Producer Rick Gratton discusses movie minutia with Minnemann, while Project Manager Ray Brych inspects the bass drum foot cam.
There’s another short pause for technical adjustments. The photographer, Marty Temme (also a drummer) is waved in to snap some shots of Minnemann playing. Temme puts a big flash head on his camera and asks Minnemann to play a bit. Relaxed and “fooling around,” Minnemann sounds even smoother, faster, and groovier than he did during his recorded drum solo. Tal (who plays congas, too) is standing by to powder his face before the next take. Someone makes a sotto voce remark: “It’s good to show off for other drummers, but it’s even better to show off for girls.” The girl and the guys are all smiling as Minnemann shows off, and Temme keeps burning film until the director calls for a return to places so filming can resume.
The movements of the cameras are choreographed for each tune. The camera operators need to have at least a sketchy blueprint of where they’re going and what they will focus on. The exception to this is the Master Shot camera, which just sits there in the front row and gets a pretty good view. The kinkiest camera is the jib camera, which is a camera on a long crane, mounted on a large industrial tripod on wheels. Jib cameras are responsible for the smooth overhead panning shots that we’ve come to know and love in drum videos. They’re the cameras that can look straight down at the drummer from directly overhead and then swing over to the side, front, or back. The jib camera operator has his own challenges of independent coordination.
Scott Acosta is the jib camera operator on this shoot. He’s not a drummer, but as he told us, “I shoot a lot of live concerts. I can’t play. I can’t sing. But I feel music.” As he stands behind the large struts of the camera, his left hand runs a small joystick, just like a video game, that moves the camera. His right hand is busy, too, and he points at the controls and explains. “I’m zooming with this finger, focusing with that, panning and tilting with that, arming up and down left and right there, moving my feet as well and every time I move a single part of my body something else has to move as well to compensate. It’s sort of the same principle as drumming.”
All the contortions and kneepad work the cameramen make is more important now than it used to be. The move is on from VHS video cassettes to DVD discs, and the DVD format allows for a new revolution in consumer viewing. David Hakim, one of the suits – err, executives – of Warner Bros. Publications, is very knowledgable about where visual education has been and where it is likely going. Hakim has been in the drum video business since its inception, working with DCI videos and then CPP/Belwin and now Warner Bros.. He was there for videos by Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl, and everything in between and since. He told us – and told us and told us – all about the new frontiers.
“The evolution of drum videos,” Hakim says, “leads us to DVDs. A player like Marco Minneman needs the technical innovations that the DVD format offers. We can show every angle and every perspective of the performance. And with DVD the user can slow down the tracks, isolate them, and it offers a wonderful way to study a virtuoso like Marco. We will have an extensive menu for the consumer to select from, whether he wants to study or just be entertained. We started this with our recent Santana Supernatural/Raul & Karl project, and now it’s part of our method. We think it’s the ultimate teaching tool. We’ll also have ’mega-packs’ coming out, including a book, a CD, and a DVD all together, including play-along tracks of the materials in the package.”
That sounds really cool and right away we thought to ourselves, Will it cost less than 60 bucks? But we kept our cheap-ass comments to ourselves. Hakim is a drummer, too; another Potsdam man from the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York. Before he earned his Bachelor’s Degree he was just another kid learning Bonham licks off the record. We had a good laugh with him, talking about the old school technique of dropping the needle on an LP set to 16 RPM. It was the best way to hear those tricky licks, but the future is DVD and the turntable is long gone. Now you just find the camera angle you want on the DVD menu, set it at half-speed or quarter-speed, crank up the speakers and pay attention.
Of course, no technology will replace practice, just as no profit motive can create a substitute for the genuine enthusiasm of the people working on this shoot. This whole crew loves drums and drummers. It’s their job, and it’s a business, of course, so love is not the bottom line. And to that end you won’t likely see a video, “Part Two,” from an artist who doesn’t sell good numbers with “Part One.” But there’s real love in this recording studio, and their enthusiasm is best compared to that of kids in a candy store.
And now, as the crew takes a meal break, and men ask Tal what she likes to eat, and some eyes cast around to see if the suits are buying lunch today, Gratton sums it up best. “Yesterday,” he recalled, “setting up for this, we all took turns playing Marco’s kit. We all play, so it was a little rite of passage to get behind there and make the drums speak. And you know, everybody here could play something. It was really cool.”