Music Video Production

I was delighted to have the recent opportunity to work with the wonderfully talented Kathleen (Kay Clarity) on several live music videos. She is a tremendous singer-songwriter in Saskatoon and it was wonderful to work with her and our mutual friend Liz. I was the tech guy, handling the audio/video setup (something I really enjoy doing! #geek) while Liz has a keen eye for photography and did a great job operating the camera.

Here is the first song we released last week: Forever. More videos are coming!

Some tech details:

  • Camera: Canon Rebel T2i with a 50mm Pentax prime lens from the 1970s. That lens is a pretty amazing piece of glass!
  • Lighting: Two Yongnuo YN-300 daylight (5500K) balanced lights as key and back lights, and a less bright Viltrox L116T, also at 5500K. All were battery powered and attached to microphone stands with 1/4″ – 5/8″ adapters. These were set up in a traditional, three-point arrangement.
  • Microphones: Shure SM7B for vocals and the always-trustworthy Shure SM57 for the guitar.
  • Recording: Fivefish Audio SC1mk2 preamp fed into an older Presonus Firepod, going into a 2012 MacBook Pro.
  • Software: Logic Pro X for audio and Final Cut Pro X for video. Video compression was done with Apple Compressor. (And yeah, my 5+ year old computer sounded like it wanted to cry when it was editing and rendering the video. Heh. It may be on its last legs…)

One issue that I have yet to fully crack is YouTube’s video compression. Depending on your viewing device you may notice some colour banding in the grey background near the beginning of the video. That is due to YouTube’s own lossy compression of what was initially a pretty high quality upload (ProRes). Apparently YouTube will sometimes recompress video into the newer/better VP9 codec rather than the default h.264 but I haven’t figured out how to make that happen. I do take heart in that I’m not nearly the only person dealing with this problem: I was watching the finale of the AMAZING fan series Star Trek Continues (seriously, if you’re at all into the original Star Trek, check it out!!) and even with their high-end production the YouTube feed suffers the same problem with background colour gradients. So I’m not alone in this, at least. :) I did insert some extra noise into the signal to limit the problem and it helped, but if you have any further suggestions for how to make YouTube (and Facebook) compress video more nicely I’m very open to hearing them!

Regardless, I am very pleased with how it turned out (11000+ views and counting on YouTube and Facebook). Most of all, it was a true gift to be able to work with Kathleen and Liz. Thank you both!

ALSO: You *must* check out Kathleen’s new album: Kay Clarity: The Jewel Collections. Is fantastic!!

New Video – Autotune the Church!

Here it is! Pope Francis in a 2 Unlimited parody – “Are You Ready?”

I had way too much fun with this! It’s an idea I’ve had since I heard Pope Francis speaking in English in South Korea in August, 2014, and comes from Clark Jaman’s incredible video series, Autotune the Church (YouTube).

Are you ready to say yes?

It is good for us to be here!
We can almost feel
the glory of Jesus in our midst
in the power of the Holy Spirit.
He makes all things new,
makes his glory shine in you
He calls you and me to rise!
Are you ready, ready, ready to say yes?

Christ is knocking at the door
of your heart, of my heart.
The Spirit of Jesus can bring new life
to your heart, to my heart.
Jesus rose from the dead;
He has the words of eternal life.
He calls you and me to rise!
Are you ready, ready, ready to say yes?

You are called to go forth
and bear witness to the gospel.
Dear young friends, go forth
and bear witness to the gospel.
His glory shines in you;
the Lord is counting on you.
He calls you and me to rise!
Are you ready, ready, ready to say yes?

First Impressions: Fortunate Fall by Audrey Assad

A few months ago, something really neat happened. Catholic singer/songwriter Audrey Assad invited people to help her out financially with the production of her newest album. In return for contributing to the Kickstarter campaign, backers were able to (among other things) download the full album before it was made available to the general public. Since I am a huge fan of her other work, contributing to this album was a no-brainer for me.

This morning in my email I received a very pleasant surprise in the form of a download link to the new album: Fortunate Fall. I made haste to download it, fire up the KRKs, and give it a listen.

I was not prepared for where Ms. Assad’s music would lead me over the next hour or so.

It led me into a place of prayer on this unseasonably chilly July afternoon.

Assad’s previous work has impressed me with her lyrical depth and her songwriting creativity. This newest album continues this, and deepens it. And to write that Fortunate Fall is beautiful almost seems to be an understatement. I found myself repeating the tracks several times. Once through was not nearly enough for me to process the incredible instrumentation, the lyrics & vocals, and – most of all – the kind of prayer into which I was being led.

The theme of Fortunate Fall comes from the Easter Proclamation that we hear every year at the Easter Vigil:

O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

assad-studioAs such, I found the lyrics in this album to be challenging me to go deeper into the mystery of Christ’s loving humility in saving us, even when we had fallen. Infused with Scripture (especially the psalms!) and the Tradition, the lyrics have been challenging me to examine my own humility (or lack thereof). The music also led me into a deeper sense of thankfulness. And my mind has gone to lots of other places that I have yet to process fully. :-)

(This would be a great album to take on a retreat, I think!)

For example, the track “I Shall Not Want” has many of the themes presented in the Litany of Humility, and I found the oft-repeated line, “Deliver me O God” ringing in my mind well afterward. What a challenging prayer to make. It’s quite scary, actually, when looking at the lyrics on their own. Yet, as they were couched within gorgeous strings and wonderful vocals, I found this prayer to in fact be immensely hopeful in tone: it’s God upon whom I rely, not my own devices. How appropriate it was, then, to be led into the next track (“Good to Me”) which immediately begins with the line: “I put all my hope in the truth of Your promise.” The one song flowing into the other like this cannot have been an accident; Someone Else is at work.

I found this album to be doing this sort of thing in me over and over. It is much more than an album: it’s a journey of prayer.

Thank you for this, Ms. Assad. I give this a wholehearted five stars. Or two thumbs up. Or 5 noses (in Lino Rulli’s terms). Or whatever scoring system says “This-is-really-awesome-and-everyone-should-buy-it-plus-another-copy-or-five-for-their-friends!”

Update: Fortunate Fall is available now!! Buy it on iTunes or Click here for more ordering information.

Also: If you are in the Saskatoon area, be sure to mark off the evening of Nov. 8, when Assad will be there for the Diocese of Saskatoon Festival of Faith!
Tickets available here!