Thursday, July 22, 2010

First Video of Sonnet

I posted this forever ago on my Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts, but forgot to include it here on the old blog.

This is the first released video of the week with Sonnet.  There are lots more to come… you’ll just have to be patient with me.  I still have a bit of editing to do.  And the videos will be released periodically as Sonnet feels it’s time to do so.

So here’s Sonnet’s “Without You” as performed at her acoustic house concert in June.

This was a lot of fun to work on.  We had quite a few technical problems (don’t get me started), but the good things far outweighed the bad.  Not only did I get to get out my audio and video toys, and play with new video editing software, I got to work with some great people.  Sonnet is so much more than just a gifted singer and talented writer… she’s an amazing person as well, and I’m really glad that I’ve had the opportunity to work with and get to know her.  And I’m really looking forward to the other projects she and I have in the works.  I always enjoy working on projects with Dave and Paul… both are extremely talented filmmakers, and lots of fun to be around.  The music video they’re putting together is going to be fantastic!  And Brad is amazing as well… always so willing to help out with my little projects, and just brilliant when it comes to all things musical and electronic.  He was such a lifesaver helping setup for the house concert, and directing the camera operators.  Thanks so much to everyone!

So there it is… the first public release of anything we did that week.  It was such a whirlwind (I literally got 12 hours of sleep between Monday and Friday), but in a good way.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat… but plan to spread things out over two more days if possible.

How it came to be…

So a few people have asked me how this all came about… a girl I had never met from California getting hooked up with a group of guys from Utah… well…

Let’s backup to early summer 2009.  I’m watching TV late at night and a commercial for Lagoon Park comes on.  And it’s got this cute, quirky, catchy song for its soundtrack.  The sort of song you’d never pick for a theme park, because it’s just this sweet sounding girl with rich but subtle harmony and a piano, to a slow beat—far from the stereotypical loud in-your-face sort of song one might associate with an amusement park.  But extremely intriguing nonetheless.  I really liked it, so I looked up who it was.  It took a little digging, but I finally found out that it was a girl from Los Angeles named Sonnet (yes, that really is her name), that managed to land a contract providing the song for the 2009 Lagoon/Coke ad campaign.  I found her website, saw that she was on Twitter, and followed her (that’s how you “friend” someone).  And she pretty much immediately responded by following me too.  Kewl!

Fast forward a few months.  Over time I had made a few comments to Sonnet on Twitter and she always wrote back, and was always very gracious.  We didn’t have what I’d call frequent communication, but it was steady.  At one point I mentioned to her that I did sound and that if she ever wanted to do a concert in Utah I’d be glad to provide my services, but nothing more came of that (I assumed as much… she really didn’t know me from Adam, and knew nothing about my ability as a sound engineer). At one point she did come to Utah and performed a couple concerts at Lagoon, and despite how hard I tried to get there, I arrived at the park too late and couldn’t get in.  So I missed the one opportunity I had to actually meet her and hear her perform.  That was a sad day.

Anyway, as Christmas approached one day she tweeted (that’s how you say that you posted something on Twitter) that she was looking for an idea for a Christmas present for family and friends.  I mentioned to her (since she was a singer) that she ought to record a song and give that to people.  There wasn’t really time before Christmas to do that, but it started a little bit of a dialog about working together on recording a song together someday.  Completely hypothetical, but it did begin to open up the possibility that someday something could maybe possibly happen if I rubbed my lucky rabbit’s foot during a full moon while the planets aligned just so.  Long shot, but not impossible.

Fast forward another couple months to February… another girl I was following on Twitter had been advertising to her followers that she was going to be doing a live streaming concert.  She started announcing it several weeks beforehand, making it seem like a really big deal.  This other artist was better known than Sonnet, had multiple CDs out, a recording contract with a major label, and had recently landed a nationally-broadcast TV commercial with a huge company in a very public advertising campaign, so for sure this was going to be something big, right?  So I made a point to tune in, only to be very disappointed.  Instead of being something professionally produced (you know, with at least a real microphone), it was her sitting on her bed, playing her guitar, being recorded by just the webcam and microphone in her laptop under really bad lighting.  You could barely hear her sing or play.  My first thought was, “What a waste!  She has lots of fans watching, has spent a lot of effort promoting this event, and this is what we’re getting?”  It was technology heartbreak for me.

At that point I had the idea that her disappointing production was probably due to the fact that she didn’t know the right person to pull off something better.  And I also thought, “I have the equipment, the know-how, and other resources to pull off something much better.”  The problem was, this other artist was too well known to even bother responding to anything on Twitter, so there wasn’t any way that she’d even consider taking the time working with some no-name from Utah.  And frankly, her music wasn’t something that I really got that excited about, so I didn’t even really want to pursue that anyway.

So the next day as I thinking about the disappointment of the previous evening, I thought, “who do I know that is good enough to justify spending the time, has enough of a following for there to be interest, and yet is not so well known that they’d consider working with me to produce a streamed concert?”  Of course Sonnet came to mind, so I sent her a casual message on Twitter asking if coming to Utah and doing a live, streaming Internet performance was something she’d be interested in doing.  She said it was, so we connected via IM and started talking about the possibility.  Nothing definitive, but it got the ball rolling nonetheless.

I don’t really know what she thought of the whole thing at that point--I’ve never asked, but she was game for the idea.  And before long we started making plans.  Eventually we connected via email and on the phone, then started regular video conferences planning things out.  Once we found a location, and a suitable timeframe within her schedule and mine, things finally started coming together.

Sonnet was totally on board with the ideas that I had for what the concert was going to be like.  I wanted to keep it small (for many technical as well as other reasons) but completely professionally produced, with real lighting, multiple cameras, moving cameras, nice piano, high end audio equipment, shot in high definition at a nice location, etc.  The idea of just a small concert in someone’s living room struck a chord with both of us.  I’m really glad that she and I have been on the same page through the entire process… it has made it that much more fun.

Somewhere along the line I asked Dave and Paul if they’d be interested in running cameras for me for the concert.  They’ve always been really good about helping me out with projects when I ask, so they agreed.  But I think at first they just thought it was one of my silly little just-for-fun things that I do when I’m bored of the rest of my life, so there wasn’t a lot of excitement coming from them initially.

After a couple more weeks, I was frankly a little frustrated that they weren’t more excited about the project… I wanted them to be excited about it.  And to see what I saw in Sonnet—a sweet, beautiful, extremely likeable and talented singer with a catchy sound—so I showed them a couple of her YouTube videos.  Fortunately, they got it right away.  They saw the same things I was seeing, and they finally started to show some enthusiasm. 

So as we started talking about plans for the concert, somehow the idea of shooting a music video while Sonnet was going in town came up.  I don’t remember who it was that had the idea, but after asking her if she would be interested, plans for the video started coming together.  A song was picked.  Then a different song picked.  Then back to the first song.  Ideas for the story started to come and be discussed.  Too many ideas, in fact.  Later, two days before Sonnet flew to Utah her image consultant called me and Dave and we had an emergency two hour phone conference to simplify and focus things drastically.  Yes, two days before she got here we were making major changes.  Talk about flying by the seat of your pants.  Anyway, we landed in a place we were all comfortable.  (Okay, Doug, enough with the plane metaphors!)

Anyway, thankfully we had a lot of other people jump in at the last second to help out.  A few days before we started shooting Sae Sae volunteered to help, and she did some amazing recruiting… she found people to help with lighting and moving equipment around (grips), hair, and makeup.  We owe a lot to her making things go as smoothly as they did!

Honestly, I can’t take much credit for the music video.  Dave and Paul really took the idea of the video and ran with it.  I really didn’t have that much to do with putting the video together.  Other than providing some of the equipment, while it was going on my main job was to make sure that Sonnet was where she needed to be when she needed to be there, and that she was being taken care of.  Sure, I’d step in to run a second camera, or move stuff around, but ultimately my biggest role for the video was really making sure that Sonnet was comfortable.

The Internet streamed concert was another story altogether.  Where I took a back seat during filming of the music video, I stepped in and took charge for the concert.  That was really my baby of the whole week.  Multi-camera videos are something that the others do rarely, but something I do with some degree of regularity.  Fortunately I have acquired all of the equipment to do so over the last several years, even designing, building, and writing software for quite a bit of it as well.  And I actually enjoy working with audio more than video, so this was going to be my only chance during the week to do what I enjoy most. 

I’ll save the many stories from the week when we actually shot everything for another post (and maybe some of the other people involved will post something on their own blogs… hint, hint?).  It really was quite an adventure, but in a good way.  So much fun, and definitely an experience I will never forget.  Frankly I can’t believe we pulled off what we did in so little time.  And that we survived the week of no sleep, super late nights, in the heat, on little food, without hating each other by the end (much to the contrary, actually—we’re all better friends), is kind of a miracle in and of itself.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two little birds...

Two little birds, caught in my window. 
And I told them they don't need to worry.  
Gave 'em a board--
So they could climb out.
Climbing up seemed too difficult a feat.

They would try, they'd get it wrong, couldn't do it right
The more they'd try to climb, the more they'd fall again.
Then they would hesitate.

Birds, put your best feet on, sing me your favorite songs,
So go ahead, find your way out.
Fly up and away free, I hope you get your dreams,
Just go ahead, find your way out.

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