Before the American Music Project, I did not consider myself a video person. By the time we got to Nashville, Marie had shown me the basics of being a video producer. One night in Nashville, I put these new skills to the test.
Ben De La Cour, a Nashville songwriter we interviewed, invited us to the first Woodbine Rocks, a concert series showcasing up-and-coming songwriters and bands. I found myself speaking to one of the songwriters, Madison Welsley, before her set. It came up that she had no videos of her music online. I saw an opportunity and told her that I would film her. As far as I was concerned, my job was to document the music scene.
When it came time, I strapped on the shoulder rig with one of our Canon 7Ds attached. I pulled out our Zoom H4N field recorder, and placed it on top of the fridge, next to the PA speaker, to capture quality audio of the performance. I claimed a prime spot in the room, planted my feet, and pressed record.
It was very dark, so I set the aperture as low as it could go. This means that the camera was letting in as much light as possible. I also had to crank up the ISO setting as high as it could go, which brightens at the expense of image quality.
When filming with a handheld DSLR camera, video can come out incredibly shaky. That’s why I used the shoulder rig, to stabilize the camera. It makes you look like Rambo, and I felt like Rambo, a one man video wrecking crew.
I was conscious of my shots, alternating between closeups and wide shots of both performers. When filming live music, my musician ear helps me to guess what is coming, in order to anticipate good shots.
I was deeply immersed in filming. To stay in sharp focus, to compose appealing shots, to keep the camera steady at length, and to remain always inside the music – all at the same time – requires immense concentration. Through the lens, I had the best seat in the house, inches away from a beautiful girl laying her soul on the line. I knew that my work would make these fleeting moments permanent, for all to see, for all time.
Madison performed six songs. When she finished, I came back to reality and felt a surge of peaceful accomplishment. I must have stood there, grinning, for five minutes, before dismantling the camera and getting back to enjoying the party. We had a legendary dance circle in that kitchen, but my work was not done.
I spent each morning over next week editing the videos. I had never touched video editing software before. I was hesitant to dive into Final Cut Pro, a powerful and difficult program, so I used iMovie. There was only one camera angle, so it was simple to sync the Zoom’s audio to the camera’s video, choose in and out points, and add titles and transitions.
It felt incredible to send Madison these videos, her first as a performer. I still watch them from time to time, proud of my first solo video project. Here are two more of them; please enjoy!