Video Tour Journals: AK2K: The Directory
A Directory of the entire set of Video Tour Journals from 2000
with brief descriptions and links to the stories behind individual episodes, and links to the videos available online in various formats.
You can also read the entire story in the
2000 Tour Journal
along with many other tour journals in the
Tour Journal Archive
As I finished getting the AK2K VTJs ready and uploaded I felt that one thing was missing, except for a few longer segments in a few of the videos, you never get to see or hear me play, and certainly not an entire song. So I tried to quickly trim out a few performances for you out of the collected footage. I haven't had time to add anything to them except trim the ends with logoscreens. They aren't exceptional performances, but typical ones, and meant as an addition to the VTJs. They are simply an entire song presented "as is" and as it happened.
Directory of Music Videos
The Video Tour Journals are finally available on the internet, five years after their intended release. I don't know where they will go from here. I don't yet know whether I'll be able to justify making more though I would like to, in fact, I intend to. I know I was thinking about it expecially in the year after and shot a lot of cool footage with interesting themes in mind. I just don't know what priority I can give the project. I have a lot of other projects, and frankly, I have to focus on what pays the bills, which means performing, and recording another CD. I don't know if the video tour journals will actually be able to be justified as a source of income, or just be something I do when I can afford to, another part of the service. It is possible either way, but that is one of the many questions I can't answer yet.
I like hindsight, so the plan at this point is to get the ball rolling and see what happens. The fact is I have enough Video Tour Journals in the AK2K series to do that, even though it isn't quite finished, still a couple episodes short. I also like feedback, so I've got some specific questions listed at the bottom of this page for anyone who'd like to give suggestions.
Its February, 2006 and I've uploading the first 10 episodes, the first half of the series. I don't think I'll have time to upload more right now. I have to get on the road to Florida and back out on the street, get to work on the boats and the van, that's the facts of life. So I'm going with what I've got, good enough to get the ball rolling. I'm a firm believer that it is often better to get started, but stay flexible, and then make adjustments once you've got it rolling and have some feedback, and see where things are heading, what is working and what isn't.
I'm focused more on establishing the best way to present what I have, before I worry about what's next. I'm trying several different formats, and will see what people download. I can't afford to spend money doing this, and in fact, I will have to see how much time I can justify spending on video.
I started with hi-fi Full Screen versions (Cinepak Codec almost uncompressed) though Google hasn't put them on-line yet, probably because they are just too big (500 MB), and they might be right that people aren't going to be interested in such a huge download for a 2 or 3 minute video even to get ful screen, full quality. Google has accepted the 3/5th-screen hi-fi uncompressed videos I uploaded, around 120 MBs each.
I've also tried to provide compressed files. I want to thank John Schlichther for his free MP2 encoder, avi2vcd. I used the full screen versions as source files, but I'm not sure what the output screen size is. They are certainly compressed, the resulting versions are only 25-30 MBs. Thanks to the folks at Videora.com I have uploaded versions for Video iPod (around 15 MBs each), but since I don't have one or know anyone who does I can't play the files to see if it worked. I've used a trial version of another MP4 encoder, MpegableX4, that made mini-screen versions (about 10-15 MBs each), and I have those uploaded for other handheld devices. Though I can't afford to buy the software unless the videos somehow pay for themselves, so I guess it is a trial for the format as well as the software to see if it can pay for itself. Otherwise I'll drop that format (I'm honest) untill I find a free MP4 encoder.
I have always struggled with the demands of being what I am, an independent performing artist and a true folksinger, a servant of the people, this mythic mystic romantic hippie gypsy singer. I have to do it all on my own working outside the system. Now I have to really struggle to try to be so many things I am not really, wouldn't claim to be, though I manage... from an instrument builder to a recording engineer, a videographer and a producer, a computer tech, an auto mechanic, a marine salvor and a web designer. So many hats, and I am doing the best I can, still please understand that it won't be perfect. Sometimes it feels like I am losing touch with the music, the art, the mystic romantic heart and soul of this wild strange life I've lived, shuffled aside to try and engineer, record, produce and distribute what I do so I can share it with more than just the people who happen to meet me on the street, or at a festival or a cafe, a kitchen or a cabin in the woods. I know this is the right thing to do, though, no matter what I might prefer, so I'll carry on the best that I can. Hope you like it.
So! Whatever happens, I won't have time to do anything with the videos till May and June, a few months from now. That should be enough time to get some feedback (suggested questions at the bottom of the page!). I will have begun, that is the important thing, the ball is in flight at last. What next?
The first question,of course, is will people want to watch them? Will people like them enough to pay for them, make contributions to the effort? Should I worry about it? I do need to focus on survival, just to be able to keep playing music. If that means just playing the street, which works, I'll stay focused on that. If making more tour journals available can actually contribute to the cause, I'll do that too. Google has set up the system so that I can charge for the videos, but can I? My present plan is to make the first episodes free, so people can see what it is about, then start charging for the rest so they can support me if they like what I am doing and want me to do more, simple feedback. I also can look at it as part of the larger presence on the net, see if I have a significant increase in sales of digital downloads and CDs in response to downloads of the videos. Or see if I get subscriptions to the Patrons of the Artist system in response. Though I figure that even if I can't put video out on the net, I make DVDs of footage to give my patrons, but that is another story. I am still here to serve though, so I can keep providing videos as I can, if anyone watches them, just like I keep up the website, and just like I volunteer in schools and play for people and places that can't help support me physically, though they often do a lot for me emotionally and spiritually! Its all part of the job. In the end, I just can't manage self-interest. I'll keep focusing on giving all I can, and not worry about what I'm getting. I can always get by on the street music, I have for hmmm.. 25 years. It doesn't leave me much, but I'll keep doing what I can with what I have to make the music available to folks.
So I'll see what's happened in May. I'd be interested in any direct feedback as to what directions to go with my video production. I have a lot of options. I can continue the series where I left off, eventually catch up to the present and continue on in real time. I can try to do both, going back to the original concept of real time tour journals while working up collections to fill the gaps between AK2K and now. I can do videos of single performances and music videos, expand on some of the scenes in the tour journals so you can catch an entire song, whether a performance of a jam, or just a whole scene of anything. I think it would be cool to scatter them among the tour journals, relating to them, or I could do them as a seperate series, unconnected to the VTJs. One of the core concepts behind the video tour journals is that I can't show you everything at once, but if I do enough episodes, eventually I will be able to show you everything, focus in on this or that as the concept strikes me, or some scene happens to finally get captured on video. On the technical end, I welcome any suggestions as well. I can add or switch to other formats or codecs, if I can find free encoding/converting software, but I can't afford to invest in more software, unless the videos will pay for it. I have my old copy of premiere I got back in 2000 with my pinnacle card and frankly, I can't afford to upgrade right now. In fact, I'm still paying off the debt from buying that original hardware and software, including the camera.
I still know that video is a primary direction I am going. That's why I invested in this gear and continue to document the life, to keep making a record. I think in directions, rather than ends, not as concerned with where something leads as in choosing the right direction. I know that even if I don't know where I am going, the right direction and a true course will get me there. I figure I have a couple clear outlets, both on the internet and by producing DVDs along with CDs. All along I have known that video is one of the major mediums to reach the people, just like print or audio. I've thought of film-making at many points in my life, but it was practically too improbable, till the digital revolution. I grew up in theater, and always believed that my art, my music, was something that wasn't about the studio but the stage. There is so much about my music that is visual, that is about the live performances, about the interaction with the people. My art is about more than just music, or entertaining, it is about conciousness raising, teaching, enlightening, about the deep spiritual and emotional roots in music, theater, storytelling, and how people like me served the people. It extends far beyond the music, to everything I do, my whole life is my art. The music is not complete standing on its own, and the video seems to be a medium for that art.
The short history is that I first created the Video Tour Journals back in 2000 and early 2001. They got side-lined when the internet bubble burst and my intended partner host sites sort of evaporated as capital disappeared, along with a lot of ideas, good and bad, so I had to get back to other projects. I tell the whole story in detail in the second half of this page. This first section is more about the ideas and concepts behind the tour journals and video in general.
I have kept up with the camera, documenting the life, which was the most important thing. In the first years I even thought in terms of themes and concepts for tour journals as a whole and in specific, eventually, as nothing happened with them, I went to simply documenting the life and the music. The tour journals were not intended to be the final product of my footage, or the reason I got the video gear, but just a concept of something I could do with it, really just in passing, on my way to doing other things. I saw them as a format to put out glimpses of what I was capturing with the video in real time, as it happened, while the footage would eventually be used for longer and more complete documentaries or music videos. Or whatever.. like photos, I know that no matter what I do with the video, I can do nothing if I do not capture the scenes when they happen.
Still, I come up with lots of ideas, and the Video Tour Journals was one of them, a good one I think. The VTJs are based on an under 3 minute format, nearer 2 minutes really, though there is only so much you can fit into something like that. But I wanted to keep the file size relatively small for full size high-fi video, which means they have to be short. The short clip format is about continuity and motion, moving forward, so that each video doesn't matter so mauch as trying to do a full length documentary. I can make mistakes, better and worse episodes, and go on to the next. They can evolve, themes and styles can change. I can try new things and see how it works.
I also wanted the format to match the content. And I wanted the content to reflect the reality of the life. I wanted to reflect the pace of the life, sometimes relaxed, sometimes hectic, and the diversity and change, the variety of experiences and situations, the routine extremes I follow. I wanted to show the rollercoaster of energy and burnout, physical and emotional highs and lows, the routine days and the wild rides. I know I can't show it completely, I can't begin to tell you what a wild life it has been. But maybe somehow if I can show what goes on in small details, the scenes and moments, significant or not, I can show the reality of everyday life for a folksinger like me. Life is so often recalled as a stream of little details and flashing scenes. Maybe, though each episode shows only a few bits and pieces, eventually, taken as a whole, they might give a better picture of the life than any single video could manage. I want to show the reality of the life, and the real stories, the real story, even it it's only glimpses through the window of the journal. They are really quick, sometimes clear and simple scenes, sometimes inegmatically connected to the woven and tangled threads, the ideas, issues, and events of my life, past and present. The video bounces along through the flashing surface of my life, while I try to tug at the threads, connect to the deeper patterns, trying to show the wild diversity of my life and yet the solid continuity beneath.
The original VTJs were done on the fly over the fall and winter of 2000-2001. I thought I might need episodes immediately, so the first 6 episodes and the introduction were done on a low-fidelity videocard, then the series was completed with my hi-fi pro gear. As part of the present effort, I have remixed the lo-fi episodes from the original footage, since it was the processing, not the raw footage that was lo-fi. I tried to salvage the audio tracks as best I could, though I could only do so much. For a few, I was able to find the original studio tracks and use them, for the rest I had to do what I could to improve the lo-fi audio tracks from the original videos. I want to move forward, and I am pressed for time, and I want to get these up on the web before I have to get on the road, so I gave up on redoing the audio tracks from scratch. These are still an independent artist's tour journals, not a high budget studio production, so the emphasis is on sincerity more than production. I do the best I can. The same can be said for the background webpages.. the first episodes have a lot less background stories than the later ones that I had more time for! But in the end, I am more interested in moving forward, putting the effort inot more episodes, than trying to totally remake the old episodes.
Over the last week or so, as I have worked on remixing, I find am still pleased with the Video Tour Journals, even after all these years. Instead of just a rough tour journal, I created videos that I think stand on their own merits, as a serious production in themselves, even with the rough edges. What I was doing with them, trying to communicate a window on the life, and the things I have begun to express within the context of these journals, are still real. It is in essense the same as what I wanted to do with longer documentaries. It is as good and maybe even a better format than trying for longer documentaries. Like with songs, it is best to try and say just one thing in one song, then write another, than try to say it all in one single piece. Success can be more surely won in a steady series of victories, where even a few failure aren't significant in the end. Better than trying for something so big and grandiose that it fails through sheer inertia or unwieldyness, or even chance, but all the eggs are in that one basket.
I still have my visions for video that contains complete songs, combines music video and documentary into a single experience, though it will require a longer format. Something like the journals I am doing now but extended so that the performance of an entire song can be part of it, and the reality of a song, rather than some MTV fantasy. The songs come from my life, so it seems fitting, and the videos give the possibility of showing the whole story. I have certainly barely scratched the surface. I realize that thoughout the journal people never really see me play, or jam, and I don't think I explained the instrument, though its a common enough occurance when I play. I probably have a version of it recorded somewhere, sometime. I really haven't said much, directly, to folks, though that again is a big part of what I do. But I suppose that's what further episodes are for. Right now I am just introducing people to extreme routine, covering a lot of essentially background, before I start getting down to the level of individula scenes, songs I want to play, things I want to say.
This is a project that is still in development as it happens, so I don't know exactly where it will go. The first step was just getting the camera and integrating using it into my life, like I did with photography, and am still trying to do with the audio recording gear as well. I am still learning about video production. I am still really trying to just get the videos out to people, find a way to distribute them that works. I will certainly be able to make DVDs for my Patrons and to distribute when I perform like CDs. I know I'll be able to provide some sort of video for the net as well, tour journals or something else. But it is happening, that is what is important. As well, the "tour" is still happening, its really my life, on and on it goes, so it's more important, well, actually I have no choice but to keep moving and let the details work themselves out practically. My life is very practical, not much slack, so it works or it doesn't. If it does, I go with it, if it doesn't, I try again on a new tack.
As I prepare the tour journals for this new attempt, the potential in videography is clearly evident. I live a rich life,full of scenes, and there are so many places and events and people in my life that can stand on their own as a video. I remember all the ideas we had when I first was planning the journals with Flo, like trying to get set up to arrange with festivals or venues to do"livecasts". More practically, I've thought of a "live" format, watching entire songs by many artists and walking around the fair itself, or capturing an entire open-mike, or jam session. Flo talked about doing interviews with artists and the "people behind the scenes", so the next year after I had that as a theme, though I never produced the footage. I always hoped I could use this gear to help other artists. I could take someone from nothing to a whole website with posted audio and video, if I had the space and time. As it is, I have used my camera to shoot pro-quality footage for other artists for the cost of the tape, which they have to get produced on their own. I have made some attempts to connect with students in video-production, since one of my most basic lacks is someone behind the camera. I wrote up the whole idea when I added a section on the video to my website, but basically it was inviting video people to travel with me in a mutually beneficial arrangement where we all get footage for our personal projects.
I am not sure where I will go from here, though the essential concept of these tour journals was that they were just a beginning. Of course, a lot matters on what interest there is in them, and what people want to see. I am here to serve. I could continue where I left off and try to work my way back up to the present, taking advantage of the fact that I have several years of footage stacked up and ready to go. I could try to follow my original concept and do the tour journals in real time, making them as I can through the year, reports from the road. I think it would be great if I could do both, though I am not sure when I'll find the time, or how to justify it. I could branch off from the tour journals and put out some entire songs or scenes as individual videos, fill in the scene behind the glimpses provided by the tour journals. Maybe I could do all of these, I don't know. My time and energy is practically budgeted to survival. I have to be out on the street playing to survive, and everything else comes after. I do have the option of charging for the videos on Google, and I will probably have to try that to see how it works, if it works, since if it does, it would answer a lot of problems with taking time off from playing to produce videos. I still want to make some of my work available to people without charge. I figure a good balance will be to post the beginning of the series for free, then start charging for continuing episodes, and see what happens. I believe in real world feedback. If people are willing to give me a dollar on the street, or for a digital track from one of my CDs, maybe they'll be willing to support more videos. I wouldn't be suprized if more people were interested in videos of my outside-the-bell-curve life than are interested in listening to my music! Hey, but that's life, and to tell the truth, people who aren't into my style of music might still find my life worth watching. It is actually a real life, not some fantasy or game. If I can produce any income from the tour journals, I'll have to keep making them, just like I have to do other things if they don't. Simple facts of life for a starving indie artist who makes most of his money playing on the street. But I won't stop.. whatever comes, I'll keep shooting video and making something, tour journals or something else. I like what I am doing, and I feel they are worth doing. If people won't pay for them, I'll do them and other video in my spare time as I can. No matter what happens on the internet, I will certainly create a special private DVD collection for my Patrons, and offer them to along with my CDs to the folks who stop to listen along the way.
I still hope people can join me as I sing and play my way around the world. I'm still planning, maybe even more, to get down to Mexico and sail again, to get out around the rest of the world, show them what I have done with the traditional instrument many of them know, and just to share my music with the world. I've still got a lot of travel slated for the foreseeable future; but then, I always have. But this time, I hope to share the scenes, the songs, and stories.
In the late 90's, as I researched digital audio technology and assembled my digital audio recording system, I recognized that there had been a similiar revolutionary change in video recording and production with the application of digital technology. The result was the development of TV quality digital video cameras and computer-based production hardware and software at a fraction of the price of the same quality using film a few years earlier.
After the world-record passage I made on Further in 1998, I'd decided I had to invest in video gear as well as audio gear. No matter what I was going to do with it, if I didn't take the footage when it happened, it was lost. I am living a unique life and there is no way to re-create, or even really remember, all the scenes that happen. It is really the sort of life that can only be documented, and even then you catch only glimpses. I keep journals, and I have taken photos since the first time I hitched west at 15. I long ago realized that words and still pictures couldn't capture the action that makes up so much of my life, and carried got a VHS camera and carried it on my travels for many years. I started reviewing the old VHS footage I'd taken years ago and realized just how great the content was, and just how low the quality was. It almost hurt. I got out my old VHS videocam and thought about repairing it. I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble to shoot more video, I had to get the highest quality I could, at least "broadcast quality".
In the Spring of 2000, I decided to finally buy the digital video gear in time for the trip to Alaska. It was a major expense for me, doubling the cost of my studio by adding a professional level video processing PCI card and software to my system. I also bought the most expensive single item I'd ever bought in my life, a Sony-PD150 digital videocamera.
Over at 52media.com, an independent musician group, Flo had queried the membership and decided to pursue the potentials of video on the internet, rather than be another .mp3 site. So I talked to Flo about doing a documentary video tour journal for the new 52TV site from the footage I was taking for future music video or documentary video. I wasn't thinking of finished productions but "quick and dirty" reports from the field I could do almost as it happened. I invisioned a on-going story that would have aspects of both music video and a documentary view of the life behind the scenes, and the whole story of the music; not just the stage shows; but the jam sessions, kitchens and classrooms as well, and the places I go and the people I visit. I wanted to create a window on the real life behind the music, not the hollywood fantasy hype of MTV. I wanted to neither over-dramatize or unde-dramatize what happened. People could actually become part of the video by hosting me as I travel. He thought it would be a great idea, so I did it.
I started out not even using the broadcast quality video-editing card/software I'd bought before I left, a Pinnacle DV500 bundled with Premiere. I didn't have time to install it before I got on the road to Alaska, and when I first got there I couldn't afford to possibly mess up the digital audio workstation while I needed it for recording and teaching classes during the tour of Alaska. I didn't even get the video-camera unpacked and started till I arrived in Alaska, so that was the starting point for the Video Tour Journals.
I still wanted start producing VTJs right off because part of the original concept was to provide real-time production and distribution as much as possible, and I thought the folks at 52TV.com might be asking for the first episodes any day. I also wanted to know if I could produce VTJs on the road or not, and there was only one way to find out. When I had orirginally assembled the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) I had specifically gotten a high-end AGP card that included video capture and editing capabilities, even if it wasn't broadcast quality. When I got to Eagle, Alaska, on the Yukon River for a couple week stay, I used it to capture the footage from the RCA video output of the DV cam and make the first episodes. These first VTJs were rough, "lo-fi", but I had it rolling. I didn't know when Flo at 52 would be ready to start running the series, but the idea was that it could be at any moment, and I wanted to be ready at my end. The original footage was still broadcast quality, that's what counts in the long run. I completed 7 epidodes while I was travelling in Alaska, managing to catch up to myself in real time.
When I reached Seattle in November of 2000 I finally installed the DV500 card in my DAW PC. I didn't have time to make any new videos with it yet, but Flo was still just trying to getting the new site together, which gave me some breathing room as I tried to ramp up to the new hardware and software. Like a lot of the original independent artist sites and networks on the early internet, 52 wasn't started as a business, Flo had a regular job and a life to handle. Then the internet exploded into the world, suddenly it was big business. The rest is history. Specifically, with the internet bubble beginning to bust, things were getting shakey. Personally, I felt like it was really a big thing for him to be doing it at all, and I'd just try to keep up my end and be patient, and wait. I figured that he was probably way more frustrated than I was over the whole deal.
By February of 2001 I was beginning the first episodes with the new system and producing TV quality video, getting the data off the DVcam direct through a firewire. I actually went back and re-made the last episode I'd completed, but worried that I might not have time to complete the series, so I forged on, figurring maybe I'd re-make the entire series one day. But life was going on and I was falling farther behind myself, not just in making videos. I still thought 52TV might go on-line any time, and I wanted to be ready.
By April of 2001, I had completed 18 episodes, all of the trip to Alaska and on as far as Seattle. Then I stopped. The fact is, I had other things to do. There was the trip to make to Florida and this year's tour to arrange. The music and living the life have to come first, or there is nothing to document. Shooting the footage comes next, making something out of it is not so important. One thing I talked about several times over the spring was the fear that the time it takes to record and produce the video would keep me from the life I am trying to document! I need to be on the road, to live the life that I am documenting, to do the job that I chose to do before I decided to record the music or the life behind it. I am here to play for people and that still comes first. But leaving a record, making audio or video recordings and distributing them, may allow me to reach more people and other people. Its just another way of serving the music and the people. Its more than that, too, more than I can explain here. Just as I travelled the road part of the year and took to the sea in another part, in a regular circuit so that each complemented and supported the other part, keeping me from getting too burnt out or routine in either place. I can look at this new phase of my life as an improvement, though not without some regrets and some unease, and some trouble as I try to figure out what exactly I plan to do, what I can do that will work.
Though I kept shooting video, by the fall of 2001, it was pretty obvious that the internet bubble bursting had stopped anything happening for the present. I returned to focusing on recording the new CD. I put out the VTJ's on video tape for a while, but tape duplication wasn't practical. I set my sites on DVD production eventually. Over the following years up to the present I left the tour journals on the back burner, waiting for the internet and especially broadband to recover and grow. I am patient and have a lot of projects I keep trying to manage while still just trying to keep up the circuit and keep playing, keep surviving. Which got me here, to the point where I am getting the videos onto the net at last. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here. Hmm, come to think of it, it always has.