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When Winning Second Just Isn't Enough

He had to take first place, too By Douglas Spotted Eagle

The Austin Music Network Music Video Awards are a pretty big deal in the great state of Texas, entries from all around the area compete. Mother of South by Southwest, this area is a breeding ground for great talent. At the 2005 awards held on March 3, the audience was in for a surprise. Raymond Schlogel, a newcomer to the video production world, was as calm as could be when they called the award recipients. He knew he didn't stand a chance of winning. He was just glad to be there.  When they named his production of the Ryan DeSiato video for second place, he was ecstatic and surprised.

He never dreamed of (but won) first place as well

Truth be told, Schlogel felt that his inexperience would prevent him from winning anything, and he almost didn't go to the awards ceremonies. He had two music videos nominated in the competition, and each must have captured the eyes, ears, and votes of the festival attendees because they won in an attendee-balloted vote. (no judges)

Underground Planet, Ray's production company, produced Brandon Jenkins' video entitled "Down in Flames ," and was shot entirely with a couple of Canon XL1s cameras on two locations over the course of a couple days for a budget of less than $7500.00! (Imagine what this guy could do with a real budget)  This was Underground Planet's second video for Brandon Jenkins; the video "Austin" took first place at last year's awards for "Best New Artist." 

Ray isn't known in Austin for his monolithic production truck full of lights, generators, and production crew. In fact, he's pretty well just a one-man show that has some good connections and can get the job done right. Better still, Ray has an eye for the viewfinder and for the edit bay. These days, anyone with a few bucks can buy a computer and some software and then hang out a shingle as a video production company or an editor. But knowing how to cut and how to tell a story are two very different talents that few possess; Ray has both, and that's very rare. His education in commercial arts has paid off, as he clearly has an eye for design elements and image flow.

Having just jumped into the video production world less than 36 months ago, Ray is essentially a newcomer to the game, but he's been prepping for it his entire life.  "Well, I had always painted and drawn and whatnot growing up and I took a couple commercial arts classes in High School. Then after moving to Austin from Chicago, I had been part of a couple TV show's on access some years ago and that kind of planted a seed. At the time though, I just wanted to " direct " more or less and refused to get into the technical work. On the job front I was mostly doing graphics stuff, web design and that kind of thing when I caught " Evil Dead " on cable one night. It just kind of got me thinking that I could make a movie or something. It was a pretty loose thought actually, but I started reading up on cameras and equipment trying to get a handle on what it would take and that week I bought a Canon XL1."
From there, Ray couldn't turn back.

Grabbing the Gig:
Schlogel got the gig by sending a bundle of emails to various bands in the area that he knew of, asking them if they needed any work. At first, he was feeling a little rejection in light of the resounding silence following the mailing blitz. "Then I got an email from Patrice Pike saying that her manager had forwarded my email and would I be interested in working with her. For those who don't know she's a legend here in Austin between her solo stuff and her days with Sister 7. I was blown away. I mean, she had had a vid on VH1, been onstage with Sarah Mclachlan, Dave Mathews. So that little live clip became technically my first 'Music Video.'" From there, Ray has been able to develop a bit of a name in the Austin music scene, and began attracting other acts to his lens.

I asked Ray what else he's done to garner attention in the market, because preditors (producer/editors) around the country are always looking for new ways to bring in work. He spends a lot of time in nightclubs talking to acts and potential clients, and says, "Being in Austin has been a huge plus as we have so many talented bands and a good deal of live music venues."

One of the creative elements of the "Down in Flames" video are a series of shots of "photographs" featuring motion video of the band, burning up in flame. "We simply printed out some blue squares, hung em from some metal clips and wire dangled off a tree in my back yard, set them on fire and then chromakeyed out the blue. We did end up going through quite a few different types of paper and various flamable mixtures to get it to look right but it turned out great." Ray's creativity didn't stop there. In the video, every shot presents the band enveloped in flames. Given the title of the song "Down in Flames," this proved quite appropriate. It also looked incredibly difficult to achieve, particularly given the budget that Schlogel spoke of having to work within. "We ended up building up the inside of the drums with concrete blocks, putting a metal plate on that, and than wood and rocks which were doused with a mixture of gasoline and oil and set aflame. Leaving all the space below it gave air room to move around and push the flame up. The problem was that we would only get about a minute and a half burn so it took quite a few takes to get what we needed. The explosions were out of the barrel I mentioned, and than the ground on fire in one of the closing shots was just a last minute idea on the last take which was done by pouring the last of the gas we had in a half circle around the band."

According to Ray, the entire band and his crew of friends were responsible for concepting the video, and much of the content was conceived at the last minute, on the set. Ray is shy to take credit for conceiving the video, but the band gives him full credit for it. Ray additionally gives a lot of credit to Michael Hall, a sculptor who just "happened" to have a couple of gun barrels from WWII era battleships on his property. The most difficult part of the shoot (aside from an assistant getting second-degree burns) was dealing with the fire ants that prevented anyone from sitting down without getting eaten alive. Initially, finding a location was a challenge as well. "We looked at a location or two and my friend and sometime producer introduced me to Michael Hall, he an amazing sculptor who has a foundry just outside of Austin. He also just happens to dabble in pyrotechnics. Can you ask for more ? So we drove out to his property and basically pitched him on the initial concept and asked if we could use his land and, oh, by the way, how would you like to blow some stuff up ?"

The other video making waves in the Austin world for Ray is a project he did for Ryan DeSiato. A very different but no less filled with empassioned creativity is "Make Believe ." This piece takes place in a jet and airplane hangar, but is interspersed with a lot of very well-planned and placed stock footage. I recognized some from our friends at Artbeats. "We bought quite a bit (of stock footage) and did a whole lot of digging through public domain footage. There were a few images that I really wanted and those proved to be the hardest to find. The song has a strong statement when you listen to the lyrics and I needed strong imagery to get that across. But to me it was a fine line because I didn't want to hold back but I also didn't want people to turn the channel or turn it off thinking " that's just sick". In the ended the use of color and effects helped to offset the brutality just enough to be palatable but still retain its integrity."

The differences between the two videos is fairly marked. The "Down in Flames" project is very production oriented with few post-production techniques employed whereas the "Make Believe" project relies heavily on the post production power of Ray's NLE system.
Speaking of post production nonlinear editors, Ray Schlogel uses Sony Vegas 5 software for his editing axe.


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