Notes from the Shore

Work, marriage, kids and music

Creating and Mixing a Kickstarter Video

Funded by Kickstarter Badge

Many years ago the arts were funded by a system of Patronage. The wealthy, including royalty and the church, would support artists that they liked – composers, painters, sculptors and the like. This system allowed the artist the freedom to create, and so long as they kept their patron happy, the relationship continued. The best patrons even allowed their artists to fail (occasionally) in pursuit of art.

In the modern day, we have used a marketplace model to fund our art. This has resulted in an abundance of pop art (which I define as art that doesn’t require any effort or background to appreciate). The labels have replaced the patrons, and the profit motive is now the prime force creating modern art. Yes, there are pockets of “true artists” creating art for art’s sake without concern for marketability. However, even artists who may have a niche popularity have trouble surviving in the marketplace because financial barriers to entry are too high and the labels only fund the most profitable artists.

Enter the Internet. Kickstarter is a modern, digital, patronage service. Thanks to the reach of the Internet, however, instead of a few very wealthy patrons supporting a small number of artists, many, many fans can help support their favorite artists for a modest amount of money from each. This is known as “crowdfunding” – I like to describe it as “neo-patronage.”

There are a number of services that exist to connect artists with fans, but Kickstarter is the oldest and largest. They work with people in areas from music to film to video games and even technology projects. The “creative” signs up for the service and sets a funding goal and a deadline. I’ve selected $1500 for my goal, which will pay for mastering, duplication, licensing and promotional fees. My deadline is March 8, which is three weeks from when I began the campaign.

The next step is for the artist to set a series of rewards in exchange for pledges of various levels. I’m using pre-release digital downloads, signed copies of the CD, sheet music of the piano interludes, even skype piano lessons as my rewards. The artist also needs to tell their story, preferably through video.

There video is where I spent the bulk of my time planning and producing. I watched quite a few other project’s videos, as well. I used those examples to decide what information I wanted to share and how to share it.

I wrote up and printed out a script and then chose all the video and audio I wanted to use. There is some audio underneath my speaking, and the remainder features samples from the CD. The video that’s not me speaking is either scrolling notation, screen capture video of Sonar playing the track, or photo montages from the various recording sessions.

Getting the audio right for this video was challenging. My Russian daughter (foreign exchange student) filmed me on her high end DSLR camera and I simultaneously recorded the audio with my small diaphragm condenser to Sonar. I wanted to avoid that boxy, roomy sound that dominates so many video recordings.

Tracking ScreenI pieced everything together with all the music tracks and worked on my crossfades until I was happy with everything. I used automation to pull out some clicks and pops that turned up in the recording. Since the tracks haven’t been mastered yet I used some clip gain and some volume automation to even out the levels. I also boosted the music when the voice-over is silent.

Vocal Chain

The voice-over proved to be difficult to get exactly right. I started with a gate to remove any buzz or other quiet noise between sentences and phrases. Second came a de-esser to clean up any sibilance. Dialing that in proved challenging. This was followed by compression courtesy of Antress Modern Painkiller, an LA-2A emulation (note, there is a newer version available now, called the Lost Angel). It produces nice, smooth compression without any pumping. The final process in the chain is EQ to get a sound I liked (relatively – I’m not fond of my recorded voice – but of course, no one is). The ambience proved to be the most difficult part. I started with a nice ambience patch from ValhallaRoom and mixed everything down.

WMM ScreenshotI created the video in Windows Movie Maker, which is a surprisingly powerful program given that it’s free. I’ve really only found two things I would like to do that WMM can’t – multiple video streams at once (picture in picture) and time stretching of video (or maybe you can…). Everything else I’ve wanted to do WMM has handled fairly easily.

It was when I published my first completed video, though, that I discovered the problem with my audio – specifically the voice over. The VO was very present and in-your-face. It sounded totally unnatural.

Camera Audio ChainAfter seeking help from several sources, I ended up stripping the audio from the recorded video, bringing it into Sonar and synchronizing it with the microphone recorded audio. Then I compressed it significantly to bring up the room tone, used EQ to remove some nasty resonances that the compression revealed, and mixed it up underneath the mic audio.

The results were pretty much exactly what I hoped for. I was able to maintain the high quality of the mic audio while still making it sound like I was in a room with the video camera. Please visit my Kickstarter page to view the results:

Finally, if you are reading this post before March 8, 2014, please consider contributing to the Kickstarter campaign. I could really use your help.

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