“Praise the Lord” A music video by Rich Barnes

In 2013 I found a different calling and started to go to a Christian church in downtown Fredericksburg. In February of 2014 I was baptized and became a Christian. Prior to this lifestyle change I had been a death metal musician for over 15 years. I would soon become a member of the worship band at my church. I was a death metal musician Monday-Saturday and a worship leader on Sundays. I fused the two elements together in 2014 and made a Christian death metal album. For anyone that is curious here is a song (with cheesy video) from it:

First yes, my death metal band is called Telephone Pole Cancer. I shared this song so you can get an idea of my “normal” singing voice and playing style. Obviously the vocal style I used is not for everyone! I wrote a few worship songs last year and I finally recorded the song called “Praise the Lord.” Praise was the first recorded song I tried to sing on since 2002. This is the song and video. Hope you enjoy it!

The assignment was http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/create-a-music-video-2/ worth 5 stars.

This was by far the most time consuming assignment I have done for DS106. I used CoolEdit96 to record the song. I recorded the guitar first, then the bass, the drums and the keyboards last. The very last thing I did was the vocals which are sometimes layered over multiple times. I avoid vocal effects but there are parts where there are five or six of me singing! This is an original song I wrote created from the Psalms in the bible.

The video was shot at my house and I also went down to Old Mill Park to shoot some video. The scene with the water would be the Rappahannock River. It was difficult deciding what to shoot for this video. I did not want to take any copyrighted pictures from the internet. I tried to go for symbolism with shots representing things that remind me of God. Things like water (baptism), trees (life) and the sky (heaven). I also tried out a few low camera angles that I mentioned in my blogs from earlier in the week. I used PowerDirector to do the opening title and imbed the cross in the sky via green screen. First the title:

praise tut 1

Now the green screen effect. The shot of the cross in front of the green screen is on the left and the cross with the green removed is to the right. I also added a visual star effect after the green screen was finished.

praise tut 2

Fellow Ds106er’s, green screen (AKA Chroma Key) is a blast to work with but can also be VERY frustrating. You cannot have any shadows behind the subject you are shooting. You need one simple consistent green color behind your subject. This was fairly simple to do but it can get much more difficult when the object you are shooting is moving. If you would like to try out green screen first you’ll need software that supports it. PowerDirector and iMovie can be used, last I checked Windows Movie Maker cannot. There are also numerous tutorials on YouTube. Windows Movie Maker is great for simple editing and that’s what I used to piece this together. A screen shot of the whole video:

praise tut 3

I used a few effects in Movie Maker which can be found under the top via “Visual Effects.” The words were added by clicking on the caption button. I cannot stress enough to just play around and have fun. I am a self taught musician and learned everything I have done in video by trial and error. I know if I can do it you will all succeed as well.

 

 

Look, Listen and Analyze: The Hulk

Today I will be analyzing a short clip from the movie The Hulk from 2003. I have been a fan of the Incredible Hulk since I was a little boy. I loved the TV show from the late 70’s starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. I have also collected Incredible Hulk comics, toys, etc for over 25 years. In 2003 I saw The Hulk movie in theaters and I was disappointed. The movie was too long and probably could have been trimmed by 15-20 minutes. I thought Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly were underwhelming as Bruce Banner and Betty Ross. The movie could have been saved at the end but I thought the ending was weak too. I was hoping for Nick Nolte’s character David Banner to also turn into a Hulk for a big Hulk vs Hulk fight but that is no where close to what happened. It may appear I am dogging the movie, which I am! That is why I want to look at this Hulk scene from different perspectives. This is the scene:

First I will analyze the scene by watching the scene with the sound off. The scene starts with a close-up of Bruce Banner and then uses a few behind the character shots, two from behind Bruce Banner and one behind the Hulk. It ends with a looking down at the Hulk perspective while he falls. The camera angles do not say much, however, seeing Bruce Banner look at the Hulk in the scene opens the door for many possibilities. Has Bruce been separated from the Hulk like he was in the comics? Where does Bruce go after the Hulk grabs him? What in the world did the Hulk say!? If I had only seen this scene without having already seen the movie, I would be excited about finding out what happens next. On the technical side of things I think director Ang Lee should have shot the Hulk from a little lower angle to give him a more powerful presence. It should also be noted the CGI looks quite awful by today’s standards and it was barely passable back then.

I will now analyze the scene by listening to the sound only. The scene opens with some water dripping and music that gives you the sense something bad will happen. The music starts building up like something big is about to happen. It gets a little weird like someone is chanting in the background. What in the world is going on here? Glass breaks and we here someone say “puny human.” Oh my who was that!? Was that the Incredible Hulk? Puny human is something he says all the time in his comic books! Did the Hulk just punch through a window and grab someone? Maybe Tony Stark aka Iron Man? Or maybe General Thunderbolt Ross, Betty’s father. The sound does a great job building up the scene until we here that classic Hulk catch phrase.

I will now watch the scene as originally intended. The audio and video work well together but being an avid Hulk fan, I would think Bruce is having some kind of a dream about the Hulk. It turns out I would have been correct. Having both characters wipe the mirror at the same time was a neat trick though. This is one of the few scenes that work’s well in Ang Lee’s Hulk in this Hulk fan’s opinion. To my surprise, the scene was very interesting with just the audio. Pretending I had never seen the movie, the audio built things up very well and had me wondering what is next? What did happen next is an underwhelming movie that was followed by a marginally better sequel in 2008. At least the Hulk was awesome in Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Maybe you’ll get another movie of your own someday big guy.

 

Cinema Technique 2 – Camera Angles and Techniques

My second film technique will be based off the video below:

The first effect described is the Zolly. The Zolly is a camera effect in which the camera operator dollys in the reverse direction and speed in which he or she is zooming. I have seen this effect before but have never seen the movie Vertigo. The video shows a brief shot of a Zolly effect on a staircase and it is an amazing shot. I am quite surprised they did not reference the Zolly that always comes to my mind, Jaws!

This an incredible shot from one of my favorite films. I did not know it was called the Zolly and I wish I had a dolly so I could do my own Zolly shot!

Camera angles are the other topic in this video. I really liked the part where the girl is “climbing” the wall. Camera trickery is a useful effect and I learned that with clever shot selection, you can have the audience buy into whatever you are selling.

Although there were only two techniques mentioned, I found this to be helpful and will try to use a variety of camera angles in the future. It should be noted this video also mentions shooting at low angles. As part of this total assignment I have reviewed an article by Roger Ebert and watched video’s by Quentin Tarantino, both involved shooting from low angles. I guess this low angle thing is REALLY important in the cinematic universe!

 

Cinema Technique 1 – Tarantino from Below

The first cinema technique I will look at is Tarantino’s from below. Watch the video below for examples of this technique.

Watching the various clips from Tarantino’s films showed me this a great method that I should use more often in my own films. There were may scenes where I felt this angle gave his characters power and presence on screen. Film reviewer Roger Ebert had said “Extreme high angle shots make characters into pawns; low angles make them into gods.” His statement holds true in these clips and Tarantino uses the from below to great effect. I really think it worked well in his film Inglorious Basterds. The scene with Brad Pitt holding the knife over another character really gives power to his character and a sense of doom to the character he is talking too. That shot could also be considered a POV shot – which means point of view. The POV shot is most scene in video games such as Halo and Call of Duty. You see things from your characters perspective. I think the first time I saw a POV shot in film was 1987’s Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that’s another story…

How to Read a Movie

Siskel & Ebert was a popular film review show from 1975 to 1999. Siskel passed away in 1999 but Roger Ebert continued on in reviewing film and writing articles. In 2008 he wrote an article, How To Read A Movie. I will play the part of Ebert by reviewing his article.

Ebert begins with a little background about himself and then gives us a tip about watching film, “Just pause the film and think about what you see.” I think this is a great idea and I have been doing this for years, especially since DVD’s were launched back in the 1990’s. You can pause the movie and then advance the movie frame by frame. I really liked to use this method for one reason: special effects. Sometimes when you frame by frame an effect you can see a string/fishing line/blood tube/etc that gives you an idea on how the effect was done. I wouldn’t recommend pausing scenes with CGI (computer generated images), sometimes a still shot will show how bad an effect can be – see every Sharknado movie for an example.

Ebert later brings up that in a two-shot, the person on the right will “seem” dominant over the person on the left. To better explain this here is a picture from his article.

two shot

I do not agree with this theory. While some people may see things in that perspective, in this picture I feel the man on the left is dominant over the man on the right. I believe this as the man on the left is in the foreground and the man on the right is in the background. My train of thought is foreground character> background character in a shot. This is always going to be situational though. If the man on the left was an extra and the man on the right was The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson), then obviously The Rock is dominant over an extra. In further review of the article Ebert even says himself “The foreground is stronger than the background.”

Ebert continues on with “Extreme high angle shots make characters into pawns; low angles make them into gods.” This is a method I agree with and I have heard in behind the scenes segments many directors use this. By shooting upwards towards your character you give them a sense of power. Think about all the superhero movies that have come out over the last decade. The heroes and villains have many shots employing this method, Superman is the superhero who comes to mind where I’ve seen this method used the most. Shooting from a low angle pointing up at Superman. His hand’s on his hips, arms out and the big S on his chest. Power, justice, truth in one shot.

One last thing I’d like to mention is his comment “The future seems to live on the right, the past on the left.” I think that is accurate because most people/books draw timelines with the past on the left and future on the right. Here is an example from Back to the Future 2:

timeline-300x248

Doc Brown is confirming Ebert’s comment – the past is on the left and the future is on the right. He has the present right in the middle.

This was an interesting article and I am really going to try to pause movies in random parts more often so I can try to read the scenes. I may also try this with friends and so we can have our own “Cinema Interruptus.” Since I make films myself, I’d like to also use the low/high angle theory more in shots to give or take away a sense of power.

 

Week 3 Summary DS106

Week 3 is over and this was my favorite week to date. I love working with audio and really tried to improve on my storytelling. It appears we are doing audio next week too so I am looking forward to more audio editing! I did not think the Ira Glass videos would be interesting but they held my interest. I really identified with the part of just being yourself and not trying to be someone else. I did not find myself struggling with the audio editing as that is a comfort zone for me, hopefully that shows in my final product!

What I did struggle with a little bit this week was leaving more detailed feedback. I am one of those “great job keep up the good work” people and decided to try to give positive feedback but constructive feedback as well. It appears some of the other DS106 students haven’t worked with audio much so I am trying to see things from that perspective. I also noticed a few students embedded their audio before the story instead of where the sound clip would play in the story. I recommended imbedding the audio right where the sound would happen in the story.

I was very happy to see the Wilhem! I have used that scream in probably over 70% of the films I have shot. It’s such an all time classic and it’s showing up in almost every Marvel Comics movie these days. I thought the Foley video was interesting but I am generally too lazy to make my own sound effects. I have used http://soundfxnow.com/ to get many sound FX although at the time of this writing the site is down.

The assignments for the week!

Four Daily Creates, # 3 was my favorite because it was so ridiculous.

Daily Create # 1, Daily Create # 2, Daily Create # 3, Daily Create # 4

Two audio assignments, the requirement was two assignments worth at least five stars. I enjoyed making the trailer and used Ira’s tip of just being yourself. I’m not sure too many people would mix Cannibal Corpse, Britney Spears and wrestling celebrities together!

Audio Assignment 1 – DS106 Trailer (4.5 stars)

Audio Assignent 2 – Spooky Dialogue (2.5 stars)

My thoughts on the Ira Glass videos:

Ira Glass reflection

I also chose the ghost stories from Radiolab, I thought it was very well done in some spots and very bland in others. Here is the link to my blog about the production:

Ghost Stories by Radiolab

I left feedback for five blogs under the names starfirego, CieraCentral, tyler_gimple, kerauch8 & taractaonline. A short summary/clip of my feedback:

starfirego – The music was pleasant and the little bit of your voice I heard was good. It sounds like you have a nice voice and I would recommend using it more on future projects. As far as finding the perfect sound I will reference Ira Glass, just be you. Find something you identify with and use that.

CieraCentral – I would recommend for future audio projects to have your story and instead of writing out the ugh part, put your sound clip. Example: Suddenly the iPod she was listening to dies and the first words are spoken from this angst-y preteen that leaves her family shocked: (embed your audio here).

tyler_gimple – I would recommend for future projects to watch the length of your introduction. A little trim here and there would tighten things up so your audience can get to the main course quicker.

kerauch8  – The only thing I would change is start telling your story and then embed the sound. Example: “You open the app the play the recording of what has happened and you hear this.” Embed your Soundcloud clip and then pick up the story again.

taractaonline –  I would recommend adding some creature sounds/growls while the gun is firing so it is clear to the listener that there is a battle going on.

I hope we do more audio in week 4 and hopefully my audio assignments are an improvement over my visual assignments from the first two weeks.

Ghost Stories – A Lesson in Listening

Hello DS106 subscribers, these are my thoughts on Radiolab’s production called Ghost Stories. The production starts off with a story by Mary Roach. Some of the sound effects were hit or miss for me. I thought the newscast spliced in about the death of Thomas Bradford worked very well. There was a lengthy moment of silence (aka dead air) during this story and it kind of annoyed me. When I did college radio way back in the day the rule was no dead air for more than two seconds. I’m probably in the minority about being annoyed with silence but I am entitled to my opinion.

The next story was related to the creation of a CPR mannequin. The CPR sound effects they used worked well with the theme of bringing someone back to life. The story is about someone floating in the sea back in 1954, a man named Osmond (spelling?). This story was a little dry until they reached a portion about death masks. There many sound effects and music layered together under the dialogue that helped keep me interested in the story. Sometimes though there were two different sets of dialogues going which were a bit confusing. What I mean is the story tellers were speaking while there was different dialogue underneath their track. It was a little tough to follow.

On a side note the commercials were well edited/produced.

Next up is a story by reporter Steve Volk and his story is about a figure in his dreams. Spooky music is used right away to give listeners the sense of dread. The music continues and escalates until there is a fight between Steve and the guy in his dream. There are multiple horror/suspense sounds used effectively until Steve wakes up from the dream. There are significantly less sound effects used after the dream and it took me out of the story a bit. There are so many effects up front that all the dialogue after the dream paled in comparison and it became really hard to stay interested until the end. Steve has another dream with the guy and musical & sound  effects are used similar to how the story started. I was interested in the story again and chuckled at all the Superman and Neo references. Strong start, weak middle and a strong ending based just on the use of audio.

The last story takes place over 500 years ago. This was a little dialogue heavy to start and did not grab my attention. Listening to Radiolab’s productions it’s obvious they have access to a vast array of sound effects and should use them to grab the listener’s attention right away. Effects were not used until later in the story. Everything has been well produced although sometimes the Radiolab people talk over each other a little.

The broadcast was a little long clocking in at almost 60 minutes and I sometimes had trouble staying involved. Some of this could have been edited down a bit and the overall length should have been 40-45 minutes. There are some dry spots I could have done without and there were some very exciting parts via effects so I know the potential is there.

Coming soon to theatres not near you!

It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s DS106!? That’s right it’s the digital storytelling class that is the best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be! DS106 is proud to announce it has a new audio trailer which you can hear below by clicking on a little thing we like to call… the play button!

That’s right all your favorite things from the 80’s and 90’s are here at DS106 because we are living in the past now. Pantera, Cannibal Corpse, Adam Sandler, Run DMC, The Rock, Metallica, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Beavis (we are working on signing Butthead!) and Britney Spears! They are all here even though they all go together like peanut butter and tuna. So tune in every week to hear all your favorites in a completely incoherent mess like this trailer!

The audio assignment I chose was http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/creat-a-ds106-radio-bumper/ for 4.5 stars.

This was without a doubt my favorite assignment to date. I enjoyed making this trailer and really got to be myself making it (one of Ira Glasses tips in his video was be yourself). I may have showed my age a bit as everything I used was from the 80’s and 90’s but that’s what I grew up with. I used Cooledit96 again for this project. Obviously I did a ton of copying and pasting which I won’t bore you all with. It’s one of the most basic windows functions and there would be 25 screenshots of copying and pasting. I will show you how I did some of the other tricks.

The first thing I did was raise the pitch of my voice on the “Are you ready for” part using the stretch mode in Cooledit.

stretch

I left the part where I said DS alone and then lowered the pitch on the “106” and added a flanger to the vocal. The flanger gave it that weird martian sound which is the effect I used!

Flanger

Adam Sandler yells “No!” four times. The first time he yells it I raised the pitch like I did with my voice at the beginning, the second time he yells it is the original. The third time he yells no I lowered the pitch and the fourth time I lowered his voice even more.

stretch2

In the Run DMC “Walk this Way” part, at the end there’s a bum bum bum part before a Metallica riff plays. The second and third bum have their pitches raised using the same method I showed earlier. If you listen closely the bum parts go from the one channel to the other and back if you are playing this through stereo speakers. This is an old and easy trick to do but very effective, just delete the sound from one of the channels if it was recorded in stereo. See below:

delete

If you look above where the blue box is, this is where I deleted the sound. The reason the music is split is one half is the right channel, the other is the left channel. Just delete sound from either channel as you can see above so you can get that going back and forth speaker sound effect. The last effect I used was an echo when I say DS106.

 

echo

I used the canyon echo because canyons are cool! Make sure when using echo’s that you click the “continue echo beyond selection” if that is an option in your sound editing software. If it is not checked your echo may end prematurely or may not even appear.

Ira Glass on storytelling

I really identified right away with Ira’s discussion on anecdotes. I generally write things that constantly lead from one thing to the next with a final destination. I used this method with the first audio assignment I did, “A Wolf Now Among Us“. It was basically one thing would happen and then that would lead to another. Although the audio I recorded was what gave me the idea, I started writing and then I was able to have one idea go to the next. I have always written like this starting with my first script back in 2003.

I understand his part on looking for great stories although I had trouble identifying with this at first. I generally don’t try to find the story, I wait for it to pop up in my head especially when it comes to writing scripts. I’d like to think I come up with great ideas but I am not on a time schedule like Ira is. Ds106 does have a strict time schedule which I am not accustomed to and that has forced me to change the way I write. I have started off very slowly and I’m sure other students may have trouble with the work/school/family/etc balance but it can be done and I hope to finish strong. So I can identity with this because I have to with our class schedule.

I had to laugh at the part Ira said about making things that are crappy (my first two weeks of DS106 apparently fall under this category!). There are a few movies and a bunch of songs I wish I could have done differently looking back. There’s that reflection thing he mentioned in part one. His year eight tape he played had me wondering what he was talking about too. Having a good sense of humor about previous failures is the only way to go. Laugh at your faults and improve on them. I’m trying to get past the first two weeks of this class and focus on the last three. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Ira states be more your own self, well said sir. I have been doing death metal for almost two decades. My friends keep telling me to stop singing in that voice, you write cool riffs but I can’t understand the vocals! I do not want to do it any differently, death metal is what I do when it comes to recording music. Can I sing? Sure. I am a worship band member at my church and using my death metal voice would be frowned upon. I am me and that’s all I can be.

I made it through all four parts of Ira’s storytelling videos and I’m surprised to write I enjoyed them all. He makes good points in each video and my biggest takeaway is be yourself, don’t try to be someone else. I know I wrote I do that currently but I do not want to change in the future. An example would be making music or movies that I do not like but make them hoping other people will. I do not want to sell out and make more commercial music, that’s not what I do. And hopefully I never will…

A Wolf Now Among Us

Rich was walking down the street one night and saw a glowing light in a field. Curiosity got the best of him and he walked towards it. As he got closer to the light he soon became paralyzed in fear. He saw a man dressed in black robes standing by a fire with a staff in his right hand, a book in his left hand and a wolf slightly behind him. The man in black pointed at a page and said “Read the passage from this book.” Not knowing what else to do Rich went along with what the man in black requested. Rich read aloud but felt many strange things happening to him as he read:

After he finished the passage, the wolf disappeared that was behind the man in black. Rich dropped the book, looked down and saw that his clothes were gone and his entire body was covered in thick hair. “You are now a lycanthrope” the man in black said, “and you must feed.” Rich looked back up and everything turned to red. In a demonic growling voice he said “I will start with you…” The werewolf pounced at the man in black, who was never to be seen again…

The audio assignment I chose was http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/spooky-dialogue/ for 2.5 stars.

This was a fun assignment to do, I enjoy working with audio and felt it was easier to tell a story with the audio I created. I went in the time machine for this, I used CoolEdit96 (CoolEdit was purchased by Adobe and is now know as Adobe Audtion). I am very familiar with this program and have recorded seven albums with it. Plus it was free with a code back in the day. I know there is much more advanced software available but I did not like Audacity and do not want to pay for an audio editing program.

Using CoolEdit is similar to most programs, I recorded myself speaking into a microphone. It should be noted I am a death metal singer so I used a little of that near the end before messing with the pitch I recorded. This was the original recording,

Edit 1

I highlighted a section as shown above and clicked on the stretch option. Below you will see the stretch window.

Edit 2

There are a few pre-sets that raise or lower the pitch plus a few other options. I simply just chose a few parts and altered the pitch. On the top left of the stretch box there is a bar. Slide it to the right the pitch will go down, to the left and it will go up. This program is so old I had to save my file as a .wav! I used http://www.convertfiles.com/convert/audio/WAV-to-MP3.html to convert the .wav to a MP3 and uploaded the file to Soundcloud.