Made a duet and a game

I learned some filmmaking skills 3 years ago and I like to dust the rust off every now and then. I enjoy the technology and the tools of the trade: DSLR cameras, lenses, lights, clapper boards and double system sound recording.  Editing is also a lot of fun. Making something beautiful that didn’t exist before appeals to the creative side of my personality. Premier is a fine piece of software. I like the challenge of perfectly syncing multiple tracks, and then playing director in the multi-cam window.

In the video below, I set up lights, tripods and cameras, white balanced everything, recruited talent (my wife), performed and recorded 4 video tracks, 2 audio files. Then blended them all together.

The challenging part was syncing the second shoot with the first shoot. They happened a half hour apart, so there was no way to sync with a  clapper board sound. The earpiece I’m wearing is playing the audio from the first take, while I’m recording the second take. I’d never done this before but I think it’s called dubbing. I had to sync the two takes together by looking at the audio waves in Premiere, while listening to the two takes playing simultaneously as layers in the sequence. There were 4 video layers and 6 audio layers. Four of the audio layers would later be deleted as they were from the cameras. But the two Tascam DR-40 digital audio recorder files had to match perfectly with their video files. Long story short, I was able to get the harmonica sound close, then nudge the audio file left and right one frame at a time until it synced, using the keyboard shortcut of Alt + left or right arrow keys.

My other challenge was setting up the multi-cam sequence. It’s too complicated to explain here, but once it’s set up and running, editing  multiple cameras into one final cut is a breeze. A common problem you will face if you try this is that multi-cam window likes to have the audio follow the video. Meaning, if you click camera 3, the sound switches to the audio from camera 3. In double system sound, this doesn’t work, because you delete all the camera audio tracks after syncing, they are low quality.

Instead, you bring in audio from your digital sound recorder, in my case, a Tascam DR-40, which had feed from two real microphones seen in the video below. So I had 4 video tracks, and two audio tracks. When I went to multi-cam window, it would only play the top audio track, which was the guitar and ukulele. It ignored the harp audio track. Even with ‘audio follows video’ unchecked. My solution was to copy the synced audio track from the main layered sequence and paste it into the multi-cam sequence in  a new audio layer. So now I had one video layer and two audio layers, plus I had all 4 videos displaying at the same time, in little thumbnails. All I had to do then was play the video, and click thumbnails in realtime, director style. If you’ve never seen it, go to youtube and search for premiere multi-cam window. It’s awesome.

I also like to listen to music the old fashioned way, by making it myself or with friends. I come from a long line of amateur musicians. Making music was a tradition anytime our family got together for as long as I can remember.  Grandma used to teach piano, but when she became blind in her nineties she still wanted to participate in our sing alongs. Me and my cousin would sit on either side of her. My cousin would sing, and I would play songs on my harmonica, the one in this video. Actually, that 1967 Hohner harmonica got old, so I recently replaced it with a Suzuki SCX-48 Chromatic in the key of C. It is a lovely instrument, but you can be the judge.


My Javascript studies are going well. I learned how to build a number guessing game here:

I’ve got it embedded in an iframe, but if that doesn’t work, here is a direct link. Hint: if you turn on developer tools, I console.log out the random number…so you can cheat.

The tutorial was fun, but as I was working it occurred to me that it could form the backbone of an animated hangman game. I don’t play computer games, life seems to short. But I wanted this game to work, and I wanted it to be pretty.  A lot of what I wanted in the game was functionality that I didn’t know how to program. I found the answers with simple google searches. It is 600 lines of code, including the html, css and JavaScript. I wrote every.single.line.

Here is the game on codepen.

While I was programming the game, I fell in love with a new free code editor called Atom. I like it better than both brackets and sublime. I need to get back to studying Javascript. But if you are curious how I built my hangman game, here is the Javascript code:


Open Mic

Craig and I went to an open mic in Port Orchard last week. I was very nervous beforehand.

A little history:
I had not played at an open mic since I was in my twenties. At that one (1978), I got stage fright so bad I blanked out halfway through my first song. I was staring at my sheet music but I couldn’t see it. It took me 30 seconds to recover. During that time I saw and heard the audience get restless and begin talking to each other, clearly nervous about my stage fright. Once I calmed down, I played fine, and even got some nice applause for my last number.

Back to the present:
While sitting there with Craig, watching the people playing before me. I was remembering the chaos of my last open mic experience. As my turn got closer and closer I got more and more nervous. In the back of my mind  I was also remembering that I can’t sing on key. I’ve recorded myself singing, and my voice is terrible. For the son of a choir director, I sing badly.

Finally my turn came and I walked up to the stage with my guitar, harmonica and sheet music. The owner was very friendly and came up to help me set up the mic’s and do a sound check. When we first walked in he was singing the blues while simultaneously playing the guitar and harmonica. I have never heard anyone do that. He was awesome! I told him beforehand that I was a better harp player than anything else and he said he would make some calls to bring in some good blues players.

I had planned to introduce myself first, but my sound check sort of turned into my first song. I was too nervous to talk and just wanted to get it over with. As usual, my voice felt very strong, and I knew my harp and guitar were passible, if not decent. I got through my 3 songs without any huge errors. But afterward, I asked Craig how I did.

“Well, your harp and guitar sounded awesome, but your voice was just ok. It’s too bad you can’t find a way to perform without singing.” …That’s my buddy Craig. He doesn’t pull any punches. And he was right of course. If I really want to sing, I need to take voice lessons. Definitely didn’t inherit perfect pitch from dad. I can hear pitch great on my harp and guitar, and it feels right when I sing, but it’s not.

Afterward, as promised, two other great blues musicians showed up, and they invited me to jam with them, which was awesome. I can rock the harp with no problem at all. I’m on key, I can riff between verses, and I was even able to team up with a sax player, who was possibly the best musician in the house. Plus those guys could sing the blues! Man, that was so much fun.

But afterwards I lost my drive to practice. I’m already not painting, not since Christmas. Stopping the guitar too was shutting off all my creativity. Finally today, 10 days after the open mic I played guitar at the kitchen table.

In the words of Maya Angelou: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”