My new band, Doobies Inc., walked into SIR Studios in mid-December to film and record a live demo. We tracked to ProTools and filmed 3 cameras (2 roving and 1 stationary). Then I took all of the tracks and footage back to my studio to mixdown and edit. For a one-night session, these came out really well, and we hope to get quite a bit of work from this promotional video.
I truly enjoy recording and filming live events. One of my favorites was Jennifer Robin’s CD release party for her album “The Bird and The Beatles” found here on YouTube:
I also have filmed live concert footage that will be found in the upcoming film “Praying the Hours” by Lauralee Farrer. These types of events are difficult to capture multitrack — so that one can mix the music later on — but ultimately exceptionally rewarding, because you get both the immediacy and thrill of the live event, as well as the incredible sound of a professionally mixed and produced recording.
credits: Loren A. Roberts, producer, ProTools recordist and editor, film editor, b-camera operator; Jordan McMahon, a-camera operator
Jennifer Robin is a fantastic jazz artist that I have known for almost 20 years, but have never gotten to work with before. That opportunity finally came when she announced a CD release party for August 2011. I stepped in to both run sound for the show and assemble some live footage for an electronic press kit. All mics were mine — we ran 12 channels directly into my ProTools rig, and then straight out to the board for live mixing. Jordan and I both brought cameras, and later I mixed down the live recording and married it up with the footage as well as some interview clips that I filmed a few days after the concert.
I love how much of her personality I was able to capture, both in the concert and in the interviews. Jennifer deals with life with a thoughtful but in-the-moment grace that is hard to find in artists, and I believe that comes through loud and clear here. And she surrounds herself with wonderful people, too: the whole band was game for trying things, but gracious and helpful as well.
In all, a good time putting together a powerful package that I hope helps her sell some more albums. And a good piece showing what Hearken Creative can do on short notice…
Two quick video projects that I had the pleasure of working on over the last week.
First up was a quick web video post for the president of Asian Access. He wanted to say “thank you” to the many people who have already donated money to the relief efforts going on in northern Japan after the Sendai earthquake in March 2011. So I raced out to his office and filmed him:
TECHNICAL DETAILS: This was filmed with the Canon EOS 7D, using the “kit lens” — an 28-135mm. Sound was handled using a Zoom H4n with an Audio Technica AT897 microphone. Footage was transcoded to ProRes LT using the wonderful 5DtoRGB app with a command-line batch processor provided by French video production company NoSide. The whole thing was sync’d and edited in Final Cut Pro, and exported to H.264 via Compressor.
I did a 12-part videolog series with Nimbus and this same composer back in 2008, and they are back with a new composition that Nimbus will premiere. We’re in a rush, so there’s only one video, and I shot a rehearsal for a few hours this week, followed by a very brief interview. But the piece will be instrumental in advertising the concert:
TECHNICAL DETAILS: Much the same as the previous piece, except I used a host of lenses: a 50mm f1.4 prime (I used this a lot because the room was pretty dark, but I didn’t want to raise my ISO too much and get grainy footage), a Canon EF-S 18-55mm, and a Canon EF-S 55-250mm. Sound was captured 4-channel using the Zoom’s onboard mics plus the AT897 and a Sennheiser lav (but the interview was done with the AT897 — I love the sound of that mic compared to a lav).
All-in-all, a pretty busy but fun week of budget-conscious filmmaking. Every project that we do gets easier, more fun, and give us invaluable experience for the next one.
Today I’ll be taking my equipment and doing an outdoor photoshoot for a band I’m in (stills, not video). Can’t wait to share those…
I like to promote things. I’m a producer — a promoter — a big-picture kinda guy. And so when I become friends with an incredible artist, like Buddy Zapata or Lauralee Farrer, I can’t help but want to promote their art in any way I can. And I have skillz. I can take press photographs (see my post on T-Lou). I can shoot video (see the stuff I did of Buddy Zapata). I’m now producing (check out Not That Funny on Facebook). And now I can record live concerts. Laurie Niles is a fellow parent at McKinley School, where my kids go. Laurie is a violinist, a music teacher and educator, and a friend. She runs the crazy-cool website violinist.com, and this past Spring, she agreed to do a concert of violin music in the school auditorium. It was simply amazing. And I got to record it.
I think the live recording sounds pretty good, no, it sounds great. But live was even better. I wish you all could have been there. If you ever get the chance to see her in concert, it’s a treat. And every piece of music was unexpected — none of the “standard” classical fare. Here’s the trio that started the concert (the audio on this video is simply from the Flip camera — sometime I’ll marry up my audio with their video, but it’s not a priority right now):
And it was all that good. The “Meditation from ‘Thaïs'” that you heard at the top of this post was her encore, and it was a beautiful, peaceful way to end a magnificent evening of violin music.
I feel so privileged to be around such awesome talent. It’s fun. It’s challenging to me as an artist. And these people become great friends too, friends that I hope to be promoting and hanging out with and enjoying each others’ company 20 years from now.
So enjoy the music, and enjoy life, and enjoy the friends and family that you get to experience life with.
T-Lou Zydeco makes some crazy-cool Zydeco music. See for yourself:
This guy knows how to make a party hop. And I got to create a cool look for his new CD.
The client is really happy (“Thanks, Loren; it was a pleasure working with you…job well done. Good job!”), the producer is happy, and we have another winner. Just listen to this wonderful music:
[audio:http://www.hearkencreative.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/06-Zydeco-LA-LA.mp3|titles=06 Zydeco LA LA]
Tomorrow, I think I might upload some of the original proofs that were presented to the client, so that you can see some of the thought that went into creating this cover.
But overall, this was a wonderfully successful project. I have another CD design that is going to press this week, so I’ll post that one in a few weeks when it comes off press.
Forgot to mention: I did the photoshoot for the artist, in the studio while they were mixing the album down. This is another benefit of hiring Hearken Creative — we work across disciplines to make the best possible product for the client. It also is a benefit of purchasing the new Canon EOS 7D a few months ago.
Hearken Creative now is shooting in HD on a Canon 7d camera. We have several lenses and filters, and can make your next project shine, whether for the big screen, the small screen, or even a web screen.
Additionally, not only can we do full-blown ProTools audio for location sound, but we now have a small Zoom H4N 4-channel audio recorder for interviews, small cast shoots, and field recording. Put the two pieces together, and you have a wonderfully small setup for mobile filming!
Okay, so HCS has a bunch of Sennheiser and Shure wireless mic systems, like the awesome G2 series from Sennheiser. But the problem is that the wire that these manufacturers use is shoddy, and usually the mics are destroyed after just one run of performances. (They work better for ENG-style work — which is what I do most of the time — because the cable doesn’t get jostled around as much.) So I’m trying to figure out how to purchase or build my own mics for stage uses.
And then I found this awesome company called CPC in the UK (courtesy of the Blue Room stage discussion board), and they have cheapie replacement microphones, both the lav kind and the headworn kind. But I am not sure if they can ship cheaply to the U.S.; so, I am looking for a U.S. company that can supply these mics, or something comparable. I’m even willing to solder my own connectors onto them, to save even more money.
The reason that this came up is that I was doing sound design for the Pasadena Summer Musical Theater production for a few weeks earlier this summer. The body mics got a real workout, going on and off multiple children each day for rehearsals and performances. Several mics didn’t make it through the two week run, and the culprit was always the juncture where the cable meets the connector. So I was thinking that it might be good to make my own, or find a new microphone/cable combination that will be able to withstand the rigors of stage performances.
I have an e-mail out to CPC in the U.K., but I am willing to entertain any options — either here or overseas — that can help me replace or build newer and better mics for the Sennheiser or Shure systems.
Honestly, unlike millions of you others I won’t be seeing Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen this weekend. But I enjoyed the technical achievements of the first movie, even if I didn’t care for the editing or storytelling. Pro Sound News has spent the whole last week detailing different aspects of the sound work on the new movie, with interviews from major players:
Part One: Mixing and Sound Editing: “This new movie features twice the action, and many, many more robots than the series opener, he continued. “In normal movies, there are two, three, even four set pieces. Eight years ago, one or two of those set pieces would have made this a big sound movie. We have several in each reel. It’s challenging.”
Part Two: Dialog Editing and Effects Processing: There was relatively little ADR in ROTF. “Michael doesn’t like using ADR; the majority of ADR will be for extra lines and line changes,” said Hopkins, adding, “I’ve got probably 30 or 40 ADR cues because of bad background noise.”
Part Three: Music/Effects/Dialog Mixing: “The music is really driving and the effects track is very detailed. Because you have this animation and special effects that you need to sell, sound is so powerful for doing that. It brings a sense of reality to it all and engages the audience into the whole story. Michael sees that; he sees how powerful it can be and how it can bring these animated things to life, and give them a sense of weight and power and character.”
Part Four: Connecting Sound to Picture: With so much mayhem onscreen, it was important for Van der Ryn and Aadahl to constantly strive for clarity and make some critical choices early on in the process regarding what remained in the mix. “If we were to not make choices until [the mix stage], it would be a wall of noise…Everything you hear connects to something on the screen, and if there’s anything that is muddying things up or washing things out, we do that in the editorial process.”
Part Five: Getting Effects to Sound Good: “When you have multiple sounds happening in a sequence, we really broaden the scope of frequencies so that things aren’t living in the same range. That separation is necessary for clarity, as well as panning things and rhythmically having things syncopate so that they aren’t stepping on each other. Even if you offset ever so slightly, it creates separation.”
That’s it for today; I’m crazy-busy finishing off a few projects right now.
So I’m doing a lot more music recording these days. And one of my favorite tools is a wonderful little program called Auto-Tune, which, if used correctly, does exactly what its name implies: automatically pull a note that is out-of-tune back to perfect pitch. Let’s say there’s one note out of a whole phrase that’s a bit off-pitch: why re-record the whole verse for that one note? I just punch-in the plug for that one note, and we’re back in business. [TIME did an article on Auto-Tune, and the company has its own podcast mp3 so you can hear how the program works.]
I do the same thing with Photoshop a lot right now because I am now selling stock on iStockphoto. They need every photo submitted to be as close to perfect as possible, so I go in and “airbrush” all the little imperfections out, creating (hopefully) a more marketable/usable photo.
But I’m also conflicted. Overuse of Auto-Tune turns out lifeless vocals. And I love to “grunge” up my graphic design work, when the project calls for it. Imperfections are what make things human, and removing all of the human element isn’t always a good thing.
That said, I will never throw the tool out [like these people want to, or here’s Neko Case complaining about Auto-Tune towards the end of the interview, or these studio engineers who are as conflicted about using it as I am). If I can use it when needed but make it practically invisible, and then not use it when we have the time to get it right, then I think everything will be okay.
But taking the time to get things right is another concept that is dying right now — budgets are way too tight to actually try to do something right. So I work overtime even when the client isn’t paying for it, just so that I can be happy with the final result. Unfortunately, that cuts into the time that I’m supposed to be recording…
If you were making music in the ’80s (I had a 4-track reel-to-reel in my bedroom with one Radio Shack mic, a Roland keyboard, and a Roland drum machine) you will recognize almost all of these sounds immediately. Thanks to Tara Busch on Twitter for pointing me to this wonderful collection of overused sounds.
It’s interesting: even though the sounds/patches/loops are all horribly overused, I find that they still work. Think about Phil Collins’ gated drum sounds (credited to Peter Gabriel for originating the sound): “Take A Look at Me Now” is beautiful pop ballad fodder, and it resonates with people, or else it wouldn’t have been a top-ten hit. So of course people are going to imitate that sound.
Yesterday in the studio we had a discussion about whether it was good to “surprise” people with the songwriting and sounds, or conform to people’s expectations in pop music. Since we are dealing with pop/country/rock, we decided to conform to expectations. We cut a 2/4 measure out of the chorus, opting to stay in 4/4 throughout the whole song. Was that the right decision? I don’t know, but I know what I hear on the radio, and we’re recording both for the joy of music as well as the possibility of making some money; and what makes money is conforming to people’s expectations.