Nice Camerawork

Here’s a short bit from Freefly about shooting with their Movi M10 stabilizer. Shooting the taxicab on roller skates is a particularly cool move, even though it’s a bit testosterone-ninja-cowboy gimmicky. I mean, what could go wrong? Still, the end shot does look nice, and as long as this kind of move fits the storyline and isn’t overdone, then put it in your bag of tricks. But don’t forget that the Movi M10 has a base cost of around eight grand, though there may be less expensive options now… camera support is seeing some great advances these days, and some amazing gear is showing up at all sorts of price points.

Bloomberg Shoot at Sea Islands, GA

Just returned from a two-day shoot at Sea Islands GA. Thanks Kris Carillo(DP), Dave Thompson(Dir), Jon Wang(AC), and Lee Narby(Gaff). Yes, it was hot and buggy, but I love being in the lowcountry!

Shooting for Bloomberg with golf pro Todd Anderson.

Shooting for Bloomberg with golf pro Todd Anderson.

Steve Bailey at On Line Audio, 1992


Much of the audio engineering work that I did at On Line Audio recording studio wasn’t much to write home about. I often think of it as “my studio,” but it really wasn’t mine. Robert Graves was the owner and I was the studio manager, and the way things evolved was that Robert did most of the nighttime sessions, while I ran the audio for the 6 and 11 news at WCBD, and I ran the daytime sessions. Even after I resigned at the station, that’s mostly the way we continued to do things.

Many of the really serious clients preferred to work at night. I mixed everything else. Some of my sessions included folks with amazing talent, but others, well… not so much. This story is from the amazing column.

Once we got a call from a client who was really pressed for time, and only had one day before he had to fly back to California. I think it was a Saturday, and Robert was unable to do the session. I remember him telling me that this Steve Bailey guy (I’d never heard of him) was a phenomenal bassist, and you should have a really good session. So I was assigned to engineer for him.

I met Steve early one morning, and I was immediately impressed. Very personable and down-to-earth, yet clearly the best bassist I’d ever met. He had some reels of 2″ tape with him that contained backing tracks recorded at a studio in California. There was something wrong with his bass tracks, though I can’t remember what it was… either there was something technically wrong, or he was rushed during the session and didn’t like the performance. We were going to re-cut all of the bass parts.

But Steve was having some sort of dispute with the record label over this, and they didn’t want him to re-record the parts. THAT’S why he was recording at a (comparatively) small, out-of-the-way studio in Charleston, SC. If the label got wind of what he was doing, they’d have a fit. So the deal was there were to be NO extra copies of the music made- no cassettes, rough mixes, etc.

Steve set up his pedal board in the control room and we started to work. I believe we set up an amp out in the studio, and also cut a direct box track, but can’t remember exactly. He and I sat in the control room, I ran the recorder while he played. I do remember exactly the length of the session, though… sixteen hours, longest session I’d ever done before or since. The whole time, Steve played like a machine, never slowing down or tiring. I remember feeling exhausted, but the music was so good that I didn’t notice the time as much as I would’ve otherwise. 

Then just like that, it was over. Steve made his flight and we never saw him again. The album was never released… I guess the dispute was never resolved… and I spent years kicking myself for doing the right thing, and not keeping some kind of copy of the songs.

Remember that this all happened around 1992- before the internet. So a few years ago I started doing some web- related research. I spoke with Robert Graves, and I found Steve Bailey’s website and tried sending an email, but never heard anything. Then this came in my inbox:

Brian, sorry for the delay here.. the album you mention is out of print, although it may be re released at some point soon. It is called Dichotomy and you may be able to find it online.. you can certainly use some stuf from it. there were two releases in asia and europe.. the asian release has much more recording details… good luck, steve

Copies of the album are occasionally available on eBay at very high prices… for example this one at $125

The very elusive Steve Bailey Dichotomy CD

The very elusive Steve Bailey Dichotomy CD

But if you’re patient, you can find one for $45… still really expensive, but I bought one because of the history. It took forever to arrive (it came in from Japan), but it’s every bit as good as I remember. One of the tracks even has the great Dizzy Gillespie playing on it. Be sure to check out Steve Bailey’s website,

So what does this record sound like? Have a listen:

The tracking and mix on this project is great. Good jazz drums have always impressed me, and the panning and tone here is especially nice… clear and well defined, not “overdone,” and very well played by Joel Taylor. The liner notes don’t say who the mix engineer was, but it was mixed at Slam Shack and Room 335. Guitarist Larry Carlton owned Room 335 in Hollywood, CA, and while he’s not listed in the engineering credits, he probably had a hand in it.

Here’s another snippet from a song called Surf’s Up… reminds me of Weather Report:

I couldn’t close this post without this song called Dizzy’s Tizzy. On trumpet is Dizzie Gillespie (yes, THAT Dizzie Gillespie). Even though I only played a very small role in producing this track, its pretty cool to say that I worked on a song with Dizzie Gillespie on it. If you’re really into jazz bass, check Steve’s website or keep an eye on eBay for this CD. Like I said, it’s crazy expensive, but it’s really good music… enjoy!



Bonnaroo 2015?

I’m booked to shoot at Bonnaroo for Red Bull TV this year… if anyone else that I know is going, be sure to send me a text.

Volkswagen Cycling Preview

Here are two spots that I recently completed for Volkswagen here in Chattanooga:

Capturing Audio in a Race Car

I’ve just wrapped on a commercial for Volkswagen that went outside the usual scope of work. The client needed to capture dialog inside a drift racer operating at speed. The driver was Tanner Faust, formerly of Top Gear America, and his “co-pilot” was cyclist Tim Johnson. This rather lousy iPhone video shows an example of the kinds of speeds we’re talking about:


Getting a Decent Signal

Most race cars these days are equipped with radio comms so the drivers can communicate with the pit crew, but I don’t like to rely on other systems as you never know if they’ll work or what sort of quality you can end up with. Conventional lavs wouldn’t work either because of the noise inside the car. I decided to go with an earwire-type lav, since the only chance of overcoming the background noise would be to get the mic as close as possible to the source. And as this would be such a lousy ambient environment, I decided that an expensive mic like a Countryman B6 would probably be pointless. I found a fairly inexpensive pair of earwires that had a 4-pin connection that would need to be changed over to a 5-pin. This turned out to be a bit trickier than I thought, as the mics came with a microscopic surface-mount circuit board inside the connector which needed to be retained. I managed to cut the old connector out and resolder in the new connector by applying large doses of profanity to the solder job. It worked in the end.

Of course, this style of mic is visible, which is rarely acceptable in a commercial. But in this case, it was either that or nothing… as in recording MOS (without sound) and then looping in some dialogue over car noises. This wasn’t really an issue, though, since all the interior shots would be from GoPros (eight in total) and all these were set to fairly wide angles. Tanner’s mic was hidden by his helmet… only Tim’s was visible, and being flesh colored on a wide lens, it was barely noticeable.

My bag in position inside Tanner Faust's Jetta.

My bag in position inside Tanner Faust’s Jetta.

The next issue was dealing with the distance. I didn’t have time to build a pair of custom antennas for my transmitters… putting the antennas outside of the metal shell of a car will increase transmitter range, but the distances would be too great in this case, and there wouldn’t be a chase car. The only solution was to “drop the bag,” in other words, securing the bag somewhere inside the car, placing it in record, and letting them take off.

The obvious disadvantage is that you can’t properly monitor what is being recorded. I did have a Comtek PR216 monitor transmitter hooked up, and it worked pretty well given the difficulty of the job, but there were lots of dropouts and hits to the signal. But listening to the file after the fact gave a reasonably good result. Tanner’s mic sounds a bit worse than Tim’s… that’s a result of the style of helmet, as Tanner was wearing a closed type, wraparound helmet that pressed the mic close to his mouth, and Tim’s helmet was an open type that allowed the mic to stay in the correct orientation.

I’ll post a link to the finished spot once it gets posted online.

With The Alabama Shakes- CBS Sunday

I recently completed a shoot for CBS Sunday Morning in and around Athens and Decatur, Alabama. This is where Brittany Howard and Zac Cockrell grew up, and formed The Alabama Shakes in 2009. They have a new album coming out in a few weeks, and CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on them that will air April 19th.

Bar scene interview

Bar scene interview

Chris Conder and I shot at a couple of locations- first at the bar where they did their first show, and where their single “Hold On” was first performed. Then over to Brittney’s Dad’s place, where spent a lot of time playing in the creek, and where her dog and pet pig roamed the nearby farms. Third location was bassist Zac Cockrell’s house for another quick interview. A few scenics at their school nearby, then it was time to transfer files and wrap for the day… a pretty good shoot overall.

At Brittnay's Dad's place

At Brittnay’s Dad’s place

Their new album, “Sound And Color” goes on sale April 21, 2015.

DP Chris Conder, Point Of View Productions, Sony F800

DP Chris Conder, Point Of View Productions shooting on his Sony F800