Making the “Black and White Rag” Video

A year or so ago I made an arrangement for flute, piano and rhythm section of one of my favourite ragtime pieces, Black and White Rag by George Botsford. Then I decided to add a couple of electric guitar parts to give it a more trendy feel. Having done all that and made an audio recording of it I thought “Why not go the whole hog and make a video too?”

The starting point was the audio and, since that came first, the video had to be edited to fit the music and not vice versa, which is of course what usually happens in scoring to picture.

The main pre-production task was to practise all the parts to a high enough standard to play along with the audio track. Obviously, the focus has to be on the solo bits or otherwise prominent sections – which are of course nearly always the hard bits – and it’s surprising how soon after a recording is made one starts to forget the notes, so they had to be practised up again!

Apart form a few hand held pan shots (thanks Violetta!) I had to use a tripod to get the camera stable and pointing in the right direction. This can be fiddly and time consuming when there isn’t much room around the frame borders to get the whole body or instrument in and it’s done essentially by trial and error.

Eventually it was time to start the camera running and then turn on the audio track, making sure there was enough time to pick up the instrument, find the place and be ready to play along with whatever was being videoed at the time. Instrument don’t have to be played in any particular order, but probably the most complicated things are best done earlier on as that just makes the whole thing a little easier to manage.

Once all the instrument shots are done they get downloaded to the computer. There’s plenty of waste due to mistakes and beginnings and endings of takes, so I use FreeVideoCutter to get rid of the excess footage. This also makes the file sizes smaller, which can only be a good thing.

Then all video files were imported into the video editing software. For some reason my computer, notwithstanding its special video-editing only partition, often gets the dreaded Blue Screen, so progress is cautious with plenty of saves. I also have a CPU Usage gadget on my desktop and if this starts getting too agitated I just wait a minute for things to calm down. Of course the original audio WAV file is imported alongside all the video clips and any stills that may be used (such as of the score). The video was lined up with the audio, quite easily achieved as the camera also recorded the sound, so it’s just a case of matching the original audio with the video audio. Clearly, this latter has to be muted before final rendering, so as not to get in the way of the original, main sound.

Spending a few hours a day such a project, from start to finish can take about two to three weeks to complete.

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