So I filmed this for the Rode Rockumentary competition that is running at the moment.
Essentially you have to make a documentary in under 2 minutes that features a Rode microphone somewhere in the footage. The winner gets to shoot a Rockumentary with a band in LA with the likes of Philip Bloom.
As the prize is based on a music documentary, I decided to make my entry a music documentary too (to prove I can handle the format; or to prove that I can not)!
I made a music video for a local artist called Bomboy a while back, so I got in touch with him and commissioned a new song with his music producer. I then filmed the making of this song in the studio, along with some interviews. I decided to revolve the story around the democratizing effect of low cost technology (something Rode microphones can relate to). Essentially these days in audio and video we can build studios at affordable prices, especially with the low cost of software (something that was unthinkable 20 years ago in the hardware heavy days). This especially has had an impact in 3rd world countries like Uganda, where the cost involved would have traditionally prevented many people from breaking into the industry.
I filmed this with a Canon T3i and vintage Nikkor lenses. The Interview audio recorded with a Rode NTG2, and a Roland R-26 Recorder. The song was recorded on a Rode NT1 microphone at X2 Studios, Kajansi, Uganda.
Edited in FCPX, and graded with Magic Bullet Looks.
I had major audio issues with this project (as seen in another thread); but I managed to get workable results using a free program called Audacity (I used it to clean the background noise). The results are not perfect by any means, and there are large discrepancies between the audio clips.
Have a look at this video please and let me know what you think. The competition closes shortly so I have to enter this soon; but I still have time to make any corrections if you spot a glaring mistake!
Thanks Ben. Thats what I wanted to hear! By the way I only just saw a PM from you regarding the Audio clips from the other thread (I had not seen it earlier) - thanks for offering to help, I really appreciate that.
Really nice! (And, the audio sounds fine to me also.)
At some point soon, I'll start a new official thread, but I have a bunch of music from the last few decades of released and non-released CDs that I'm trying to get up on Youtube. I don't have much time to spend editing and I can't afford to hire someone, but if you or someone you know has an interest in using some of my music in a project and/or for credit for the resume, please let me know.
I have at least about 10-20 songs and I certainly wouldn't mind have any of those up there re-done without using the Visualizer, but I've still got what I believe to be a couple of cool tracks that I can post on one of my website to check out that I haven't done anything with yet.
P.S. For the record, I really appreciate when you and other regulars post your work on the web and supply a link. It's always fun to see.
First, let's deal with the audio. For the dialog, I agree, it's not entirely perfect. There's another component to consider, Simon. You live there, you're used to these thick accents, most of us aren't. Even with my sound up & listening as hard as I can, I'm still only getting about 85-90% of their words. Or perhaps a better way to explain it is, in each sentence, there is probably one word that I miss. It's either too heavy an accent in the pronunciation, or that combined with not the best audio quality on the spoken track, further compounded by the backing music track. Don't get me wrong, it's not unintelligible, but what happens is, the normal lazy viewer must now come to full attention summoning a high alert effort to follow it or miss something. This on a subconscious level raises a slight irritation, where you are placing a demand on me that I may resent, even just ever so slightly below the conscious threshold. This also detracts from the complete experience in another way. Because I have to utilize all of my faculties to be able to catch the dialog, my full experience of the colors, video, song, charisma, culture, etc, must all take a back seat slightly, this is another subconscious cause for minor resentment. Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm sure there will be 50 guys here telling you how great your video is, but I get paid by corporate people who want their message to connect on deep levels, psychologically, emotionally, viscerally, spiritually. You look at these scenes from an embedded cultural perspective, as we all do, but we're all embedded in a different culture. This is not to say we're not entirely welcoming to cross cultural celebration of art, but rather that certain emotional, psychological images of light & darkness, literally & figuratively are imprinted in the West to carry specific connotations. I'll focus in on those in a moment, but as for the dialog audio…
In this regard, I would have to agree with you, with these men, & those accents, you need them mic'd properly, with the highest quality audio.
Cinematically & technically, this piece is like your other work here, very professional. The titling works, love the exterior intro with the time lapse & focus work. Your edits, focus pulls, etc, all work well. The colors in the green room are vibrant & engaging, as are the hanging drums. The singer's "whoa-oh" at 50 seconds needs pitch correction. This screams amateur, & for someone selling mics, definitely not a plus. Also, at that stage in the video, the song isn't very appealing, the beginning of the live performance is less appealing, as we start that scene by getting a weird vibe from the drunk guy with the bottle & candle staring straight into the camera. That shot is incongruous because he breaks the 4th wall during a performance scene. Not the same as the preceding interview scene, where they are talking to us thru the camera. In a performance scene we're vicariously watching the show as the audience, not to be confronted eerily by the audience. There's a great shot with light artifacts & pink glow at 1.24, the 2 shots after that are excellent too, with the over exposure & light leaks, the guy or gal playing with the hair, it's all very festive & well… playful, I'm even almost beginning to get into the song. But the guy with the black balaclava with the dripping candle in his mouth has to go, from a corporate standpoint. Rode is an Australian company, their country's mass-media is drumming home the terrorist scare. That image just gives us another bad vibe. Speaking of festive vs bad vibes, some of the people, like the balaclava man & the early drunk with bottle, have a dull glazed over look in their eyes which is very off-putting. They seem drugged. I'm not too keen on the early sitting couple either. The festive jumping & dancing with the brighter images, works better for me, as a jubilant celebration of the culture, the completion of the song & the supporting mic technology. At that moment, I don't want to be reminded about squalid African denizens of some impoverished drug hovel. So the dark shot following those 3 at around 1.36, has the potential terrorist dancing right beside our brightly colored hero, & all the dark teeming masses in the shadows strongly detract from the bright images earlier. Part of this image's subconscious negativity is that the males in the group have a tendency to raise their right hand in a slightly strident or militaristic way. This connects with the angry hordes we've seen on our screens, shouting "Death to the West." Yes, this is a very subtle taint on a happy scene, but not to be ignored. Even the pink glow shot, has our central figure kind of stabbing the air with his finger. Contrast this with the open palms of our singing hero, it's a different feeling all together. The still image on your Vimeo start frame is perfect in this light, he has a young Marley-esq air about him, the open palm with the candle at the wrist is iconic, almost Christlike in symbolism. Very powerful. The profile shot the still is taken from, of your singer where he raises arms & smiles is great. I'd even zoom that.
The more I think about it, the more the singer emerges as the central character. His positivity at the end really seals the deal for me. He’s also more attractive than the other. Perhaps even when hearing the technician's descriptions, I'd like to see more of the singer working, recording, laughing, genuine candid moments. Closeups establish greater intimacy with the audience, but not just from the profile, if we had closer shots of his face singing, maybe 20 degrees off straight on at a slightly upward angle, with the mic in the shot, we make a deeper emotional connection to both. Indeed, the producer is vital, but not the focus, he is the powerful partner, the crucial enabler, elevating the artist to nova. In this sense, he does the same thing as the Rode mic.
Your final scene is marvelous & positive, the beauty of the African people really shines when they're smiling, perhaps that's why the seated couple at the performance seemed rather critical or judgmental, or at least not happy. We desire to see the joyful African spirit breaking thru whatever hardship their continent has endured, blazing bright despite the poverty, released from shackles by the glorious exultation of creative expression in song. Rode mics can make that happen & flourish…. and THAT is your message.
Yes, I know art is all about contrasts, I'm merely suggesting from a corporate marketing standpoint, I don't think this can win the contest. I'd be surprised if you did. Of course, I haven't seen the other entrants. Sorry to dampen your spirits, Simon, maybe you will win. Some might object saying "Art isn't about winning contests." Sure, I get that, the whole artistic integrity, not selling out spiel, but you know what? As an artist, you pour your heart & soul into these projects, it really shows. Once in a while it might be nice to have your passion & professionalism rewarded with a bit more than a group of forum typists patting you on the back saying "Good job buddy!" Remember, Simon, I want you to win, I believe you have the talent & aesthetics to make it, that's why I sent you the links for the $200K Vimeo contest. You've got all the key components, all that's required is a tiny bit of tweaking the finished product. Of course, I'm not the judge on this contest, but there's a vibe that fits, & half of this misses.
TrixTrax; thanks for your review of this! I was hoping you'd have a look at it, knowing that you don't pull your punches! But thats what I like about you; your honest and detailed feedback is a real credit to this forum.
Yeah, the audio was a real nightmare in this shoot; this was ironic as this was a microphone themed film! Due to time constraints (with other work) it came to the point where I had to just try to correct everything as best I could in post and hope for the best. I would have preferred to reshoot some of the interviews but it was just not possible in the end. In every film I have ever tried to make there have been compromises; but audio has been the least forgiving of all those comprimises.
The accents are a real quandary. As always I am faced with 3 choices;
(1) to do the interviews in the local language and use translated subtitle, or
(2) do the interview in accented English and hope the accent is not too strong, or finally
(3) to do the language in accented English and subtitle in English (the belt & braces approach!).
I find that subtitles are too distracting, as the viewer spends the whole time watching the subtitles and not the actual visuals. This is not really an issue when it is a plain interview, but its more of an issue when there is a voiceover to visual images (this is even more of an issue with short films when every image has to drive the story forward). So, I decided to go without subtitles, with the knowledge that some people will not get all the words, but that hopefully most people will get the general 'gist' of the story. This to me was the better of the 3 options. Of course I would love to base a documentary around someone who speaks perfect English, but given where I am this has yet to happen! This is a documentary, so unfortunately accents will be the reality in a foreign country. For a long form documentary I would be more inclined to film in the local language and translate with subtitles.
The music is certainly not the type of music I would normally listen to; but the Ragga genre is quite popular here. Bomboy and Producer X are almost the equivalent of a young 'garage-band' in the Western world; practicing, riffing, and getting started in the industry. Only in Uganda very few people actually play live instruments, so instead they create the music electronically. So yeah, the music is far from perfect, but this would be somewhat expected as they are not yet fully professional artists.
I find it interesting that you associated negative vibes with the guy in the balaclava. Most of the people I had shown the video to had responded with amused incredulity to that scene; I threw it in there for the same reason that I had the 'No morning sex…' sign in he Kayaking film. People immediately asked me: "Why was he wearing the balaclava? And furthermore, why has he got a burning candle in his mouth?" To be honest I don't know why he did that. He was just some guy in a nightclub who decided to do those things. It was such an odd scene that I hadn't thought of the terrorist connotations; but its something I will bear in mind in the future.
But that whole scene turned crazy very quickly. We had decided to have the official 'launch' of the song in a partly open air nightclub; and there were some really drunk guys there. That was just par for the course; they can't get their songs on the radio so they had to start the ball rolling in small nightclubs. Thats the only option available to them. Some of the clubs are quite dangerous. They had actually given me a bodyguard to look after me when we were filming in that club; a huge muscle guy who wore sunglasses (at night in a club) who shadowed me everywhere. The scene where Producer X raises his hand to Bomboy in the background (the first pink flare scene); you can see a guy leaning against a pillar on the right of he frame - that was my bodyguard. It was a weird situation to be in, although in truth everyone was very helpful and friendly the whole time we were there.
The drunker guys were the ones who pushed forward to start dancing earlier on. That opening scene with the guy with the bottle is the one I was presented with when I was up on stage with the singer. But when he started singing the crowd went wild, and started picking up candles that had been on the tables, and someone got some road flares and lit them up. As 'Producer X' said; "if people start dancing we know we have succeeded". This was the result; people started dancing and went crazy with the song. Incidentally, the guy sitting on the sofa is 'Producer X' the same guy the has been narrating the story the whole time; essentially he was in the background watching the scene unfold to gauge the reaction to the song he had created. He wore that jumper in the nightclub instead of the green t-shirt he had been wearing in the studio (probably this is why you didi not recognize him). When he realized that the song was being received well he started waving his hand in the air to the beat - the singer Bomboy can be seen responding to him over his shoulder (the first shot with the pink flare). That was kind of the climax of all their work when they realized they had 'succeeded'. Probably this was not obvious when watching it, but hopefully the general success of the nightclub launch could be gauged from the footage, along with the final shot when Bomboy raises his hands in the air, surrounded by clubbers, sweating, and triumphant.
However, as it stands right now I have already submitted the competition so it is out of my hands. Naturally I did design this as I saw best with the full intention of making something I thought would appeal to Rode (insofar as the little pitches about low cost technology liberating artists). Probably I should have thought about the images you mentioned (such as the balaclava guy) in a broader corporate context though. With regards to the competition; the way it works is that Rode select their favorite 20 videos, and this is whittled down to 10 by a group of filmmakers including Phillip Bloom. Then the final 10 have to go through one of those awful online popularity contests where you have to get the most online votes. It will be interesting for me to see if my video would make it through either the 1st or 2nd stage, but its unlikely in reality. If it did make it through to the final 10 then I'd be pretty happy, but I would have no chance to progress from there as I don't have the clout to gather in enough votes. So while I designed this with a mind to win, I certainly know that it won't win!
You always take criticism in the light it was intended, Simon. That's a sign of great maturity. Don't be so sure you can't win, anytime anything comes down to judges, I'm never surprised by the outcome. Our old saying was "never let it come down to the judges," meaning - let it be such a knock out showing there is absolutely no doubt.
Didn't know the pink light was from road flares, would have loved more of the flares.
There's one other interesting take on the balaclava man. The mass-media we monitor has shown us maybe 500 masked faces in the past year, the majority associated with violence, crime or some sort of mayhem. That's the negative connection from a corporate view, or ... from the "right," if you prefer that paradigm. However, to the "left" & the whole Occupy movement, the masked man can represent a kind of Robin Hood freedom fighter type. Since many alternative indie style film makers are the usual pool of judging talent, & since their socio-political leanings have a tendency to be slightly left of center, that balaclava might not be the detraction I surmised. However, if I were costuming him for a freedom fighter I would have preferred a colorful bandana for the lower half of the face, rather than the ominous black balaclava. This is also more culturally acceptable with our romantic notions from cowboy cinema, also some recently trending rap videos have featured the bandanas.
We still hope you win.
Take a lesson from Bomboy - keep positive - keep the faith.
However, I'd love to see how positive he is trying to get past TSA with that name.
Thanks so much for sharing these, Simon. It's edifying to be in the company of geniuses, when they raise the bar, we all benefit in the pursuit of excellence.
There is, however an inherent problem with online voting, in that whoever has the most friends or time to proxy in "different votes" wins. One can see in the current tabulations that a couple of those high rankers don't deserve their position. Another imperfection is that Wake Up might dazzle with all its depth of field, & romantic message, but it shouldn't win, but come in second... I'll explain...
Definitely some brilliantly clever ideas filmmakers have come up with here. What a wonder it is to experience the creativity & ingenuity of accomplished artists. Some of these are interesting on a surface level for their quirkiness (Soundcheck & Collector). Others draw us in for the fascinating lives they explore (Point of View & Vocal Adventurer). A couple are amusing for their wit, albeit short lived (Bodo & Bone Supremacy). But when all is said & done, there are only 2 you will remember (Wake Up & Awake), because as Phillip Bloom says, "They connect on an emotional level."
The best question any filmmaker can ask, especially of a short piece or commercial, is; "What am I saying?" If you were to take all your script, storyboarding, location scouting, talent, costuming, set dressing, amazing camera tricks, brilliant editing, sound FX, post production visual wizardry, titling, music, soundtrack… everything, & distill it down into on clear concise mission statement in one sentence… what would it be?
That's why Awake is the best of the bunch. It's so much deeper than any of the others. He masterfully treads that fine line of going too far & being maudlin or sentimental, but never crosses over, because it's his own family, it's real. Very believable, totally sincere. We can actually see it in the son's eyes, this is life & death. The film's mission statement only emerges in the final seconds, but it's so clarion clear & unambiguous, simple yet profoundly powerful...
"For something this important, it has to be a Rode."
I didn't really like 'Lifes a soundcheck' - but that guy has a huge following on vimeo and elsewhere so it looks like he could take it. The whole 'guy wakes up, puts his feet on the floor, brushes his teeth' thing seems to be a complete cliche in short films these days.
Interestingly both 'Awake' and 'Birthday Girl Blues' run well over 2 minutes; according to the rules the videos were meant to be no less than 30 seconds and no more than 2 minutes in duration. I find it surprising that they got through to the finals for this reason.
However, I have to say the one I like most is 'Birthday Girl Blues' as it is quite a beautifully rounded little documentary, and features lots of subtle little effects used sparingly.
I was also surprised to see how few of the finalists were short fiction films, rather than actual documentaries, given that the idea was ostensibly to find someone to film a rockumentary. While I imagine the director of 'Birthday Girl Blues' would be well suited to direct a rockumentary based upon his work, it would be impossible to know if the director of 'Lifes a souncheck' would be able based upon a very controlled short film.
Anyhow, it will be interesting to see the actual final result.
Motion has a star field (a couple) particle emitter or replicator templates in the library. Just reverse the direction of the particles and add motion blur. Or create a new particle source that's got some streaking in it.
So, we entered the original Rode Rockumentary back in 2012, with our documentary called Soundcheck. Now in 2015 the same team decided to come back with a new story. Though, in truth we couldn't come up with a new story, so we decided to remix the original story, and remix the original song. And the result is Soundcheck - the Remix.
Back in 2012 we based the story around technology enabling artists; the case in point being Rode microphones who make good quality equipment at affordable prices.
This time we decided to focus on tradition, rather than technology. Our Ugandan musicians went back to their roots and reconstructed the original song with traditional instruments, which we then brought back into the studio and made a remix fusing the old and the new.
We wrapped filming last week, and we're currently editing the project at the moment.
We have some behind the scenes stuff at our Facebook page; please like us if thats your thing!