Making a Kingfisher Video

March 13th, 2021
contra, music, tech, video
Cecilia and I recently made a Kingfisher video, and I wanted to write some about the process. I'm not claiming this is the best way to do it, and really I'm pretty sure it isn't. If people have feedback on how to do this better or more easily, I'm definitely interested!

We started with my parts: keyboard and drums. These are electronic instruments, so I recorded their output directly into Audacity and ignored the camera's audio. I normally play both simultaneously, but here I did the drums first. That meant I only needed one camera, and could focus on each part as I played it. The drum part was the fourth of four takes, keyboard first of three.

I aligned the two tracks manually, made an initial mix, and sent it to Cecilia. She sent back her main fiddle part, and an additional fiddle part for the second half. She also recorded audio separately, for higher quality, and made sure to align it with what I had sent her.

Now that I had all the parts, I mixed the video's audio track. I used Audacity, since I only wanted to work with volume. We hadn't planned any arrangement ahead of time, so we added a some that was not originally there: the fiddle part comes in at the first A2 instead of the beginning, the drums sit out the A1 of the third time through, etc:

I went through many iterations by myself, and then a few more with Cecilia. While I was working on it, the kids often would come in and dance, and I took some video of them as well.

Once we had the final audio, I started mixing the videos. I had initially planned to use iMovie, since it's free and comes with my computer, but it turns out that it can only do two simultaneous video tracks and I had five (drums, keyboard, fiddle, more fiddle, kids dancing).

There are a lot of high quality video editors (Premiere, Pinnacle, Final Cut, etc) but they're all expensive and this is not something I expect to do very often. I saw some recommendations for HitFilm Express, but when I tried it I got video glitches. It looked like OpenShot was a good open source option, except that I couldn't get it to play back audio and video at the same time without stuttering (2019 MBP, no other programs open, just restarted).

I decided to go back to iMovie and just mix the tracks one after another. Aside from the workflow, the biggest downside was that I wouldn't be able to show more than two videos at the same time, and it would've been nice to have all four music tracks on screen at least once.

I started with drums and keys:

Added fiddle:

Second fiddle:

Kids dancing and title screen:

This required planning ahead, since going back and fixing anything was going to be pretty annoying. On the other hand, having earlier stages fully fixed meant I wasn't second-guessing myself.

Once I had something I liked I sent it to Cecilia. I was pretty nervous that she was going to ask for changes that would be pretty annoying to make given my awkward workflow, but luckily she was happy as is.

Final video:


(youtube)

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