Author Archives: MarkD

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.

More Tips for Indie Music Video Producers

When thinking about creating a music video, especially if you want to get it noticed, consider these tips. TikiKiti is one aggregator that specializes in music videos. They don’t use films that:

  1. Have a commercial vs. artistic purpose (e.g. promotion of a product or tourism);
  2. Are generated by an algorithm;
  3. Or are all about girls in underwear.

 

Find TikiKiti on Twitter, and their YouTube Channel.