What I learned from my 10 videos in 10 weeks Pandemic Project (or, a perilous journey into the unknown)

Prior to embarking on this project my wife, Nina Gordon, had been videoing me performing a number of my original piano arrangements.  While she had done a superb job of that, I wanted to see what I could do on my own, shooting simultaneously from two camera phones.  Nina had been using her Samsung Galaxy 8s phone for the videoing and I subsequently  purchased my own Samsung, a Galaxy 10s.  I figured that I had the right equipment in place and I had already learned how to edit videos through the app iMovie, thanks to my friend David Berg.  I bought two tripods that would hold the cell phones, and then I thought I was all set  to roll.  Little did I know that I had more than a few things to learn to really make this really work!

It was summertime, and with my Steinway grand right next to a window, I had to wait until at least 8 pm to record in order to avoid a glare in the video, even though my most energetic time for this project was in the morning or early afternoon.  So, after recording a few videos at night, I decided to get blackout shades.  After installing them, I saw that there was still light coming through the edges of those shades, and I followed that up by getting blackout curtains. This combination of the shades and curtains wound up giving me the ability to record the remaining videos at any time during the day.

I had to adjust the lighting in the room and become more aware of the visual background.  I experimented quite a bit to find the most appropriate  views for the cameras –  including which magnification worked best for the closeup  camera –  and made sure that the phones were placed horizontally to avoid getting a large black frame on both sides of the video.   Before recording, I had to remember to turn down the volume on both phones, make sure the fans were not running while recording in order to minimize extraneous sounds (even though the temperature was in the 80s or 90s), and make sure the landline phone was off the hook.  I learned that I needed to clap three times before starting to record, in order to be able to sync the audio tracks of the videos in the editing process.  After the first few videos, I realized that I needed to get an external mic, as well as a cord that would connect to an android phone, to improve the sound quality (thanks to my son-in-law Gary King for that).  When I edited the videos, I needed to make sure that the volume of one of the audio tracks was minimized in order to avoid sound distortion. Most of this education took place through trial and error, meaning that I made many mistakes that I needed to correct or redo. 

Still, with all that, there were several unanticipated, maddening snafus that took an enormous amount of time to figure out:

  1. The speed of the video produced by the Samsung s8 was slightly different than that produced by the Samsung s10!  Even though the audio tracks of both videos would line up at the beginning with the big audio waves from the three claps, they were no longer in sync after a minute or two. There was no fix I was able to find for this situation, but there was a work around that I eventually figured out, after much ado.
  2. Uploading the videos from one of the phones to the computer – something that should be incredibly simple – turned out to be nightmarishly difficult.  I would be on the phone for hours with Samsung representatives trying to fix this problem.  Each of the reps I spoke with came up with a different solution, which eventually worked, but didn’t work the next time I tried it.  This went on week after week.  By the very end of the project, I think I finally found a reliable solution, but only after the ten weeks were completed.

         All in all, I think that most of the videos turned out well musically.  But there is still some clean up work to do with revising and hopefully re-releasing a couple videos, correcting one video with some sound distortion and another one that doesn’t sync perfectly.

         I went through a technological Hades, I learned a lot, and now I’m able to video and edit a two camera shoot one heck of a lot better than when I started.