June 27, 2015

The Origin Of The Species...

by Chris Randall

Steve Hamann asked an interesting pair of questions on Twitter this morning: "What is the origin of the floating hands and electronic gear music video?" And he followed that up with this: "For a lot of people it seems to have become a musical end unto itself, I wonder where/when it started?"

I am obviously a strong proponent of this particular form of expression. My first YouTube upload, in 2007, was only the first in a long string of Hands videos in my channel; roughly two thirds of my uploads fit in to this category. These sorts of videos are de rigueur these days for any aspiring synthNerd, and Audio Damage even makes a product specifically for making them with your modular synth and iPhone.

If you've been a long-time reader of this site (10 YEARS NEXT MONTH HOLY SHIT!!) I've inflicted these videos on you many times. To address the second part of Steve's musings, speaking strictly for myself, the video is absolutely the musical end, and I generally write the music specifically for the video. This started happening in the beginning of 2011; before that, I had generally done any sort of video upload as an afterthought, but this one is the first one where making the video was the goal in and of itself:

Many others followed, of course, and while the early ones were recorded and mixed, and the audio released elsewhere, I've gradually got to the point where the video is the release entire, and I don't actually include any downloadable audio content. I'll admit I hadn't actually thought about the "why" of this until today, and I don't have a good answer for it. In pondering it, I think that a lot of the reason I put up the videos (aside from demonstrating the cool shit we make) is that they show off my skill as a musician, inasmuch as I'm capable of demonstrating skill, and serve as "proof" that no trickery was involved. I think with the growing popularity of modular synths, and the dick-swinging inherent in that group of instruments, they also serve as a nice set of bona fides: "look at all this dope shit I have, and here's proof that I'm good at using it."

So, that's me. But it leaves Steve's questions sort of unanswered: where's the √úr Hands Video? And why do other people do it? I personally am curious as to why people put up so many really shitty ones. One of the groups on Facebook that I belong to, it's basically just a constant stream of really terrible sound (I won't even call it music) with cell phone mic audio. These videos are essentially worthless, whether a demonstration of prowess or a snapshot of a musical moment. Your thoughts? Can we find the first Hands video on YouTube?


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Jun.30.2015 @ 8:02 AM
Adam Schabtach
Hmm. I guess I'd better do a Hands vid one of these days in order to establish my legitimacy as a synthNerd. Gods forbid anyone question that.

I can't help but think that vids like this are popular because the selfie in its myriad forms is popular. In other words, people put up Hands videos because "everyone" is putting up Hands videos. So, somewhat what puffer said: Hands videos exist because YouTube exists.

Along with that, one could speculate about personality types. Synth nerds are into gear, assume that other synth nerds are into gear, and hence make videos that showcase their gear rather than themselves. By contrast, in my extremely limited observation, self-made vids of guitarists aren't framed to visually cut the player off at the biceps, putting the focus solely on the the hands and guitar. Why? Well, guitarists have this reputation for wanting to be the center of attention...

Personally I find it more interesting when there's at least a glimpse of part of the rest of the player, e.g. in some of CR's videos you can occasionally see him bouncing up and down with enthusiasm. It's possible, though, that I'm biased about this in that his boundless enthusiasm for whatever he chooses to focus on is in part what keeps Audio Damage rolling along over the years (and in particular during the, um, less-than-enthusiastic struggles I inevitably go through with any product's development).


Jun.30.2015 @ 8:07 AM
Adam Schabtach
Oh, forgot the original point regarding origin: may I direct your attention to this video, which pre-dates YouTube (go to 0:30 for the hands if you're impatient): link [www.youtube.com]
Now, I may be stretching the point slightly to say that that's really the origin of the species, but that song is so influential (and damn rightly so) that it might as well get credit for this, too.


Jul.01.2015 @ 11:33 AM
I have done a few videos. The main reason I'm doing them is to provide visitors something - a downloadable preset pack, sound demo of an instrument, exploring a special feature on a synth etc. It's never about showing off how good I am because I'm not. All my videos with multitracked machines are pure fakes which explains why my performances are always out of sync (songs are made in advance and then filmed).

The reason why you only see my arms is because I don't want people to see how I look like. I once started on a video where my upper body would be visible so I wore a hooded jacket but I never finished that project.

Preset pack:
link [www.youtube.com]

Feature demo:
link [www.youtube.com]

Jul.02.2015 @ 7:30 AM
Chris Randall
That brings up an interesting point: due to the general Pain In The Arse level a multi-camera shoot entails for a one-man show, the vast majority of really high quality edited hands videos are essentially lip synced. ("finger synced?") Nothing wrong with this, of course, and most people would be unlikely to notice.

I've seen a few where I'm like "I've been to that dude's studio, and I know he only uses one camera..." and then it becomes fun to try and figure out which parts of the video are live, and which ones are faked. For the repetitive music that most of us do, it's pretty easy to cut in shots of sequencers running or envelopes triggering or whatever that were filmed outside of the main performance, but still look to be in sync.

I think the following is true: if you're making a video specifically for other Extreme Nrrrds of your particular skillset, then the contiguous, un-edited live take is the way to go. But if you're making something for more general viewership of the musician community at large, or demonstrating the music rather than the gear, then the edited fake multi-camera with some live elements is going to be the more interesting video.

Just my opinion.


Jul.03.2015 @ 3:30 AM
I don't know the origin of these videos and I don't remember where I first saw them but it could very well have been the ones you've posted on this blog. Inspirational stuff, I've tried doing a couple myself and found it quite rewarding.

The first one I did was just a test to see how Ableton Live and Push would sync up with the few bits of hardware I had - I mainly put it up just because I thought other people would be interested in seeing how well the hardware/software combination would sync up. I don't think it's anything special, but I was my first of the kind nonetheless:
link [youtu.be]

I've done a couple multi-cam ones (or lets call them Zoom Q3HD, iPhone 5, iPhone 4 and iPad). In my other band where I play guitar we had a gig recorded on multi-cam with high quality cameras and I had to edit it myself. I didn't have any experience with editing different angles, so I decided to do a studio-jam in multi-cam, just so I would have some material to practice with. The decision to do more than one angle led to the decision to play guitar - otherwise there wouldn't really be any point in having all those different angles:
link [youtu.be]

The second one is really just a demo of a Microbrute when I first got my hands on it. That video is actually a longer performance where I cut the best sequences together. The audio was recorded live along with the video, so in that sense it's still live:
link [youtu.be]

In both of these muti-cam ones my enthusiasm of all these angles are pretty obvious - watching them now I wish I wasn't so trigger happy with the cutting back and forth between camera angles.

In all these videos I wrote the music after deciding to do the video. I think the reason I find making a video rewarding is because it forces you to get the music done in order to arrive at your destination. With the bonus of having a souvenir of your own performance which can be helpful if you also do live shows.

To be honest I'm surprised how many people are actually watching these videos. I only thought a handful of nerds would care for these, but it seems like putting a video on YouTube can be more worthwhile than putting music up on Soundcloud, at least in my case it seems the videos are getting more views than the music is getting plays. Which I guess are yet another incentive for making them.

One thing I noticed is the more gear and the more blinking lights the better - generally speaking. Chris latest video is great example.

Jul.03.2015 @ 6:27 AM
I did a few vids like this for the now defunct downshiftradio.com back in 2000-2001

Electribes and am RM1X and a shitload of guitar pedals.

A few years ago, Dan, aka Khan Edison, the guy who ran downshift sent me one of the files, I have it on a disc somewhere in my spiral of neverending discs...

Jul.06.2015 @ 8:39 PM
D' MacKinnon
I enjoy watching the "hands on gear" videos, even more so if it was shot on a decent camera and the audio was decently recorded (which yours are). Cell phone video/audio clips are pretty worthless and annoying.

Also, holy shit 10 years? And smg.org before that.

Jul.07.2015 @ 5:08 AM
I think you guys are really overthinking this "floating hands" thing. It's fundamentally what is necessitated by the medium, and it's nothing new.

Take, for example, this solo professionally recorded and edited solo piano performance: link [www.youtube.com]

It's probably 75% floating hands.

With a synth or keyboard, where the playing surface faces toward the performer, you have to get behind the instrument and the player to really see anything performance worthy. It doesn't make much sense to show a guy's backside bobbing around, so you crop it out. The result: floating hands.

And really, what's the alternative? A front-shot of a guy hovering over a rack of equipment staring downward and randomly tweaking stuff that you can't even see? It doesn't make any sense. Showing a little bit of face wouldn't be a bad thing, but if you only have one camera and one take, it's obviously got to be the hands.

Jul.07.2015 @ 10:22 AM
I've done 2 multi-camera vids. But I should have just used one camera.... the editing takes too long for something that is a essentially trying to be a 'live' performance.

Than again, I don't do lots of takes, instead I record 1 long performance and then edit it down. So I have to have some sort of b-roll to cut to.

Also I like re-interpreting old blues songs on synths.

link [youtu.be]

link [youtu.be]

Jul.07.2015 @ 10:28 AM
.... And my point with the blues song covers, was that that particular genre kinda loses something essential if it ain't live

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