Studios

 

St. Tom’s broadcast was possibly the best-produced Christmas program we had on last year.

 

Those kind words are from Bob Poplin of WHMB-TV40, Indianapolis, about the RiteSong Studios production of “A Boiler Catholic Christmas,” the first edition of which aired on December 24, 2011.

RiteSong Studios is the creation of John O’Malley and Ted Arthur, long-time friends and musicians at St. Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Center at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Our video production efforts originated in late November 2011, days after Bob from WHMB contacted St. Tom’s to suggest we film a Christmas TV special. Brad Bodine, St. Tom’s director of music, asked John (who for years had produced the choir’s charity CD recordings and concerts) if he could create this TV program in-house, so to speak.

“Sure, I’ll do it,” John offered, “but only if we can make the video look as good as our music will sound.”

John meant that the audio would be produced using the same professional multichannel techniques we used for St. Tom’s third CD (the mastering of which had been completed only days earlier) … and the video could only be a high definition digital multi-camera shoot with proper lighting.

“We could put a single camera in the center aisle, pointing at St. Tom’s altar with choir members arranged symmetrically in front, and do this very easily,” John said. “But it would make for such boring television that we won’t want our names on it!”

Because John’s last video editing experience was in the late 1980s when he studied Telecommunications at Purdue (“When God was a boy and all video was analog,” John says), he quickly enlisted Ted’s help. Ted had double-majored in Broadcast Journalism and Music only a few years earlier, and his considerable Final Cut Pro experience as a reporter/anchor at the NBC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri would jump-start RiteSong Studios’ first TV show. Using two new Panasonic 1080i high-definition digital video cameras, a Canon Rebel T3i DSLR camera (which also shoots 1080i video), two FlipHD 720p cameras, a Mackie Onyx 1620 Firewire-equipped 8-channel mixer, numerous microphones (including a pair of AKG C414s), Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro software, and about 2500 watts’ worth of lighting (effective low-budget fixtures arranged using three-point techniques), we did it! RiteSong Studios’ first-ever video project, a 30-minute program of choir music filmed live, aired on television only about three weeks after the idea first appeared on our collective radars.

Here are 6 minutes of clips from that first video:

 

Broadcast quality  |  Shoestring budget

 

2012 was a pivotal year for RiteSong Studios. Ted suggested video projects and helped John come up to speed in Final Cut Pro X; John added a pair of Mackie Onyx Blackbird units (adding another 16 channels to our digital audio recording capabilities) and a pair of GoPro Hero 1080i-capable video cameras. We have continued to study the making of professional-quality projects with budget filmmaker techniques, made possible thanks to the proliferation of modern digital recording technologies during the last several years.

So just what does “broadcast quality” mean? For us, it’s more about how the average viewer perceives quality than about how a full-time video pro would measure it. The full-time pros might measure quality via waveform/vectorscope analysis or by comparing the specs of the gear our respective teams use during production. This is perfectly valid, as some television stations require that producers demonstrate the ability to meet or exceed such requirements.

Given that RiteSong Studios unabashedly employs “budget filmmaker” techniques, we measure quality this way: How do average viewers perceive our work? Are many members of your audience able to tell that some of our gear is inexpensive? Are they able to completely ignore our production techniques and instead react emotionally to the program’s content? If they do — and if your project is for television, if the TV station is satisfied with the technical aspects of our audio and video (as WHMB has been) — then our tagline fits: Broadcast quality, shoestring budget.

Where will we go in 2013 and beyond?

RiteSong Studios hopes to specialize in filming and recording church choirs, other small music ensembles, and/or small-scale interview/documentary-type programs in and near Lafayette / West Lafayette, Indiana, providing broadcast-quality production services to organizations with limited budgets. We have the ability to film and edit video for television broadcast, on-line streaming, and/or DVD and to record, edit, and master audio for CD distribution.

For filming and recording large groups, we could bring our gear to your large spaces (e.g. the worship space in your church). For very small groups (two to five performers/participants) and soloists/hosts/interviewees, we can make your living room, office, or conference room into a studio … or potentially invite you to come record in one of RiteSong’s spaces.

RiteSong Studios is not a full-time operation with large, custom studios and control rooms, a seemingly infinite selection of video and audio gear, or the ability to do complex projects on tight deadlines. Although RiteSong does not actually know the people who run the following companies (nor should you think this constitutes an endorsement of anyone’s product), we gladly suggest contacting these folks if your project calls for years of proven video production experience:

RiteSong Studios hopes to specialize in small projects for which costs must be low and time might be more leisurely.

A sampling of RiteSong Studios’ completed projects:

  • St. Thomas Aquinas Music Ministry, “Live In The Light” CD, 2002; production assistance
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Music Ministry, “Lift Up The Child” CD, 2005; multichannel fully mixed stereo audio, recorded on a Roland digital workstation
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Music Ministry, “Christ In Me Arise” CD, 2011; multichannel fully mixed & mastered stereo audio, recorded in Logic Pro
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Music Ministry, “A Boiler Catholic Christmas” TV special, December 2011; 30 minute full production including all-original footage of music performed live, 6-camera shoot, and multichannel fully mixed stereo audio
  • Purdue Varsity Glee Club, St. Mary Cathedral concert audio recording, February 2012
  • Purdue Musical Organizations, “Embarking on a Year to Remember,” August 2012; about 1 minute 36 seconds, including new footage filmed on the Purdue campus, edited together with stock footage
  • Purdue Musical Organizations, “Nobody But PMO,” December 2012; 2 minutes 30 seconds, including all-original single-camera footage, edited to appear as if it was one continuous take
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Music Ministry, “A Boiler Catholic Christmas” TV special, December 2012; 30 minute full production including all-original footage (~15 minutes newly-filmed music and interviews plus ~15 minutes repeated from the 2011 production), 6-camera shoot, and multichannel fully mixed stereo audio

Currently in post-production:

  • Purdue Musical Organizations, behind-the-scenes documentary of the 79th Annual Purdue Christmas Show, December 2012; it was a 3-camera “reality TV”-style shoot for which we captured 400 GB worth of all-original footage during a 14-hour day. We aren’t yet sure how long the final edit will be — perhaps 20 to 40 minutes? Watch this page during Spring 2013 for the YouTube link.

Future projects:

  • RiteSong ensemble CD with accompanying music videos; production began during Summer 2012
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Music Ministry, 4th CD with accompanying music videos; production began during Fall 2012
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Music Ministry, occasional concerts and church services
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Music Ministry, “A Boiler Catholic Christmas” TV special, December 2013