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Alan Parsons: "Return to Tunguska" video

The following are some dated (2004) excerpts from the topical Roadkill exchange [many links no longer function and some info is outdated]...

All:

Playing around with Ulead's VideoStudio 8, a very basic -- and free -- software package that was included with a recent video-equipment purchase, I slapped together some segments shot here in my new home state of California ... and set it to "Return to Tunguska".

I call it "Return to Topanga"; Topanga is a State park close to LA ... a place where some of the scenes were shot.

"[Topanga State] park is located entirely within the Los Angeles city limits and is considered the world’s largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city." <http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=629>

Anyway, here's the URL for the vid:

http://www.khurramhashmi.org/files/20041010_Return_to_Topanga.mpg

(Size: 48MB)

Play in small window size -- this works best for low-rez MPEG1.

Sorry the file is so large. It (MPEG1) really doesn't look good even at *this* file-size. Streaming video format stinks even further. MPEG2 (DVD-quality) is ideal but, rendering to 327MB, it's not worth the download. If you want a CD or DVD, let me know.

Locations in Calif where the shots came from: Point Vicente and White Point Bluff State Parks in Palos Verdes, Santa Monica beach bike trail; Topanga State Park (just north of LA); Amtrak Coast Starlight Trip to Northern California, and other locations.

I only completed the project until the conclusion of the "first act" (if ever there was one) -- it's a pretty long track.

Some notes on segments used. First, all shots are original stuff I shot with either a Hi8 or MiniDV. There are a few still photos used, too, which were shot with a Canon digital camera.

The el-cheapo version of Ulead VS8 is pretty bare bones, so the effects look pretty cheesy.

Someone asked, "What do the shots/segments in the video have to do with Tunguska?" Not much -- sorry! I wanted to follow a Deep Impact or Armageddon theme, but the spfx in Ulead VS 8 are pretty limiting. There is a shot of a "comet" wiping out the Century City/Hollywood hills area (sorry, Alan, a comet that size got Santa Barbara, too ;). But this was about as much as I could do. Anyway, my limited imagination was not able to come up with a couple of minutes worth of footage for an event that lasted a few seconds :)

All the moving shots were either shot from the Amtrak train or a bicycle-mounted camcorder (the bicycle-shot footage was sped up to match the rhythm/dynamics of the music, as was some train footage). Why bicycle? Bikes are cool and State parks and beaches allow them on trails, but not cars.

On 2004-09-10, a poster from the APP list wrote:

> 1. Return to Tunguska
> .. If there ever was a reason to buy this album, this is definitely it. I
> think it is the strongest track on the album, and it's quite a lengthy
> instrumental. It starts slowly introducing each layer little by little
> classic AP style. The opening paints a nice spacey visual picture like
> Voyager did for Pyramid.


For the early stuff, I really didn't mean for the video to look so weird and surreal. But I couldn't really make Ulead achieve the look I wanted. Shpongle stuff is weird-cool anyway, so I hope the abstractness doesn't look too out of place.

> Soon after, the trademark AP "drone" starts to kick in. First it is the bass
> thumps (Dum de dee d dum).

There is a visual cue for most of the "Dum de dee d dum's". The first one is at the rocky beach side of White Point Bluff park, Palos Verdes.

02:27 Cut to 1600 ft up at Topanga State park, Parker Mesa Overlook in the Santa Monica mountains, overlooking the South Bay (and downtown LA). Some music elements match certain visual effects.

> Then later, another layer of counter melodies on

> keyboard appear (interesting stereo effects) following by the high-hat which
> defines the meter / beat of the track.


The meter/beat is marked in the video is wrist watch slightly sped up to match the high-hat.

Someone who watched the video asked..."what's up with all those spinning sprockets in the video?"

My lousy excuse: to add more "dynamic elements". Also, in some train shots, there is unused space on the screen (window sill/frame, etc.) that, I felt, could be filled in with "stuff." They are part of the Ulead spfx package and, even then, they had to be highly tweaked to make them look this "good" (or bad, depending on your perspective!). In any event, they evolve and speed up as the music speeds up, and they are spun by car wheels and guard rails as they "make contact" with these objects.

Other music-cued effects:

03:21 Kite and jumbo jet, El Segundo beach near LAX, with artificial lens flare. Quick pan down to beach facing Palos Verdes peninsula.

03:40 Light-rail train takes off at Douglas Station, in "Space Park" area of El Segundo, California.

03:41 Wide shot of Amtrak's Coast Starlight hugging the Pacific coastline. You can see the all the way up to the locomotive here (MPEG2 brings out the details much better, in this case).

03:48 From train: Flower bush, and motorcycles along Los Angeles Ave in Simi Valley (??).

04:03 From train: Passing thru Ventura, California, at 75 mph.

04:09 Horse-shoe curve at San Luis Obispo (see below)

04:19 Outside Santa Barbara, beach side w/palm trees: the multi-beat snare are cued to multicolored star flashes. I've tried to add a bunch of cues like this throughout the vid, but they don't show very well in MPEG1.

> What then follows is a musical
> trilogy with three distinct movements. Towards the end of the first act,
> David Gilmour begins his first of three solos (one for each movement), and
> each one topping the previous!

The video segment that marks the beginning of guitar solo is the famous horse-shoe curve which Amtrak's Coast Starlight makes near San Luis Obispo, CA. It's, I believe, one of the only major passenger train passages in the United States where one can see the whole train.

Here's a photo some other person shot of the horseshoe curve:

http://www.hockley.org/trains/images/socal2002/14-horseshoe.jpg

On the outer side of the curve, there sits the infamous maximum-security prison. The train goes pretty slow around the curve so it was sped up to match RtT's dynamics.

The vid and music fade as the "first act" ends; the last two shot are the train passing by fire-damaged trees north of Santa Barbara, and a time-lapse of the sun setting over the Pacific ocean.

BTW, if you can't or don't want to download the vid, here are some of the types of images that comprise the shots (they are not *this* clear, though!):

http://tinyurl.com/3rjh2
http://tinyurl.com/5s4sb
http://tinyurl.com/5yvzd

This one was for Alan -- whom I haven't seen in a long time, but miss dearly! "Return to Tunguska" and "We Play the Game" from A Valid Path are, IMHO, among his best.

Regards,
-Khurram Hashmi

Additional notes:

All:

the same APP list poster as above wrote:

> A valid video:...

> I just wanted to compliment you on that cool video clip. There are times
> when it looks VERY PROFESSIONALLY produced. There are also some segments in
> particular that I thought was really fascinating and perfectly matched the
> background (or foreground) music:

Thanks for your kind words. The nice thing about a computer-based video project is that once the foundation is in place, one can keep adding layers -- much as Alan does with multi-tracking. There are lots of effects that still have no visual cue, so that's something I may yet work on.


> The opening scene of "metallic bubbles"


The moving triangles in the opening scene is the ocean/beach put through a Kaleidoscope filter in Ulead.

> Also nice was how you sped up the live photography.

[...]

With the motion scenes, I was trying to convey a sense of power and energy, which the music certainly has lots of.

> I would have loved to see something more (than the sliding square box)
> defining the drum beats... something as clever as your wrist watch.

FYI: those "boxes" that whiz by on drum-beat cues are bees at Topanga, put through a bunch of filters and distorters.

> And
> when the first guitar comes in, I think it pretty much DEMANDS some swelling
> animation tricks (kind of like a lasarium show)! :-)

When the solo comes in, the vid cuts to the horseshoe curve at San Luis Obispo. The mountains in the background are "The Morros" (aka Nine Sisters) and are (I hope!) extinct volcanoes:

http://santalucia.sierraclub.org/morros.html
http://santalucia.sierraclub.org/ninesis.html

May be getting them to erupt, digitally, would work.

> Just comments only (not an ounce of criticism here).

I agree completely that more is needed. One of my goals was that the vid work on repeat plays. I.e. that one notices details not seen during the first or second watchings. E.g., the wrist watch has three spinning spfx sprockets: ten-o-clock, four-o-clock and the hour hand.

> Again, great job. I have dabbled a bit myself in video editing and I know
> first-hand how many hours... and hours... and HOURS of labor and effort it
> takes to produce something about half as good as what you did.

Don't get discouraged! -- although this stuff has a bit of a learning curve, you'll get the hang of it. This one took about a week of on-and-off work. I work with computers, so when I want to take a break, I will bring up Ulead and work on the video.

Best,
-Khurram

More from the APP list "A Valid Video?" thread:

All:

another APP poster wrote:

> Say, are you considering doing the whole
> song?

If I have time :)

I'm working with a friend, Tony Kern, who does time-lapse photography. The end of RtT -- the setting Sun over the Pacific -- is crude example.

Have a looks at Tony's stuff:

http://www.mythopolis.com/HDtimelapse/

Lot's of LA-area shots here, set to Delerium's electronica track, "Terra Firma".

[...]

> You really brought back some memories. As a former Los
> Angeleno (well, 15 years ago, and they had no
> light-rail back then), I also recommend checking out
> Mt. Wilson skyline park. Great place to watch the
> meteors and stars (behind the park) and the LA city
> lights that spoil the view, of course. More
> inspiration for Tunguska!

What a coinkidink ... Tony and I were actually planning a visit to Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel/Mt. Wilson soon -- get time-lapse and regular shots of cityscapes, observatories, and Milky Way time-lapses (if, as you note, light pollution, smog, marine layer, etc., doesn't foul things up too much).

Here are views from Mt. Wilson 'M' is talking about:

http://www.astrophys-assist.com/wilobs/snowpan.htm
http://www.mwoa.org/

Scenes like this seem to go well with Alan's cinematic soundscapes.

Contact me for the MPEG1 video (48MB)

The video looks a LOT better in MPEG2. That format takes up 327MB. Contact me if you want to start a "CD/DVD ring".

Best,
-Khurram

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