Making a "Making Of" documentary (aka. "THE DIFFICULT SECOND ALBUM")
The process of making a "Making-Of" documentary can be compared to building a new house, because you never really know what you are letting yourself in for. Until at the very end, when you go: "bloody hell, that was a lot of work". This article will summarise that work. Almost a "bread-list" if you like. A list over what to do (and not to do) when it comes to making a documenary film. Hopefully this would be useful for new documentary makers - or myself (if I ever get the crazy notion of making another documentary film in the future).
Produced by the legendary guitarist Manny Charlton (a.o. Nazareth), the 2019 full-length by the award winning blues rock outfit offers five originals and four covers. Included on DVD is a two hour film documentary featuring rare interviews with the original band, retrospective interviews with both Neil Murray (Whitesnake) and Manny Charlton, plus up-close inspection of guitars and amplifiers used to record the album.
The new Fluffy Jackets album includes a two-hour blues rock documentary which is available in online stores, incl. Amazon.
Four Years, 704GB of data, 8400+ multimedia files
When The Fluffy Jackets documentary "Something from Nothing" was finally released in 2019, it was after four years of hard work. And, for each minute of the completed documentary, I had several hours worth of footage to select from. To give you and idea about the size of the project, I stored al the media files on an external Hard Drive, and it contains 704GB of data with more than 8400 multimedia files.
Judging the merits of each scene is a large job in itself, reviewing footage quality, audio quality in addition to the information content within it. The above image shows originalWhitesnake bassist Neil Murray (left) being interviewed by Helge Rognstad (right). Image taken from The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing' (2019).
It takes a lot of work - even to get to the point where you sit in front of your interview subject, ready to ask questions. As an example, it took almost two weeks to get the Neil Murray (Whitesnake) interview "in the can". After arranging the interview with the subject matter, I researched several potential venues and eventually agreed to record the interview at Plasma Music TV Studios in Hemel Hempstead. Then, flights hotel and travel were booked. On the day of the interview, some eleven cameras were set up to shoot the interview from a multitude of angles. The audio was tested, and the lighting set up to show the interview object nicely on film. Each interview would typically take several weeks to prepare, and one day to conduct. The post-production could take months.
THE KEY LESSONS LEARNED FROM MAKING 'SOMETHING FROM NOTHING':
Lesson 1: Be prepared to learn a lot - and get hands-on experience with different professions! There are so many different aspects of film-production, from shooting film, getting the best camera angles, capturing good audio, lighting and background, interview techniques, editing, artwork design, and much more. If you have pictures you want to show, these must be optimised, re-cut and edited into the movie. Not only that, but you must be quite the logistical expert to make sure interviews happen, from booking flights, venues, talking to- and preparing interview subjects, making sure they turn up on time, that camera's and sound equipment works, and so forth. In short: be prepared to transform yourself into a "Jack of all trades" (or alternatively: prepare to spend a lot of money!).
Travelling internationally with guitars and camera + sound equipment can be challenging. Sometimes, it was necessary to book photographers to take film.
Lesson 2: Remember that others have done this before - and take their advice! As I was making this documentary, I came across good advice from professional documentary film-makers, invaluable tips from YouTube lessons, not forgetting learning about editing film in Adobe Premiere Pro. Here are some Nuggets of Wisdom from other film-makers:
The first rule of documentary-making is to make a movie, rather than talking about making one. In short: show things visually whenever, instead of using "talking heads".
The second rule: Do not to tell people shit they already know. It is boring if the movie becomes a preacher. Do not sell stuff, and always keep it interesting by providing NEW information that has not been heard before.
The third rule is to make the viewer think: "what happens next?" and "I didn’t know that."
The forth rule is to keep it interesting: By the 40-50-minute mark people get a sense of where you’re going in your documentary, and it’s very important you anticipate that and complicate your story.
The fifth rule is: Edit. Cut. Make it shorter. Say it with fewer words. Fewer scenes.
The sixth rule is to understand that Audio Sound is more important than the Picture Quality. People switch channels if the sound is bad. They do not do that if the image quality is bad.
The seventh rule is to never turn off the camera off. When you are interviewing someone, never let your camera person turn off the camera. The second you turn off the camera, chances are that the interviewee will say the magic thing that you’d been looking for the whole interview. People want to relax after the performance is done. Don’t be afraid of awkward silence. That is your friend. Sometimes it is worth counting to 5 in your head: People will often restate something or clarify something or add something, and it’s often better than what they said in the first place."
The eight rule is to think commercial – always. When pitching projects, it’s about the story. And most funders seem to universally agree. A cool premise isn’t enough; it’s how that premise unfolds into a compelling three-act narrative, ideally, with a compelling character to carry the story.
The ninth rule is to don’t worry about planning for the end – it will make itself known.
Picture from the documentary: drummer Nick Rhodes and bassist Jerry Bessent rehearsing at Survival Studios in Acton, June 2016. The 'Something from Nothing' documentary is the story of The Fluffy Jackets, and includes the making of their new studio album, released in August 2019.
Lesson 3: Decide what your story is about. Before making your movie, take a step back to consider why you want to make one in the first place. Having a clear idea about the main story, will help you to focus on the scenes you "have to have", and which scenes are "nice to have", and so forth. Not only that but having a clear idea about the film purpose will also help you to identify who to sell the film to later, and if you need financial backers, it will also help you to convey the unique selling point to those people. In short, having a clear purpose behind the movie will not only help you to make a good film but also help you making the film a reality.
Good questions to ask yourself - and write down the answer to - before starting the movie - is:
What is the key message you want to convey to the viewer?
Who are your target audience, and what are they interested to find out about?
What is the unique selling point of the movie? (what are you showing, that no other film has shown before?)
Lesson 4: Take the decisions early on (and save yourself a lot of money and time)
There are obvious key issues you need to decide early on. For example;
How you will be able to tell your story? Do you need to go out and shoot a lot of interviews and new footage, or do you need to rely on archive footage to tell the story? Do you need film music? Do you have access to the interview objects to tell your story to the best effect?
Do you need to have access to material that others have made? if that is the case, do you need to purchase copyright material? Need licensed film music?
How will you fund the making of this documentary? (Is the story good enough to command a commercial return?)
Don't be fooled into thinking that "it won't cost much" to your documentary. Flights, hotels, TV sets, and camera equipment cost a lot of money. There will always be unforeseen costs which you need to have a budget for. This could be sound effects, software or film effects. Do you need animation? Do you need Fireworks/ Dreamweaver/ InDesign/ Photoshop? Do you need to buy professional film titles, colour correction tools, stock footage, etc?
How will the movie be distributed? Should it appear on YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, DVD, in Cinemas or on TV?
Decide on frame-width and frame-height early on! Your decision on distribution (YouTube vs. DVD vs. Facebook), this will impact what frame-width, frame-height you need. For example: Square film is ideal for Facebook, HD 1920/1080 is good for YouTube (makes it playable in HD) whereas 720/576 is needed for DVD. Seeing that YouTube use 16:9 aspect ratio players, using 16:9 video became my choice for The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing' (2019). The following resolution plans are the frequently-used ones: (from low-to-high quality) 240p: 426x240 || 360p: 640x360 || 480p: 854x480 || 1440p (2k): 2560x1440 || 2160p (4k): 3840 x 2160. In The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing' (2019), I decided on using HD footage (1920x1080 quality) and re-save to lower quality (720/576) for the DVD Using 1080 film was convenient, primarily because my main Camera could shoot 1920x1080, and that my iPhone 5 (later upgraded to iPhone 6 in 2017) also supported this. I decided to use 16:9 aspect ratio because this is the main format for showing DVD content on a TV screen and on YouTube screens.
Decide on the watermark early on! One good reason for having a watermark is that others cannot easily steal your content that way, but mainly - as in my case - having a watermark ensured that The Fluffy Jackets brand name would be promoted towards viewers. Overall, watermarking your film is important thing to think about: if you are going to sell the footage later, having a watermark might count as a reason against using one. So, if you are selling your film to a TV station, you might have to do a lot of editing work getting rid of it later.. But, in my case: I was controlling both distribution and production, so this was a minor issue for me.
How much does your key audience already know about the subject? As a movie producer, there is nothing more annoying than spending time to record an interview, only to find that most of the information already exist elsewhere, making your film both pointless and boring.
What reaction are you hoping to get from your target audience? If you have a clear idea about this, this will help in terms of targeting the film-making to achieve that purpose. Not only that, but some of the facts that you think are "obvious" might not be so obvious to the viewers, so would require further explanation by way of an interview etc.
About the Watermark: I spent a long time to perfect the "The Fluffy Jackets Archives" watermark: I wanted it to be clearly visible, but not too big to detract from the footage that appears on the screen. Importantly, I was very strict in applying 'The Fluffy Jackets Archives' watermark within the movie: I made sure that this only appears when I own the footage. Whenever I use stock photos, you will notice that the watermark disappears in the film. I designed the exact text using the Fluffy Jackets brand-font (Eras Bold) and decided on the font colour very early on (our brand RGB colour: 255-125-1). This saved a lot of time in the later editing process, as I then did not have to go back through all the frames and apply the watermark in retrospect. In fact - I made sure to edit the film constantly - from the start of shooting film. I learned that trick from Manny Charlton who applies the same theory when it comes to editing songs in Cubase: he edits the sound/song as he goes along. He told me that he learned that production advice from Geoff Emerick, the engineer on The Beatles and early Nazareth records, so I owe gratitude to both Manny and Geoff for that piece of very useful advice!
During the making of The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing' (2019), it was important to show key moments visually - instead of simply talking about them. For example, the section where the band walked into the recording studio in Cordoba for the first time gave the viewer visual information, helping viewers being engaged in the storyline.
The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing' (2019) includes a guitar interview with Manny Charlton (Nazareth). At the time of the release, nobody had interviewed Mr. Charlton about his guitar collection before, which helped our film being both unique and interesting for our viewers.
Mechanical Copyrights, AP2 Form, and licensing
If you are a UK band and want to release a cover version, you have to pay for the mechanical copyrights by registering with PRS for Music and apply using their AP2 form. I found PRS to be very helpful, and typically they answer any questions in a speedy manner if you send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (deals with mechanical copyrights for music recordings).
When it comes to existing footage, you may need to access archive footage to be able to tell a story. If this is the case, you need to purchase film from elsewhere. Copyright owners need to be contacted, stock footage availability need to be checked, etc. Some imagery might be copyright free, and some you might use under "fair use" guidelines, etc.
As an example, during the making of The Fluffy Jackets 2019 documentary "Something from Nothing", I found some really rare video footage of Nazareth performing in a Dunfermline club in the early 1970's. As our producer Manny Charlton was one of the founders of Nazareth and talked about his early days with his band in our film, it would have made good sense to include this footage as "B-footage". However, after getting in touch with the copyright owners, I discovered that they wanted an extortionate amount of money to license the footage, so I unfortunately had to let it pass.
The 'Something from Nothing' (2019) artwork is designed by the renowned digital artwork creator Anton Semenov. I came across his artwork called 'The Garbage Collector' when surfing the net for suitable images for the new album. I got in touch with Anton and the copyrights to this artwork is now owned by The Fluffy Jackets.
I thought Anton Semenov's image "the garbage collector" fitted the album perfectly as it represents the recycling of ideas when I make songs: IE. you are thinking about your own experiences when you write a song, so in a way recycling old thoughts and ideas into new products - creating "Something from Nothing". The sleeve artwork was designed in Adobe InDesign and exported to high resolution PDF. An advert was also made in Adobe InDesign to be sent to editors (the advert measures 210mm by 148mm plus 3mm bleed on all edges).
The equipment used to make the documentary "Something from Nothing" (2019)
I used my trusty Canon EOS 600D camera (you see it next to me) to record the interview, in addition to my iPhone 6 telephone.
To capture professional sound, I usually did all the interviews with the Zoom H4N handy recorder (you can see this sitting at the top of the camera above). I also borrowed this wide-zoom lens from Manny Charlton during some of the filming at Madmento Studio in Cordoba.
The equipment used to shoot The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing' (2019):
1. Zoom H4N handy recorder used to capture professional sound. To automatically sync the audio from this device with my camera (and save a lot of work with manual syncing of audio later!), I connected the Zoom H4N with directly to the Camera. The volume on the Zoom H4N need to be tested in advance of each shoot to make sure that the sound picks up ok and that the levels are adjusted. I found that the following setting worked OK in most interview environments: I set volume on the ZOOM H4N to 50 and the recording level was set at 80.
2. I plugged this into the Canon camera using the Sescom LN2MIC-ZOOMH4N 3.5mm Line to Microphone Attenuation Cable for HDSLRcameras (Costs $30.99 on Amazon.com - I researched this and found it had to be specially ordered, because it has in-built inbuilt audio reduction). The Zoom H4N was then connected to the top of the Canon camera using a Fotasy SCX2 ¼-inch 20 Tripod Screw to Hot Shoe Adapter (pre-ordered on Amazon.com / cost $5.49, during my research I found you can also use a Pairstone shoe accessory adapter).
3. Canon EOS 600D camera used to shoot Full-HD video with manual control over frame rate, exposure and sound. Annoyingly, this camera had a 12-minute max footage before it automatically switched off, so I had to remember to re-start the camera during the interviews. I made sure to bring the battery charger for the Canon.
Camera Lesson Learned x1: If I were to do another film project, I would have considered buying a new camera, which would not have the max. time on recording (my Canon cam switched off automatically after 12 minutes, which can be a big problem during interviews or music videos).
Camera Lesson Learned x2: If I were to do another film project, I would consider buying a Drone camera, to make some interesting overview pictures. The reason I did not invest in one for the 'Something from Nothing' documentary was a) because I could make enough interesting angles without it, and b) it would mean learning to operate yet another tool and c) I had enough other things to focus on!
4. Octopus Flexible Tripod Stand Gorilla Pod for Canon. This tripod stand is very flexible, as it can be mounted in different ways, hanged up or attached to various surfaces, so I used this a lot and can highly recommend it. Manny Charlton also had a professional tripod stand which I used at the Madmento Studio in Cordoba.
5. AAA Batteries for the Zoom H4N. I always made sure I had backup batteries, just in case I needed to switch batteries during the interviews.
6. Tripod adaptor for iPhone. This flexible tripod adaptor for the iPhone can be mounted on flat surfaces. It has a suction cup at the bottom which can be a bit temperamental but overall it worked great. I recorded most of the interviews with the iPhone and Canon, and never had any problems with it. Highly recommended.
7. iPhone 6 smart telephone used to shoot film, mainly to get 2nd camera angle during interviews, but also used outside to record B-footage, and to take photos that was edited into the film. Lesson Learned: I would have upgraded to iPhone 6 - or above - earlier (I used iPhone 5 up until 2017). The camera on the modern iPhones are so good now, and the sound is good, so I would have used my iPhone much more if I did the film again.
8. RODE smartLav+ microphone for iPhone- as I discovered that I need a better mic for recording. This is the small mic you that you see on TV (those small interview-clip-on mic's). The Røde smartLav+ which is purpose-built for iphones. I also had to buy a RODE SC3 Adapter - to be able to plug the RODE smartLav+ TV-interview-type-mic into the Zoom H4N Handy recorder, as an alternative to use the iPhone (in case of battery / storage /availability issues). I did not use the RODE microphone as much as I initially planned, because it turned out to be hard (and take time) to download the audio later using the app (the sound needed to be uploaded and downloaded using their App, so I ended up relying on the Zoom H4N recorder more. The connector can also just be attached to the iPhone, so it captures good sound (instead of the standard iPhone mic)
Multimedia software tools used to create the documentary 'Something from Nothing'
As mentioned, my film took 4 years to make. It would have taken even longer, if I had not had access to the multimedia and editing software myself.
After making this documentary, I believe that it is impossible, certainly from a financial point of view, to make a movie without knowing (or learning) how to operate these tools yourself.
In addition, I found that some of the more interesting jobs as a film-maker is to do the editing of video footage, cutting in B-film, adding sound effects, swiping in titles etc. The optimisation of pictures is another task and although this is rewarding, it can be very repetitive, certainly if you have 8,000+ photos to go into the film. I also designed the sleeve myself. This was done in Adobe InDesign.
Here is a list over the Software applications that I found invaluable during the making of The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing', all part of the Adobe Creative Suite:
Adobe Premiere Pro Premiere Pro is the leading video editing software for film, TV, and the web. I used this software to create The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing'. An excellent tool.
Adobe Fireworks Adobe Fireworks (formerly Macromedia Fireworks) is a discontinued bitmap and vector graphics editor, which Adobe acquired in 2005. Fireworks is made for web designers for rapidly creating website prototypes and application interfaces. I have used this software for ages, and am addicted to it, as it is very easy to use. I use this to edit all photos (for web, DVD), and I also use it to improve images.
Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop is an image editing application used to enhance and change images. I used this to touch up some photos on occasion.
Adobe Dreamweaver Adobe Dreamweaver is a proprietary web development tool. I use this to create The Fluffy Jackets website. The website is hosted on a FTP site via the Norwegian provider Domeneshop.
Adobe InDesign Adobe InDesign is a desktop publishing and typesetting software application used to create works such as posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, presentations, books and eBooks. I have used this to design all The Fluffy Jackets CD + DVD sleeves to date. It is an industry standard application and allows you to export high resolution PDF's to send to printers and production houses. Also used to design Fluffy Jackets adverts.
YouTube - a repository of GREAT links for movie makers
During the making of The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing', I found some tutorials on YouTube and other sites which I will summarise here. I cannot recommend YouTube highly enough, because for each problem you come across, there is a YouTube answer to help you out.
Here is a list over YouTube videos which I kept coming back to and remembered to note down:
Convert your YouTube video into MP3 Audio files (Genius!)
This is great if you, like me, have put your existing MP4 of your own songs on YouTube, or if you do not have the tools to convert MP4 files into MP3 on your computer. I used this to convert some Fluffy Jackets MP4 videos to MP3 sound files which I could use as sound within the documentary:
Creating Titles in Adobe Premiere Pro: There are a lot of cool titles you can download from the web, and make changes to as you see fit. In The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing' (2019) I ended up making the titles you see during interviews etc. In addition I had a smaller wave-like title which I used to explain certain pictures of musicians, studios, etc. All titles were adjusted to suit The Fluffy Jackets brand-colours and font (Eras Bold font, and the RGB colour 255-125-1). There are more detailed videos on YouTube, on how to add titles, how to add effect /fade out etc. To add a new title in Adobe Premiere Pro, select "title" from the top menu (the auto speed for titles is 5 sec).
Default scale to a frame in Adobe Premiere Pro: Say you have 720p and 1080p footage. The 720p clips will be small in a 1080 sequence, and 1080 clips will be blown up in a 720 sequence. In Preferences, check the box for "default scale to frame". This does not affect clips already imported but moving forward it would force new clips imported to size to the frame. Or right-click clips already in the timeline to manually set Scale to Frame. But remember that you need to decide first which Sequence type you want so the scaling works in your favour. It matters.
How to use a Multicam sequence in Adobe Premiere Pro: Look on YouTube for ideas – but in short, the process is as follows to nest sequence: right hand click for multicam, switch the + button under the main film display and select multicam, from there you can see all the cams and then play & select between the various cams.
Make chapters – settings – in Adobe Encore (not Premiere Pro). I made individual films, and had the production house (Disc Wizards in London) adding the DVD menu, based on my instruction. Thus, I did not use Adobe Encore for The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing', but I leave this link here, as it might be useful if you are a budding film-maker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xptVHo-xNMg
About the titles used in the Fluffy Jackets' movie 'Something from Nothing' (2019).
There are lots of sites offering free - already designed - titles for use in Premiere Pro so titles in the film were initially downloaded from the web.
I basically found two titles that I liked and made changes to both. The main changes were to adapt the colour to suit our brand-colour (the orange RGB 255-125-1) and we also changed the font to our brand (Eras Bold font). I wanted one title to introduce the main interview-object, and then I also had one title which was less intrusive (took up less space on the screen). The latter was used when I needed to provide B-shot information, for example: who is in the picture, details on a location, etc.
The first title takes up a lot of space, to give the viewer key information about the primary interview (or event), in this case introducing The Fluffy Jackets' original band members. I liked the fact that the title had two sections - one for the main information, and one with supplementary information, which gave a lot of flexibility.
The second title was primarily used to introduce B-footage, give information about location details or provide background information when pictures were used, like the above photo of a charity event in Acton, West London. Like the first title, this was also downloaded from the web, and I made changes to the colour and the font to make it suit The Fluffy Jackets brand guidelines. As you can see, this title takes up less space on the screen and is less intrusive than the first title.
The third title, is an adapted version of the first title. This was used to give
the user a running commentary during the music video or during the film. I got this idea from watching old BBC Top of the Pops Two (TOP2) music videos, where they add interesting notes about the video, musicians, band etc. I thought this worked very well, not least considering that these music videos would eventually end up on YouTube, where it was important that information about the release would be included, so that viewers understand where to go for more similar videos.
The Fourth title is the introduction used at the start of each chapter. I used a great pre-made title for this, and it is very advanced and looks like flickering Neo-lights: I changed the colours to look like vintage neon light-type-colours (like light green, light blue or light red). I also made changes to the Font (using Eras Bold + associated fonts) and added the electrical sound for more effect. This title was used in the introduction to all Episodes on The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing' (2019). The end credits were basically created by rolling text, simply moving a large text box from top to bottom + adding the music video to the right with additional film.
Music Video: The Fluffy Jackets feat. Manny Charlton: 'Give me Something', taken from The Fluffy Jackets' documentary film and album 'Something from Nothing', distributed by Cargo Records (16. August 2019).
Exporting 'Something from Nothing' into HD and DVD film
Here is my Export Settings - and Basic Export Settings - for the High-resolution film version (1080HD):
My "Export Settings" for the High Resolution version (1080HD) for The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing' was: Note that I selected 1920x1080 output, MP4, H264, High Resolution, 25fps (frames per second), Progressive (should be auto-selected once the High Resolution option is selected).
My "Basic Video Settings" for 1080HD for The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing' - Basic Video Settings: Note that I selected PAL (for Europe), I had target bit rate 12(minimum) to 34(maximum), also note I selected "Use Maximum Render Quality".
Below is my Export Settings - and Basic Export Settings - for the DVD film version (576 height):
My "Export Settings" for 720 DV-DVD for The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing' was:
Export H264, DV Widescreen, 25fps (frames per second), Make sure you select "Progressive".
My "Basic Export Settings" for 720 DV-DVD for The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing':
Notice I used minimum bitrate 5 and maximum bitrate 14 in this example. It turned out that I had too much film, so I ended up using render quality 5(min) to 14(max) on export of the "good stuff", and 3(min) and 7(max) on the rest - in order to save space on the DVD-5 which only hold 4,7GB of data (bout 2 hours of film). However, that ended up being theoretical, as I eventually had to upgrade to print on DVD-9 discs, which has capacity of 8,5GB. I think my documentary had just over 4.5GB, before adding the DVD-menu selector.
Making music: the lessons learned from our producer Manny Charlton (ex-Nazareth)
Producer Manny Charlton working on The Fluffy Jackets' album 'Something from Nothing' in the Madmento Studio in Cordoba, Spain, 2018.
Manny Charlton has produced music for decades and has a tremendous experience from both studio and live work. Here are some select pieces of advice that I picked up from Manny during the recording of our album:
Save time (and money) using software you are familiar with. Manny Charlton used Cubase to record and edit music for The Fluffy Jackets album 'Something from Nothing'. Since Manny has used this from the early days, he is a master when it comes to record in this system, making the recording process both quick and efficient. The previous album 'Fighting Demons' was initially done in Pro Tools (since the Sun Studio engineer Matt Ross Spang used this), but I am glad we decided to convert to Cubase once Manny took on the production, as he really knows how to operate that to best effect.
Manny Charlton advice on production: Edit, cut, mix as you go along. Manny Charlton would edit the song as he progressed with the recording. He said he had learned this from Geoff Emerick, the Beatles engineer also worked on the early Nazareth records.
Mix the song at high volume. Manny Charlton turned the volume up high during the mixing process. It is important that the record sounds good at high volume, and it can only do so if you mix it at high volume. This is particularly important with rock music of course (since most rock fans listen at high volume whenever possible) but also it is important in most genres, as you are likely to turn up a song that you like.
Advice from Manny Charlton: There are no excuses for being out of time or out of tune. Always bring your tuner to the recording session!
Advice from Manny Charlton: Sing all the words (don't "throw away" words at the end of sentences). Pay attention to the vowel sounds. Singing is 90% about confidence and 10% ability.
Manny Charlton's advice for non-English vocalists: get honest feedback from an English speaker ref. pronunciation of the words. Manny was very good at giving feedback and guiding through all the vocal takes - sometimes word for word!! Manny Charlton is an amazing producer, true professional and a class act. So, if you are lucky to get him to produce your record - you know it is going to be ACE.
Madmento Studio in Cordoba, Spain. Producer Manny Charlton used his Sony Headsets for mixing most parts. He also has some high-quality studio monitors to play back sound.
Lesson Learned: For the next project, I should really look at setting up my own home-studio, and Manny was also advocating this. At the very least I could then do some basic vocal or guitar overdubs or basic mixing. Post note (2021): I eventually decided to build my own studio. I did a lot of research before buying the equipment, and must give a "shout out" to Warren Huart's Produce Like a Pro channel on YouTube and also the excellent website https://ehomerecordingstudio.com/best-mic-preamp/ which offers a lot of good studio advice (the whole signal chain, not only mic-pre-amps). I settled on a UAD Apollo x8 which has 4 mic inputs. I bought a MacBook pro laptop (the best I could afford) and two additional high quality Mic Pre-Amps / they are actually Channel Strips (include compressor and/or EQ): The Neve 1073 SPX + Avalon 737. I have a Neumann 103 mono microphone for vocal and a Sure SM57 mic for recording guitars - in addition to having direct line inputs (if I want to record guitars straight into the desk). For monitors I use two Yamaha HN5 speakers and an AMK headset which I had lying around from earlier. I decided not to purchase any outboard gear (compressors etc) as I intend to "mix in the box" - using the digital effects available. I use the "Luna" DAW which comes with the UAD Apollo interface, because that way (hopefully) I will not encounter any interoperability issues. Same with the plug-ins: I intend to stick with UAD plug-ins as much as possible. You can read more about The Fluffy Jackets Sound Studio here.
The vocal overdub for "Better Place" feat. Alison Cooper was engineered by Shane Shanahan at Westpoint Studios Ltd.,
GA 39 to 40 Westpoint Building, Warple Way, London, W3 0RG, United Kingdom, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 020 8735 2863, Web: www.westpointstudio.com. Shane has a nice (and very patient) way of telling the artist what he is looking for in the vocal takes. He is also aware that the song should be built up in terms of vocals, so that each chorus is slightly different, changing the vocal pitch, attack and so forth. It is also a very modern studio. Shane has all the various modern vocal tools that are cutting edge today and, importantly, he knows how to use them. The above picture shows Shane mixing in the duet vocals using a plug-in called Melodyne, a very natural sounding way of pitching vocal sounds. You can read more about the recording at Westpoint Studio HERE.
Manufacturing hard copies: Limited Edition CD / DVD by Disc Wizards Ltd.
The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing' DVDs (and CDs) were produced in London UK by Disc Wizards (Unit F7 Phoenix Industrial Est, Rosslyn Crescent, Harrow, London, HA1 2SP Phone: 020 879 33130). Tariq@discwizards.com at the DiscWizards' Customer Care Department was extremely helpful. This company also manufactured the previous Fluffy Jackets album ('Fighting Demons' from 2014) and I have always found their service to be excellent and very professional indeed. They never complained, even though I had a lot of last-minute changes to the artwork. They also designed the Menu's on the DVD (IE the clickable links that select the episodes on the DVD), which was a relief to get help with - as I had no clue how to do that.
1,000 units of the 'Something from Nothing' DVD + CD were produced in total. In terms of print-production, each CD/DVD package includes: 1 x CD disc printed in colour, 1 x DVD9 (8,5GB) disc printed in colour, 1x Six (6) panel CD-size Digipack printed in colour on gloss format, 1x four (4) page booklet printed in full colour. Plus, services: DVD authoring, DDP creation. Each item was shrink-wrapped in plastic for protection. If I would do the project again, I would also consider manufacturing less hard-copies. Unfortunately - there simply are not many people left who still use CD players (or DVD players), and the market trend for CD/DVDs keep on going down year on year. The fact is that most people stream music on Spotify and watch films on Netflix or YouTube.
You can see a video of the final manufactured hard copy below:
I got the CD Master audio files, the album artwork and the DVD iso files, so that I can burn the CD+ DVD myself at a later stage if required (though I produced enough so that I have for the foreseeable future!).
Worldwide Distribution: Cargo Records
The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing' was then distributed by Cargo Records in London, who also did the same job last time, and who are just Excellent - probably the best - distributor of music in Europe. I owe big thanks to John Dryland at Cargo Records who helped out with marketing (tuning us onto Axl at Rock'n'Growl PR agency in Germany, putting us in contact with suitable magazines like Fireworks Magazine, PowerPlay Magazine, etc). Cargo Records works closely with Cinram Warehouse in Aylesbury UK, who got sent the physical product directly from Disc Wizards. There was some shrinkage in this process, as copies always get 'lost' during the way.
Approx. 100 promotional copies of The Fluffy Jackets CD+DVD 'Something from Nothing' was initially sent directly to editors and journalists worldwide, along with an specially designed Press Kit. Another 25 CDs was sent from Rock'N'Growl, which is the PR company we hired in Germany. PR copies are also available to journalists via our website.
The Fluffy Jackets' documentary 'Something from Nothing' (16 August 2019) was created using the Adobe Creative Suite package (consisting of software tools such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Fireworks, Adobe Premiere Pro. The film was eventually exported from Adobe Premiere Pro in a DVD format (720/576) for customers who ordered the limited edition CD/DVD release. The individual documentary episodes were later made available on YouTube, in HD format (1920/1080).
Website updates at www.fluffyjackets.co.uk
I have always used this website www.fluffyjackets.co.uk as the one-stop-shop where fans, booking agents and journalists can find what they are looking for. So, in addition to making the film, it was also necessary to also write about the movie. I learned from the marketing agency Rock'N'Growl to use a lot of pictures on all our new sections, as this gives readers a visual experience.
It was necessary to create a Documentary Website Section to write about each episode of the film. This is a lot of work, as it involves trawling through all the 8400+ images from the making-of documentary (again) and re-edit the images (again!) to suit the various website sections, plus obviously write the content for all the new individual pages.
All the updates were made using Adobe Dreamweaver. I have created this site from scratch myself. The first page we had was created using a Joomla web-design template, but I discovered that plug-ins quickly goes out of date, and so that there are a lot of ongoing website maintenance if templates are used. Thus, I have hard-coded the HTML for this site from scratch, and it is also therefore easy to keep an exact site copy. The site is currently stored on a FTP server by the Norwegian internet provider Domeneshop.no.
Social media updates at Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
Adverts and PR cost money, so social media like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are cost-effective ways to get your message out. Thinking ahead can make your life a lot easier, as you now are able to schedule news bulletins to go out at specific times.
So, for The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing', I decided to release one new video episode weekly. Having made 15 episodes (each episode was purposely made in bite-size chunks to suit distribution on social media like YouTube and Facebook. IE: each episode is between 3-minutes to 15-minutes long), this meant that the release would have a "shelf-life" of almost 4 months. So, I planned for the marketing campaign in September 2019 (after people get back from holidays), and it would run up until Christmas 2019.
The great thing about social media these days, is that you can schedule news. So, I could pre-write the marketing pieces on Facebook, and schedule the news to go out at a certain time. The Facebook page is connected with the Twitter account, so that messages that go out on Facebook automatically gets repeated on Twitter. So, once the schedule is loaded, it all happens automatically!
Social marketing, Lesson Learned
if I were to start this project again, I would have considered also exporting video to start using Instagram (in addition to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as I use today). However, since Instagram doesn't allow adding YouTube URL links to an Instagram post, to put an YouTube video to Instagram, this would mean extra work, IE. the process for getting YouTube videos on Instagram today would be: Download the YouTube videos to Android, iPhone, or computer; Edit and convert the video to meet Instagram's video requirements; then Upload and post the video to the Instagram account.
The YouTube videos are also scheduled to premiere/ coincide with the Facebook posts.
It takes AGES to upload the film episodes to YouTube: Because I wanted my YouTube episodes in High Definition (1080px), these are quite large files which can take up to 40-50 minutes to upload. The file sizes varied from 0.3GB for a typical music video right up to 1.5GB for a 15-minute interview. Once the video-links are online, I could then update the website to embed videos there + update the Facebook schedule + Campaign Monitor email schedule with the links.
Newsletters: Campaign Monitor
In addition, for email news, I used Campaign Monitor (an email service) to send out weekly announcements via my own account https://qz.createsend.com. The great thing about this email service is that I can view how each campaign performs (in real-time) in terms of open and click-through-rates and adapt the messaging to suit. Furthermore, the service acts as a repository for the band contact information as it is a secure server for database information with our press contacts, etc.
These e-mail newsletters were also scheduled to coincide with the overall episode releases (linked with Facebook and YouTube posts).
Each email header picture is designed specifically for the newsletter, and each news story is hosted on the Fluffy Jackets website or on YouTube. The Campaign Monitor newsletter template was designed so that each has basic information (Electronic Press Kit, Booking Contact, Image links, Downloads, etc). See a Newsletter example HERE.
Making music is not cheap. Studio musicians cost money. So does recording engineers and producers. Mastering of audio and video sound also cost money. Travel and hotels also cost money. As does manufacturing the hard-copies. If you have cover versions on your release, you must pay mechanical copyrights. That cost money. There will be times when you need a photoshoot, or where you need somebody to film the band. That cost money. There are taxi trips to the store to buy food and various forgotten items. And, if you need new equipment (which is always), you also need money for that. I found that I was constantly spending money on headsets, batteries, audio-splitters, wires, guitars, strings and various other stuff. That is not including purchasing of software licenses for Adobe Suite (Dreamweaver, Fireworks, InDesign, Premiere Pro). Then, you must promote the album, of course! Not forgetting the labour that has gone into this. I am extremely grateful to Manny Charlton, who let me stay over at his place during the recording + did much more than what he got paid for. He has been a source of constant inspiration throughout the whole process. I am so grateful to Alex Bhinder and Adam King at Plasma Music TV for letting me use their facilities and for them to get a whole TV crew to help with the interview of Neil Murray. I am also grateful to the band, who paid their own travel and helped with rehearsals and costs, not only that but both Ian Robinson and Nick Rhodes who put me up in London whilst recording and rehearsing there.
Thank you Plasma Music Television: I owe big gratitude to the whole Plasma Music Television film crew, especially Mark King (2nd from top left), and Alex Bhinder (3rd from top left) who kindly helped with the interview of Neil Murray (Whitesnake) in Hemel Hempstead, UK, 22 July 2018.
All in, I managed to produce The Fluffy Jackets documentary 'Something from Nothing', to get it distributed worldwide, and promote it mainly using my own resources. Although the documentary project has taken a lot of time (and cost a lot of money) I am immensely proud that it got to see the light of day. I am pleased that the story about The Fluffy Jackets will be stored for posterity. If I do not do another project like this again, at least I have a great film to look back on!
Diary notes, taken during the making of 'Something from Nothing'
The Fluffy Jackets new album "Something from Nothing" was launched in August 2019 and included a two-hour documentary film which captured the making-of this album. What you see in the documentary is factually correct, so I will not tell the same story in this section. Rather, I will update you on some stuff that is not in the documentary, and interesting information- from a behind the music (or behind the film) aspect:
The road to the rock and roll den in Cordoba How did I end up in a hard rock den in Cordoba with the legendary guitarist Manny Charlton twiddling the knobs on The Fluffy Jackets album, you ask? I first met Manny Charlton in person when we recorded the first Fluffy Jackets album at Sun Studio in Memphis in 2011.
The Fluffy Jackets recording at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis TN 2011. L-R: Manny Charlton (Nazareth), Rob Hall (Jerry Lee Lewis' Killer Band9, Helge Rognstad (The Fluffy Jackets) and Neil Murray (Whitesnake). Guitarist Manny Charlton (left) graciously went beyond the call of duty during the recording of the previous 'Fighting Demons' album, producing and mixing four of the tracks that was included on that release. He did such a good job, that I asked him to produce the next one!
After the first recording of the Johnny Cash cover "Hey Porter" in Acton UK, we got a reply from Manny that he would be up for producing "Something from Nothing". Well, at that stage we did not have a name for the album, but we jumped at the chance to work with Manny again.
The first song we recorded for the new album was "Hey Porter", which featured the original drummer Ian Robinson. This recording session for the new album took place in 2015 before Manny Charlton was hired as the producer. The recording session took place at Unit 2 Studio in Acton London on the 31st of October - 1st of November 2015. This recording was produced by The Fluffy Jackets and engineered by Adie at Unit 2, 14 Trading Estate Road, Park Royal Road, London, NW10 7LU, tel.0208 965 6411, email. email@example.com - http://www.unit2london.co.uk/
At that point, as luck would have it, I had the foresight to have invited photographer James Cumpsty along to do a couple of interviews with the band and film us while we were in the Acton rehearsal studio, so we already had hours of film including an interview with the original band. So, as we progressed with the discussion, I brought up the idea of doing this filming whilst we recorded everything and luckily everybody thought it was a good idea.
The Fluffy Jackets guitarist/vocalist Helge Rognstad with photographer James Cumpsty 8x10.co.uk, Tel. +44 7768611336). James was hired for one day to shoot the Gibson Flying V featurette interview with Helge and the interview with the original Fluffy Jackets band (Jerry Bessent, Ian Robinson and Helge Rognstad). James also filmed the rehearsal which turned into the "Hey Porter" music video which is included in The Fluffy Jackets documentary film 'Something from Nothing' (2019). In retrospect, I was happy that I got the raw footage sent to me, as I could edit these films myself and make sure I could adapt the footage as the movie evolved. The footage that James Cumpsty took was instrumental in telling the early story about the band.
Fast forward to June 2016: the four songs Tongues Wag, Tale 1/2 Told, Rise and Fall of the Songwriter and Land of Grace and Plenty was already written. I went to Survival Studios in Acton, West London, UK to rehearse with the Fluffy Jackets band. (all these songs appear on the album, though some names have been changed because of changed lyrics and changed titles).
The original line-up of The Fluffy Jackets, feat. the founding drummer Ian Robinson (to the right).
By this point in 2016, it became clear that original drummer Ian Robinson could not attend the recording at Manny's studio in Spain, so Nick Rhodes stepped in to complete the line-up for those rehearsals and would eventually become the main drummer for the release.
The Fluffy Jackets rehearsal with drummer Nick Rhodes at Survival Studios, Acton, 11 June 2016.
We booked in two rehearsals at Survival Studios in UK before starting the work to produce the songs with Manny Charlton.
A small anecdote from Survival Rehearsal Studios in Acton: I spent a few minutes chatting to the Studio Manager there, about how costly it is to record a decent album, and subsequently how easy it is to download free. Which is a depressive thought to start out with....
The studio manager at Survival Studios told me a story about The Darkness (band) who used the very same Survival Studios to rehearse the songs for their second album "One Way Ticket to Hell and Back" with Roy Thomas Baker as the producer.
Those songs were too weak compared to the first batch that was used on "Permission to Land" and both the subsequent album and tour tanked, leading to the first split-up of that band. After telling us this story and warning us that second albums are notoriously difficult to make, he departed, wishing us "good luck!".
Meanwhile, back in The Fluffy Jackets band camp and the making of our second album: At this point, the initial plan was to rehearse our follow-up over the summer with the band, and then go in Manny Charlton's studio to record these tracks pretty much live - off the floor.
However, a conversation with Manny in late June 2016 changed this thinking, as he suggested we first do the guitar and vocals first and then overdub drums and bass later. His thinking was that a lot of blues-rock bands prefer to record the "same old way" and the material then ends up sounding "the same". Manny pointed out that our written material was infused with other influences - such as country and even pop. In addition, we had arguably already "been there, done that" when we recorded our first album live at Sun Studio. So, Manny felt that this was the right time to discover our individual style and uncover "the original Fluffy sound" by working up the songs gradually in the studio. In other words, make this a true "Fluffy Jackets Studio album" as opposed to a "Live in the studio" album. This would also mean that we were freer to play around with arrangements, as opposed to being locked into a certain groove or arrangement from the outset.
I was torn on this question, because it could potentially have some massive ramifications to the outcome. Also, keep in mind that we had already recorded the "Hey Porter" song live in the studio in London, and one issue was that this song might then stand out compared to the "studio-stuff".
So, it is hard to make this decision when I could see benefits with both "playing live" and "studio layering" options: IE: First, I personally prefer playing live with the band studio, because it is truer to the "band-sound". Also, by recording it off the floor, I automatically minimise other opinions, which basically ensures that the songs are played to my liking, and that I get my own stamp on the songs. In addition, recording the songs this way would mean that the songs would be easier to replicate live later.
On the other hand, I could see Manny's point that we could make the songs stand out more if we have all tools at our disposal. And, if we were able to play around with different arrangements in the studio, this could arguably come up with a more original sound. Since Manny was hired as our producer and have bucket-loads of experience on this, I really trust and value his opinion, so this was weighing in a lot in the decision-process. So, after agreeing to work with Manny as our producer, I invited him to Norway for a weekend at our summer house. The intention was just to hang out, catch some fish and relax. However, Manny - the ever industrious and professional producer, insisted that we used this time as a "pre-production" weekend, where we would work on arrangements, and start recording these songs. And, Manny also has the philosophy to start the recording process straight away and mixing as he goes along. Something that he learned of Geoff Emerick of AIR Studios, the right-hand man and Engineer for George Martin who was the famed producer for the Beatles.