In my own small brush with posterity, I once exchanged emails with Craig Newmark of Craig’s List back in 1997. I had run an ad on the San Francisco-based bulletin board system that read, “Free beer and Bluegrass in Fairfax this Friday,” and he wanted to know how the promotion had gone. I let him know that only ten or so people came because of the ad – and they drank their one free beer and left for the rock club down the street – but that in my opinion, it had worked.
Enter the YouTube age, where bluegrass bands have new ways to utilize technology, and generate interest and buzz with a music video.
Bill Emerson and Sweet Dixie have taken this concept to a new level with the release of their video, My Baby Thinks He’s a Train, included on their just-released album, The Touch Of Time. The song is written by LeRoy Preston, and provides the soundtrack for the video. You’ll find good production values in this piece, created and edited by Tim Bogenn.
From the opening credits you realize it’s not going to be another ‘one take from a live gig’ type video. The band is set on a train that’s tearing through the night. It contains clever animation that ties in with the theme of the song, and delightful graphics that make for a fun ride with this upbeat number.
I had a chat with Tim Bogenn, the videographer over at InMotion about the process required to put this one together.
Tell me about your video work and how long you’ve been doing it.
We’ve been doing video professionally for 7 years.
Is this your first animated video like this?
This is our first animated video like this, although we have done some animated letter and actor compositions for corporate video pieces.
How did you come up with the idea, aside from the lyrics to the song?
Both my partner Kartal Peel and I are really into music and when we listen to music we see images. If you are familiar with the video game Little Big Planet, that is what I was seeing when I listened to the song. In the original concept we had planned (and did shoot) kids playing with a large, antique toy train. The characters (band members) were spilled onto the floor and were set up in different areas around the track with other figures in a train set. The kids were going to place the band members on the different train cars… but it was decided that we should take the kids out of the video to make it seem less “kiddie.”
The “sets” in the video were all handmade out of construction paper, Elmer’s Glue, and cut cardboard. We scanned these props and assembled them in After Effects. That is where we created the world. We shot the video of the band on a portable green screen in Centerville VA. We filmed all the band members separately and they also performed as a whole group a couple times in front of a red curtain as well as in front of the green screen once.
What kind of hours go into a production like this?
We had many, many hours into this production. There were scenes that ended up on the editing room floor that took time as well – time and footage no one will ever see. I would say we spent 12,000 hours in filming, rendering, editing, compositing etc., Another video similar to this one would cost someone easily $20,000.
Did you work closely with the band during post production, or were they done after shooting?
The band was done with their contribution after the 8 hour shoot in VA 🙂
We came up with the concept and took it to completion.
There is hot picking from the get-go (what else would you expect from the legendary Bill Emerson!), and some lovely, easy singing from the band’s bassist Teri Chism. Baby is a well-written tune that has nice hooks and some clever lyrics. Bill’s banjo playing is just right, along with the fiddle playing of Jenny Leigh Obert.
The highlight of the cut for me is the mandolin playing of Wayne Lanham. He pulls great one out of his axe, yet doesn’t get that linear, every-note’s-the-same-volume sound that just seems pedantic to me. Great enthusiasm in his break, and some great licks, too!
Bluegrass music has depth in both musicianship and lyrics. These two things lend themselves well to creating compelling music videos. I think the next most important component are ideas like this video has: fun ideas to add to the excitement and pleasure of a song. I’m tired of the ‘guy walking down a dirt road, looking cheerless and contemplative’ look.
This song is fun, and Bill Emerson and Sweet Dixie, along with Tim Bogenn and InMotion, have given us a video that is as fun to watch as it is to hear!