Blog: entries tagged with "video"

2007 wrap-up

The dust’s settled on 2007 at last, and does it ever feel like a new year now. Here’s a few highlights, including some stuff I didn’t write about the first time round:

Props from the shootJanuary: Spinglobe moves into a brand new office in a neat building in the east end. One of the first projects is a music video for the Mahones. It’s a takeoff on that Fellini scene where la Saraghina dances the rhumba on a Mediterranean beach - except it’s January, on Ashbridge’s Bay, and the warm spell of the previous week is most definitely over. We should have called the production Minus 8½. We freeze our collective asses off, but the video ends up looking pretty darn fine.

February: Played in the band for a musical revue put on as a fundraiser by some friends - my first time playing Broadway style is a fun challenge; I stress way about it more than I have to. Reconceived long-running audio drama idea as a podcast; later in the year would reconceive it again as a comic. Expect it to morph into a novel, a musical extravaganza and finally a series of haiku in 2008.

March: In the studio with Ellen Carol to record bass tracks for her new CD, produced by Don Kerr. Restarted work on Flickershow CD; we get some solid demos done and some cool results on a trip-hoppy new song called “Hold Up Donny”. It doesn’t last, however; I end up firing myself as producer later in the year. If all goes well we’ll be recording with Don in 2008.

May: Played with Flickershow at the Sammy Sugar Day Festival, the kickoff for Ellen’s fundraising bike tour of Eastern Canada. Finally launched a site for Presonance, a collaboration with Rezo Largul.

June: Attended OpenCities, an “unconference” about the convergence of civic engagement and the open source movement. Among the topics are the waterfront revitalization, public space, DIY electronics and public art, dancing in the streets. Coincidentally, the next day, Flickershow played at Pedestrian Sundays, a monthly car-free event in Kensington Market (other events occur in Mirvish Village and on Baldwin Street); our first outing with keyboard player Rich.

Trees downLater in the month, Sean’s mom comes up from Pennsylvania for a visit. Tuesday we’re at work while she takes it easy; she’s out having a smoke on the front porch when lightning strikes a tree two doors down, and a gale-force gust of wind tears off branches for several blocks. We return home to find our street a maze of police tape, tree limbs and downed power lines. Neighbouring streets are almost unaffected. “I didn’t do it,” she pleads.

July: Played Newmarket and Brampton - our only out-of-town gig prior to this was our TVO appearance taped in Parry Sound. First steps toward developing an analog-to-MIDI interface using that splendid new toy, the Arduino.

August: Cottage outing with co-workers. Lots of laughs, plenty of good food and drink, and some cool photographic exploration of natural forms and painting with light.

October: A week from hell. Two or three clients go through reorganizations, and a number of key projects go on indefinite hold. Contractors removing a cellular tower break a sprinkler pipe and flood part of our office. None of this registers, however, because our co-worker’s 21-year-old brother has just died in his sleep. Things are very quiet for several days.

IMAGENovember: Two good friends of ours invited us to play a song at their crazy cabaret-style lesbian wedding. The only question was what to wear. (As MC for the evening, Sean had no such dilemma, since they’d put him in a rather lovely kilt and feather boa.)

At the end of the month, a beautiful, awe-inspiring, mad trip to Marrakech with Sean, his mom and stepdad, and a new friend, the irrepressible and energizing Katie. We stayed in the heart of the medina, a maze of winding alleyways full of people, tiny shops, mopeds and stray cats. A handful of local kids kept asking for money; Sean juggled for them instead (years ago he did it for a living in Dallas) and became an instant hit. Later, we drove through the Atlas Mountains to ride camels into the desert and sleep in a tent. Beautiful country, lots of wonderful people. And occasional strange family moments.

December: The partners make the tough decision to sell the company to a bigger firm. Some of us move over, the video business splits off (taking on the name Robotnik Films), and I start looking for work. I’ll miss the place, and I’ll miss working with the Spinglobe crew. But it’s a huge opportunity, both to find work in a field that’s important to me and to have some actual free time again. Here’s to the new year!

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Lessons

I may have spoken too soon, in that little outburst the other day. Wrapping up final projects for work has been taking up a huge amount of time. Having most of a weekend to mull things over helped, but I still have a lot of thinking to think. More about this soon.

In the meantime, some things I have learned over the past few weeks.

  • The Arabic alphabet actually isn’t that hard. I’d always wanted to learn it, because I like alphabets and lettering - not to mention the fabulousness of Islamic calligraphy... but for some reason I’d expected it to be tough, probably because it’s joined up and reminded me of Gregg shorthand. During our trip I started to decode some place names and brand names.
  • On the other hand, the Arabic language? Oh man. I just found out that numbers not only have gender, but for the numbers 3 through 10, they have polarity - if the noun they refer to is masculine, the number is feminine and vice versa. Perhaps I’ll work on mastering French first and move on when I’m feeling brave enough.
  • Peel-top cartons of yoghurt do not travel well in a backpack.
  • Do not watch the video for the Shins’ “Phantom Limb” moments before a meeting. Crying in front of a client can be awkward.
  • “The Weight” by The Band is more complicated than I remembered, especially after half a pint.

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Dorkbot

One of Stan Krzyzanowski's pine conesDorkbot Toronto, the local chapter of the network of “people doing strange things with electricity”, has a new slate of presentations, and last night was the first.

Patricia Rodriguez presented some of her video work using all sorts of cameras - film, video, digital - and taking advantage of each one’s unique features and most interesting ways of failing.

Cary Peppermint and Christine Nadir’s work is about breaking down the perceived borders between nature and the human-made world, using electronic media installations in unexpected places. Wild Information Network, a solar-powered streaming audio server installed deep in the woods of the Catskills, plays sound pieces submitted by various artists, all with the notion of humans broadcasting to the broader environment, or vice versa. It and other pieces are catalogued on their site: EcoArtTech.net.

Stan Krzyzanowski showed his time-lapse work, ranging from handheld still camera shots, to mesmerizing animations created from successive sections of wood and other materials (notably vegetables and marbled cheese), to his recent projects involving cones from various sorts of tree. Pine cones, see, open up as they dry and fold closed again if you get them wet. And when sped up, the waving of a big pine cone’s scales takes on an eerie, almost animal aspect.

It’s beautiful stuff. Interval is a rather huge archive of all his experiments - click some of the “special sets” on the lower right. Most of the best stuff is on the “Favorites” page.

The sessions are held at InterAccess, a gallery at Queen and Ossington devoted to electronic media art. They offer a very cool series of workshops on topics like microcontroller programming, introductory electronics, pinhole photography, and hacking your bike to turn it into a mobile piece of sound art. I’m hoping to attend the ones on Pure Data and creating “resilient outdoor works”.

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Many hands make light (art)work

Three pieces. The first two were passed along by a fellow DIYer who’s working on interactive electronic public art (thanks Gabe!):

GRL's Laser Tag system in operationFirst up, the Graffiti Research Lab and their collaborators have produced a laptop / camera / projector setup that lets you paint on the side of a building.

Their software lets you define the contours of the wall you’re projecting onto, then tracks the position of a laser pointer beam using video fed from the camera, and draws the resulting lines - with some simulated paint dripping, for added effect. Naturally, it’s open source, complete with instructions.

IMAGENext, Body Movies by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Portraits are projected on a huge scale on walls surrounding a public square, revealed in the shadows thrown by passers-by. If people in the square arrange themselves in a matching pose, the projections switch. But much more interesting is the ways that people spontaneously interact, given the possibility of casting gigantic shadows of radically different sizes. It turns into instant mimed improv.

Hello from Pika PikaAnd finally, PIKA PIKA, a “lightning doodle project”. Doodler Takeshi explains:

We took a photo of each image using long exposures and put them together to make them look like one animation.

To work on this project,we went out to various places in Japan:parks,under the train track,the Tokyo Bay,school hallways,and so on.

We got all sorts of friends in different fields together to work on this project.
During the process,they got to know each other and discover new things. This is also about “communication”.
People can meet new friends as they create a piece art very easy which brings every one happiness.
We spend a very enjoyable evening at the workshop and the party through this animation.

The results are delightful to watch, too - it’s like a live performance of a Norman McLaren scratch-animation film, with luminous creatures and designs running riot through real physical spaces. I love how the “performers” are often faintly visible, but obscured, like bunraku puppeteers.

The beauty of these projects is how intuitive they are to use. Casting shadows, drawing with light… even if they’re a little tricky to get the hang of, the concept is utterly simple and inviting. And they let people think and interact with their whole bodies.

Now we need to make “computers for the rest of you.” GUI technology allows you to drag and drop, but it won’t notice if you twist and shout.
— Dan O’Sullivan and Tom Igoe, Physical Computing

The body is the large brain.
— Brian Eno

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Spring music

Fender Jazz headstockThis winter I seem to have been in a sort of musical hibernation. No gigs, no writing, hardly any jamming, no listening to any new music.

My main musical effort was playing bass in the band in show-tune revue some friends were putting together. Good experience, and while I still can’t sight-read well, it certainly gave me the chance to improve at it. (My favorite tunes to play: “Nobody’s Side” from Chess, “Life Of The Party” from The Wild Party, both full of syncopations and time changes; “Take Me Or Leave Me” from Rent, where I got to rock out a bit; and “I Could Be Happy With You” from The Boy Friend, just because it was so damned cute in that faux-‘20s, so-very-English sort of way.)

But other than that - perhaps in part because of it - I’ve just been burned out. Frankly, I was getting worried how little interest I had.

I managed to rouse myself enough to familiarize myself with Yes and Peter Gabriel, having borrowed some of their albums… and suddenly, much was explained to me about ‘70s rock.

A while ago J and I laid down some scratch versions of a whole pile of songs, both new and old, to use as the basis for a new CD. They sat untouched until a few days ago, when I stuck bass parts on some of the newest ones to send to our drummer. Here’s one:

Hold_Up_Donny.mp3 (3’43”)

I was afraid I was getting into a rut with my parts, so on these new songs there’s all kinds of pushed rhythms and other oddness. For the first time I’m making use of the Jazz bass, and taking advantage of its punch and sustain with a much more legato line. I’m attempting to play chords on the “choruses”, also for the first time, and the whole thing has a sort of Fender Rhodes feel to it. Starting to sound pretty trip-hoppy. Fleshing this one out is going to be a lot of fun!


The Golden Dogs: still from 'Construction Worker'New music discoveries this week too. Currently on the playlist:

Flook (borrowed from my Go-playing friend downstairs, also a Celtic music aficionado) an Anglo-Irish band who specialize in wonderful hyperactive flute-and-bohdrán grooves.

The Golden Dogs. Ran across two of their videos while browsing idly, and immediately went and got their album Big Eye Little Eye. Chock full of my kind of hooks (my favorite is “Runouttaluck” - if you cranked Stereolab up to double speed and mashed it up with the B-52’s it might sound like this) plus the same sort of dueling boy/girl vocals that make the New Pornographers and other bands so addictive. And they exude such joy in the video for “Construction Worker” that I think I have a crush on the whole band.

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Cooking with beats

This here video rocks on so many levels. (There’s a better quality version on The Fame Game site, but I’ve embedded the YouTube version here because it politely waits for you to click on it before starting to download the whole damn thing.)

Without further ado, star beatboxer Beardyman shows you how to prepare the Electro Funk Daddy Superstar break:

(Thanks to my SO at Craphammer for pointing this one out to me.)

Why is this kind of thing so damn satisfying? My guess is that it takes electronic music - virtual and abstracted, but the product of a long process of stylistic and technological evolution in its own right - and adds another layer of depth by grounding it back in the physical world again, using honest-to-goodness real-time physical virtuosity. And to top it off, it’s funny and spontaneous. In a word, it’s masterful.

Really, it’s the human equivalent of the song of the Australian lyrebird (as introduced here by Sir David Attenborough):

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Naturellement c’est un concert

Naturally 7 on the MétroSpacing Wire points out this lovely “concert sauvage” by NYC a capella group Naturally 7, favouring bemused Parisian commuters with a rendition of “In The Air Tonight”. I’m reminded of my first visit to Manhattan a few years ago, when three guys wandered onto our train and started singing a couple of gospel numbers (“It’s gonna rain! It’s gonna rain. Or maybe snow…”) - I’m guessing there’s much more of a tradition of singing on the subway in New York?

Makes me want to do some busking this summer. It struck me, for example, strolling around during last year’s wonderful Nuit Blanche, that it’d be even cooler with street music…


I almost missed this one: Zunior recently released the Our Power Solar Music Compilation as an exclusive download album. It’s a fundraiser for solar power initiatives in Ontario, and has tracks by Sexsmith & Kerr, Steven Page, Snailhouse, Gord Downie and others.

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Farewell to Ryan Larkin

Still from Ryan Larkin's 'Street Musique' Via Torontoist - Ryan Larkin, who went from breaking ground in the National Film Board’s animation studios, to panhandling on the streets of Montreal, to an all-too-brief comeback in his final days, has passed away.

Cartoon Brew’s obit includes the early short Syrinx (wherein the young Larkin takes Norman McLaren’s drawing-and-redrawing techniques into poetic new territory) and the 2004 documentary Ryan (wherein animator Chris Landreth’s conversations with Larkin and friends are spun into surreal computer animations that underscore the man’s tragic story).

Ryan was at work on a new film based on his experiences, called “Spare Change”. His collaborator, Laurie Gordon of the band Chiwawa, is continuing work on the piece - see the official site for further details.

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“Nobody knows what it’s made from”

It’s been weeks. You’d think I might be posting about our new office, or some cool projects we’ve been doing, but no.

I just ran across this video and immediately thought “Gosh, it’s like a Japanese version of Look Around You!” (Add to list: parallels between Japan and the UK.) Learn here about sushi, courtesy of the Rahmens:

And now to bed. There will be photos and things soon.

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Secret songs

I can’t post the latest Song-a-day pieces, because (1) the sound quality on one of them is terrible, not to mention the playing, (2) the second one’s not done, and (3) they’re part of secret Hallowe’en show plans. Not that it’s that big a secret, I suppose. Regardless, I’m quite proud of them both.

We don’t have time to pull it off for this year, but the secret plan is this: for Hallowe’en - or perhaps some other show, just for the heck of it - we come on dressed as a completely different band, and play our own material in a different style. Of course, knowing the two of us, New Wave seems the most logical and fun choice. I’ve spent the past half hour trying to sing like Neil Tennant.

I mentioned the premise to a friend, who had a related idea: musical improv. Not just improvised music, not just an improvised musical, but improvised drama featuring the players in a band. The audience could throw out suggestions for what style they should perform and the soap opera dynamics that are going on between all the musicians. It’d take a good deal of skill and chutzpah, and no small amount of preparations. But it could be really cool.

On another related tangent, I’ve been tossing around ideas for a while about doing a story-with-songs - not quite a musical, but a narrated story with songs performed by a band, or more than one band (they could change during the story breaks). My chief inspiration was Harry Nilsson’s The Point, which is fun, but it’s by someone else, and it’s not really his best work.

As I type all this, Tarquin is on my lap, pawing at it in a way that’s frankly rude. He’s been really pushy lately about wanting to own my lap and/or chair, and if not, to climb up on my desk. I may have to employ him in my music making (inspired also by this YouTube video, which was passed along to me by Ms Urnash; warning, contains adorable kitten).

I guess you’d call that ailurotoric composition?

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