Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wardrobe Malfunction

Spot the differences in the two pictures!

1. The shoes are different.
2. There's a toy piano in one picture.
3. The Lego stuff is all different.
4. Tammy is wearing a sweater in one picture.
5. The lighting is different.
6. The composition of the shot is slightly different.

We didn't plan to shoot this today. The Instant Videos are absorbed into our daily lives. "I want to get out of the back room." Let's shoot a video in every room in the house. Move the stuff out. Practice the songs. Keep it going. You ready? Yeah? "Let's just do it." We need a heart.

The key difference between the two pictures. One is our first take. The other is the 19th take. The looper keeps malfunctioning. But we just keep on going.

Every time we start a different take, I change the angle a little bit. One tiny change after another. We're losing the light. Tiny random changes to Lego. Georgia and I have been playing with them all day. I have a notion that I can make a Lego contraption to fit over the camera's lens for an interesting effect. What remains on the floor are my failed attempts.

"I want to take off my sweater...I think the shoes are the issue." Tammy is not used to the way they feel as she hits the looper pedal. Can this be called a Wardrobe Malfunction? The red shoes are donned. "We have a good take." Let's do another one. "We gotta start dinner soon." One last take. Okay.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Say Say Say What You Want to Say...

The camera keeps glitching. The time-code keeps going back to 00:00 and when I rewind the tape, there is nothing recorded on it. Spooky. I had it coming. Now what are we going to do with Instant Video #3?

Flashback to last night when I got too bleary to shoot the video.

Tammy was ready. She wore a red shirt. She'd been rehearsing a nameless song by herself for a week and suddenly she was at the office door ready to perform.

I tried to get into it. I composed several shots but nothing was working. I just wasn't feeling it. I did not want to repeat myself again with some kind of overhead shot, etc. But we are constrained to be recording inside this one room. This messy magic jam room of wires and books and instruments.

Tammy whisked a table cloth to drape over the bookshelf. It always has to be a mad scramble. Push pins. Groan. We're trying to make fire here! Gotta get moving. Uh huh.

I had my video tape. I'm taping over an old interview.

I was bleary from staring at the computer all day. I had had some red wine. Ultimately, I said No. I can't do it. It'll have to wait until the morning. Shoot in the daylight. I'm too tired.

My head hits the pillow. "But it's a nighttime kinda song," Tammy protested softly.

I was already asleep. I don't remember dreaming.

The next day, the camera is where I left it. And it stopped going back to 00:00, it now just asks for CLEANING CASSETTE and I don't have one.

This is a shock. Tammy is ready again this afternoon. She's wearing the same red shirt. We have to do it now. So we can upload it for Friday morning. This is our last chance. The sun is literally going down fast.

I have an idea. Ditch the video camera and shoot the Instant Video with that digital still camera my Dad gave me. I know it shoots some video. You can't get any more instant than that.

It turns out I can shoot 20 min. of mpg video. I get fresh batteries.

I don't have time to read the manual. I just shoot. Get the clap board to sync up the audio... Last minute: what are are gonna call this song? Stars! Okay.

This is a song that came out of Tammy's free fall improv sessions. Yet it somehow got recorded as our answering machine message.

Georgia keeps quiet watching us do this which she eats her sandwich from the kitchen.

We do four takes. I know there must be a way to turn off the auto-focus and auto-levels on the camera but I decide it is actually doing something interesting. The camera's automatic sensors are reacting to Tammy's performance all on their own. There is something pleasantly random about that.

We upload Take Three because of Georgia's unexpected reaction which, of course, I had to include as a final punctuation. (!)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

So. This: we also tried to do in one take...the visuals were done live and fed into the shot of Tammy singing.

The idea of feeding the visuals into a shot of Tammy's performance was done before in Original Plastic Jam which was an improvised sound and video slam jam.

Comes from the Sun isn't an improvised song so, (a) it's not as much "fun" somehow and (b) with constant rehearsals, I developed a plan for the sequence of shots so we lost some spontaneity. I was still performing them live and there was a visual and sound delay that kept me from being solid on the timing of the images. No take was ever done exactly the same as the other. We ended up choosing Take 10 simply on the basis of sound quality.

I'm not sure how the idea of Comes from the Sun came to Tammy. I'd love to hear a cover of the song done by Tom Waits. Maybe it was a bit literal but these solar images are just stunning. I realized that I had these images saved up from the 3C84 project and I could co-perform the visuals with her live. These images I got from various websites of (mostly) independent observatories from around the world that provide them for free.

"Don't wait for answers...just take your chances! Don't ask me why." -Billy Joel

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Instant Video Crimes

These days, it's easy enough to do this on the internet with one hand and a few clicks. So. I confess it all here now...

In August of this year, Tammy was asked to do a looper demonstration for a kids workshop called Rock Camp for Girls. After some thought, she decided to fish out an "unpublished" song from her repertoire and began to rehearse it with the looper in mind.

This inspired the idea for the instant video project. The instant video was supposed to be some kind of weekly challenge to blog a "music video" shot and performed in just one take. It would be a way for us to share, stay creative and demo a set of songs that Tammy can do on stage on her own with a help of looper. And we decided to do it because (a) we can, and (b) this is is in fact what we do, what we're supposed to do and what we've been doing since we met each other almost twelve years ago.

This composite photo compares the shot from our first attempt with the final release. It shows how a simple, supposedly off-the-cuff idea, went through some troubleshooting before it was officially uploaded. I still just wanted to upload our first try even though I wasn't too happy with the shot. I was mildly annoyed that the battery operated lantern is on the bookshelf in the background and that the door was visible behind Tammy. I set up the shot in the spirit of the web cam instant YouTube performances where the background almost never gets the consideration it truly deserves. But Tammy insisted on making some changes to the lyrics and almost a full month later, we decided to try it again.

It didn't take that long. Given a second chance, I was sure that the best thing about the original shot was the stripey shirt matching the keys on the keyboard. I exaggerated the shot and we did about eight takes. We uploaded the final take.

We tried doing credits with Post-It notes too but none of that turned out either. I did quick typewriter credits. Just to get it out already. I matched the two sound recordings we made during the shot (hence, the clapboard) and mixed a combination of two sound sources. We started around midnight and the video was uploaded the same day.

I guess it took a lot longer than what the "instant" in the name Instant Video might ordinarily lead you to believe. I guess I'm confessing to the time and thought and the re-tries that went into this. I don't even know why I need to. I just want to stay honest.

Tammy and I do agree that this is only a one day project. Keep it simple. Of course, our minds will always be thinking about what we'll do for the next one.

A very brief history of our Instant Videos on YouTube.
Check out: Gravity Song, For Ever, and In the Swamp.