On a recent gloriously Berkshire July morning Marky-T, the Samster and I (along with my dear Claudia who took these photos!) reconnoitered at Doug Trumbull's MAGI studios to begin the filming of our first music video. Hidden deep in the South County woods, MAGI studios occupies a goodly portion of 50 acres of techie geek paradise. As the photos attest, the film, audio and lighting gear is 1st-rate extraordinary, say nothing of the world-class guy who is behind it all. Doug Trumbull is as gentle, kind and humble a man as he is creative, innovative and brilliant.
After showing us around, we went to work setting up our own instruments and gear while his 5-man crew placed lights, mics and props where they thought best. Doug set to trouble-shooting his unique cameras that shoot at film speeds of 224frames per second! THAT's a lot of data for the computers to digest and some hard drive issues soon arose that occupied a bit of time. While the geeks went to investigate this, we three musical geeks ran through a few tunes, including the calypso tune Trumbull wanted to film, "Digby".
An hour or so passed. We jammed while the crew huddled around cameras and computers conjuring up some sort of digital juju that would allow us to continue our journey. And then Doug announced, "Ready for Take One?" And we were off.
It took nearly six hours, but we shot six versions of Digby, all without a click-track. We were hoping we could shoot it straight and accurate right out of the gate and have at least one keeper in the bunch. And we did. But the issue became "time". Digby is a calypso DANCE tune with many verses, each describing a particular Caribbean island and its indigenous West Indian music or dance style - and there are at least a dozen islands that I sing about each time. There are also the various instrumental parts, including a conch shell and sax duet, harmonica solo, guitar solo and a percussion/whistle jam at the end. In aggregate the tune is usually at least 8-10 minutes long and we are used to folks shaking their booty when we play it. But. This wouldn't work at all. The computers could not, no how, no way absorb that much digital music data in their file banks. We would have to whittle Digby down to "under three minutes". Yikes!
We pow-wowed a bit and decided: We'll shave off the guitar solo, pare down the verses from ten to two, limit the harp solo to one and the percussion/whistle jam to only around 20 seconds. Good. "Take Six!"
One of the main stereo-vision cameras pooped out. Well, Damn! By this time (around 7PM) the camera was not the only thing that was pooped out! We all decided to call it a day. Doug wanted to look at all the raw footage and if we were lucky, we could edit and splice and conjure up something from what we'd done. Or, we could come back another time and try it again!
A couple of weeks went by and Doug and I communicated via email a few times. He was not happy with his cameras. He was not happy with his computers. Maybe we should have used a click-track - this would have (at least theoretically) kept the tempos consistent in each recorded version of the tune; but "you guys were pretty good at keeping the tempos in the same neighborhood so we might be able to work with what we have."
Another couple of weeks passed. I called Doug. "How's it going?"
"I think we got something. Come on by tomorrow at 10."
Claudia and I drove to MAGI at the appointed hour and Doug took us into the movie Pod (see photo) where we donned 3D glasses and sat in stadium seats surrounded by a dozen giant sub-woofers, myriad line-array speakers and a wrap-around floor-to-ceiling screen. Doug explained that he and the crew worked loooooong hours on Digby, and while it was by no means perfect ("I never could get the camera to work right and you can see ghost motion, especially in the drum sticks."), he was quite pleased and satisfied and he looked forward to my response.
The lights went down. And then - Holy Mother of Conch Shell! There I was, lit by only a pinpoint spot from the waist up, at least twelve feet tall, pointing at the spotlight and blowing a ceremonial tattoo on my St. John conch shell that rivaled Joshua at Jericho. The sound shook the seats. And then the Samster, way larger than life, pounded his drum kit, setting the tempo and mood for a wild calypso dance. Marky-T's sax jumped in and dialoged with my conch shell for a spell until my guitar and harmonica introduced the tune and Marky-T switched to keys. I sang my two verses and we segued into the percussion jam with me on djembe, Marky-T on shakers and the Samster staying on his kit. And then, with a couple of blasts from my samba whistle, Digby came to a startling halt. Roughly two minutes and ten seconds had passed. I never noticed any "ghost motion" drum sticks, either!
Doug and his crew had edited and spliced bits and pieces from all six long takes into one practically seamless 2-minute piece of Caribbean magic. My impression: Pure GENIUS on their part! Doug tells me that he is "not finished tweaking" the film but that he has already shown it to several friends and "a few people in the industry" who have been "impressed" and "interested" with the project.
So what's next? Not entirely sure, but I am told that when it's finally finalized, I shall have the rights to use it whenever, wherever , however I wish and will have a few "hard" copies of my own - even in 3D if I want it. But I think the best part is, Doug Trumbull, who could have chosen anyone, anywhere to be the first musical act to create a music video using his new filming techniques - he chose ME and my boyz. And...he wants to shoot another closeup, solo video of me and my cigar boxes in the next few weeks!
Mos' fine, meh-son!