This past Monday (January 26, 2015) I was hired by French fusion / metal guitarist Renaud Louis-Servais to shoot a music video for his song “Epic Circus.” Virgil Donati, who also appears on the recorded track, came down to MDM Rehearsal Studios in Burbank, CA and we shot their 4-piece band playing along to the tracks.
(The song is embedded below, so you can listen to the track while browsing the gallery.)
I used my Blackmagic Design 4K in RAW on a Steadicam, and my Canon L-Series zoom lenses. These stills are taken directly from the RAW video frames.
PS: Thanks to Chuck Parker for his assistance.
Pilot Episode in which TV Show Host Carl King (and his cold-blooded show runner Frank) discuss the arts, current events, and style while overcoming their studio’s technical difficulties.
Writers: Carl King, Martin Pursley, Ian Koss
Broadcast Assistant: Mandee Pro
Co-Host & Showrunner: Frank
Remote Correspondent: Zeke Piestrup
Original Theme Music by Stephen Cox & Unified Sounds
Wardrobe: Bell Sound
Filmed Live at Los Angeles Center for the Digital Recording Arts
Produced in Association With CarlKingdom, LLC Production Productions
I recently added some Devin Townsend music stuff to my shop.
A HUGE collector’s set (it weighs 45 pounds, but not really, but it does have 6 CDs and 2 DVDs) and a Ziltoid / Z2 Double-CD. First 3 people to use code “drskinny” get 10% off their total order.
In my years of creative / business work, I’ve noticed there are two broad “techniques” to use while building a project. Bottom-Up and Top-Down.
This concept is nothing new, and the last thing I want to do here is spread more “I like making things and stuff” pseudo-philosophical fun-corporate nerdy blogger bullshit.
So here’s how I’ve seen it work…
Bottom-Up: Collecting a number of concrete objects / colors / shapes / sounds / words (usually at random) and sticking them together — maybe (but rarely) hoping they end up meaning something (or at least being somehow enjoyable as a whole). Example… Mike Patton’s Adult Themes for Voice. As Wikipedia describes it: Shouting, screaming, clapping, squeaking, and moaning.
Top-Down: Starting with a GOAL, such as “compose, record, and deliver the film score for The Empire Strikes Back.”
Consider how much more discipline it requires to begin with the large concept / container, and then design each individual piece to serve the greater purpose. Every part in the machine must work, everything must be appropriate! While there is a time for experimentation along the way (would it have more impact during this scene to bring in the strings, or should we use only the piano, or should we leave stark silence?), there is no room for “messing around” a.k.a. musical masturbation.
Conversely, I have seen creators who get trapped in Top-Down Mode. I’ve had video production clients who will provide me with a specific script, and then not allow “creative wiggle room” for organic serendipity during the production process. The plan in their head is more important than the “magic” that can be generated by an injection of some Bottom-Up from the actors and editors. And their project suffers.
I would be stumbling into Rationalism (in the Objectivist terminology) if I were to claim that these are two processes that can actually be 100% separated. I’m also not going to claim one process is superior to the other, but that they should ideally intertwine. Each serves its own purpose in creation.
Of course, I thought incoherent noises released as “albums” were great — at 20 years old, when I was looking for ways to use up my excess young-person energy. But as I get older I crave something else. Something more impressive and deserving of respect — like the live musical theater production of Wicked. It’s complex: the composition, performance, actors, sound, lights, set designs, props, story all work together. In other words, they are Integrated. (Thanks, Schlegel.)
But I will end this by saying… that to exclusively glorify Bottom-Up is a cop-out, because it requires no conceptual work — and conceptual work is the most difficult.
Back at the end of 2005, after the success of How To Sell… I decided I wanted to take Sir Millard Mulch to the next level.
I came up with the name Dr. Zoltan Øbelisk (named after the Zebulon Obelisk in downtown Asheville, NC) and bought www.drzoltan.com.
I experimented with the concept for the next year, trying to make him into an animated Flash character, or just me in an elaborate costume with a giant beard. I went back and forth and couldn’t get anywhere because I had no resources. I was miserable and poor. Zoltan was to be “a mighty demon” who possessed Sir Millard Mulch (as explained in a 90-minute documentary Matt DeJonge and I shot in 2005 and never finished) manifesting as a time-traveling, inter-dimensional alien anti-pop-culture TV show host / cult leader that orbited the Earth in a space station. Maybe a little too complicated.
I hoped to play a separate “character.” I was having a lot of personality problems and wanted to stop being Sir Millard Mulch, because it was too close to really being me. I had a split life of Carl and Millard, and it was really messing me up. I figured inventing a third one that even I knew was fake would help. That’s a long story.
In late 2006 I moved to Los Angeles (Culver City to be exact) where I rented a room from a guy named Eric. Eric was never home (none of his many housemates ever were, except the unemployed me) so I went into his back yard with my laptop and recorded several cheap webcam videos as Dr. Zoltan. It was a lame attempt — I had no money to buy a costume (the best I could do at one point was a long haired wig), knew nothing about video, and ended up just making a lot of people mad on YouTube by making fun of popular bands. I would start each “broadcast” with “Attention, All Humans” and referred to the viewer from an alien standpoint. I tried to talk in a deep voice, but I’ve never been good at it, so in later versions I just pitched it down digitally.
In Early 2007, I auditioned for Steve Vai and failed. Out of sour grapes, I moved into John La Grou’s studio for a month (thank you again, John) and set out to record the debut album. I found out about software called Drumkit From Hell and decided to feature it on the album, hoping to be the first to show off its capabilities with my complex sci-fi rock programming.
While in the process of recording, I came across Devin Townsend’s first press release about something he was calling Ziltoid — an alien TV show host alter-ego making an album featuring Drumkit From Hell.
Punch me in the brain.
I was, of course, horrified that Devin had come up with a parallel idea (I make no petty or delusional accusation that he copied me), and would no doubt beat me to it publicly. He even created a mock radio show hosted by Ziltoid, making fun of popular bands! But I didn’t let it stop me.
When I returned to my room in Culver City, I borrowed a camera from Zeke Piestrup and shot 3 video episodes of The Dr. Zoltan Show, with a rotation Ø in the corner. I was trying to do a V From Vendetta “reveal-the-truth political broadcast” and continue to make fun of some bands while I was at it. More negative reactions from the internet. I was getting so much hate mail, I eventually just deleted the videos. I was afraid the anger I was channeling was doing physical damage to myself and others.
Seven years later, I’ve only sold 50 copies of the Zoltan CD (I gave the other 50 away at the Toontrack booth in NAMM 2010) — and Devin has just released Ziltoid The Omniscient Episode 2 — which is everything I had hoped Dr. Zoltan would become.
Congratulations to Devin for the excellent work and making it happen!
You’ve got to check out this French pianist named Enguerrand-Friedrich Lühl-Dolgorukiy.
He has an album on iTunes called John Williams – Piano and a few others, including long-form works for TWO pianos! I’ve been listening to it and am blown away — it gives me that vibe from Steve Vai Piano Reductions by Mike Keneally. Except this is of course very famous musical cues from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., etc. It is quite detailed.
His stuff is also on Amazon. You can preview it on this iTunes player:
[ Disclaimer: There is evidence that Rolf Dobelli plagiarized many ideas from Nassim Taleb’s published books and unpublished manuscripts. You can read about that at Fooled by Randomness. ]
Now I know what to buy everyone I know for Christmas. Sorry to ruin the surprise.
But seriously: I read this book in two days and I have to admit I’m not intellectually competent enough to retain any of it. So I’m going to read it again. And again. I’ve promised myself to keep it around at all times until I’m less stupid.
The good news? It’s easy to read. Broken up into little pieces, well-organized. Like Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.
The Art of Thinking Clearly contains 99 ways my thinking is not clear. Cognitive biases, etc. Exactly what I need. I found it at a book store in Santa Barbara (Chaucers) after asking if they had anything about “logic” and “thinking.” I want to become a better decision maker, and this is how I plan to do it.
Plenty of references inside to Charlie Munger, too. And the Cialdini book. Except this one isn’t blatantly about how to trick people.
I think it’s the most valuable book I’ve read since The Outsider by Colin Wilson.
Or is it a Videography Reel? Either way, here it is:
Best viewed on Safari if you’re using a Mac. Chrome does weird stuff to the gamma / brightness.
Interview, Behind-The-Scenes, and Commercial / Promo Projects I’ve shot around Los Angeles, using Canon C100 and Canon 5Dmkiii. Thanks to Mandee Pro (Camera Assistant, Lighting), Mike Keneally for the song (keneally.com). Subjects include Andre Jevnik, Chris Coleman, Dennis Sands, Millennia Media, Ronda Rousey, The Reverend Shawn Amos, Eden Passante, Mark Borchardt, Stephen Chesney, Octopotamus, Virgil Donati, Doug Shreeve, Dave Elitch, Stanton Moore, Anthony Crawford, Artyom Manukyan, Mike Stone / Demise O, Douglas Showalter, Thomas Lang and Big Drum Bonanza, Dweezil Zappa, GuitarTricks, DrumChannel.com, Los Lobos, and Otherworldly Toy.
[ Clockwise from Top Right: Demon by Anthony Watkins, Bride of Frankenstein by Blackheart Models, Creature by Monster Caeser, and Sideshow Collectibles. ]
[ Clockwise from Top Right: Andrew Martin of Monster Caesar Studios, Nathan Mansfield of Sideshow Collectibles, Anthony Watkins, and George Stephenson of Blackheart Enterprises. ]
I visited Son of Monsterpalooza 2014 in Burbank, CA and interviewed sculptors: George Stephenson of Blackheart Enterprises, Andrew Martin of Monster Caesar Studios, Anthony Watkins of AW Sculpture, Nathan Mansfield of Sideshow Collectibles.