Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cover of "Fake Plastic Trees," Parts 1-12 of 18

I am two-thirds of the way complete in presenting a cover song that took me less than five minutes to record. Of course, producing a "short film" for every 15-second segment of the song has taken a lot longer than 5 minutes. But it's all for a good cause, I suppose; that cause, of course, is getting better acquainted with the equipment I already have.

Conceptualizing each 15-second segment has been (and currently is) quite simple:  With some exceptions, I would either shoot/find footage either based on a loose interpretation of the current lyrics being sung, or based on one of the instruments being played.

With six more segments to go, this is what has "inspired" me so far:

1. Green plastic watering can, from the lyrics: I videotaped a green plastic watering can in action. It was a bright day, so I got to use the lowest ISO setting and highest shutter speed for my camera. The detail can be incredible when the lighting is good. Then I used some green-ish filter to ruin the image.

2. My custom-wired "fake bass" starts playing: I created a slideshow of the "birth" of my fake bass. Then I re-enacted my foot switching un-mute for the fake bass signal.

3. Town full of rubber plans, from the lyrics: I found old footage of when I drove to Disneyland with a camera rolling the whole time on the freeway, and I sped up 40 minutes of driving into 15 seconds.

4. It wears her out, from the lyrics: I found footage of my dog Kate, a puppy at the time, being frustrated by a laser pointer. There is an effect in Final Cut Pro X that made the laser point bigger than it was in reality, so I used it.

5. Pouring milk really had nothing to do with the lyrics or music, but I wanted the visual to be a distraction from the funky chord I accidentally played during my one take, no overdubs, no fixes performance. I shot this at 60 frames per second, then slowed it down 50%. I found a water drop effect in Final Cut Pro X, and used it for the fun of it.

6. The drum machine actually kicked in during the previous video, but I wanted to highlight this instrument here. It was another opportunity to experiment with effects and transitions that I'd normally ignore.

7. Deconstructing a burrito had nothing to do with anything, but this was my third attempt at photographing this stop-motion time elapse of the creation of a burrito. I realized I needed a tripod all along. The previous two burritos had better-looking filling ingredients. I used the hashtag #tapatio because I used that brand of hot sauce for the burrito, and the official Instagram account of Tapatio 'liked' the video, which is pretty cool.

8. Plastic surgery is implied in the lyrics for the previous video and in this one, so I went literally plastic with stop-motion LEGO minifigures. It's currently the most popular of the song segments. The animation looks pretty decent at 15 frames per second. I used a cable shutter release when shooting each frame, which probably created some shakiness in the animation. The next time I attempt stop-motion animation, I'll use a wireless remote control to take the photos.

9. It wears him out, from the lyrics: This was the drive home from Disneyland (the same day as Part 3), and I hit an awful bit of traffic that evening. It's currently the least popular of the song segments.

10. It wears him out, from the lyrics: This is footage from Diablo III: Reaper of Souls of my brother's character (a Demon Hunter) and my character (a Crusader) fighting a Rift Guardian. This was one of my first attempts at capturing video game footage. My computer isn't fast enough for capturing game play videos, so there was all kinds of lag producing this video. I had to speed it up anywhere from 200-400% to resemble some sort of animation. At least my Crusader got the kill shot, so that made the video look at little cool.

11. She tastes like the real thing, from the lyrics: Originally, I just wanted to produce a 15-second video for this part of the song. Then I, for some reason, wanted to release the entire recording. Anyhow, off-brand Oreo-like cookies do not taste like the real thing. I shot this at 60 frames per second, then slowed it down to 25%. This is essentially 15 frames per second, just like the stop-motion animation in Part 8.

12. Fake plastic love, from the lyrics: I wanted to produce a ridiculously epic LEGO-sized rock concert, with lights and large stage pieces (relative to the size of LEGO minifigures). The "band" onstage is a minifigure that vaguely resembles yours truly on guitar, "fake bass" (naturally), and vocals, and a robot minifigure on drums, representing the drum machine. The audience is made up mostly of the "female" minifigure parts from Part 8, with some pop culture surprises as well.

This is what I've (re-)learned concerning video file formats, especially using Compressor to make Instagram-friendly videos: If two videos are the same file size, the video with the least amount of movement and colors (e.g. Part 6) will look exponentially cleaner than the video with all kinds of movement and colors (e.g., Part 12). I knew this once upon a time, but remembering is a hard lesson to (re-)learn!

Right now, I don't know what Part 13 will look like, and I have six more of these to go! If I have nothing more interesting (to me, at least) to write about on March 5th, I will be sure to conclude the extended-length performance of my cover of a Radiohead song.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cover of "Fake Plastic Trees," Parts 1-7 of 18

This song took less than five minutes to record.

I try to sing and play the guitar simultaneously. I've wired a guitar to also play the (fake) bass, under the low E string. I can control a drum machine with a footswitch, to start and stop playing, and add fills that transition to another drum pattern. Basically, I can perform a facsimile of a power trio rock band, completely live, in one take -- just like Bert from Mary Poppins. Before chopping off the quiet at the beginning and end of the audio file, and adding a bit o' reverb for good luck, the performance lasted for four minutes and thirty-five seconds.

For the past week, and for next 11 days, I have been slowly releasing my cover of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" on Instagram, 15 seconds at a time. While the song took less than five minutes to record, it'll take a while to fully play on the Internet.

I could always just release the entire performance as a whole, which I will probably do in the future, but for now, I get to produce 15-second short films that each sort of tell a 15-second story, to varying degrees of success. Here are first seven parts of this eighteen-part series:





A video posted by Ryan DeRamos (@ryan_deramos) on

A video posted by Ryan DeRamos (@ryan_deramos) on


A video posted by Ryan DeRamos (@ryan_deramos) on
I'll try to remember to post the rest of the song, sometime next month.