News From The Woods - October, 1987

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published October, 1987


"Arkansas Jubilee"


(NOTE: Recently Cedar Crest Studio assisted the Arkansas Educational Television Network in the production of "Arkansas Jubilee", a proposed live music program showcasing the talents of Arkansas-based artists and song-writers. The following article is an account of that project.)

On July 13th, I was invited as audio/video consultant to attend a luncheon meeting at Gaston's Resort on the White River. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce AETN Associate Director Mike Mottler to our area, and to investigate the possibilities and procedures involved in broadcasting a series of live music shows from Mountain Home on AETN/PBS. After a lengthy discussion concerning the logistics and financing (or lack of) surrounding such an operation, Mr. Mottler agreed to commit AETN to the production of one "pilot" show. Sponsors of the show however, would have to meet AETN halfway, by upgrading the facility to be used in order to meet the cosmetic requirements needed for the video production. In addition, Mr. Mottler pointed out that AETN would not have the ability and equipment to totally produce the show, specifically the audio end. I was happy to volunteer our services. First of all, you don't get to be part of a production like this everyday and, since Mountain Home is our home, I felt honored to assist such a worth-while endeavor.

The North Arkansas Music Center in Mountain Home was chosen as the production site. To meet the AETN requirement, the stage was enlarged with a new runway and the ceiling was raised to accommodate the considerable amount of extra lighting.

The project was officially dubbed the "Arkansas Jubilee" and the production was set for September 18 and 19. Lee Hearn was contracted as Director of Photography and Jana Greenbaum as Production Manager. additional cameras and crew were generously provided by UALR and UCA for the show. Many thanks to Jana, Dina, Michael, and Stacy at UALR and UCA and to the students who were sent up in the eleventh hour and did an excellent job in joining the production "cold."

I had originally planned to "double-mike" the stage since we didn't have a snake/splitter box. hat would have meant two mikes for each instrument/amp/drum whatever and arranging for a vocal-only sub-mix out of the house P.A. mixer. This would give the house sound engineer the ability to adjust the proper house mix without affecting the audio mix for the video. The problem was how to change around two boards, two audio snakes and two sets of microphones while herding 8 acts on and off the stage in front of a live audience.

The solution came to me the night before the show. I decided to leave just one snake on stage with just one set of mikes, leaving house engineer Dave Gash in charge of coordinating mike placements for each act with stage manager Joe Leatherbarrow. I set up the audio-video board (Tangent 1602) right next to the house sound mixer (Peavy Mark IV), and ran individual cables from each input on my mixer. In other words, if input 10 was a vocal mike on the P.A. board, then input 10 on the audio-video board was the same vocal mike. Either one could be independently adjusted or "sweetened" without affecting the other. Not only did the system work flawlessly but we could verify inputs by soloing on either board.

Lee took a basic two-camera shoot on Friday and a three-camera set-up on Saturday night. The UALR crew manned camera 1 while Lee used our camera for the close-ups. Camera 1 was positioned at the sound mixing positions with a direct audio feed from the audio-for-video board. This audio would serve as the master audio track during post-production in the final editing. The crew was instructed to keep static wide shots and Lee would operate camera 2 by moving between one side of the stage and the other, relocating between songs and acts. His audio was live camera-mike audio which, though not used for the final production, would enable AETN producers to sync up the mike audio with the master mixed audio going down onto camera 1. Camera 1 would roll all during the show while camera 2 would stop and start at random to get close-ups, pans and zooms. Dave and Joe used the wireless intercom headsets for better stage and audio coordination.

The UCA crew made it to a short production meeting at Cedar Crest to review the previous night's footage so we could make decisions on the three-camera production that night. This time the camera crew wore headsets. My wife Susan ran camera 1 at the sound board position with audio feed direct. The UCA crew operated camera 2 at stage left with an audio feed direct from the board. Lee directed from camera 3 which alternated from stage right to actually on stage during certain segments of the show. The headsets gave Lee the freedom to call his own shots during the show. This system of videography, as opposed to using a video switcher and mixing, cutting, or wiping between camera angles live (what you see is what you get), is easier during the event because you are recording each camera angle on its own VCR and leaving decisions up to the producer in the post-production control room long after the performance is over. Each approach has its own unique advantages and disadvantages but I would still refer the way we did it as it allowed more room for error in the long run and you can sweeten the production with special effects later if you choose.

At this point I would like to commend the audience and applaud their untiring patience. Most of them were there to see a live performance, and did not know what to expect from a videotaping experience. For example each VCR tape-length time is only 20 minutes, so every 20 minutes we had to stop production and change tapes on camera 1 position (containing the all-important master audio track). Most of the time it would happen in mid-song, and the artist would have to do that song again from the start. In some cases Lee decided to get completely different angles on an artist which meant doing the same song over again several times!! And each time, we would expect our audience to really clap and cheer as we started up yet another tape. Sometimes camera 2 or 3 couldn't get a shot and we had to instruct the performers to start the song all over again. Instead of an "applause" sign, I would start yelling and screaming like mad until the crowd had caught on. Each night we shot for over 4 hours, and even with frequent breaks that's a long time for performers and audience alike. Our audiences both nights "kept it up" for us until taping stopped. I am sure many of them earned a new respect for what goes into a production they may have taken for granted while routinely watching TV.

One amusing incident occurred Saturday night when, while I was mixing with the headphones cranked up, the drummer for one group came out of nowhere with a loud snare CRACK, to which I yelled (mainly to myself) - "What the hell was THAT!??" When I looked up I realized that in reality the band wasn't playing that loudly and that the phones were cranked to overcome room sound and that for four rows in front of me everyone was turned around looking and laughing. Even Dave had a big grin on his usually serious face.

Our talent line-up was very well-rounded. We had everything from dulcimers to rock guitars; music that ranged from gospel to southern rock 'n' roll, with a little comedy thrown in for good measure. Our performers included the Mountain Magic Band, Rivershoes, Jerry Skelly, Amy-O, Denise Sowell, The Porter Brothers with Jim Crist, Georgie Baker, Kris Nesbitt, Cadillac Wheels, Mary Lou Metcalf, and Keith Hamm. They all did a great job of performing for the cameras and never complained when we had to do something over. And emcee Cody Dillinger kept up with the patter between sets.

A total of 49 tapes were used over the two-day period. That's approximately 16 hours and 20 minutes of program material. All that footage will have to be sifted through by the AETN producer, and edited down to just a one-hour program. It will be quite a job to tackle considering that the video will have to be manually synchronized to the master audio tracks. Then it will have to be put in a proper sequence in order to give it continuity. If everything goes well with the final editing and production, I assume the program will be shown at some point on AETN. In any event, the local sponsors of the show will use the finished production to seek enough funding and sponsors to warrant a series of "Arkanasas Jubilee" shows on AETN, possibly even a syndication of shows to offer to PBS outlets in other states. I certainly hope so. There is enough Arkansas-based talent to do at least 13 one-hour programs, and our artists deserve to get a little recognition. We've always been looked at as sort of a "backward" state in a lot of areas concerning the "arts." After all we call violins "fiddles" and all that! Maybe we just have a little too much fun with music or something.... Anyway, AETN has our thanks for committing the time, labor, effort, and expense to the "Arkansas Jubilee" pilot. We gave it our best shot! Now it's up to the politicians, promoters, sponsors, movers and shakers to use this pilot and develop a permanent series.

And it's up to you too to support programs like this by letting the people in the right places know that you enjoy and support them.


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