Boombox: Portrait of James Phillips

Project Type: Cinematography, Community collaboration   /   Programs used: Adobe Premiere, Avid Pro  /  Teammates: Ty Husband, Anezka Chua

Hardware used: Canon T3i Rebel DSLR, Zoom H4N audio recorder, AKAI Mk2 MIDI controller

 
 

As part of a joint collaboration between the Museum of Vancouver and my faculty (School of Interactive Arts & Technology) for their upcoming "Collector's" exhibit, my three man team filmed a documentary about Mr. James Phillips; an collector of boomboxes. The upcoming exhibit will feature collector's of various objects from sugar packets to pinball machines to showcase the variety of collections in the heart of Vancouver. 

Our goal with the documentary was to showcase Mr. Phillip's collection and tell the story of how he became a collector of boomboxes and answer the thematic question of "why people collect things". The project took 2 months to completion and will be featured in the exhibit in June 2016. 

 

DESIGN PROCESS

My role for this project was acting as the producer and the sound designer. I maintained communication with Mr. Phillips to schedule shoots and update him as to how our project was progressing. I would also update my teammates at the same time to make sure our team was on the right track. During the shoot, I was responsible for setting up and monitoring the audio levels during the interview using a Zoom H4N audio recorder with a lavalier microphone. While the other members were occupied with operating the cameras, it was my duty to ensure there was no outstanding background noise overlapping Mr. Phillip's voice and maintain a stable level of audio.  

 Transporting equipment to head to the shoot location.

Transporting equipment to head to the shoot location.

 Setting up the cameras and checking the sound equipment.

Setting up the cameras and checking the sound equipment.

 First shoot with Mr. Phillips (Interview)

First shoot with Mr. Phillips (Interview)

  First shoot with Mr. Phillips (Interview)

First shoot with Mr. Phillips (Interview)

 

Sound Design

After the initial draft was created, I imported the footage into Avid Pro Tools to begin working on the background music. Going with the theme of the boombox era, I tried to create beats similar to the popular songs of that era. LL J Cool's "I can't live without my radio" was a big influence as the constant kick of the drums and high hat strikes provided energy to the footage. My process was record the first hit of the high hat, loop it, then manually record the kick drum using the MIDI keyboard.

 Intro sequence of the first draft of the soundtrack.

Intro sequence of the first draft of the soundtrack.

 drum beat inspired by LL J Cool's "I can't live without my radio"

drum beat inspired by LL J Cool's "I can't live without my radio"

 

Once the initial beat was approved by the teammates, I went in Pro Tools again to add the melody to the soundtrack. The biggest challenge was make sure the background music wasn't overwhelming Mr. Phillip's voice and contributed to the overall theme of the documentary rather than be its own entity. Overall, the soundtrack was edited well by my teammates and added the oomph that was lacking with just the sound of the drum kit. The melody was created using a MIDI controller and was an original thought of by me. 

 Process of creating the melody line with the first draft video as a reference.

Process of creating the melody line with the first draft video as a reference.

 

Overall the video we produced was of satisfactory quality. There were a lot of mishaps in terms of scheduling, but given the time span we had, our group put together a piece that tells a bit of Mr. Phillips story and his history with boomboxes. The soundtrack turned out well and was a good experience for me designing a soundtrack that wasn't heavy on orchestral instruments and was able to reflect on my weakness as a composer. The experience made me research different genre's of music from different eras, expanding my musical knowledge for future projects.