Watch and listen to commentary track from our writer/director, or read an edited transcript about how we made our Zoom musical.
Hey there, everyone, this is Haddon Kime. I am the composer, lyricist and director of “Lag: A Zoomsical.”
I’ve been a fan of listening to commentary tracks for a very long time, so hopefully this won’t be too boring. I would like to first off describe the audience that I am recording this for is pretty specific. We are going to have our zoomsical published by Stage Rights and so I’ll be talking mainly to theatrical producers and directors and technicians who have licensed the show and would like to know more about how we did this, because we are theater people and have have been kind of pushed on to film.
Not kicking a screaming, film is a wonderful medium, don’t get me wrong, but it’s different.
Gosh, I have to introduce our cast, Minka Wiltz, Rhyn Saver, Trevor Rayshay Perry and Googie Uterhardt and also sweet little Maizey Jane. There they are all wonderful. That’s the principal cast. We have “The Doug” coming up, Doug Shipman, a little later, but I’m probably gonna talk over his appearance with some other stuff.
An Actor’s Medium vs. A Director’s Medium
We went through a process of trying to keep this an actor’s medium, even though we were filming it. We had a number of technical issues to overcome and we were kind of making it up as we went along. Luckily, Ariel Fristoe at Out of Hand Theater said, you know, just make it happen. So that’s what we did.
To keep it an actor’s medium, I wrote this as a theater piece and hopefully it will be performed live one day. It has stage directions in it. This entire cast, funny enough, has still never been in the same room together.
We decided to do two takes of it up right up front. I made two separate (audio) tracks for each actor. One is me singing their part only and one is me singing every other part but their part. I also have tracks where it’s just a piano playing their part as well as sheet music. So covering the bases after the piece is written, giving the actors the tracks and with all of that.
These are professional actors and they learned it very quickly. So we were pretty much up and running, you know, within three or four days they were able to do their entire track through the piece.
The first day we scheduled the actors an hour apart, individual Zoom sessions with me only listening to them. I think we started with Googie that morning and then went to Trevor, then Rhyn, then Minka. But anyway, they were an hour apart.
And then I took all of those takes and edited them together for a first take film knowing that no one was ever going to see this except for our actors. This gives the power back to the actor, from the director to say, OK, now I see how this is coming together and all of these other actors are making these choices. And so in the second take, I can adjust.
Basically, we all decided, you know, between the four of us that we would keep Rhyn and Googie’s first take and we would have Trevor and Minka build upon their first takes once they had seen it, so there was a kind of new foundation down and and it worked really well. So what you’re seeing here is the second take from Minka and Trevor and the first take from Rhyn and Googie. Also it’s good that, you know, Rhyn didn’t need to spend another hour in the hot sun in her car.
Software and Technical Stuff
OK, software. So we looked and looked and looked and we we tried and tried at the beginning of April 2020 to find a low latency solution, which is funny latency kind of equals lag.
This is one of the one of the great metaphors. The metaphor of this show is that our lives are lagging, but it’s also that we have a technical lag now when we communicate with one another.
I worked with and talked to some fantastic theater theater technicians up in New York, here in Atlanta, in the Bay Area, and nobody at the time, and I have to say at the time in April 2020 had figured out how to press go on a musical cue and have actors in remote places all start singing and hearing it at the same time so that there was no lag and no latency. They had figured it out for plays, not musicals.
I wanted to mention a couple of the places that I looked so it just in case, if they’ve updated their software or if somebody is found a solution, maybe that would be great for your production and then you can have all your actors sing at the same time.
The first place I looked was VMix and NDI. They have great ways for low latency and audio to work on a network. However, still still some latency, especially for something like the quarantine fugue, you know, even a quarter second of latency would have messed that up.
The same was happening with OBS, which is an open source solution for live streaming, the same same issue with latency. But maybe they’ve updated. Who knows? We also looked at Dante, which is like an audio over IP ecosystem. It also now has a video component I think is called Dante AV, so check that out.
None of those worked, at the time, for our purposes though. I have friends that are educators and they said “well try some of our solutions that we do in teaching classes.” I looked at Streamyard, and that didn’t work.
So, you know, turning over stones, and there’s really no no-latency product right now on the market that can make a zoomsical happen. Right now you have to record and then sync offline (Note: we used Logic X Pro for audio and Final Cut Pro X for video.) It’s not horrible to do. But for those of us that are theater folks, we like performing live and we like performing together. And I wish I could have given this cast that gift.
I wanted to mention, though, that there is a Web site called musicaltheatreeducators.org. And they if you go there, musicaltheatreresources.org/covidresources, there are a bunch of other things you can look at.
The growing list of zoomsicals
We produced this film in May of 2020. As you know, each month of 2020 is kind of equal to a whole year. It’s been great to see all the new zoomsicals that are being made. We dropped ours on May 30th after, you know, finishing in about May 20th. Since then, I’ve seen lots of great shows and musicals come online and people are experimenting.
This this new digital proscenium that we have, which is which is cool but is going to end someday. All of our skills that that we’re bringing into this, we can take back to (the live theatre) to make our productions better. I don’t think it’s gonna be necessarily time lost. But it’s just not what we want. It’s been great to see so many people embracing Zoom and doing so much great technical innovation.
So hopefully we can highlight that on the web site, zoomsical.com, which is going to have a blog. The more zoom musicals that are made, we will try to post links and kind of be a place where we can all celebrate the innovations that, you know, what is what is that old saying? Necessity is the mother of invention, I think. And that’s what we have here.
When Minka sings…
Oh, Minka. Minka is singing. And when Minka sings… Everything good happens when Minka sings.
Okay. I think that’s all I have to say. I guess I can thank people now, you know, starting with the cast, they’re just amazing. All of these folks are people I’ve worked with on other shows and. And have been fantastic collaborators and. You know, I originally wanted six, but we had we had a budget for four, but that covers the vocal range that I needed. so that’s what we got. And that’s OK. Maybe we’ll do a sequel at some point.
I love this part of Minka’s performance. There is a look she gives us right here…
That is key. Minka’s character is, in my mind is powerful. She’s not magical. That’s a big difference. She’s powerful. And with that look, she acknowledges our presence. To me, this makes it so that her advice to breathe is for all of us, not just the people in that class.
So many great people in the credits here. Thanks to Zoë Cato for doing the logo, Out of Hand Theater for sure. Gosh, all this was just too much. So let me let me just say go to zoomsical.com or haddonkime.com if you’d like more. Thanks for listening.