BBQ Explosion

A Barbecue of Biblical Proportions

The kitchen is bright, very bright. The incandescent light is harsh on people as they run in from the back yard through the sliding glass doors. One goes out at the same time as another comes in. It doesn’t quite work as they both have to squeeze by each other and spill most of the water they’re carrying.  Off to the right Bo comes running in from the bathroom heading outside and slides, nearly falling, his back-length black hair wrapping around his face.  Through the glass doors I can see people running around as they hand off pans of water in a dysfunctional fire brigade.  I know Mark and Jon are over the fence in the neighbor’s yard but can’t see what’s happening. Just then a woman I don’t know rushes from the kitchen pushing past me. She’s carrying a saucepan with water slapping over the edge. Stepping out of the way I grab the phone from its cradle trying to find the courage to make the call, realizing it didn’t take a psychic to predict all this. Despite all this pandemonium a strange calm comes over me as I wonder where the fun would be in my life if I never listened to the devil on my shoulder.

Yesterday, Mark and Jon were at the film studio with me as I showed them some of the special effects devices we used in our film production. Basically, we just liked to blow things up. Our film involved guns shooting off followed by dramatic explosions and people running. Our actors were always running.  It was only natural for Mark and Jon to be curious as to how we made our effects happen. And, I should add, safely.

There were two types of explosive devices we created for our effects: squibs and gas bombs. The squib was the little puff of smoke set off to simulate gunfire. They were nothing special. Sandwiched between paper labels we put flash powder and a two-pronged model rocket igniter. The prongs were hooked to electric cords and switches. On cue, you got puff, puff, puff.

 The most dramatic visual effects were the gas bombs. Not too much more complicated than the squibs, they were loud and a hair more dangerous. We would take gum ball machine capsules and fill them with gun powder and flash powder, insert the same two-pronged rocket ignitors used for the squibs, then tape it together. This was the ignition for the gas bomb. These were put into half-pint milk containers filled with gas.

When I showed Mark the squibs and gas igniters he got that ear-to-ear smile that underlined the sparkle in his eyes. Even through his wire-framed glasses I could see a glint. With his red hair flopping down on one side of his face he looked like a little kid ready for a new adventure.  We thought alike in so many ways. Our artistic ideas tended to lean toward a type of performance art. He played guitar in a band and I was part of a film production. We both liked an audience. As I came to know Mark better I always suspected his curiosity had a devious side. Not in any menacing or maniacal sense. He was never malicious or evil, but I was able see his brain working with the details of my explanations about our explosive effects.

Mark had a charm that seemed to match is red hair — noticeable and effortless. Shyness was not something that would ever be said about him. He was not an insincere flatterer. On the contrary, he just liked to engage people and find out about them. Once he connected, his eyes would keep your attention with their focus. After we got to know each other his sense of adventure began to show itself. Add his charm and a gift for words and he was something of an Eddie Haskel.  We became fast friends.

As Mark and I were rummaging through shelves Jon was over at the other end of the studio checking out an old set we never dismantled. He was quite an adventurer himself. Efficient in just about everything, he would never shy away from a new challenge. Muscular and stocky, he was like an action figure. His closet was a collection of personae. There was the biker on his ’79 Harley, the mountain man survivalist, the rugby-playing-white-water-river-raft-guide, soldier, marine and caveman. Barroom brawl or broken bones he was someone you could always feel safe with.

Once I pulled out the squibs and gas bomb igniter Jon came over to take a closer look. We all decided it would be fun to bring these to the party. Mark thought it would be a good opening act before his band played.  A large crowd would likely show up and I was looking forward to helping with the entertainment.

It was a warm summer evening and the crowd started to show up at Mark’s house. Jon and I got all the electrical gear arranged. I prepared the squibs and mentioned we didn’t have any container for the gas bomb. Jon looked through the refrigerator and pulled out a quart-size yogurt container with just a little crusty yogurt left in it. I pointed out that a quart size container would involve using too much gas. We all looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders and continued with the preparations. Mark and I started to prepare the gas bomb. I asked Jon to see if he can find some leaves. There weren’t any lying around on the ground so he brought over newspaper instead.

 Mark and I prepared the gas bomb by shoving the newspaper into the container, filled it with gas, attached the wires, then taped it up. During this procedure I looked to Mark and said, “This is very dangerous.” He smiled that same sly smile and replied, “That’s what makes it fun.” After that we volunteered Jon to set off the explosions. It just involved plugging in an extension cord. I didn’t bring any of the multiple switches we used in our filming. They weren’t needed. There were no cues to match.

The crowd was starting to get excited now that we were ready to begin. I acted as traffic cop and herded everyone into the kitchen nook behind the sliding glass doors. Dozens of pairs of eyes were staring into the yard. Once everyone was inside, myself included, I shouted to Jon to go when he was ready.

Puff, puff, puff.

Although no one expressed any disappointment I could see they weren’t very impressed. Most continued with unrelated conversations. Mark and I ran outside and hooked up the gas bomb. Ignoring my fears about the potential hazards we proceeded. I was determined to make a lasting impression on these people. This was going be a hard act to follow.

The audience was inside behind the glass doors. Their faces showed the excitement I was hoping to see. This time they wouldn’t be disappointed. We continued with final preparations; me with some trepidation; Mark with the confident certainty he usually had, and Jon with a degree of nonchalance, only upset that he had to plug in the cord and would possibly miss the entire show. (Boy was he wrong about that.)

I thought it best to emphasize caution, which unwittingly helped to build excitement. I wanted to get the point across as to the seriousness of what was going to happen. Instead everyone just got more excited and giddy. Mark and I joined the crowd inside. Only Jon was left outside. It was dusk. I thought what a perfect time of day to really highlight the explosion that was just a moment away.

Jon plugged in the cord and ignited the gas bomb.

In just a split second the explosion rocked the house and rattled the glass doors as a column of gold, red, and black shot up in the yard rising higher than the house! People where cheering! I looked for Jon to see if he was all right. He, like everyone else, was screaming in delight.  I was numb with excitement as I watched the cloud of smoke and gas dissipate.

Then I saw itand new we were in trouble.

fire truckThe gas had evaporated quickly but still had time to ignite the newspaper which was still burning. A slight breeze started to carry newspaper remnants through the yard. I ran outside with Mark right next to me. Jon joined us in putting out burning pieces of newspaper. We all noticed one burning piece floating away over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. We froze and watched as it went over the fence and out of sight. I looked at Mark and Jon and saw the rest of the crowd were following the action with us.

In what seemed to be an incredibly short time we saw a flame through the cracks in the fence. A tinder dry tall bush caught fire and immediately shot flames up so high they could be seen above the fence. Mark was first to react. He shouted to Jon to boost him over the fence. I remember seeing him fly over the six-foot fence commanding Jon to follow. I ran to the house to grab a garden hose and looked back to see Jon struggling over the fence.

 I grabbed the hose as others began running out of the house to help. We got the hose to a hole in the fence. It is just long enough to go through the fence. Someone shouted to turn it on and water squirted everywhere. The hose was full of holes! Because of this the water pressure was practically nonexistent. What made it worse was that the hose was short of the fire by about six feet, making it rather impotent as a firefighting tool. A line of about six people raised the hose to waist level and tried to plug the leaks by holding their hands over the holes.

   I grabbed a couple of people near me and shouted for them to come with me to the house where we started grabbing pots and pans, filling them with water and forming a fire brigade. This seemed like a good idea. However, stealing water from the kitchen sink and the bathtub resulted in the water pressure dropping even more. The entire scene became a frustrating comedy of errors.

 From the beginning, when we first decided to shoot off these effects, I knew how dangerous it was and what the possible outcomes were. Now, my worst fears were being realized. I turned and saw a couple sneak out the front door. They must have seen me reaching for the phone knowing I’m about to call 9-1-1. I turned and saw the drummer from the band cowering in a corner on the landing of the stairs. I think he was crying. People were running in and out carrying pans of water, shouting, slipping, and splashing. There seemed to be more water being spilt than making it to the fire. I couldn’t see if any of this was working to put the fire out. Just then I see smoke coming out of the roof of the neighbor’s house and I know I have to make the call.

When the emergency operator came on I switch to my calm and collected voice and tell her there’s a fire. I thought it odd, but she didn’t ask where the fire was. The first thing she asked was my name, so I tell her.

There seemed to be no end to the chaos outside. There was so much smoke and people were tripping over each other. It seemed as if the same six people were still holding the hose in the hope that it will make a difference. I held the phone to my ear and talked to the operator and saw someone on a chair handing the pans of water over the fence. There was so much commotion I was barely able to hear the operator ask me for the address.

 Just then I heard a shout, “It’s out! It’s out!” I sighed and told the operator what I just heard and told her there was no need for any fire trucks. She thanked me and hung up. She thanked me? I never understood why. I always thought I should have thanked her.

All the party goers were now starting to come back into the house bringing their pans back and drying themselves. Mark and Jon were still in the neighbor’s yard. We were all in the dark about what happened over there. No one could see much as they handed water over the fence.

A few minutes went by before they returned coming in the front door. When Mark came in and flashed that certain smile I knew then everything would be all right. It seemed the only thing to catch fire was a dead bush alongside the house. It was dry and sent up a lot of smoke that found its way inside the attic through the soffit vents in the overhang. The only real hindrance to putting out the fire was low water pressure and an old basset hound named Moses, and he just barked.

The back door of the neighbor’s house was just to the left of the now-extinguished burning bush. It was a sliding glass door, through which Mark and Jon had seen a woman holding a baby in one arm and the telephone with the other hand. She was standing up, looking out the door at the fire and the strange men in her yard, rocking from one leg to the other as if to calm the baby and herself. She had a disinterested look on her face as though she were talking to a telemarketer about light bulbs or a vacuum cleaner demonstration.

After the fire was extinguished Mark and Jon had gone inside the neighbor’s house to see if everything was all right. Mark climbed up into the attic space just as the last of the smoke was clearing. As he finished a friend of the woman came to the front door of the house to see if everything was all right. Mark recognized this friend as one of his university professors. She vouched for Mark and that seemed to calm the situation.

It was at this time the story, or excuse, of the barbecue accident was concocted. It seems we were having a party and cooking over the grill when we discovered there was no lighter fluid. So we used gas instead. Of course it was a terrible idea. We sure know that now.

With barely a break in stride Mark got the band together and started to play. He really knew how to read a crowd because it was just what everyone needed. For my part, with the adrenaline rush now subsiding, I felt exhausted and a pit began to form in my stomach. As dangerous and as crazy as the stunt was everyone had a great time. No one got hurt and we never heard back from anyone about damages.

Mark, Jon, and I continue to tell this story. It helped to define the friendship we would have over the years to come. Once in a while I will run into a strange face that stops me to say they were at that party. They always say what a great time it was. I realized that I really did manage to accomplish what I set out to do. I did help create a stunt that was the highlight of the evening — and then some.

A personal photographic evolution

A bost tied to a street sign on the Rhine River at Mainz when the Rhine flooded in 1980.

A bost tied to a street sign on the Rhine River at Mainz when the Rhine flooded in 1980.

Photography quickly became a passion when I got my first SLR camera in 1979. Prior to that I was using a Kodak Pocket Instamatic I got when I was in high school. When I joined the US Air Force that was the only camera that came with me.

My first camera — a Kodak Pocket Instamatic that went with me everywhere.

My first camera — a Kodak Pocket Instamatic that went with me everywhere.

My first camera — a Kodak Pocket Instamatic that went with me everywhere.For years, while living outside of Madrid, this was the only camera I had. I took it with me everywhere. When I moved to Germany (still known as West Germany in 1979 when I got there), I went on a trip to Paris. I was so disappointed with my photographs I realized it was time to upgrade. I got my first Olympus 35mm SLR and started out by getting a zoom lens.

Two vintage Kodak cameras using 620 film. They had a place in my camera bag for years.

Two vintage Kodak cameras using 620 film. They had a place in my camera bag for years.

Before long I had camera gear to fill two bags. I had two Olympus SLRs — one always had black and white film and they other had color, usually Kodak Ektachrome slide film. I liked the rich color from slide film. For black and white I would always carry PlusX and TriX. I liked the high contrast of the TriX and found it was the film I used most when experimenting.

My camera bag quickly got full as I added other lens, flashes, motor drives, rolls of film, and batteries. Lots of batteries. Then I started working with various filters. I would carry Vaseline in case I wanted to smear my filters to create effects. Then there were tripods big and small. When I would go hiking or camping I had to leave room for 20 pounds of camera gear.

A fountaining in Saarbrucken, Germany.

A fountaining in Saarbrucken, Germany. Using Kodak PlusX.

Around this time I got two of my mother’s old Kodak cameras. A Kodak Brownie was one of the first mass produced consumer cameras. One used Kodak Brownie and the other a Kodak Dualflex. They both used 620 film. Finding film for these cameras was never easy, even back in the 70s. When I started to use them I found out how to use light leaks creatively.

Then there was the darkroom. Being stationed in Germany meant I had access to a darkroom. It seems some days I would live there — always experimenting with new techniques to help me achieve a new look. Oftentimes, I wanted to achieve an old look. The old film styles from generations ago has always held an appeal. Using the old Kodak cameras helped me get close to achieving this style.

The same photo altered in the darkroom using a Kodalith process.

The same photo altered in the darkroom using a Kodalith process.

Photography was always a hobby for me — a creative output. While in Germany I gave a still life I took to a friend. He framed it and sold it at a garage sale. Said he got $10 for it. What I thought was someone actually paid money for a picture of mine. I decided then I would become a professional photographer.

Fast forward a few years, I’m out of the Air Force, working in motion picture production, taking stills as well, and now my hobby became my profession. Everything changed. I lost track of the enjoyment of my hobby and started running a business.

Then I got my iPhone.

TikiKiti Profiles: Jesse Locke of AMZ Productions

Profiles of independent music video producers

This is the first in a series of interviews TikiKiti will have with independent music videos producers. We will explore their creative process, inspirations, and where they see themselves working in the future.

An interview with Jesse Locke who just produced a new fan-made video for the Arctic Monkeys song, Do I Want to Know. Watch the video.

Jesse Locke has been producing independent films for years. When asked why he makes produces videos he jokingly says, “Fame, fortune — I want it all.” Over the last few years he has been producing fan-made music videos. He started by producing video mashups using found footage on YouTube®, but has since been making his videos with original images. His style shines through with his new fan-made music video for the Arctic Monkeys song, Do I Wanna Know.

Screen capture from Arctic Monkeys video, Do I Want To Know, by Jesse Locke.

Screen capture from Arctic Monkeys video, Do I Want To Know, by Jesse Locke.

Shot in stark, high contrast black and white — with the occasional shot of blood red splashing across the image — this video shows many of Jesse’s influences. He has always had an affinity with horror films. Quentin Tarantino has been one of his greatest influences. He equates Tarantino with Andy Warhol, saying Tarantino is one of the best pop culture directors with lots of references to old movies and styles.

In this latest video he says he was fascinated with grainy old crime scene footage and William S. Burroughs. The quick editing and repetition of images is evidence of this influence. Jesse says he believes all of his videos have a story even though he usually starts with an image and builds upon that. Especially in this video where the image of a leg in the trunk of a car helped influence the entire video. He is moving away from the lineal narrative. He doesn’t want his video to follow a timeline. The story in “Do I Wanna Know” developed in this manner. One theme that evolved was that of a few women characters in the video being vampire like. As the main character watches them on tv, is he draining them or are they draining him of life?

Screen capture from Arctic Monkeys video, Do I Want To Know, by Jesse Locke.

Screen capture from Arctic Monkeys video by Jesse Locke.

The techniques he uses also influenced the final edit. Jesse says he used a strobe light for some scenes. This caused his camera to develop video glitches. These glitches became part of the video and influenced other effects as well. He called this a “happy accident,” but it seems that his directing styles lends itself to happy accidents. As Jesse says, “I take pride in my ability to adapt to a wide variety of situations that arise during production.” An example was when he had a talent in for a shoot. This guy was allergic to bees and said as much when he saw a bee in the garage they were shooting. The talent slowly moved as part of the shoot and the bee lands on his hand. The bee is slapped to the floor and Jesse kills it. Looking at the dead bee on the ground,

Jesse has an idea to include this in the music video. So in fact there is a quick shot of a dead bee in the music video to Do I Wanna Know.

Locke says he is not a dictatorial director. As with most independent producers, his talent is usually not being paid. He doesn’t want to waste peoples time so he works fast. This has lead to him shooting scenes quickly, using whatever elements he has in front of him. Forced to be frugal when it comes to resources means he needs to be more creative to achieve a visually satisfying product. The ability to improvise has helped him become more adept at making the most of many situations, and been key to making a good videos. It was Locke’s ability to think on his feet that got the attention of Steve Perry of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Although he started working with the Daddies as a cameraman, Perry quickly brought him into the role of directing of their videos by asking for his opinion and to experiment with techniques.

Screen capture from Arctic Monkeys video, Do I Want To Know, by Jesse Locke.

Screen capture from Arctic Monkeys video, Do I Want To Know, by Jesse Locke.

Locke’s business, AMZ Productions, does different types of commercial work as well. He brings the skills learned from making music videos into the everyday work of video production for businesses. His clients rely on him to bring creativity and an alternative point of view to their projects. He found success by taking more of a leadership role in these situations. He realized soon, however, that the idea of being a leader was really about bringing everyone into the production and understanding the importance of their roles.

TikiKiti will be following Jesse Locke’s career. He knows how to turn an idea into a visual reality. And he has the drive to keep doing it. You can find more of Jesse Locke’s videos on YouTube® at AMZ Productions. You can also find him on Facebook.

20 TikiKiti tips on how to make a music videos

Talking to JimmyK at TikiKiti I got an idea on how they look at music. He offers plenty of advice to would-be video producers — mist of these tidbits of advice seem obvious. JimmyK says we’d be surprised at home many are clueless. Considering how many fan-made videos I’ve seen, I don’t think I’d be surprised. JimmyK says one thing about TikiKiti; “It’s all about the music and we’re all about how you visually interpret popular music.”

When looking through these tips it’s easy to see the three categories TikiKiti uses when evaluating a good versus bad video. These are, production quality; technical quality, such as editing; and creativity. All three seem very subjective but TikiKiti has developed some guidelines on how they rate these videos. More on that later. For now, here’s twenty tips on how to make a better music video — arranged, sort of, by the categories mentioned:

  1. Good camera, lighting and production design matters as much in a performance video as in a narrative video.
  2. Start and end your video with the song — no intro, no end credit roll, no bloopers reel.
  3. For a great performance video, don’t just copy the artist — use your talent and your imagination for the performance, the scene design and the camera.
  4. Use multiple sources for a mashup video.  We judge on the quality of your editing, shot selection, appropriateness for the music and overall effect.
  5. To add motion to use shots use a motion stabilization system, skateboard or bike.
  6. Good camerawork and good lighting are important. Include “pools of light” in your sets and shots.
  7. Try to keep the gratuitous twerking to a minimum.
  8. Good camerawork and good lighting are important.  Include camera moves to follow the action.
  9. The more action, the better.  The more movement, the better.  The more cuts, the better.
  10. Give clear credit to the band: song name, album (if any), artist, label and year.
  11. We don’t do promotional videos: a product, a religion, an organization, your friend’s band … even a good cause.
  12. A great mashup video should have a point (what you are trying to say) and a unifying theme.
  13. We don’t do “slice-of-life” videos such as train fanning, vacation or scenery videos.
  14. We don’t do travelog/vacation, dog, cat, Cosplay or anime videos.
  15. No pitch shifting or modification to the music — No dialog or narration during/over the video.
  16. No lyrics videos.
  17. For the most part, we don’t display music videos by unsigned artists.  We exhibit videos of artists interpreting other peoples (usually popular) music.
  18. Don’t use shots of performing in stage or in a dance studio. Drug use, exploitation, putting down or degrading others — seriously, we don’t want to see it.
  19. Have fun, meet cool people, change the world.
  20. Have fun, but take your work seriously.  It’s art.


Find TikiKiti on Twitter, and their YouTube Channel.

The Music Video World of TikiKiti

A new force in the world of music videos has emerged. That force is TikiKiti. TikiKiti loves music videos. But not just any music video — or all music videos. TikiKiti is dedicated to the world of the indie film producer — the fan made music video and the “unofficial” music video. There is a world of people, of all ages, that enjoy making music videos and spend a lot of time making some incredible videos. They are the undiscovered talent, the would-be professional film maker, the college or high school student working on a class project, or the young teen experimenting with their first video.

The TikiKiti YouTube Channel shows an ever-changing page of current video, that is, from today, that have been rated. They use three separate criteria for rating a music video — production quality, creativity, and editing techniques. Although most people will be satisfied just by clicking a thumbs up to show they like a video, the people at TikiKiti spend more time with each video. Of course, this means they filter videos. But, in the world of YouTube where there seem to be millions of videos, some sort of filtering is bound to happen.

All the music videos are of pop music and include these categories: the narrative or story-telling video; the performance video; the mashup; and the K-Pop video.

Here is an example of some of these videos:

The Narrative Video:

The Performance Video:

The Mashup:

and K-Pop:

These are more videos can be seen at the TikiKiti YouTube channel now. You can also find links to all of their Top Picks of the Day on their Twitter Feed

More Tips for Indie Music Video Producers

Tips of the day:

  1. Keep it clean: don’t use nudity, graphic or disturbing images.
  2. Don’t start your video with an introduction of dialog or silence.

And three excellent mashups to Eminem’s Phenomenal:


Find TikiKiti on Twitter, and their YouTube Channel.

More Tips for Indie Music Video Producers

Mashup videos are all over the place. The quality ranges from superb to dismal. YouTube is full of sources. Since most take images from there anyway, try to pick more than just a few. How to make a good mashup video:
  1. Use clips from a variety of sources.
  2. Have a unifying theme; make it make sense.
  3. As always, use creative editing well timed with the music.


Find TikiKiti on Twitter, and their YouTube Channel.

More Tips for Indie Music Video Producers

Do not make a video of any of these personal themes:

  1. Your great summer vacation.
  2. Walking around some fascinating city.
  3. Having fun in your back yard.

Your friends and family will love seeing these, but most people will find them kinda boring.  Actually, between you and me, your friends and family will pretend to be interested, but they won’t like them either.


Find TikiKiti on Twitter, and their YouTube Channel.

More Tips for Indie Music Video Producers

We see a lot of videos that make these types of mistakes:


Find TikiKiti on Twitter, and their YouTube Channel.