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Dorian's Parlor

Last week at Philcon, I needed a lift back to Philly. Hugh Casey set me up with the guy who was hauling his AV stuff to Philly, one Gil Cnaan, an improbable guy with a Jerry Rubin beard and Dr. Seuss top-hat. Gil's the guy who runs Dorian's Parlor (http://www.doriansparlor.com/), a steampunk-themed floating nightclub-party thing, and since I'd done some steampunk-linked stuff this past year, we got to chatting about stuff, and he talked about how attempts to shoot video at the event didn't work out. Well, I said, maybe if I gave it a go.... so we decided to try me out as video person.

I've blogged before about how, despite my love for the steampunk aesthetic, I've never been much of a costume person. I've also never been much for clubs or dance parties, either, and yes, I know that this makes me sound like an exceptionally boring person. (And some of my LJ entries do _nothing_ to counter this suspicion.) But, I've found that when I go to things and I'm doing something to help out, I have a much better time; I don't have to dress or behave in some contrived way because _I've_ got a fucking _JOB_ to do. Anyway, Kyle and Trillan go to these things, Hugh does photo shoots there, Gil seems to have lots'o'innarestin' shit a-goin', so maybe this could lead to working on projects beyond.

But I had a terrific time. Dorian's Parlor's not like parties and dance clubs and shows I've been to in the past. It wasn't like a club, where they're pumping the techno at Normandy-invasion decibel levels, and They've clearly rejected the conventional theory that, for music to be good, it must "kick ass"; I've always been a skeptic of the requirement for music to inflict physical harm, to asses or anywhere else. (Also, I've heard enough reports of music being enticing, uplifting, and even amusing, so _something must be going on_.) You could talk to people here, have a nice, tight convo around a candlelit table, or enjoy the music without having to acknowledge the DJ's rockin'-out alpha-maleness.

And the music was definitely in the region of Brian-enticing. There was the dance stuff, but a lot of it was a wide range of pre-war and pre-war-like music, ranging from the Squirrel Nut Zippers to something that sounded like the Palm Court Orchestra playing ragtime-era popular favorites. An opera singer named Katie Kat did some well-chosen bits, and did them _very well_. Okay, there _was_ a lot point where they played some Danny Elfman tuba-pumping shit during the fashion show. But if they'd laid down some Annette Hanshaw or Django Reinhardt,I'd have felt _right at home_. (Ad if they'd played Jack Hylton's "When Day is Done," I'd have fuckin' _died_.)

There's something else about the _use_ of the Steampunk aesthetic that made Dorian's Parlor a lot more enjoyable for me. First of all, there's the spectacle of people milling in pre-WWI finery and Heterodyne hardware, lit by candlelight, stage light, and the bounce of the hallway lights. But this is an aesthetic that people have to _work_ to create. It's not like a dance club, where the fashions are designer-bought and store-marketed. Here, people put some serious needle-and-threat time in, and hunted around machine shops and antique stores for the _right_ brass fixtures. It may be a shared aesthetic, but the clothing's as much a personal expression as well as a mark of a common tribe. (It really is closer to a genuine, 1967 Summer of Love hippie aesthetic than you'd think... and remember, the Haight was _awash_ in revivals of 19th century styles and fashions, too.) And while Steampunk may have originated within science fiction, it seems to filter out the ugliness of _that_ crowd-- the moron T-shirts, the chestfuls of badges, Starfleet accessories and George Lucas product. You had the sense that this was a _smart_ crowd.

(Okay, I'm being a bit hypocritical, because if I _did_ decide to do the costuming next time, I'd pretty much have to buy everything 'cause that ain't a talent I gots.)

Like most of the video stuff I've been doing, we just jumped into it. Gil's crew was led, I believe, by Jason, and he set me up with power and a Place of Vantage near their webcast camera. I have to admit that my attention wandered a lot. Katie Kat was great to shoot-- she had great lighting, great makeup, a good stage presence, and hey, it's opera, so a medium-close-up was perfect. The fashion show didn't grab me at all, so I just left the camera on a wide shot of the whole stage and let'er rip. Ego Likeness was a great band, but with one camera all you can do is capture the whole stage-- otherwise, if you focus on the vocalist you lose the guitarist, and vice-versa, and both leave out the drummers, so it's Capture the Stage time again.

There were lighting issues that I have to iron out. Even with manual white balance settings, there were rare moments of flicker. Kyle suggested using "tungsten" settings, which probably helped keep the auto-adjustments stable. I still went with the "sunset" settings when I wandered around to capture general party shots because I liked how it enhanced the candlelight. Ego Likeness's lighting went from basically two setups, Deep Red and Deep Blue, and while Deep Blue was dark but shootable, Deep Red was both too dark for the band but bright for the faces. (Human faces tend to reflect red and green, and absorb blue.) So I futzed with the adjustments. Lord knows how it'll look.

I suggested that, with maybe two more hi-def camcorders, we could really shoot something amazing. Jason told me that this'd be problematic since the people they know who do such things have two flaws: the have expensive professional-level camcorders, and they charge money to pay for the insurance. Also, several people in the crowd wandered about using $3K Canon 5D cameras, which do _serious, pro-level video_. I, working for free admission and fun, with my dinky prosumer camcorder, jealously hoped that they were just shooting stills. But I'm thinking about this; maybe two cameras locked into position, and a handheld on a Steadicam...

Anyway, enough techie stuff. Among the people who showed up were Kyle Cassidy, Trilian Stars, Whofford, Nikki Cohen, Elionwyr, itsallmishegoss, Mark Wolverton, and I meet PJ Schnyder and a few other interesting people, had some drinks, had dinner at iHOP afterward, and later, the cab driver asked me if I was gay, because he picked me up in the Gayborhood at 2 am on a Saturday night.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 29th, 2010 12:46 pm (UTC)
I am happy, then, that this bit of serendipity befell you [your original ride falling through and thus getting to meet Gil].

Frank was feeling guilty that he didn't know the city well enough to offer you a lift.


The music at Philcon's Steampunk dance drew me in on Friday... it hit all my "right notes" of eclectic.

I've always been a fan of that blend of Victoriana and space age in fashion, long before it was termed "steampunk", and the costuming style flatters me. But the music was a new experience for me. Plus, from my own techie standpoint, I was itching to get up on the bandstand and admire Gil's DJ board.


But I'm thinking about this; maybe two cameras locked into position, and a handheld on a Steadicam...

I think you are on to something there, to truly capture the scene.
Nov. 29th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
I hope you post the results, you did such a great job with the play, this next project sounds like a blast.
Nov. 29th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
the way you shoot a band with one camera is to do a wide shot of one song, then go off tripod, stick with the vocalist up close for one song, then get coverage of everybody else for one song and mix them together with the audio track from continuous vocal shot. hope you had fun.
Nov. 29th, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)
Definitely had fun. But if the band's actions in the wide shot don't match the music shot with the close-up?

I do have one trick that works for lower-res web video. Shoot the band in a medium to wide shot, but close enough so that close-ups can be created in post without too much loss of detail. I did that for the Oleanna interviews. (It only works when the final video's not hi-def.)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )