Monday, September 29, 2008

Our best imitation of 'Best Imitation of Myself'

Witchger Kids: The Transatlantic Recordings Best Imitation of Myself from Katian Witchger on Vimeo.

The song:
This is the second in what will undoubtedly be a long-running* series of ukulele-driven-online-musical-collaborations which Kev, Bob (maybe someday Steph!) and I are recording for fun! (I think we need an official name... any suggestions?)
I suggested this particular cover via a video message wherein I played it fabulously (I'll say as you can't see that one) replete with the wrong chords; Kevin fixed it (with harder chords) and arranged it. He then sent the files to Bob and me with our specific parts separated on a reference track; we each used this track to play both our parts and I later used it to sync everything. (He gave me too many high parts despite clearly proving to him in the original video I could not handle them.) We each shot our parts in photobooth (originally Kevin shot via his digital camera but we had problems with timing. -we thought it might be because his camera captures in a different frame rate which has to be converted in order for me to be able to read the file... they are right for the beginning then they slowly slip out of synch. maybe that was the certainly could not be owed to poor musicianship!-atleast not on the boys' part.-)
I had a lot of problems syncing in final cut so we each sent Kevin mp3s of our parts which he mixed/mastered etc. in order to send me back one final consolidated track. I still had trouble syncing but that was mainly due to my impatience. Because I had to render such a high quality frame rate in order to actually see anything and all the different clips were different formats, it took overnight to render each time. (Laurie suggested converting them all to one format which would have been smart.- however, he suggested this to me when I had more or less completed the edit and the amount of time it would have taken to reformat the 12 separate videos, reimport them and redit would have taken far more time and energy than simply waiting for a ridiculously long render. I will however do this in the future. )
At first we transferred files using, but the free transfer size was too small to avoid grungy compression, so we later switched to uploading then downloading from vimeo, which uses up your weekly allotment but allows you a better quality image (to which you can then apply filters in order to make it look like a worse quality image; and then wait for the huge high-quality low-quality filtered file to render...its a 'better' low-quality, you see).

The video:
The video idea is pretty self explanatory I hope, it was inspired by: the discovery of the 'bad tv' effect** in final cut; my long running obsessions with 1)degeneration and 2)infinite regression; and the obscene number of soon-to-be obsolete 'tellys' you can find on the street in London since the announcement of the digital switchover.
After we each shot our individual parts via photobooth, I then shot the backdrop image in one take, while playing the song in the background for timing. If I'd given it a bit more thought, I wouldn't have had my remote-control-hand overlap the tv screens ...physics eludes me in states of excitement.
Also, I didn't notice my laptop auto-sleeping in the middle of the video which is why the video goes to full screen at some point...I did attempt to animate an arrow icon to move across the screen and click on the enlarge button in vimeo but I could only get an arrow picture with white background and it looked ridiculous; Bob never responded to my request for a possibly impossible virtual arrow object with a transparent background...I thought you could do it in photoshop but I didn't have access or know how to do this.

The set: I took a picture of what my video camera was seeing, put it into word (thats right word; Laurie has since gotten photoshop to work; thanks Laurie). I overlapped the pictures then took screenshots of these pictures and overlapped them repeatedly until a final screenshot which I uploaded to vimeo in a dummy file and then loaded into my webbrowser; once I finished the first edit of the video I exported it and layered the image of the first export over the computer screen, twice. For the record I'm totally okay with being such a geek.


  • Our 3 respective computers with photobooth/webcams,
  • Our 3 ukuleles (Kevin made his ukulele!)
  • I also used my zoom H2 for my audio
  • Canon HV20
  • Reused tape
  • Canon Rebel SLR
  • Word
  • Final Cut Pro (with bad tv effect)


  • 10 minutes to record and send the original call
  • However long it took Kevin to figure the right chords, arrange the song and record the reference track
  • However long it took us each to record our two parts (I had to redo my vocals so it took total about 30minutes over 2 days for me)
  • 30 Min to shoot/log background footage
  • About 3 hours edit (not counting waiting in between for rendering)
  • Approximately 473,000 hours render & export over 17 weeks. ok maybe more like 20 hours over a week and a half

  1. Despite honestly believing I have gained infinitely more patience in the past 2 years, I am still kind of impatient and that's okay with me.
  2. Things are the most exciting in my mind right before I start them.
  3. My lack of technical understanding/ability will not ever stop me; even when maybe it should.
  5. I look A LOT like my brothers.
  6. Even though this is kind of frustrating and I'm not particularly good at any part of it, it is still enormously fun and I'll probably never be able to stop doing things like this even when sometimes they turn out mediocre.

1.1 Learning to be patient is ultimately a long, aggressively boring waste of time with which I'm just not patient enough to deal. While I'm stuck spending all this time 'learning to be patient' I could just learn how to do technical things correctly, then I wouldn't need to be patient. Everything would work and/or if it didn't I would understand why and be able to fix it and/or be smart enough to realize it is unfixable and then set it on fire immediately and do a crazy dance on its still warm ashes. NO PATIENCE! ONLY CRAZY FIRE DANCING!
2.1 So long as I have access to such excitement it doesn't really matter when/where it is.
3.1 If my lack of technical understanding stopped me, I'd never get any more technical understanding.
4.1 Laurie is generally right when it comes to issues of: conversion, rendering, archiving, online banking, when the recycling goes out and german women.
5.1 I'm just now, at 26, realizing/understanding the visual ramifications of genetic procreation. I owe this realization to two main factors: 1) Since moving to London, I spend more time looking at myself at the same time as I look at my family because our primary source of interaction is via skype video chat and 2) I have only recently known non-family 'peers' who have begun procreating; seeing their new procreations has somehow unlocked this 'rosetta stone of resemblance'; its not simply shapes/colors/combination of physical features (people often look similar but don't look related); its a weird language of genetic resemblance that has like**** its own grammar and rules and exceptions... I find this unbelievably weird and do not understand why other people do not think this is unbelievably weird. I think if I ever have kids I will just stare at them for 18 years and say 'weird.' is weird.
6.1 Concepts are far more important to me than their technical realizations. 6.2 I respect and work best with those who respectfully***** hold the opposite view. 6.3 i have the greatest brothers in the world.


*unless Kate manages to find herself some employment; if youd like to employ Kate you can reach her pretty much anytime, anyday at the computer doing silly things like this while looking for a job.

**Why 'bad tv' is my favorite video filter of all the video filters.
1. It looks undeniably cool.
2. It is technologically programmed to do all the bad things that bad technology does when it fails, and you can control the level/mode/combination of failure. This intrigues me. (Of course, when given the option to control the level of badness I will inevitably err' on the side of 'extremely bad' as per my philosophy: if your going to fail, fail hard; FAIL LIKE YOU MEAN IT. -Kevin will think the result of this is cheesy and that I should have exercised some moderation; he will not be wrong.)

****I'm sure mom was already too happy with the metaphorical rosetta stone allusion so I had to throw a 'like' in there; I can't go inflating her english teacher expectations!

***** I am bolding and italicizing this as Laurie aggressively taunts me from the other room regarding my trouble with rendering and converting; he is now laughing maniacally and screaming something about m4v. It is not often that he has a valid point (even if it is too far after the fact to be useful) in the course of our working together so I suppose I should let him have his excited time and continue praddling righteously something about the merits of uniform conversion.

(The backdrop image is supposed to be in HD but I can't log HD footage for some reason. I have my camera output set to 'HDV 1080i', I have the camera connected straight into the back of the computer via firewire and am saving onto the internal hardrive; in Final Cut's import settings I'm selecting 'HD1080i60 firewire basic' and it wont recognize my camera. It says 'you are attempting to log from a DV device....' It will recognize it as NTSC 16:9 even though I shot it in HDV. I have only ever gotten this camera to log HD in 'apple intermediate codec' with a firewire800 cable on an old mavis lab computer which did this really weird thing where it was taking longer than real time play to log and would say '80% ...' '70%...' '60% logging' until it locked up and crashed. Although I have to celebrate that this is a step up from 'On the Roof' I'd like to sucessfully make the next one in HD.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

bunnies <3 robots

so this weekend i tried my hand stopping motion to accompany kevin & i's FIRST transatlantic musical collaboration.

the following combines two super cool gifts given to me for my birthday this year by my family: 1) a zoom recording device which kevin and my parents got me and 2) a dymaxion airocean world map which bobby and stephanie found for me to temporarily satiate my cartographic obsession.

bunnies <3 robots from Katian Witchger on Vimeo.

the song
kev and i made this cover of daniel johnston's true love will find you in the end (hear original here) using a site which supposedly allows you to upload and mix music online. sounds great right? well it could be im not sure we didnt exactly get it to work right. i, without thinking, uploaded my vocal and ukulele parts as one pre-mixed track (which i recorded in garage band via the zoom h2 recorder) and when kev went to mix in his parts he couldnt (as id balanced them wrong to cover up my inability to sing) so... i re-exported separate tracks and emailed them to him as mp3s which he then edited on his computer using protools. i was really really happy the day kev sent the mix; it was like magic to have his parts added. i know its not perfect but i think it sounds lovely.

the video
at 1:38 seconds this is the longest stop motion i will EVER attempt by myself. it is really messy and hard to follow in parts but i like how it turned out overall. for no other reason this was worth it for the better understanding of time i have gained... there was sort of a story, at least characters but it got a little muddled when i switched from 15 frames per second to 10 frames per second outputs.... originally i had planned everything by the frame to sync to the lyrics and piano on the basis of a rate of 15 frames per second. (some of the stuff right at the beginning is at a faster frame rate but overall it was too aggressive and didnt match the mood of the song) i have two 1 GB memory cards for my camera (kevins old canon rebel) and at medium size they hold just under 500 photos. i shot both cards and was, i thought, about half way done. i uploaded the photos and when i saw how fast it moved i had a play around and reduced the frame rate. i think it works better but i had to rejig 'the story' halfway through so as not to waste precious pictures.

basic process/time:
the song (30 minutes): i like this song so i learned it and happened to just have joined indaba because kevin had so i recorded it to see how the site worked.

1. the concept (2 minutes): there were two main catalysts for this 'concept' 1) i find a lot of crap around (read: on the street) most of which ends up organized in small boxes in my room. occasionally i need one of these small boxes and all the little bits get dumped in piles on my floor. 2) when we moved into our house in nunhead i bought some ancient blue tack from the corner shop down the street and since then, a constant, but rotating, 1/3 of the things on my walls are on the floor. the day i decided to try a stop motion for our song both a pile of small action figures and one of my maps were on the floor.... that'll do.
2. the story board (2 hours): i did a second by second story board and noted the lyrics or piano parts underneath each frame- which turned out to be a bit excessive; i only filled in every 3-4 but it was still helpful to see them all laid out)
3. the stops(5 hours): i then shot approx 1300 photos using my canon rebel on medium size setting
4. the motion (over night, 10 minutes): i imported all the photos into iphoto and opened using the 'open image sequence' function in quicktime pro, i used a 10 frames per second rate and saved the project in 3 files (each a memory card's worth of photos)
5. the edit (2 hours): i imported the 3 files and the mp3 from indaba into final cut and put it all together.

things i will do differently next time:
-FIND SOMEONE ELSE equally interested in hours of tedious minutiae to endure the production with me; kev ive got big plans for xmas break! i think even having someone else to move the figures would help dramatically with both how long it takes and the panning. (trying to move things then go back to the exact point in space only slightly to the left and frame the camera the same way is not really possible. i think having another person and holding your breath may be enough to fake it anyway.)
-lighting, i started playing around with the lighting during the 'step out into the light' bit and i wish id thought about it from the beginning... think i will do more light tricks and try to do a proper vertigo zoom pull (zooming in while panning out or vice versa) thing on the next go

time: approx 9 1/2 hours over 3 days

level of difficulty sawzalls rating: 4 out of 5

cost: no new costs on this project

canon rebel, tripod
zoom h2
imac w/ garageband, iphoto, quicktime pro and final cut
stickers from stephanie <3>