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.