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Archive for May, 2012

Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Documentary: Primeau Productions’ Four-Day Recording Project

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

IMG_0034_v2 (1)We just spent four days working on the most important assignment we’ve ever had in our 28 years of business. We worked with Team Pegine, a think tank chosen to organize the Day of Appreciation for Vietnam vets, to document the events for the 50th anniversary celebration at the Mall in Washington D.C. right next to the Vietnam War Memorial. I covered four days of setting up this event under Team Pegine’s supervision who facilitated the entire process. I met admirals, generals, and other veterans who served for our country for multiple years. I captured interviews and the events and activities it took to build this function over four days. The resulting 90 minute program that was broadcast on almost all major news networks around the world was over in almost a blink of an eye.

When Pegine asked me to come two weeks ago, there was no time to put a crew together. So fresh back from Guadalajara and used to working in extreme heat conditions, I charged all the batteries and packed extra batteries, lights, our Go Pro camera, our portable high-def Xacti camera and our Cannon camera. I then flew into Washington D.C. to document this event for Team Pegine.

As I started to meet people, Pegine introduced me to a United States Army colonel. A few minutes into our conversation, the colonel asked if it would be all right for us to provide the United States government with a copy of our edited documentary for the National Archives in Washington D.C. Game on!

It then became more important than even before to capture every speck of activity. Somehow the adrenaline and an awful lot of water kept me going for four days.

On the day of the event, we arrived onsite at 4 a.m. We got our bearings and made sure the storm that passed through the night before hadn’t affected our site enough to cause problems with the production. Before I knew it, it was 7:30 a.m. and Secret Service began their sweep of the grounds and surrounding area. We walked across the street and sat on a stone wall. About an hour later we were allowed back into the site. By 9 a.m. I had conducted a few interviews, including an interview with an Army soldier, who biked for a hundred days from California to honor and support our troops, and a Marine. The Army soldier was a double amputee and his bike was powered by hand. The Marine soldier was a former professional football player who had decided to enlist in the Marines. That is just one of the dozens of interviews that I conducted over four days either on property at the Mall where the ceremony took place or at our hotel room.

One of the things that I do in advance as a video journalist is prepare questions to ask so I’m not at a loss for direction during an interview. On this particular assignment, those questions were not necessary because every single interviewee that I video recorded had a story to tell. Our conversation was very guided by that story. It was almost effortless to capture the information that recorded.

Perhaps the biggest memory was meeting a gentleman named Jay who was a Vietnam vet from the army. When I first saw Jay, he was laying in the middle of the median on Constitution Avenue where a Marine in full dress uniform was standing at attention while 100,000-200,000 motorcyclists who belong to an organization called Rolling Thunder had a four and a half parade from Arlington back to the Mall. They rode in circles for four and a half hours to pay tribute to our soldiers. Later on this gentleman appeared taking pictures of one of our staff members, Steve, putting flags up on the War Memorial. After he took a picture of Steve, he and Steve began talking because Steve is a former Navy officer. Steve called me on my cell phone and asked if I had time to interview Jay. He brought Jay back to the hotel.

Bob, who was our guest of honor for Team Pegine and who was also a Vietnam vet from the Air Force, sat down with Jay in the lobby of the hotel. As I was setting up, I was thinking, “What questions should ask in order to make this a meaningful interview?” I didn’t say a word for over half an hour. By the time the mics were on and the camera was rolling, the conversation had begun. The two of them connected as if it were a reunion. That will always stand out in my mind as a high point in this project. The ironic part is that Jay is going to be coming to Plymouth Michigan, near my home in Rochester Hills Michigan, in two weeks. We’re planning on connecting for dinner.

I got one underlying message from everybody I interviewed over the last several days. I asked the question: “What do you want people, who watch this video a hundred years from now when we’re gone, to know and remember about this event?” Without hesitation, everyone I asked that question to said, “Remember our vets. Thank them for their service.” That is an overwhelming message that we all need to consider going forward. I know I will.

Before You Say “Action,” Check the Lights

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

IMG_2604You want to use incandescent lighting instead of fluorescent. Incandescent lighting has a warm look on video, whereas fluorescent has a white or washed-out look. Lighting kits can be rented from most audiovisual rental companies and they really make a difference.

If you would prefer to purchase one, look in the Yellow Pages for a video supply dealer near you that carries light kits. Minimally, you need two 400-600 watt lights. Set up the lights in the room and point them directly at the front where you will be speaking. If the light is too bright, try bouncing the light off the ceiling in the room where you will be recording. Set the lights close to the front and side — this will help keep shadows out of your shot. Bottom line; fill the room with as much incandescent lighting as possible. Turn off all the fluorescent lights.

If the image is too dark, rely on turning up the gain on your camera to compensate for the low lighting. Read your owner’s manual to learn how this is done. There is also an iris setting on all cameras that will help brighten the image. Be sure that your camera is in a manual mode when recording. If it’s in an automatic mode, then you will not be able to adjust your iris or gain to compensate for the dark image.

Interested in learning more about professional media services like audio/video? Contact me at 800-647-4281.

This information is taken from my book The Art of Production, which you can purchase from Amazon or you can purchase an e-book version from SmashWords.

 

Recording Devices 101

Friday, May 25th, 2012

11518496364_3eb1e46756_nLet’s take a look at two types of audio recording devices: the mini-disk recorder and the DAT recorder. Read the manuals first, and then experiment with hooking up two microphones or one stereo microphone to the ‘microphone in’ (NOT the ‘line in’ — this is for telephone recording or music transferring) on the respective device.

Keep in mind that these formats are for recording your message or music, not what the final product will be later on. Final audio product format options are CD (compact disk), MP3 disk or DVD.

Connecting Your Recorder to a Microphone

Chances are that your microphone connector thingamabob (a highly technical term, used by audio engineers everywhere) is either a 3-pin plug (called an XLR connector) or a 1⁄4″ diameter plug. Most consumer recorders have a 1/8″ stereo microphone in (exactly like your Walkman headphones have on the end opposite to what goes on your head). Therefore, you will need to visit your local electronic supply and purchase whatever adapter you need to connect the two, and a tip ring sleeve Y-cord to split the microphone input to the recording device. This is necessary for recording equipment with one stereo input. Some recorders, especially DAT come with two separate inputs, making a Y-cord unnecessary.

 

Choosing a Microphone

Why do you need two microphones? One microphone is for recording your voice, while the other is for recording the audience. Your microphone can be as simple or elaborate as you want the quality to be. Good spoken word wireless microphones cost from around $450 to $1,500. Good wired microphones range from $39 to $1,500. Audience microphones (choir microphones and shotgun microphones) range from $350 to $2,000. I recommend the line of Sony choir microphone for a low cost, reliable audience microphone. At about the size of a lavaliere, they work great. In fact, they’re what we have used for years at Primeau Productions.

Shotgun microphones are okay, but the good ones are expensive and difficult to use because they can pick up an audience member chewing gum or other annoying sounds. I don’t care at all for PZM microphones for recording audiences. They are good for small rooms to record meetings but do not pick up as well as the choir or shotgun microphone can. If you don’t want the hassle of setting up an audience microphone, keep your main microphone (lavaliere) further away from your mouth. This will allow more audience sound to be recorded. Be careful of clothing rubbing against your microphone if you use a clip-on lavaliere. Since both recording mediums are digital, do not set the record level too “hot” (another industry term, meaning “loud”). If the meter ranges from — 50 to +3 try to keep it around 0 or -10 (the meter is that thing that moves with the volume of your input — some are meters, some are LED display). When you record using two microphones, the audience microphone will go in one channel, or side, and your microphone will go on the other. The tip ring sleeve Y-cord will allow this separation. They can be mixed together later in the editing process.

Do a Test Recording
Put the device and microphones in front of you. Turn on the power, insert a blank disk or DAT tape, put the device in “record” (according to the manual) and talk into one microphone at a time to test each. If you are having problems, go back and review the manual. After you complete your maiden recording, play it back. If it sounds distorted, it was recorded too loud. If the audience microphone is low, turn up the main record level on the recording device and turn down the output volume of your main microphone (if it is wireless, it should have volume control). Now you are ready to tape your next speech or performance. Use a conference center microphone stand to support the audience microphone, about 5 feet away from the first row of the audience, (this distance will vary, depending on the microphone used).

If, after the first recording, you discover the audience volume was too low, next time move the microphone closer to the audience. If it’s too loud, move further away. Moving the microphone closer to or further from the sound source is another way of controlling volume. If all else fails, drop me an e-mail, and I’ll do my best to help you.

Interested in learning more about professional media services like audio/video? Contact me at 800-647-4281.

This information is taken from my book The Art of Production, which you can purchase from Amazon or you can purchase an e-book version from SmashWords.

 

photo credit: Blue via photopin (license)

Use the Energy from a Live Performance when Recording

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

5278168222_16eea4a437_nThe first professional speaker I ever worked with that could really turn on the motivation in a studio was Mark Victor Hansen. He is like an energetic poet. If you have ever listened to any of his audio programs you know what I mean. Even having a one-on-one conversation with him exudes energy and poetry!

I met Mark in Detroit when a friend called me one afternoon and said, “You have to come tonight and see this speaker — he is awesome.” So I dropped what I was doing and went to the program. This was our first meeting. I then saw Mark later that same year in Washington, DC, at a National Speakers Convention. I saw him very early, eating breakfast at in the hotel restaurant. I reintroduced myself and we quickly became friends. For the rest of the convention, we saw each other regularly and ended up together at a Vietnam War Memorial ceremony. We experienced the ceremony, said our good-byes and I headed back to the hotel. As I was checking in at the airport the next day, I saw Mark at the gate next to mine. I approached him since I had time before boarding and, to my surprise, he asked me, on the spot, to videotape his Wake Up In Hawaii 5-day spiritual intensive retreat on the island of Kona. After Mark stayed motivated for five days in front of an audience of 100, we sat down in his condo to make How to Develop a WOW of a Business Plan. He jumped right back into the jazzy, motivated rap that Mark is so good at. But trust me, this is the exception, not the rule. The point I want to make is twofold. First, Mark was videotaped in the seminars to make a motivational product and promotional product to help market the next year’s program. Then, for a more detailed “how to” product recording, we set up a studio in his condo. The moral of the story is that there is a great advantage to you when recording in a studio right after giving a live presentation. The energy from the audience is still present in your mind.

Over the years I have found live recordings to be the preferred choice among “tape junkies.” Why? It’s a fuller dimension of sound and energy. Listening to the audience response, laughter, applause and often-unexpected responses add a certain drama to program or performance.

But, recording live has risks too. What if the recording company does a poor job and it’s one of your best performances ever? What if you pay a pro to come in and the audience is non-responsive? (There are such things as bad audiences.) Now you have wasted a pretty hefty investment for nothing more than another self-critique tape.

If you’re recording a concert, there are a lot of set-up considerations. You had better make sure all the conditions are right for a live recording to be successful. If you are in training, it can be tedious to edit around a lot of stopping and starting that live programs often have. Oftentimes, training sessions have a lot of hands-on activities that do not translate well to audio. In this case, it would be better to record a reinforcement or program companion in the studio instead of the live program. You won’t have as much editing to do, saving you money, and you can control the studio message better than in the training class.

Interested in learning more about professional media services like audio/video? Contact me at 800-647-4281.

This information is taken from my book The Art of Production, which you can purchase from Amazon or you can purchase an e-book version from SmashWords.

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/11747230@N05/5278168222″>IMG_5816</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Documentary of EL Viejito Tequila’s Story of Success

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

14272813272_9178b4f4a7_nEL Viejito Tequila hired Primeau Productions to come to Guadalajara Mexico to document their 75th anniversary. Their story, which Primeau Productions will be turning it into a documentary, begins with young man who completed school and got a job for a major tequila distillery. While working in the tequila distillery, he decided to start his own distribution company. On a side note, a lot of bottlers of tequila buy the tequila from a distillery and they package it with their own name and their own bottle and then offer it for sale. In this particular case, Indalecio Nuñez, who had been the little boy who set out to get an education for himself, built his own tequila distillery and called it EL Viejito, which translates as “little old man” in Spanish. Indalecio Nuñez continued this brand for seventy five years until now, with the family’s third generation’s son running the company and has taken it to a completely new height than what it has ever been. EL Viejito has very little recognition in the United States but soon the distribution will grown and the brand will become very popular because it is one of the best tequilas on the market.

EL Viejito brought in Primeau Productions to help them with their video marketing by coming to Guadalajara to video record the 75th anniversary celebration. The tequila distillery from EL Viejito is about an hour’s drive outside of Guadalajara in the middle of a beautiful valley surrounded by blue Agava plants, which are the main ingredient in genuine tequila. One of the first things I noticed when I got to the distillery was how beautiful the grounds were and how well they were maintained. A huge tree stood out in the front by the offices and was at least one hundred to one hundred and twenty five years old judging by the size of it. It was absolutely beautiful. In the back of the distillery is a beautiful pond and farm that was built so that all of the workers could take home food to benefit and help their families. There were chickens and cows and it was just a beautiful environment for them all to enjoy. The theory behind this is that if the workers are all happy, they will work in better harmony and produce a quality product.

The people had an incredibly high work ethic. Watching everything being done by hand was truly amazing. From splitting the Agave –which sounded like a juicy and crisp watermelon being sliced in half– to hand-loading it into ovens where the steam would cook the Agave and make it soft and bring out the sugars so it would go through a pinch roller process in order to squeeze all of the juice out which actually goes into making the tequila.  And tequila is only made in certain regions of Mexico just like champagne is only made in certain regions of France and the genuine tequila that EL Vijieto produces, according to the family, is the best.

While Primeau Productions was in Guadalajara, we interviewed the family and video recorded the tequila making process from beginning to end. We are planning on creating this documentary to offer to a network in the United States and around the world to better help people understand how tequila is made and why EL Viejito is the best brand on the market. The video will also tell the story of how Indalecio Nuñez built this distillery to create this product that is benefiting so many different people in Mexico by creating jobs. Since the distillery has been built up, a large community has evolved around it as a result of all the jobs that have been created. As another plus, they’re very eco-friendly: once the juices have been pressed out of the Agave, all of the waste is turned into compost, which is in turn put back into their soil to  fortify it and give it tons of nutrients. It’s an incredible story of how one man’s dream created opportunity for a community and a successful product.

photo credit: Carrera Bonafont 2014 via photopin (license)

Record Live for Energy, Record In Studio for Perfect Music

Friday, May 11th, 2012

3463166029_1c065a76dc_nMusicians record live to get energy, then they go into the studio to do overdubs to get the exactness professionals seek in recordings. When going into the studio to record a music project you should always record the rhythm track first. This section could include drums, bass, rhythm guitar, keyboards and scratch vocals. The scratch vocal allows the rest of the band to always know where they are in the song throughout the recording process. If the rhythm track is not right, the song will never be right. How do you know if it is right? Let’s just say you will feel it.

After you have successfully recorded the rhythm track, it’s time to record the overdubs. These could include lead guitar, lead vocals, backing vocals and various types of percussion. Today, keyboards create many of the sounds for music because of the incredible technology available. It used to be that, in order to get good keyboard sound, you had to spend big bucks and buy a Kurzwell or something along those lines. Today, there are many boards that create cool and different, as well as genuine, sounds.

When I first got into the business, I had the great fortune to witness the entire recording process with an artist by the name of Bob Seger. He was working on the “Nine Tonight” album at the studio where I was employed. This album project was a combination of live and studio recording. Although I was the tape op at the time (a basic “go get me more tape” job) I was able to witness the overdubbing sessions. It was an amazing process to watch. The band in the studio recreated the live music with more precision to give the raw live tracks the polish Bob wanted for the album. Bob and his producer listened to every song from various performances in Boston and Detroit, and picked the tracks they liked best. Then it was overdub time! The band and Bob worked on the songs to make the wrong parts right and replace the live vocal.

Interested in learning more about professional media services like audio/video? Contact me at 800-647-4281.

This information is taken from my book The Art of Production, which you can purchase from Amazon or you can purchase an e-book version from SmashWords.

photo credit: Visual Noise via photopin (license)

Live Recording Vs. Studio Recording

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

4426306615_bbf5f6ebd8_nI want to take some time to discuss recording live versus recording in a studio. It’s difficult for most performers to give their best performance to the lens of a camera. It‘s just as hard in an audio studio to do your best playing to a microphone. Most performers are at their best when interacting with a live audience and feeding off of their energy and enthusiasm.

Tap into the energy of your audience.

Live recordings allow you capture the dynamic exchange of energy and passion between you and your audience. Your audience’s presence in the recording adds a dimension to the product—in radio, it’s called “theater of the mind.” But audiences do just as much to enhance video production.

Game shows are taped in front of live audiences because the audience adds more excitement. Musical groups videotape concerts because the audience adds so much to the recording. Even sporting events are better when played in front of an audience.

When you are in the studio recording it’s just you and the microphone and/or camera. Not only does self-consciousness, nervousness and anxiety cause interference but also the unusual, unfamiliar studio environment can be distracting and very lonely.

 

However, some products record better in a studio.

Books on tape are one. An author’s interpretation of a book will require studio recording for accuracy. Medical or training programs are also best when recorded in the studio. Again, because of accuracy, these audio materials should be outlined or scripted, then recorded in the studio to allow the author more control over the recording than in a live environment.

When you present or perform to a live audience, the audience is the number-one focus. You have to give them what they came for. You hope to get good material or performance for a product but oftentimes you’ll need to patch in some studio segues and editing or overdubs to correct the glitches in your live performance and turn the recording into a good product.

 

Interested in learning more about professional media services like audio/video? Contact me at 800-647-4281.

 

This information is taken from my book The Art of Production, which you can purchase from Amazon or you can purchase an e-book version from SmashWords.

photo credit: Live Recording Gig Gabriel Recording Studio Sarnen via photopin (license)

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