Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Making of the Concord Band Concert Archive

Sound, and now, Sight

The robocam (inset), operated from inside the control booth,
above and behind the music stage, captures many interesting
views of the Concord Band and Music Director James O’Dell.
Audio recordings of the Concord Band’s concerts go back to the tenure of the Band’s first Music Director, William M. Toland, in 1962. Recorded initially on Phillips cassettes by an amateur, the cassettes were made available to any members of the Band who wanted to have something to show for all the effort that had gone into their concert preparations and were also saved as part of what became the Concord Band Archive. The Archive is now kept in the vault at the Concord Public Library.

Cameras, at the rear of the hall,
one on each side, and a remotely
operated camera behind the Band,
give the producer and technical
director many options.  All CCTV
operators are volunteers.
In the ‘80’s, when it became economical to produce CDs on a small scale, the father of one of the members of the Band began to record our concerts digitally, using video cassettes as the recording medium. Eventually, the Band hired a professional audio engineer, who brought in hundreds of pounds of digital recording equipment for each concert and set up multiple high-quality microphones on stands, running endless cable up into the control booth that sits above the percussion equipment closets at the back of the music stage at the Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden. Over time, the recording equipment became less bulky; today a conventional PC running specialized software attached to a multi-channel microphone mixer is used. A few years ago, the Band’s audio engineer at that time gave the Band four high-quality microphones and all the necessary cable so that they could be permanently installed at 51 Walden. This, of course, meant that it was no longer necessary for stands to be set up and microphone cable to be run for each concert. As planning for the Concord Band’s 50th Anniversary season, 2008-2009, took place, Dan Diamond, a long-time Band member and Trustee, wondered whether it would be feasible to take the next logical step and make video recordings of the Band’s concerts. He contacted Charles Paige, Executive Director of Concord- Carlisle TV, the town’s public access cable channel, and a visit by CCTV people to 51 Walden suggested that our building was ideal. The control booth was perfect, but the key ingredient was that a professional audio engineer was already recording the music, which meant that he might be able to provide the necessary stereo feed. As it turned out, he could.

Producer Barry Mirrer
determines what should
be featured on screen
based on the musical score.
There was now only one ingredient missing: We would have to find a producer who could read concert band conductors’ scores, was willing to learn a little about TV production, but most important of all, was willing to put in the time in advance of each Concord Band concert to analyze and mark up a set of scores with camera cues that he or she would read back in real time during a concert to the technical director. The technical director, in turn, would actually communicate with the camera operators over an intercom, telling each of them what their next shot should be (e.g., solo clarinet) and operate the real-time camera switch to determine which camera image to record. The technical director must be an experienced professional, and Matt Geiger, CCTV’s production manager, has handled that job superbly in all three videos.

Technical Director Matt Geiger
of CCTV directs and selects
camera shots in real time.
Finding an experienced concert producer was out of the ques t ion, be cause this had to be a volunteer. While we put out the word that we were looking for such an individual, Dan drafted a one page document that could have been entitled How to be a Video Producer for a Concert Band Concert. It had a chart showing where all the instruments of the Band sat, and a section labeled “Intercom Instructions for Communications between Video Producer, Camera Operators and Switch Operator”, which, ignoring the role of the technical director, shows how little he knew about video operations at the time. Ignorance being bliss, however, the Band found Barry Mirrer, who had band conducting experience mostly from conducting pit bands for shows. He has been perfect for the job, getting better and better at it with each of the three videos that have now been made.

Once the video has been recorded, all that remains is for the raw “footage” to be cleaned up, a title screen added up front and credits to be added at the end. For the first Band concert video, Dan Diamond, who had by then discovered that he was the Executive Producer of the video, decided that it might be fun to learn how to do the post-production editing himself. Like lots of things (skiing, for example) that look like fun until one tries to do them oneself, he managed to get through it—and some parts of it actually are fun. But having to re-learn the software twice a year—because that’s not often enough to remember how to do much of anything— does take some of the fun out of it.

Concord Band concert videos may be viewed on CCTV’s website and on the Concord Band's YouTube channel.

Dan Diamond is the senior member of the Concord Band, having joined the ensemble in January, 1970. He is a percussionist who began his lifelong love affair with the snare drum 63 years ago. His is the founder and editor of our newsletter, Notes from the Concord Band, and Executive Producer for Video Production.