily influenced by the Sonny Rollins DVD I was watching at work all day.

For some reason in the video edit I chose not to use borders between the split-screen views. Something tells me the borders will be back in the next video.  Overall I'm really happy with the track and video.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fuzz Bucket - "The Fourth Man" 1/15/16

Another jam video from the 1/15/16 sessions. The unique thing about this jam session is that it started as a sax/drums jam which was followed by sax/Novax CH8 (guitar/bass), where I played both sax tracks and Eric played drums and novax.  So, if you think about it, the entire rhythm section (guitar, bass, and drums) was performed by Eric.

Unfortunately the bass track wasn't recorded so I had to pull the bass out of the room mic.  One cool thing about this video is that I was able to composite Eric playing novax into the same shot where he's playing drums.  Anyway, I hope you like the improvised saxophone harmonies and one-man rhythm section.

Final Cut Pro X 10.2.2 technical problems for anyone who might be interested:

I ran into an interesting issue with FCPX while editing and mixing the audio in another application.  I like to keep all of the footage I'm using consolidated into the FCPX library file so it's basically portable.  But sometimes while I'm still mixing the audio I like to keep the audio mix as a link so that whenever I do a remix it automatically gets updated in fcpx. And when I'm done mixing I just consolidate all of the files into the fcpx library file.
The problem I ran into was when I updated the audio twice in quick succession fcpx froze up for a long enough time that I decided to force-quit the application.  So, what I think happened was that FCPX saw the first update to the audio and started processing the changes.  While FCPX was busy with that, I started a new update and this put FCPX into some kind of endless loop where the spinning beachball cursor kept spinning and spinning.
After hours of experimentation this is how I fixed it. I renamed the audio file that was responsible for this endless loop and then re-opened the fcpx project.  Now the audio file is missing but you get the interface back so you can fix it for real.
The next thing I did, and this is where my memory is a little foggy, I think I used the relink feature to link the audio back to the renamed audio file.  Relinking to a new (or renamed file) was the key because simply restoring the missing file using the same name caused it to go back into the freezing behavior.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fuzz Bucket Jam 1/15/16 - "The Third Man"

This is the first jam session where we were able to record an overdub right after an improvised rhythm track and capture both takes on video.  I think it's some of our best work and a new way to make our 2-man jam sessions more productive.  I also think my video editing is starting to look a little more mature.  Pretty sure the audio mix is cleaner than previous jams.  I accomplished this by using only single (mono) tracks of each instrument except for the drum overheads and Eric's lead guitar track.  Eric likes to record everything in stereo and I finally put my foot down and muted the extra tracks that I think were getting in the way.

The Video:

Improv Jam with overdubs
Recorded in Greenwich CT on 1/15/16
Eric Maurer - Novax CH8 (bass/guitar), Electric Guitar
Dan Shimmyo - Drums, Tenor Saxophone

Nuts and bolts:

Video capture:

This video was shot on 4 GoPro HD Hero 3+ Black Edition cameras (and sometimes you'll get a glimpse of grainy footage from the original gopro hd hero, but probably not...)
Each camera was set to shoot in 1920X1080 resolution at 24FPS and I recently switched them all to the wide setting (down from superview) because I thought it would look better.

Switching from SuperView to Wide meant that our heads might get cut off so i had to use the gopro app on my iphone to connect wirelessly to each camera to double-check the framing except for when Eric switched from one guitar to the other we didn't check the framing but he nailed it.

Editing - my current workflow:

For editing I'm using Final Cut Pro X on an 11 inch MacBook Air. The reason I'm editing on such a small computer is because I can do it almost anywhere.  The theory was that I would get more work done, and it's working so far.

One of my favorite things is the multi-cam editing tool in FCPX which syncs all of the tracks based on their audio and gives me basically realtime switching between cameras by clicking the mouse on the view that I want during playback.  Then I go back and adjust the cuts to tighten up the timing.  I have it set to switch the video track without changing the audio which I like to play uninterrupted.

I also love that with FCPX I can nest clips within clips within clips.  All of the split-screen views are "compound clips" containing multiple copies of the original "multicam clip" where each multicam copy is set to one of the split-screen views then scaled and translated to create the split-screen effect.  Since the multicam clips are all the same length you can just snap them together and they will be in sync.

Then I have another copy of the multicam clip and add all of the splitscreen compound clips into the new "uber" multicam clip.

Then I do all of the multicam camera switching and cross fades in another "compound clip".

And finally, I bring that compound clip into a "project" where I trim down the video, add some freeze frames, titles, and sometimes credits.

One note about color grading. I ended up adding all of the color grading inside of the second multicam clip. Inside of that clip I selected each video track and applied color settings.  The problem with doing it this way was that the split screen clips were color-graded as a single view which was not ideal, and the black line separating the views also got color-graded which was not what I wanted.  In the future I might create a compound clip for each unique view and do the color grading there. Then I might take each of those clips and create split-screens from them. And finally, bring all of those new clips into a new multicam clip.  This way you can adjust the color on each individual view and the changes will cascade through all of the multicams and splitscreens.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Year's Day Jam 2016!

Happy New Year!

Jamie was in town for the holidays so we got the trio back together for one jam session. This track, Platypus, started with me on the drums and then came to life when Jamie started thumping a cool bass line. Eric's guitar completes the vibe.  He wasn't happy with his sound so he spends part of the jam fiddling with his knobs but I like it.  And then I flubbed the ending...

Eric: guitar, rack of filters and lots of knobs
Jamie: Novax CH8
Dan: Drums

Video specs:
This time I set the gopro cameras to the "wide" setting instead of "superview" which is what I used on previous jams. I think I prefer the way this looks except we should have framed the cameras a little better.  Also, the drum cam died before the end of the jam but the position of Jamie's camera captured the drumming anyway so it worked out.