Thursday, December 03, 2009


How a project develops:

Tim got a call from a big company. They wanted a custom-written song and video for a web commercial they hoped would go viral. In three weeks. It took a week to negotiate the contract (partially because once Tim agreed, then the major corporation had to produce paperwork, get it approved multiple times, etc). In that time, they discovered they couldn't license some of the original material they wanted (this is extremely common).

Then Tim went on tour.

When he came back, the project was at a stress point because nothing was done (as he warned them it wouldn't be) and they had 3 days before everyone was off for Thanksgiving. They sent Tim sample lyrics, a glossary of industry terms, and the idea of what they wanted the commercial to do. 

Using their lyrics and ideas, he wrote a song. And sent it to his contact at the company. And let me listen in. 

We all three agreed it was fine, but not "viral" material.

So the contact went into meetings and Tim spent a whole day waiting for word and doing what he does to "let the ideas percolate"--he watched comedy on Hulu, YouTube, and other online sources; he watched sports and read sports columns (loves Bill Simmons), played with the kids, listened to music, caught up on email.  Every once in a while, I would come down and say, "I've been thinking, and I think you could do this ____" Or "Have you thought about this?" Or "I really liked that one rhyme." Generally when I do this, he grunts in reply and I have learned not to expect any kind of dialogue when he's in the midst of a creative process. Right before bed, we ate dinner and he said, "I think I'm gonna just go ahead and write the song they need regardless of the feedback I've been waiting for."

The next morning, I had all our stuff packed because we were supposed to drive to Utah for Thanksgiving (it was Wednesday) and Tim was downstairs writing and recording while we slept. When I got up at about 4:00 pm, Tim had an AWESOME song ready for me to hear. I loved it. We started packing the rest of the last things we'd need, and still just hanging around. At 6:00 he heard back from his contact that the song was great. So we hopped in the car and drove to Utah for Thanksgiving.

Tim took the day off for Thanksgiving.

Friday, he couldn't find a place to record, but he did get feedback from his contact and get the song ready to record. We had a friend over we haven't seen for a while, so he didn't get much done.

Saturday still couldn't find a place to record. But the song was finally ready to record. Yes, I mentioned I'd heard the song. But he had to do a cleaned-up draft that was "perfect" but not mixed or mastered so that when they filmed the commercial, it was filmed to the correct audio. He also bought sports equipment at thrift stores and searched out some costumes.

Sunday morning, while the kids and I were asleep and my parents were at church, Tim set up his recording equipment in my parent's room and recorded everything he needed there in 3 hours.

Monday, he edited it all into a cohesive whole. He also spent a good part of the day buying costumes (at DI) and picking up computers for the shoot. He also contacted the music producer he wanted to mix and master this project to make sure he had time to do a rush job over the weekend. There are only a handful of producers who specialize in a cappella recordings, and Tim picked the one whose "sound" most closely matches what he thinks the company is looking for. Tim can't do this part yet because he doesn't have the right plugins on his computer.

Tuesday early, Tim packed all the stuff into the car and went up to a studio in SLC. He spent the morning hours filming with a crew. They pretty much did to those poor computers everything people always wish they could (I'm leaving out the details so you'll watch the film!). Then they went indoors and filmed all the indoor shots. Sometime in this space, Tim finally got to shave (after several days of not). Filming was typical (doing every shot a zillion times from different angles). He said it went well and was fun. He came home saying, "I have the coolest job ever!"

Today, re-recording bits, editing, watching comedy and listening to music, and finding the ghost sounds that sneak into the final mix so he can cut them out, and turning to me and saying things like, "We all hate this line. Listen. Yeah. That one. What can we put in there instead?" And we brainstorm (I love times like this). Meanwhile, the film is in editing. Once it's done, they send it to the company (rough) for approval to finish.

Tomorrow hopefully they'll email Tim the rough cut of the film. Then he goes back to recording. Why? Wasn't he already done, you ask?

Yes, BUT the films always don't quite fit the songs as they are. Almost always, they come back with a "could we get 2 seconds more here, and get this part to go 10 seconds faster" or "We need incidental music over the credits. 15 seconds." Stuff like that. So he has to go back and re-record, or record anew, so that it fits the film he's now looking at.  Then the audio goes to the producer to be mixed, sweetened, and mastered (and take on that "professionally produced" sound).

Sunday or Monday, the whole project goes back to the company for final approval by the various layers of management. This is the point where a previous project Tim did for this company got nixed. When it's approved, the film production company finishes up on their end, putting in the details, polishing it all up, and finishing it into a final product. This takes a deal of back-and-forth between the film makers, Tim, and the company, and is really not so clear-cut as I've put it here. It kinda starts as soon as the film people get the rough cut to Tim and goes back and forth and round and round for a couple of days (during which Tim is glued to his email and his cell  phone so that he can get on the project the instant he hears back from them so that his part doesn't hold the system up).

Anyway, after all the rounding and abouting, everyone agrees it's good and they release it online and play the "goes viral" game (and it IS a game; viral videos are not purely an accident). At that point, I will post it here.

If for some reason someone in control in the company decides it's NOT good, they pay Tim the agreed amount, say, "Thanks", and shelve the project, which then never sees the light of day.

We hope they declare it good and it takes off.

It should.

How often do you see smoke coming from a monitor?

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