Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Determined Makeover of an Old Folk Tune

I admit, I am not much into shows that include the word "makeover" in the title. I saw one on making over homes a few times and they just seemed a bit overblown and impractical. When you have a toddler in a poor family and make this wonderful room on a nursery book, you are forgetting that the toddler will grow very quickly and within a few short years he will hate the babyish look of it, then you have to tear everything out and hope you can afford to replace it. I have never seen the ones with beauty makeovers, but one would hope they are due to a high need, such as a physical abnormality or injury, and not simply just to look like a model, or the shallowness and pride would likely not impress me much. Our culture is already too hung up on physical appearances and does not need to have that fed any further.

However, the beauty of music, especially the old folk songs that have stood the test of time for generations, is that they can be made over again and again, at no cost to the artist, and they can bring something new and rich to any generation, while still providing something that links to the past. This is one of my favorite things. I love remaking old tunes, sometimes really old tunes, even more than I like trying to write my own.

That's what we did with the song, "Greensleeves". We loved the new arrangement so much, we chose it for our first music video project, and we couldn't be happier with the results. Here it is!

Ok, I think I lied a little about how we couldn't be happier. For a zero-cost production on a shoe-string budget, I couldn't be happier. I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to music projects with the band and working with low-quality equipment and very little time made perfect simply unattainable, so I decided to enjoy it for the organic nature, not for any professional expectations. When I changed my thinking in this area, I loved every minute of it.

We discussed the idea of a music video, something I have wanted to do for a very long time, and realized, without current money to get an updated CD recorded, we really wanted something to move the band, so now was the time. The problem was, how to manage it? In came our superhero friends in Virginia! When I mentioned it to them I received a very excited "absolutely!" Suggestions were provided for the perfect location, they offered to use their home cameras, and another friend arranged to have us put the audio track down first in the upstairs of their church, all in the short time we would be passing through the area.

The audio was a bit of a trial, but since we hadn't planned on even managing a prerecorded audio at all, I have no place to complain. The trial came simply from the timing, which was after a morning show, hungry from lack of sufficient lunch, and no real time to manage isolated sound (used to correct mistakes of one without tossing out the whole thing and starting over), or a click track, for when something did need to be lined up and corrected. We were all together, counting on having this new song, with a new change to it learned just a couple of hours before recording, come out "good enough", despite tired fingers and a long day. Tom, our volunteer recording artist, did a wonderful job mixing up what we managed, especially with the vocal mix. Loved it! Sure, I'd like to correct a few things in the performance, but overall he made what we had sound quite good.

A couple of days later we headed to the state park in Harpers Ferry, WV and with nothing more than 3 (down to 2 fairly quickly, when a battery died far sooner than expected) home cameras of varying quality, a lead singer feeling ill, and on the hottest day of the month. We sang along to the recording on the iPod and hoped it looked ok, having only one day, only one or two takes per location, and no good way to ensure it was at all authentic looking until we were 200 miles away from the shooting location.

Next step was the editing, which I did on my laptop and with Windows Movie Maker, the free program that comes with the computer. The new Movie Maker does not have a crop feature, and the files were not in the correct format, so job #1 was to get a free video converter that could crop scenes in when needed for different angles, and change the files to a .wmv file for easier editing. This took quite some time and overheated my laptop, so I had a little fan on it constantly.

After this was finished I realized my computer memory and processor still couldn't handle playing the video files accurately with the audio in the editor, making it nearly impossible to tell if the lips were syncing with the imported audio file. The audio played fine, but the video kept getting stuck, so I instead worked on syncing the audio from the video to the imported audio, scene by scene, then saved it in pieces to see how it looked after production. That is, when the whole thing didn't lock up and have to be restarted. I learned to save my work after every change, and occasionally reboot the whole computer.

When each section looked good enough, I put the saved sections together and laid the audio back on top of them, and hoped for the best!

To be honest, it was frustrating, but it was sort of like hiking up Pike's Peak. Yes, if you have a car you can drive right up, but there is a certain satisfaction in hiking up it out of pure determination. I did not have the proper equipment for any of this, but I was downright determined to get us a music video! I put on my hiking boots and started climbing.

There is something I have come to realize in life: financial hardships are an opportunity to grow and build creativity and ingenuity in a very unique way that cannot be replicated when everything is simply handed to you. Don't get me wrong, I would love to get a better computer and a professional editor, along with a professional recording session and new cameras for the next project, and there will, Lord willing, be many more such projects in the future. However, now I know it can be done, with or without the fancy gadgets. We just need determination and a little help from our friends.

I hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed making it!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Obsess 'Til You Fall Over - Creative Bursts

(Edited intro to post: Decided to jump right to the fun stuff, a fun project that will hopefully be a nice promotion for the band - a new music video project. It's not ready for release - hopefully next week, but here are some pictures.)

What are we up to???

It's gonna be awesome! Ok, awesome for a shoe-string do-it-yourself production. Audio is courtesy of friends who pulled out microphones in the upstairs of their church in Virginia, video (and pictures below) from another friend who took a day to hold a couple of ordinary hand-held video cameras and trek around poison-ivy riddled ruins, and I am using my free video processor, Windows Movie Maker to try to put it all together on a computer that doesn't have near the necessary active memory and processor to really handle it without constant snags. Shot in one day on the hottest day that month. If it comes out even half-way decent, I'll be giddy! 

I do love video editing, almost as much as sewing. You put boring parts together to make something that looks really neat. I have worked on it almost non-stop for 3 days, stopping only to eat and sleep. Every clip had to be converted and cropped to something WMM could handle, sometimes with different crops to create the effect of different camera angles. Then I selected the best clips and had to put them together and sync them with the audio, which is really tough when your computer can't handle the process and keeps freezing the video. 

I'd be downright dangerous with the proper equipment! Maybe someday if New York ever pays us and Florida stops ignoring us. Pfthhhh...

During our time on the video shoot we also took pictures. Alex wanted more "serious" pictures to work with on some new promotional materials she's been asked to create. It can be difficult for family bands to overcome the cutesie-kid-and-pony-show syndrome, so she is trying to tweak our image. That's why most are lacking the usual cheesy grins. We'll do cheesy grins another time.

Too much fun! 

We're in good hands. I live for these bursts of creativity and amazing Providential help just when we need it. Friends to help when we need it and opportunities that fall in our lap when we are at the end of our ropes.