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One of Namibia’s rising young talents needs your help!
Namibian musicians have a hard time “breaking out” – primarily as a result of Namibia’s small population – just over two million, around the same size as the city of Houston! Namibia also has one of the biggest income disparities in the world, which means that many of those two million people may not be able to afford supporting a struggling young musician by buying music or attending shows. Even in the case of Namibia’s biggest music talents, I haven’t found music available on iTunes or otherwise internationally available.
So it’s always great to come across someone with the talent to possibly cross that threshold. Despite less than 10% of Namibians having access to the internet, Shishani has turned to Indiegogo for help in recording her debut album. Check it out!
In case you’re interested in hearing some of her work (and seeing a bit of Windhoek), you can also check out the video below. Also find Shishani on ReverbNation.
This is the finale of a stunning performance by a group of young Afghans at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Touring from Kabul, they were teamed with a group of youngsters from Maryland to play music that got a standing ovation and great reception.
As my friend and former colleague from Afghanistan noted, “Unfortunately since a long time Afghans are victim of war and bloodshed, so it is a big achievement to show to the people of the world that, VIOLENCE is not our culture and we are also lovers of peace and friendship. please enjoy this clip and appreciate this big achievment of all Afghans. Congratulations to all Afghans.”
Sometimes finding exactly the right ‘feel’ music for a video is the most fun part of video editing, and other times I dread it. Because I already know that it’s going to be impossible to find music that won’t be too depressing, won’t be too happy, too distracting, irritating – in short, that won’t even be noticed that much, but makes the video just a bit better.
In this case, I had a bunch of close-up footage of chameleons – really colorful ones, close up – and other small, furry, slimy or scaly creatures – and just wanted to highlight the animals. Not that there was any background dialogue or noise in the footage. But the imagery was the point.
After hours and hours of listening to options, considering what I might be able to produce on my own, and weighing the option of no music at all, this is what I came up with. It would be great if a lot of people read this blog and sent suggestions for different/better music…but for now I’m stuck with “almost right.”
If you’ve ever managed to take along a camera snorkeling, you probably had the same reaction I did when you got your finished footage home to the computer: ”It looks nothing like it did when I was actually snorkeling.” Colors are washed out, everything is a dingy blue, all the fish you saw are nowhere on your footage, everything is shaky…especially if you bought one of those fancy underwater cases for your camera, it can be really frustrating. In my case I was only using an inexpensive Flip camera with a $30 case…
But if you have a decent video editing program, you can save your footage. It does take a bit more work than normal. I found that underwater footage is one of the few times I have to fiddle less with the brightness and contrast, and more with color saturation, tint and hue. If you have Adobe Premiere 11 (as I do) it is also helpful if you can adjust the lighting and crank up the “black” slider (click “more”) in addition to a little bit of additional contrast.
Some other things I found are helpful:
- Just like in other subjects, but maybe just a little bit more so, edit mercilessly. No one wants to see 12 minutes of identical fish and coral – so pick the best of everything and delete the rest.
- You’ll probably find that your footage is a lot more shaky than usual – you’re swimming and waving the camera back and forth to follow fast-moving fish that frequently change direction. The solution is to slow most of your footage to 60-80 percent of its original speed, and cut whenever the camera changes direction – sweep left or right, not back and forth multiple times.
- Even more than usual, cut on the action. Bring your clip in when the fish is already in frame, and go to the next before it leaves the frame – shots of the ocean floor are generally boring, and if there’s a lot of coral, the viewer needs help knowing where to look.
- Generally the straight cut is the best transition between shots, but personally I like to use dissolves in underwater videography. Depending on the music you used, the whole thing can be a bit dreamy, and I think dissolves can be more consistent with this kind of mood.
- And you will definitely need music. I found some at the Free Music Archive, but you can find other free or inexpensive music at a number of other sites I listed in a post on royalty-free (or nearly) music some time ago.
I’m sure there are a lot of other things to think about…feel free to share. Here’s my video of some snorkeling off the coast of Madagascar.
The “One Day on Earth” project, which collected video from all over the world on 11.11.11 (and also, by the way, on 10.10.10), has stitched all their footage together into a full-length film, which is to be screened at many venues worldwide on April 22 – Earth Day. One of the benefits of contributing is that you also get access to everyone’s footage.
The organization just released their music video, in which sound and dancing clips from all over were woven into a musical creation – it’s worth a look, check it out:
When you’re editing vacation videos, it’s always fun to come up with the best music – ideally one that conveys the right mood, maybe something that relates to the place you’re visiting. But sometimes the best music to convey the mood is no music at all. In this video, we managed to get awfully close to some giraffes, who appeared as interested in us as we were in them. To convey the quiet, peaceful calm as these gentle giants foraged on acacia trees, all the while watching us with a wary eye, it seemed best to just use the sounds of surrounding nature. I also let it run a bit long – there’s no major action. Just hanging out with the giraffes.
[As a side note, it should be mentioned that giraffes, when cornered or startled, possess a kick powerful enough to kill a lion. Lest you try and get even closer than we did.]
The Boston Herald describes his latest release as the “album is the kind of hyperliterate pop-inflected singer-songwriter outing that went out of style when Warren Zevon died. He can write a hook that could make angels weep.” The Boston Globe: “Think ‘storyteller’ with a literary, cinematic, intellectual bent.”
I had never heard of Rob Morsberger when he stepped onto the stage as the opening act for Crash Test Dummies – barefoot, wearing jeans and a muted Hawaiian shirt, and a straw hat with the brim turned upward. He smiled at the silent audience in the half-filled coffeehouse, and then laughed, “You guys are so quiet…” Then he began to play the electric piano, singing a plaintive, heartfelt melody, tapping out the rhythm with his bare foot. For about 4 minutes, he seemed to be lost in himself, and then emerged to polite applause. I was hooked.
On Rob Morsberger’s website, he describes himself as having “rightfully drawn comparisons to Tom Waits, Rufus Wainwright, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson and Warren Zevon (mixed with a touch of Randy Newman’s absurdist wit). I can hear Rufus Wainwright, but as for me, I heard him alternately channeling Elvis Costello and XTC’s Andy Partridge – both, coincidentally a couple of my favorite songwriters and lyricists. I managed to capture some of it on film, but the videos from his own YouTube channel are much superior in quality. See if you can hear what I heard in this tune, which Morsberger introduced at length, but eventually admitted, “I just wanted a song that incorporated the phrase ‘I’m still here, you bastards’”:
With a string of film and TV soundtrack credits, Morsberger has clearly been around for some time; hopefully commercial success purely on the basis of his music is in his future. I was definitely convinced. Check him out!
I had the opportunity to catch the Crash Test Dummies the other night at Jammin’ Java – a cool little coffee house/restaurant/bar. Best known for Brad Roberts’ distinctive bass baritone voice, they had a few pretty big hits including “Mmm mmm mmm mmm” and hauled in 14 Grammy nominations in the 90′s. Then a number of band members left to pursue their own projects and Roberts took a few years off. As in six.
But they’ve got a couple of new albums out now. You can hear sounds from both on their website – scroll down to the bottom to see what’s playing. Oooh La-la is a new studio album with Brad Roberts and Ellen Reid from the original lineup, and a whole host of other musicians, described by Roberts as “very accomplished, high-priced players and arrangers have volunteered to play on it for free, just because they think it is extremely unique”. And it is pretty unique; and good, I think – well worth the price. The other album is a collection of demos Roberts dug up from 1996-7 – recordings rejected by their recording company – called “Demo-litions.” When I chatted with Roberts after the show, he said he was curious what people would think of it. Personally, I think it’s certainly interesting and has its charms and a couple of good melodies, but some of the tunes are a bit tricky to relate to, and…strange. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but for now I’ll say that Demo-litions is probably of interest to die-hard fans and collectors, but likely not of general interest. Do have a listen on their web site – Oooh La-la is definitely a keeper.
So what about the show? I’ll say up front that one of the things I like most about CTD is the strong bass and beat on “God Shuffled His Feet”, and I was a bit concerned when Roberts and Reed stepped on stage with only a guitarist (Stuart Cameron). They led off with the track “God Shuffled His Feet”, which didn’t really “work” for me without the bass, and Roberts had a bit of trouble with pitch here and there. But once they had worked out the kinks in this first song, things went much better. They slowed down (it seems to me) some of their tunes, and Cameron did a great job adding a more melodic, pensive mood that was more appropriate to the bassless, drumless sound. In a couple of cases, the “acoustic” version actually worked more for me than the original. Check out “Playing Dead”:
In addition to the variety of music which drew from all of their albums, Roberts made the show all the more enjoyable and personable with a generous amount of joking and banter between songs. Roberts’ storytelling and jokes appeared spontaneous and unscripted, and at times he had the audience rolling with laughter – at one point even making light of the amount of time his warm-up act, Rob Morsberger, had spent talking, while he himself did his best to outdo Morsberger. Somewhat self-deprecating at occasionally a bit on the raunchy side, Roberts shared with the audience the Legend of Why His Voice is so Deep:
All in all it was an excellent show. I’m not sure how Jammin’ Java manages to make ends meet with about a hundred or so of us paying 17 bucks each (and that included a warm-up act), but I suppose a bassist and a drummer would have run us another ten bucks apiece. Once I got used to the stripped down sound I enjoyed the evening and didn’t miss them a bit. I wish the Crash Test Dummies all the best in their comeback. Oooh La-la is an excellent start.
And the encore? They started with “Androgynous”, followed by Ellen Reid joking with audience members and singing a solo piece, and then…you know it:
Never heard of Charlie Hunter? Well, I hadn’t either – but he has recorded 17 albums, so the joke is on me, I guess. Last Sunday I was talked into checking out “an evening with Charlie Hunter” at Jammin’ Java, a coffee house in Vienna, Virginia – and was quite impressed. I especially like these small, intimate shows, and when the music is good, it’s bonus!
Charlie Hunter is a guitarist – but not your ordinary guitarist. Instead of your typical six-string, he plays one with seven strings. Used to be eight, apparently – he removed one because his hands are small and he rarely played the eighth. Of the seven that remain, three are bass and four are guitar strings. With these, he plays a bass line, rhythm, and melody – all at the same time. As a result, between him and drummer Eric Kalb, you get what pretty much sounds like a complete band. It’s hard to hear unless you use headphones or have good speakers, but check it out:
Charlie seemed to be a pretty good all-round and personable guy. When we drove up, he was casually outside chatting with some fans, and during the break, was talking to some teenagers about cell phones or something. After the break, he came back with some pretty energetic blues, some short samples below:
Finally, at the end, he did a really interesting piece that’s hard to describe. What I found interesting is that all the sounds he produced on this instrument seem to have been done without the aid of any effects pedal – it was simply in his manipulation of the strings. And this last piece kind of makes you wonder whether we’re even talking about a guitar anymore:
After the show, I was tempted to go and see whether they’d been hiding an extra bassist or guitarist behind the stage…
So while it may appear obvious to others, it turns out you can use video editing software to create music mashups. I had noticed the similarity between certain tunes and wanted to give this a try, but couldn’t bring myself to navigate the learning curve required to learn music editing software. So I took some time “between jobs” to take a stab at doing what some folks might consider a complete waste of time – creating a music mashup – but using video editing software. Specifically, Premiere Elements in this case. But most should work.
I started out thinking about how Richie Valens’ “La Bamba” and the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” are really kinda the same song. Then for some reason, Trio’s “Da Da Da” popped into mind. And then as I started to realize “Twist and Shout” wouldn’t really work (for reasons I’ll explain) I was reminded of Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines”. You could probably do something similar with Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”.
The easiest way to get the music is to download the video from YouTube. Although copyright isn’t as big an issue as you’d expect, the format can sometimes prevent working with the file. I used YouTube Downloader to download the files in flash, then converted them to avi format with the same program.
This is the beauty of using video editing software – you can then simply import the files, delete the video, and start cutting, just as you would with video. You’ll want to use the view where you can “see” the music beats, etc – to make lining things up a bit easier.
The first problem I ran into was that while a couple of the songs were in exactly the same pitch, they ran at slightly different speeds. So I lined them up 2 at a time and experimented with the speed and pitch effects until the beats matched up perfectly, AND they were in tune. This is where I discovered that both Richie Valens and the Beatles would present a problem. It seems that drummers, in both cases, varied the speed of their drumming just enough to make matching the beats impossible. So I tried Los Lobos, who did much better. And of course the little toy keyboard Trio used in “Da Da Da” meant their beat was spot-on throughout. So that was what I matched everything else to. This is where I tossed out “Twist and Shout” and brought in “White Lines” instead. But when you play around with speeds, you want to adjust everything just a bit so that the original remains recognizable.
Next, the songs are structured a bit differently, so you have to play around with different parts of the song so that the sections that “match” line up. I ended up cutting “Da Da Da” to pieces because I felt that La Bamba’s continuity needed to be preserved. I just moved the bits around like video files, making sure the beat ran continuously. The one problem I noticed with Premiere Elements is that the volume sometimes jumps up on the first beat after a cut. I tried to remedy this by fine-tuning the volume, but never really managed to completely fix it. If you listen closely you will still hear it from time to time.
So then what? Of course now I wanted to make a video with it. I had no idea what to do with it, so after consulting my 13-year-old, I decided to try a “chin daddy” idea I’d seen somewhere, and make use of the really poor “beard” I was trying to grow after having retired from the Army. Add some random imagery here and there, and I guess I ended up with a video mashup, of sorts, of an audio mashup. And no, you don’t have to actually film yourself upside down – you can flip the video itself – although, with the googly eyes, it might not be a bad idea. And here’s what I ended up with on that:
And finally, as I said, a few words about copyright. I heard a talk some time ago by Pat Aufderheide from American University’s Center for Social Media, who champions the use of “fair use” in appropriate circumstances. She said something along the lines of “the purpose of copyright is to facilitate creativity”, which I found to be a surprising, but intriguing statement. But according to the Center’s “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video”, there are six “categories” of cases in which one can legitimately claim “fair use” when “borrowing” other material. And in a case like this video, one can, in my opinion, claim case six, which is “Quoting in order to recombine elements to make a new work that depends for its meaning on (often unlikely) relationships between the elements.” Like the “Bush Blair Endless Love” video, though by no means as cool, I believe this applies in the case of my work. So far, YouTube hasn’t flagged my video, but we’ll see.