Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

A Serendipitous, Synchronistic Video Experience for “Since You Left Me,” Amongst the Jugglers and the Musicians

April 26, 2017
bradspurgeon

MILAN – The idea was only to try out my DJI Osmo 4k camera again and see if I could do a cool atmospheric video of a walk in the park with a bunch of jugglers, musicians, slack-line walkers and other circus arts practitioners at a get together by a lake in Lombardy. Then, thanks to some fabulous serendipity and synchronicity, something quite unexpected and beautiful, it turned into the seventh video of the series of 10 that I have been working on to “illustrate” my 10-track CD, “Out of a Jam.”

I have been working towards finding the best way to record sound with this DJI Osmo and so I again tried out my system of using a Zoom recorder attached to the DJI as a microphone. Without me realizing it, the connection between the two gadgets was bad, and eventually the recorder unplugged itself from the camera, as I was walking around the lakeside park. When I returned to view and listen to the video, I found great images – as usual with this fabulous little camera – but the sound was a disaster. A horrible mess. There was crackling, banging, popping and sometimes no sound at all. It went from silence to hurting the ears – moreover, the level was set too high as well, even when it worked, so it was distorted even when at its best.

Since You Left Me – video

I decided to put the video up on this blog as a demonstration, again, of what the Osmo can do, but I would put a music recording over the original sound, so not to distract and hurt the ears of the viewers. For that, I decided to use my song, “Since You Left Me.” Then, after importing to the film editing programming, when I pressed the play button, I saw immediately an uncanny synergy between the content of the video in the park and the music of the song. The musicians playing, and the dancers dancing seemingly to the same beat as my song; the link in the lyrics between seeking out another world, another way to live, and the otherworldly link to the juggling, slack-line walking, and other circus arts; even the view up to the sky at precisely the right moment for the song.

I immediately decided that I had the basis for a video for “Since You Left Me,” and that I would put in either a performance by me of the song, or do some more filming, some kind of dramatic storyline of me acting something out. So I used the performance I did of the same song at the Noctambules bar, edited it all together, and felt lucky for the serendipity, synchronicity, synergy, and luck that all seemed to combine to come up with another video for my CD, and the first with which I have used the 4k camera.

Acchiappa Sogni – In Via Padova: A Short, Short Film about Big, Big Dreams in a Neighborhood in Milan

February 9, 2017
bradspurgeon

TAC Teatro

TAC Teatro

MILAN – Three small hand-held cameras, a walk around Milan’s down-at-the-heals but lively, warm neighborhood of the Via Padova and an idea from the director of the local TAC Teatro, Ornella Bonventre. That’s all it took to for a cool trip through the lives of the people of this passionate neighborhood and find out what drives them, how they see the world, and above all, what are their dreams.

I was proud and pleased, and even astounded, to be part of this little adventure, and to find what makes people tick – like the record store man who said his store WAS his dreams, or the telephone parts shop salesman who said to be “a good man” was the goal and the end, or the supermarket worker who spoke of integration from his origins in North Africa…. Here is the video, which I also had the pleasure of editing – and if you listen closely to the soundtrack, you might recognize it. (Hint: The music, sans vocals, of my song, “Borderline.”) (You may also recognize that one of the interviews took place in the Ligera bar, about which I have posted an item or two on this blog for its musical evenings.)
So check out the 6-minute dreams video, called “Acchiappa Sogni – In Via Padova“:

Learning by Osmo-sis. (Osmo at the Oz – Part II)

February 1, 2017
bradspurgeon

Oz Open Mic Paris

Oz Open Mic Paris

PARIS – So already another week has passed and somehow I have put nothing on my blog since the Osmo camera post last week after visiting the Café Oz open mic in Pigalle. And here I am a week later with Chapter II: Visiting the Oz open mic again, again with my new Osmo camera. On the other hand, I am happy to report that not only did I get a tiny little bit better with handling the camera, but the open mic itself was miles more fun for me than last week, thanks to the presence of a few friends who suddenly all showed up for the visit of the amazing Aaron Bowen of San Diego, on one of his frequent visits to Europe….

So there I was again with the handheld Osmo steady cam, and this time figuring out how to use it a little better in terms of the image and camera movements, but unfortunately, it was only halfway through the evening that I learned how to improve the sound reception. Unfortunately, for Aaron Bowen’s set, the sound level was still a little low, and so the volume is not very high, and the sound not as crisp as it should be.
Brislee Introduces Bowen and Saxo

I managed to correct that problem for the set of the amazing Ash Gray and his fabulous Lowden guitar and playing and singing. Is it possible to say that Aaron Bowen and Ash Gray are opposites in style? No, not really, there’s something that ties their music together, though I’m not sure what it is – maybe just the commitment. In any case, Aaron was in from San Diego, and this time with his electric guitar, and his ever melodious vocals. And this time, joined by Stephen Saxo, who plays…yes, you got it….
Bowen and Saxo first

Stephen, with whom I have played many times in the past, also played along with me last night, on my “Borderline,” and a song I rarely sing, but feel inspired to sing in the context of the Trump presidency, since the song is a kind of protest song against the establishment trying to take away our personal freedoms…. (It’s called “Sing It” and has a very 1960s feel and inspiration to it.)
Ash Orphan first

Also present was Ventru, whom I have written about many times on this blog, including when I ran into him at an open mic in Montreal, although he is from France and was only in Canada on a holiday. At the time he played last night, I was no longer filming, though, so I’ll wait for a future occasion to Osmo him.
Another Bowen and Saxo

In any case, as the experiences grow with the Osmo, I’m hoping it will all come together soon in the best sound AND images possible for this blog….
A second long Ash Orphan in 4K

Osmo at the Oz – A New View for Open Mics?

January 25, 2017
bradspurgeon

DJI Osmo

DJI Osmo

PARIS – I started this blog in 2010 at the same time as I bought what felt to me like a revolutionary little video and music-filming device, my first Zoom recorder. It was the device that since that time – with upgrades – allowed me to make quick and easy videos with great sound of open mics and open jams all over the world. Now, finally, seven years later, I have found a new device that could entirely revolutionize again the way I make videos for this blog. Or maybe not. Last night was the first time I got to try my new DJI Osmo steady camera video recording device, and I did so at a pretty typical kind of open mic space. The experience was mixed – with some really great high points, and some lower ones….

I first learned about this fabulous camera called the Osmo, from a fellow journalist covering the Formula One series; and that he was using this camera for pit and paddock interviews for NBC, the major American network, made me perk up my eyes and ears. The Osmo looks like some kind of extraterrestrial, some kind of ET, mixed with your mobile phone. I am using a Samsung, but any phone can connect to it. The telephone is used as your eyes on what the camera is doing, and it also is the base for the program you download to run the camera. The connection is done over a wifi that the camera itself produces – i.e., the telephone connects to the camera via the camera’s wifi.
Oz mic second

The beauty of this thing is that it is portable, it is not very expensive – I got it on sale for 499.99 euros at Fnac, since the newer model is out at about 700 euros, but also has a zoom – and that it films in 4K and, above all, is a steady cam. That means you can walk around with it in your hand and the image looks as if it is on rails. You move it with the movement of your arm, and with the joy stick that gives nearly 360 degree movement of the camera, as well as an up and down range. In short, for 500 euros you can produce perfectly still footage that looks like it came out of The Shining.

You also have a wide choice of resolution, including 1080p, which allows you to use a digital zoom, and right up to the latest 4K, as mentioned. I tried it in several different lighting environments, and it remains a natural image throughout.
Oz mic third

So where’s the down side? Well, I’m not sure entirely, yet, after just one use in an open mic. On the other hand, I know what I loved about my Zoom devices in open mics: I could carry a Zoom camera in my pocket, drop it, send it sliding across the floor of any barroom, without damage, even dropped the Zoom in the toilet in Australia only to have it return to life a week or so later, never having lost any footage on the camera. The Osmos is more delicate, has to be treated with respect, and while it cannot be carried in the pocket, it can be carried in my guitar case with no problem.

But ultimately, part of the advantage of this beast might also be a problem: With its almost fish-eye like capture, I may be ending up with more image from an open mic room than I want. I mean, does the open mic crowd want to be part of the film or not? With the Zoom, I could film just the performer. I can do that with the Osmo, too, but this gadget looks so strange and bulky compared to the subtle Zoom or any handheld camera device or telephone, that I cannot go filming in an open mic without being noticed as a geek, and potential threat to the naturalness of the situation. It stands out, and I do not want to get too close to the performer and interrupt the attention of his or her performance by everyone staring at my weird gadget.
Oz mic fourth

Next, there’s the sound. The Osmo has a built-in microphone that is absolute trash. Mine also came with a strange external mic you attach to it, but here, it is hell for music recordings as it picks up all of the sound of the camera and its motors as it turns about and swivels and stills the jagged movements of the handheld device. There is a setting where you can turn off the fan while filming, but the mic that hangs off the device still picks up all this mechanical movement sound.

Enter my hand held Sony mic that I bought more than a decade ago for my minidisc recorder. I plugged it into the Osmo and found a fabulously quiet way of recording. But while it was perfect for my voice talking, I feel that the sound quality difference to the Zoom is big for music, based on last night’s recordings at the Café Oz open mic. But I’m hoping this has to do with it being a vocal mic, and not a good mic for music – I’ll explore that. On the other hand, there is the “hands problem.” I mean, with a Zoom, you hold the device in one hand – with this Osmo, you are obliged to use both hands: One for the device, another for the mic.
Oz mic sixth

What is undeniable, is that for 500 euros, this is an insanely fabulous video camera. DJI invented its cameras first for drones, and then it came up with the idea of doing these handheld steady cam devices. And it is a real fabulous winner for what it does, and for someone wanting to make videos – music videos, reportages, etc. – this is a winner. I’ll just have to see if it really is great for me and my open mic adventure. Oh yes, and it seems to eat up my phone battery, and the battery for the device goes pretty quickly too….

So I’m not yet decided as to how practical and great this will be as a replacement for the Zoom – but this remains an amazing, amazing discovery and I will find lots of ways to use it – especially for my next music videos….

Check out the videos I did last night at the Café Oz open mic in Paris….

First Round of Existential Camera Question Goes to Zoom

August 4, 2012
bradspurgeon

I have been hanging around home for the last three days as I edit my documentary film about open mics, and prepare my memoir and my novel for adolescents for submission to publishers/agents. What this has meant is wonderful experiences using the new Final Cut X, which got so hugely criticized when it first came out last year. It has also meant thinking a LOT about cameras, films and editing; and meeting an existential question to do with cameras, which was started off by a recent experience.

First, a note on Final Cut X. I had a week’s worth of training – 35 to 40 hours – on Final Cut Pro 7 in 2007. I then bought Premiere Pro for my home use, as I was only using a PC at home. Then after I started assembling all the rushes on my documentary about traveling around the world to open mics last year, I realized that my PC was antiquated and could not deal with the 100 hours or more of sound and footage that I had accumulated for the film, from interviews in 20 countries last year.

So I decided to buy a heavy duty Mac Pro – one of those PC-looking Macs that sits on the floor – and to buy Final Cut X. I had heard all sorts of crappy things about it, since filmmakers were as unhappy as I was, no doubt, at having learned how to use Final Cut Pro 7 and then discovering that Final Cut X had re-written the paradigm, and it looked like iMovie.

I needed one thing in particular that it had just come out with, and that was the new multicam aspect that came out after the first version. I had often done interviews with three cameras operating at once, as well as a sound recording device. I needed to sink all of that, and the Premiere Pro system – even using PluralEyes’ synching software – was not great…in fact it was a pain.

Now that I have started editing in ernest, I can say this is better than like driving a limousine. This is like sitting in a television studio and snapping your fingers during a live feed to mix and mash all the camera angles as the show goes on. It is FUN as hell, and works incredibly. I never thought editing the film would be so much fun. Additionally, Final Cut X does all the rendering in the background without you having to ask it to do so. It is sooooo simple, so beautiful, so cool.

Now to get down to figuring out what to discard from my film, making the storyline work. But I think I have that approach worked out now! In any case, it’s as fun doing it as it was interviewing people and putting the footage together.

zoom q3hd

zoom q3hd


So, that other thing I mentioned? That was to do with hardware and recording. I continue going to open mics for fun and for this blog, and I carry around a little portable Zoom Q3HD recording device, which is mainly made to record great sound, with a camera recording device added almost as an afterthought.

But it is so simple to use and to carry – on my belt – that I have always thought it was the ideal device for this blog. Unfortunately, sometimes when the lighting is really bad, the image quality is trash. Having said that, it can see in the dark to a degree, and has three basic settings for the lighting, so it is easy to use brainlessly.

But when last week I saw a video that Patrick Lamoine did of me playing at the Coolin open mic two weeks ago I was struck by the extraordinary quality of the image, and I asked him what he filmed it with. It turns out it was done with a Canon DSLR camera. That is, a camera for taking photographs that also does video. This has become a very common way to make videos, and some people are even making full length films with DSLRs.

I had noticed Patrick using the camera with a large microphone attached to it, as he attends all the Coolin open mic sessions and takes the official photos and videos – it is a great concept. I seriously wondered if I should change over to a DSLR for my blog. But Patrick had also used for a separate sound device at Zoom H4, placed above the bar – and that is apparently what he used on the video of me.

(If the video does not work correctly, click the link above it:)

Brad Spurgeon par Coolin_Open_Mic

Check out the video – even if it is not my most vital performance – in fact, I was a spaced out on this first song, “Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart, and I did a better job on the next song, my own, “Except Her Heart.” (And you may notice people behind me leaving as soon as I start, and another looking at his cell phone – but you can’t win them all!) But the quality of the image when compared to most of what I deliver on my blog is just fabulous.

My interest piqued, I then started looking at more of the videos Patrick has taken in recent weeks. I was able to find one of the same performance that we both made a video of. It was the delightful trio of starring the deadly Alix on guitar and the fun Ansaya on vocals. The video done by Patrick was not done in the same light as the one he did of me, but it was with the same camera.

This is the video I took of the trio with my Zoom Q3HD:

So if you actually compare the two videos, my portable – and half-the-price – Zoom Q3HD really stands up to it, and the sound is far better. So I don’t think, all things considered, that I will run out immediately and buy a DSLR. But I think I will keep looking around to see if there is anything irresistibly cool on the market, now that I have had my attention turned that way….

This is the video Patrick Lamoine took of the trio with his DSLR at the same time as I took mine with my Zoom Q3HD (if the video does not work correctly, click the link above it.):

Alix Thierry, Anzaya Khan & Mohamed Azzouz par Coolin_Open_Mic

Still, I’m so busy with the film that I should probably calm my buying ardor and just get on with it.

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