Saturday, July 14, 2007
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Friday, July 13, 2007
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Apple's iPhone Dissected: We did it, so you don't have to
Thursday, July 12, 2007
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iPhone: The musical (David Pogue, NYT)
I had a lot of crazy fun making my video "iPhone: The Musical" last week--and a lot of fun watching the reaction online.Most people found it funny, out-there, or at least entertaining (agreed). Many accused me of not being the greatest singer in the world and being a ham (agreed). And a few people were appalled. (One blogger, evidently born with the satire gene, called it "an entertainment bit that belongs on a comedy show, not from the New York Times" and that is "devalues the Times as a news outlet." Wow-the New York Times criticized for having a sense of humor? Isn't it usually just the opposite?)
Anyway, with the flood of feedback came a torrent of questions, and there were some interesting tech challenges along the way. So here's my "making of" story, as driven by reader questions.
Q: How did the video come about?
A: Brian Lam, editor of Gizmodo.com, had been cheerfully taunting me for weeks by e-mail, challenging me to do a high-tech song spoof (a hobby of mine) about the iPhone.
I think these spoofs are funniest when they closely match the original-for example, I did one to the tune of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" called "Don't Cry For Me, Cupertino." So I though it'd be fun to turn "(I Did It) My Way" into "I Want an iPhone." ("My Way" was a French song originally written by Claude Francois, Jacques Revaux and Gilles Thibault; later, Paul Anka wrote the English words and Frank Sinatra recorded it.)
But I'd been swamped that week, so I wound up writing the lyrics the day of the iPhone's release--on the train ride into New York to film the video.
My plan was to involve the people waiting in line at the Fifth Avenue Apple store. In other words, we wound up filming the last part of the video first. In fact, we filmed the last line of the video first as a sort of proof of concept, where the whole crowd sings "I got an iPhone" together.
Q: How did you pick the singers? And why only one woman among the six people?
A: When I got to the line at the Apple store, I literally yelled out, "Does anyone here have a singing voice?" That's it. I had six lines that needed singing, so I repeated the question until I had six volunteers. (One guy had an absolutely glorious singing voice. After filming his line, he revealed that he's Chester Gregory, a lead in "Tarzan" on Broadway!)
Q: I'm appalled that you threw a toxic cellphone into the river! Aren't you an environmentalist?
A: Yes, but I'm a magician first.
Watch closely. I never really threw a phone into the river. In the first shot, I drew my hand back, just out of camera view-and tossed the phone behind me. So when I flung my hand forward, it was actually empty.
In the second shot, you see the splash next to the kayaker. That was a rock I tossed off the bridge! It took us three takes to get that shot right; do you really think I had three cellphones to waste on that one sight gag?
Q: That was funny when the cellphone almost hit the rowing guy. Where'd you get him?
A: Believe it or not, he just came rowing up during the filming, completely by coincidence. We just thought it'd be funny to add him. (In the credits, I labeled him a "kayaker," but many of you have pointed out that the correct term is "sculler.")
Q: When you filmed at the Apple Store, where was the orchestra?
A: In my head.
Getting the vocal tracks, the orchestra tracks, and the video all lined up and working together was an exasperating, complex deal.
After we were done at the Apple store, I asked my old friend Steve Alper, a Broadway composer/arranger/audio master, to create the orchestral backing for the music video. He wound up overseeing the synchronization job, too. (He even used software to fix some off-key notes from the crowd singers-but don't tell anyone.)
We actually had three different chunks, each with its own problems.
First, there were the singers from the crowd at the Apple store. We filmed them before I'd even involved Steve on the project. Before filming each line, I played each singer his snippet from a "My Way" MIDI file on my laptop, two or three times, so they'd learn the key, melody and tempo. (None of the six, all of whom were under 45, knew the song "My Way.")
Later, it was relatively easy to make those video shots fit the finished orchestra track.
Then there were the parts that I "sang" at the Apple store. I didn't actually sing any of it out loud; I felt too sheepish bellowing at the top of my lungs inside the store. So instead, I just mouthed all of those lines, as Zach, my summer intern, operated the camcorder.
Later, I watched the video over and over, attempting to sing in sync with the video. It was darned hard. I will never again criticize the bad lip-syncing in a movie or TV show.
Finally, there were the sections I "sang" at the river and around town. These were filmed last, after everything else was done. I had the luxury of (a) having Steve's orchestra track, and (b) recording the vocal freely at home, without having to lip-sync to anything.
In other words, for my first section, I had had to sing to match the acting; now I had to act to match the singing.
Somehow, with a lot of big file shuttling between Steve Alper and me, and a lot of frame-by-frame nudging in Final Cut, we managed to get the audio, video and orchestra track relatively synchronized.
The whole thing was a blast, but it took most of three days to do it.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Opinion Feed: Bushwatch
The European Union feels unloved. Too many Europeans consider its governing bureaucracy, the European Commission, to be meddlesome, stuffy and generally out of touch. It has, you might say, an image problem: even when it does something useful, no one seems willing to give it credit.
Just imagine, then, how the carpets of power in Brussels must have buzzed with excitement when some hip marketeer — perhaps a well-paid consultant — came up with the idea of reaching out to the public through a newly created Web site linked to YouTube. Surely young Europeans would now pay attention.
Well, they did, at least to one of the 49 clips currently available on youtube.com/eutube. In less than three weeks, "Film Lovers Will Love This!," as the video is teasingly called, has had close to 3.3 million hits. And, yes, it shows Europeans enjoying themselves being European — in bed.
In just 44 seconds, it presents flashes of 18 heterosexual and homosexual couples having steamy sex, accompanied by breathless groans and climactic screams.
European union, indeed.
In fairness, the clips are all taken from European movies. And, as with four other hugging, weeping and kissing videos, called "European Films — Tapping Into the Talent," "Singing the Blues on the Silver Screen," "Romanticism Still Alive in Europe's Films" and "Joy," the commission's declared purpose is to promote European cinema.
Rudy Giuliani Urban Legend
Firefighters Rip Giuliani, Call Him 'Urban Legend'
New DVD Criticizes Former NYC Mayor
Giuliani's Campaign Calls Video 'Mockumentary'
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PARTISAN POLITICS
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Monday, July 09, 2007
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