Tag Archives: Music

My first music video

I’ve always been drawn to music videos. After doing a lot of concert photography, I wanted to do something more substantial. I first toyed with the idea of making some behind the scenes videos of bands, but after doing just the basic research, I realized that video is much more complicated than I thought.

As I scoured YouTube to learn more about video, I came the the conclusion that making a music video would be a great project to get started in video work. First of all, the sound is already taken care of. Also, the production takes place in a controlled environment where you can adjust the lighting, the position on the subject(s) and do as many takes as you need.

You can watch the finished product below and read on to learn more about how it was made:

I approached my friends from the band Trash Room and posed the idea of making a music video for their song Words Like Daggers. They very quickly said yes and we were on our way.


Since it was winter, we needed an indoor location and ended up using a large workshop that we had access to. This brought up another issue which was lighting. Shooting inside meant that we needed more artificial lighting than I had. I ended up acquiring two Aputure Light Storm LS C120d units and rigged up a set of two lights using LED work lights from Lowes (see below).


My first big mistake was in overestimating how much I could get done.  We had scheduled about 6 hours of filming.  I planned to film a whole intro (complete with dialogue), the song performance with isolated performances in front of a green screen and an ending filmed outside.  In reality, it took me over 2 hours just to get the equipment set up.  I quickly abandoned the idea of the intro and focused all of my energy on getting the performance shots.

Our first challenge was getting the band to play in sync with the prerecorded song.  We had an iPad mini connected to a PA system for playback, however, the live drums were so loud that it was hard for the band to hear the track and they would get out of sync.  After some volume adjustments and a little bit of practice, the band was able to lock in.


My biggest challenge was wearing so many hats.  I was in charge of directing the band, operating two SLR cameras, setting up and adjusting the lighting and overall time management.  Apart from being very stressful, I found myself making mistake after mistake such as forgetting to start the cameras before a take… very frustrating.  I also found myself so occupied with the technical side of things that I wasn’t properly directing the band.  Lucky for me they we able to nail their performances without much direction.


We pushed through all obstacles and managed to film the footage we needed.  Other than a few test shots, I had never filmed a subject in front of a green screen before and made some mistakes that cost me a lot of time in the editing process.  The main issues were not lighting the green screen evenly, not straightening out the wrinkles and keeping the subject within the boundaries of the green screen.


Once I got home and imported all of the footage, the first step was to start a new project in Adobe Premiere and assemble all of the clips.  As I added each clip, I synchronized it with the song.  The playback track we used during filming had four synchronization beeps before the song started.  I was able to use the sound from each clip to match the initial beep from the clip to the same beep in the audio track for the song,

Once all the clips were in place, I spent the morning evaluating the footage and choosing what clips to use for each part of the song.  I considered this to just be a first draft, but it ended up staying fairly constant through the whole process.  I think what happens is that you get used to seeing the video in a certain way and it gets stuck in your mind.


Once the basic video was edited, I set about adding the special effects.  Being a video game developer, I naturally wanted to be able to combine the 2D and 3D objects that I use in my games with the film that I shot for the video.  I ended up writing my own video effects software using Unity — the development tool I use to make video games.  The details of this custom system are beyond the scope of this blog post, but in a nutshell, my effects system allows me to import one or more video clips and place them in three dimensional space.  I’m then free to add 3D objects to the same scene and have it all combine in a realistic way.  For instance, the video clips can cast shadows onto the 3D objects and, likewise, the 3D objects can cast shadows onto the video clips.


In this video, the main special effects element was the flocks of crows flying around the band.  The crows were basic 3D objects that I had already used in my last video game.  I had to choreograph the crows to enter the room from the outside, fly around in various ways, circle the lead singer as she grew in size and then finally exit the room in fear.

The other main special effect element were the various 3D objects that were constantly falling to add to the feeling of chaos in the room.  These objects, including saws, barrels, buckets and more, were placed high up on each side of the “room”.  I programmed my system to drop them at various times in the song when I knew they would be in the shot. I used Unity’s 3D physics engine to ensure that they moved in a realistic way when falling and bouncing off the floor.


Unfortunately, I was using a 5 year old MacBook Pro to do most of the video.  A single render of the video took over an hour for the most complicated setups.  Much of the process of making the video was spent waiting for renders to complete.  I’ve since upgraded my computer system and have optimized the code, so it’s much faster now.  Luckily, the song was only a minute and a half long!


Overall, I’m very happy with the finished product and definitely want to make another music video in the future.

Stranger 41/100 – Tim

Stranger-41–Tim.jpgOur next stranger had such a cool look that I had to approach him and learn what he’s all about.

Meet Tim.

What brings you uptown? “Well, I work across the street at Charlotte Center City Partners. I’m the artist in residence there, so I do all the music programming for all the city funded events. So, right now I’m working on the big Thanksgiving parade that’s going to be on this street.”

What advice would give to your younger self? “Be patient. I’m a musician. My father was a professional musician. I grew up surrounded by some of the most talented and gifted musicians and artists and singers in the world. You know what I mean? I think, because of that, I’ve spent my whole life in a rush to get somewhere. So I’ve seen that life takes it’s own course. You kind of get to sit back and enjoy the ride. Patience is everything.”

What are your goals? “When I was younger, I wanted to work for a record label, but the record industry is non-existent. I started managing some groups a few years ago, and I really enjoyed it and had a really good knack for it. People started calling me and having me put things together. That kind of took me to the event production and event management world, and I’ve really taken strongly to it. So I just want to keep growing in that capacity. And I don’t know what that looks like yet. I don’t know if that means I’m going to start my own event management company one day or if I’ll just freelance… I don’t know yet. But, I’m enjoying this space. I’ve learned to be patient, so I’m not going to rush myself this time around.”

So you must be a people person? “Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I have to be.”

Being a musician might be kind of lonely? “It’s only lonely if you make it a lonely existence. I’ve never been in the spotlight. I play drums. You know what I mean? I’ve never been at the front of the stage in the spotlight. Sometimes for those kind of people it can be lonely I guess because there may be a different pressure”

“I feel like singers and musicians, we’re all part of the same community… the sound technicians and the roadies and the tech guys have the same relationships that you have. It’s just about knowing your place and understanding that we’re all in this together and we all need each other to make these shows work.”

“Everybody has to feel important and I want to make everybody feel comfortable enough to where they feel good about doing their job. So, at the end of the day, we can all leave the event feeling good about what we did. That’s important.“

Technical Notes: Tim was well lit from the street on his right side, and I used a small LED panel from below to add more light to the left side of his face.

Stranger 27/100 – Jill

100 Strangers - JillI had only just arrived uptown when I spotted our next stranger sitting on a bench taking a break from work. What a great start to the day.

Meet Jill.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Don’t follow the crowd.”

What are your goals? “Hopefully my band will take off. I’m a lead vocalist. I actually met the lead guitarist on Craig’s List Musicians. He had the perfect style of music, and he and I wrote about eleven songs in a month and a half.”

Do you have a name for the band? “Forever May Fall… and we’re looking for our drummer and we’re ready to go.”

Are you connected with the music scene in Charlotte? “There’s actually a really great music scene. I’ve been in and out of it with open mics and stuff. It’s a little hard to find a dedicated drummer because they seem to kind of spread themselves thin. The three of us in my band are very dedicated, so we’re trying to find somebody that has the dedication to match and can also match the music style. Otherwise we’re doing pretty good.”

Can you describe the style of music? “If Breaking Benjamin and Flyleaf had a baby. {laughs}”

How would your friends describe you? “I do what I want. {laughs} Free spirit, leader… I don’t care what anybody thinks. I stick to my guns. That’s me… the most lovable asshole you’ll ever meet. {laughs}”

Technical Notes: We were in a well-lit area next to the curb. Her eyes really popped with this angle, so I had to pick this one for the project.

Joy – Motorco Music Hall – 9/26/2017

Joy was one of the supporting acts for Touché Amoré at the Motorco Music Hall in Durham, NC on 9/26/2017.

See all of my Joy photos from this show here.

Touché Amoré – Motorco Music Hall – 9/26/2017

Touché Amoré put on an amazing show at the Motorco Music Hall in Durham, NC.  They were joined by Single Mothers, Gouge Away and Joy.

See the rest of my Touché Amoré photos from this show.

Jeremy Bolm (Touché Amoré)

JeremyBolmPortraitI arrived early to the Motorco Music Hall in Durham, NC to see Touché Amoré perform. As I walked around the corner of the venue, lead singer Jeremy Bolm just happened to be exiting out the side door. We chatted briefly, and I asked him if I could make a portrait of him later. He agreed and we parted ways.

Walking back to the front of the venue, I struck up a conversation with a fellow photographer. She was a student who was planning to shoot the show with a old Pentax film camera. I found that fascinating.

We were only minutes into our conversation when Jeremy walked up to us and said that now would be a good time to make the portrait. This took me by surprise as I had intended to use the flash and reflector that were in my car. There was no time to get that extra gear, but everything turned out great.

Jeremy and I walked back around the corner where I first met him. The lighting conditions were actually really good. We were out of the direct sunlight, and the light bouncing off the concrete removed any need for a reflector. Being very conscious of respecting his time, I only took 5 or 6 quick shots.

Thank you Jeremy for being so generous of your time.

See my best pictures from the show.