Tag Archives: Music

Stranger 99/100 – Kevin

Stranger-99-Kevin.jpgStranger 99/100 – Kevin

“I want to make a name for myself. I want people to know me.”

Meet Kevin.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Take school extremely seriously. High school, middle school… all of it.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Maintaining… keeping a steady pace.”

What’s keeping you from doing that? “Myself… not being disciplined.”

What are your goals? Where do you want to be in ten years? “In ten years… I want to make a name for myself. I want people to know me. I want to make an impact… at least for my family.”

What’s the plan? “I do a little music right now… hip-hop, rap.”

What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? “I don’t know… people just ask me if I’m ok… like I have a mean face all the time. I don’t really talk to a whole lot of people. I just keep to myself.“

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “Life goes on.”

Are you active in the music scene yet? “I’m just writing. I haven’t stepped into the studio just yet, but I’ve been writing a lot of stuff.”

What advice would you give to people starting out in music? “Never give up honestly. Nowadays you can really go viral… you just gotta keep going. Even when you feel like you’re not going so good… you’re not gaining fans… even if it takes years, just keep going. Even people who are big now, it took them years. You just gotta keep pursuing it and getting better and better and finding that new thing that people like.”

Technical Notes: It was a cloudy day, and I used a reflector below Kevin’s face to even out the light. Despite the processed look, I barely edited this portrait at all in Lightroom. This was the rare case where the subject, lighting and background all came together at the same time.

Stranger 98/100 – Quay

100 Strangers - QuayStranger 98/100 – Quay

“You gotta go make some moves as far as making a legacy for yourself before you leave the Earth.”

Meet Quay.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Whatever you plan on doing in the future as a passion or a career or job, whatever, just make sure you go hard… 110%.”

Have you always done that? “Lately I have… not always.”

What made you clue in to that? “Because reality sinks in, and you realize you can’t just sit around procrastinating. You gotta go make some moves as far as making a legacy for yourself before you leave the Earth… because you know you have to go at some point.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Trying to make it music-wise. I make music so… Trying to make it as an artist today with so many more emergent artists coming out everyday… it’s kinda hard.”

Tell me about your music…. “Basically, I just talk about my lifestyle. I don’t talk about killin’ people and none of that stuff that the majority of these people who make rap music or hip-hop music talk about nowadays. I talk about things that people can relate to.”

So authenticity is important? “Exactly.”

What are your goals? Where do you want to be in ten years? “I just want to be living comfortably… as little worries as possible.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “It would say something about unity… not just one’s own race, but all races. If you look at society today whites they stick together with they own race, not to say that they don’t help others, but… that’s how it just go… races stick together. But, if it all comes together… I think the world will be a better place as far as unity goes.”

Technical Notes: I used a reflector to add light to Quay’s face. I did my best to reduce the glare in his glasses, but I couldn’t find an angle where there wasn’t a lot of glare.

Stranger 96/100 – Jay

100 Strangers - JayStranger 96/100 – Jay

“You’re the only person that can be responsible for your own happiness.”

Meet Jay.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “I would say that, at the end of the day, you’re the only person that can be responsible for your own happiness. Everybody goes through their respective struggles, but what makes the difference is how you choose to handle that… how you choose to get back up again. And the moment that you decide that you can’t get up again is where you’ve lost.”

Nice… did you practice for this? “No. {laughs}”

What is your biggest challenge right now”? “My biggest challenge is… finding a dream that’s worth working for. I moved out here for work… in this treadmill of work here… providing value for somebody else. And the things I want to do for myself, my dreams, have gotten lost by the wayside. The passion I used to have when I was younger is gone because of this work. So, now I’m trying to save. I’m trying to get some studio time… I do music. I’m trying to pursue that dream and put it at the forefront of my life rather than having it on the back burner.”

Where do you want to be in ten years? “I would want to be a semi-successful musician and model.”

What kind of music do you make? “I began my music career as a jazz musician. I play drums, guitar, bass and piano. In college I took to producing, mixing, mastering, rapping… I’ve always sang, but years of smoking have caught up to me, so I’m not as great a singer as I used to be or as I could have been. But I do still rap, so what I create is kind of an alternative hip-hop. I don’t really fit into any given genre because I don’t want to tell the same stories. I mean talking about money is cool, you know, if you have it, but I’d rather talk abut things that are real and that I’ve experienced.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “I’d probably put in really big letters ‘Think’. It’s not a lot to go off of, so any meaning that you draw from it is purely internal.”

Technical Notes: I had taken some photos using a reflector before we stepped into the doorway for the interview. During the interview, I noticed how amazing the light and shadow s looked on Jay’s face. I asked him if I could take another shot, and this is the result with no lights or modifiers.

Stranger 94/100 – Matt

100 Strangers - MattStranger 94/100 – Matt

“The number of times I regularly get asked if I have any weed…”

Meet Matt.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “I feel like the things I didn’t know were part of what made me who I am today. I don’t know that I would want to tell my younger self anything.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Being able to say no to really good things for even better things. I think that would be my… the thing I’m wrestling the most with right now.”

What are your goals? Where do you want to be in ten years? “{laughs} We laugh because we just had this conversation a couple days ago. In ten years our daughter is going to be out of high school. I don’t know. I’m trying to figure that one out right now too. I know that, right now, I’m doing what I need to be doing, what I’ve been called to do, so I’m going to keep doing that until I know that next piece. Right now it’s the figuring out how much do I wait for it and how much do I go out and try to figure it out… try to get there myself. I love what I do.”

“So I work part-time at a school teaching music… I teach songwriting and beat making and music production. I taught math for eleven years. I love my school. I love my co-workers. I love my students. I work part-time at a church… also on the music front.”

What is the biggest misconception people have about you? “The number of times I regularly get asked if I have any weed… I got nothing… sorry man. That’s a fairly regular misconception. I get asked if I’m in high school a lot. I’ve been teaching high school for a long time.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “There’s more.”

Technical Notes: It was an overcast day, so I used my small LED panel to light up Matt’s face.

Stranger 89/100 – David

Stranger-89-David.jpgStranger 89/100 – David

“Hanging out… celebrating that I’m done with finals.”

Meet David.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Get involved more with community activities or groups… building connections.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Figuring out what I want to do with my life after I graduate.”

Got any ideas? “Stay in school until I figure it out… just keep going. I’m in Political Science right now. If I can actually find some internships or anything that will be helpful, but, if not, then I’m probably going to start studying Psychology.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “Just a blank billboard.”

How would your friends describe you? “Sarcastic probably.”

What would you do with a million dollars? “I’d probably travel… see the world. Meet new people.”

Any particular place? “Everywhere. I kind of want to see China because it has everything… it’s so vast.”

What music are you listening to? “Everything right now. Hip-hop, metal, rock, classic rock, even some classical music.”

A well balanced diet… “Oh, yeah. I love music… just all around. Not country… I’m not very into country.”

Technical Notes: It was a bright sunny day. I used a reflector to add light to even out David’s face, but I think I added too much light creating a flatter look than I wanted.

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.

TRVideoWorkshop

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).

WorkLights

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.

TRVideoAmber

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.

TRVideoTravis

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.

TRVideoMikeGreenScreen

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.

TRVideoPremiere

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.

TRVideoBandIsolated

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.

TRVideoObjects

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!

TRVideoWrap

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.