When reality is just not good enough, how can you still WOW your audience?
19 October 2020
by Nico Ceballos Jones
KISS are one of the biggest rock bands the world has ever seen. You want to talk about branding? THERE’S your branding! Four fellas emerge in 70s America playing what could generously be described as serviceable rock tunes, but as a result of a simple face-painting exercise, a total commitment to the illusion, and a bassist with a keen eye for trademark law, they went viral, fifty years before going viral was cool.
Legions of adoring fans obsessed over their every move; these were no longer ordinary men pedalling music; they were larger-than-life superheroes, selling an escape from the hum drum existence of every day life.
There’s definitely a lot to be said there about the timeless power of branding and positioning, but ultimately, as far as KISS go…it’s all a fake. An act. Gene Simmons, AKA THE DEMON, doesn’t gargle blood and spit fire, wearing 15 inch silver heels at home. Ace Freheley, The SPACE ACE, isn’t an off-world lifeform come to dazzle us with his stellar riffs. And that’s fine – it’s showbusiness razzle dazzle, after all!
But that’s not what Captain’s about, and it’s certainly not where smartphone video is at its best. If you’re trying to get people to film something on their phones, and then make something special from the results at your end, you’ll need to make an important shift from the traditional, slick methods usually at play in video production.
What you want to capture is some genuine authenticity. That means no scripts or subterfuge if at all possible. It means no razzle dazzle trickery. It means the initial results being a little rough and ready. It means prioritising feel over slickness, at least in the filming stage, where time is of the essence, and you just need to get the building blocks on the table.
So how can KISS help when it comes to the next stage? Well, I heard Paul Stanley (lead singer, THE STAR-CHILD, and keeper of the creative flame) talk about how they actually produced their live albums. If you know your KISS history, and I’m a casual academic in the subject at best, you’ll know that it was the live album, ‘ALIVE’ that really catapulted them to superstardom. There’s an energy, a vibe, a intangible fizz of life that’s just not present on their studio offerings. Of course that’s not a phenomenon unique to KISS; Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York, Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous, Queen at Wembley…the list of transcendant live recordings goes on and on.
So on the face of it, it’s a simple equation. It’s LIVE, right? So you just go and record the live gig, and the results will instantly be magical! Not so fast my friend. Paul Stanley’s point was: when you’re at a gig, there are so many intangible factors that colour the way you remember it after the event; the stage show, the heat, the sheer volume, the psychic crackle of the atmosphere, the sweat of your fellow fans, the pleasant buzz from your vodka and orange juice etc etc. Your memory is completely divorced from the reality of the gig, and if you were to hear the raw live audio recordings of the night, your first response would almost certainly be…’why does it sounds so rubbish?’
The specific example Stanley gave was the pyrotechnic explosions. If you were there on the night, they were ear-splitting, floor-shaking, hammer-of-the-gods blasts . On the raw live recording, they sounded like wet farts. The reality just wasn’t good enough! So what did they do? They went and properly recorded a CANNON going off, and added that to the record, alongside loads of other similar sweeteners. Oh and guess what, when it’s incredibly loud, you can’t hear musicians making mistakes, going out of time, snapping strings. That all needs sorting. And you think they sang in tune the whole time? Not so much…time to make some tweaks there too.
Stanley said that the aim with a live album isn’t to painstakingly document the reality of what happened on the night, but rather to recreate how the audience thought they felt when they were there, whether that was true or not. That might sound like even more showbiz fakery, but the fact that most of the basic building blocks they were working with were real, means the end result occupies that sweet-spot between authenticity and polish. That’s where the magic happens. It’s rough enough to be believable, but there’s enough craft to elevate it, and turbo-charge the results.
And the same is true for user-generated content – we call it the Captain sweet spot. If you just go straight with what was recorded on a smartphone… the results may be a little flat to say the least. This kind of content needs a little bit of TLC from the editing side of things to reach its full potential, but it’s usually deceptively simple, and you can end up with something magical.
For instance, you can cut the waffle to transform someone’s rambling 5 minute interview into 30 seconds of poetry, cover the cuts with some other shots you asked them to get, add some decent music, some graphics templates, subtitles, and all of a sudden, you’ve magicked something into existence that would traditionally been impossible without a full video crew in attendance. And when you crack that sweet-spot formula, I can tell you from experience that it’s an amazing feeling.
It’s also an incredibly powerful position to be in, because if your contributors might previously have been hesitant, or perhaps not an ideal candidate for a full-blown video shoot, things really get interesting. In that scenario, you’re basically proving that you don’t have to be an extroverted, face-painted Demon of Rock in order to get your voice heard. By walking the line between razzle-dazzle and reality, you can make something better than both, and with the Capture Captain app, you can bring anyone, anywhere along for the ride.
Now what could be more rock and roll than that?