March 13, 2011

On Location...

by Chris Randall

I've been intrigued by the videos Diego Stocco puts up on der t?ben for a while now, and I decided to give that sort of thing a whirl. So I soldered a couple piezo speakers to a hacked-up RCA cable, packed up my DR-2d and Silvertone, and headed up in to the Superstition Mountains for some quality time, just me and the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert.

Well, come to find out, what Diego Stocco does is incredibly difficult. Who knew? After a few hours getting par-boiled, I headed back to the compound and tried to piece the pieces in to a coherent whole. That's where the trouble started. Easy enough to grab little rhythms here and there and turn them in to a song, but trying to find that specific 4-second burst of plant-drumming in a 6-minute video clip is nigh on impossible. So I threw in the towel. I made a nice long audio track, essentially a normal song, but about half way through assembling the video pieces, I ran out of incidental footage, and was pulling my hair out trying to find the specific bits that lined up with the playing. You can see that I gave up right when the cactus plucking starts.

Fade to black.

Anyhow, I have a new respect for that dude and his methodology, I'll say that much. I'll probably do more of this sort of thing, but I need to come up with a better workflow. Is there such a thing as a battery-powered 8-track that has some full-featured shit on it? It would be a lot easier to get the video and audio all lined up if I was able to make the whole song in the wild, rather than trying to remember what went where when I got home.

Anyone else try this? Success? If so, methods please.


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Mar.13.2011 @ 1:17 AM
Diego is obviously a really talented guy, but I always feel like he music just says "Hey look at how I can make cool music out of unusual sounds!" On the other hand, this piece may lack a similar technical skill, but it actually speaks something. I think you really captured the spirit of the sparse desert landscape. Nice job.

Mar.13.2011 @ 1:59 AM
My friend, the answer for me was always a two camera setup. That and a VERY detailed log book. You want everything from multiple angles and to have a record of which recorded sections had the bit that you thought was on point out at location. And a clap board. Hollywood uses them shits for a reason.


Mar.13.2011 @ 3:41 AM
Fantastic. Well, until you gave up at the cactus plucking. :) This is probably my favorite Chris Randall Product? since Intersections 1.

Moar please!

Mar.13.2011 @ 3:59 AM
I really appreciate how you share your process. I learn a lot every time. This is very American to a non-American. I think you could lose some of the visual fidelity, at times your intent to document the process overwhelms the art.

Mar.13.2011 @ 6:23 AM
Notepad that shit. You have to take detailed notes of video times when stuff that's interesting happens. It takes sooo much footage to get a short finished bit of video to happen, so a log of events is your good friend.. Agreed with the poster saying you captured the desert..well done.

Mar.13.2011 @ 6:34 AM
Mad Al
I likes it.

Especially the simplicity of the guitar, in an environment of sound built from the environment. It SOUNDS like wide open spaces and clear skies.

Only suggestion would be to bring along an assistant to take care of the camera and take note of specific times of noteworthy sounds (even if its just waving a thumb-up in front of the camera), so you can focus completely on the sound around. Though, that presupposes that you identify the good sounds at the time of recording as opposed to just running with it and sifting the results later.

Mar.13.2011 @ 6:46 AM
Cactus plucking has got to be a euphemism for something.
I have a boss br4 that i use everywhere that has lots of boss gubbins and fx. they do an 8 track battery one thats not as tiny
link []

Mar.13.2011 @ 6:48 AM
and not sure how you can compete with this cactus plucker
link []

Mar.13.2011 @ 8:38 AM
Chris Randall
Aside from the technical aspects, I think the problem was mostly in my methodology. Rather than micing each object, coming up with a part for a song I already had in mind, and then performing that part, I mic'd each thing, and recorded discovering the different sounds each thing could make. I then came home and assembled those sounds in to a song, and the speedbump came when I tried to find the bits of video that matched up.

I don't think an assistant is necessary, although he/she would probably be handy. Documentation would be smart, though. ;-)

Lesson learned.

One cute trick I figured out, which you can't see in the video: I made a bed at the chosen tempo that was 5 minutes long, just a simple drum beat, and put it on my iPhone. The iPhone is in my shirt pocket, playing the track, so I could hear it even thought I have headphones on, and had a reference tempo.

In any case, I think the main issue would be obviated by having a portable 8-track, so I could hear the song a-building. I'd just do it on a laptop except there's nfw you could see the screen, plus that's way more shit to cart around in the wilderness.

But my main goal wasn't to make that video. It was to get a bunch of cool new sounds, and I certainly accomplished that. I've got a couple gigs now of interesting percussion shit to catalog and such.

All that said, I'm gonna put up a Bandcamp package that has HQ audio of most of these "experiment" type things, once I have a few more, for the people interested in them.


Mar.13.2011 @ 9:26 AM
Chris Randall
Oh, and, here's where I was:

link []

Man, it is pretty up there. And only an hour from our house in Tempe. Super rugged country. The funny bit is that I have an SUV, a real one, with real 4WD, not one of those bullshit crossovers with AWD. And I was spinning a little bit going back up to the pass that leads back in to the valley Phoenix is in.

As I'm scooting up this single lane dirt road that is about a 15% grade, I have to pull aside to yield to a 70-year-old dude and his wife who are coming towards me. In a Smart Car. I also passed several Focus and Prius drivers. Hubris is a powerful motivator, turns out.

(For the record, these are the people you see on the news "elderly couple missing, feared dead. Last seen driving a Smart Car in to the most rugged wilderness you can find in the lower 48.")


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