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Save Santa's Home: The Video

I posted a few weeks ago about working on the layout and typesetting of a book called Save Santa’s Home. And then posted a week after that about working on an original musical score for the story. All of that was leading up to this… directing the video version of the Save Santa’s Home story.

Save Santa’s Home was written by Sean Presant and Andrew Slack. After working on the book version for them, I pitched the idea of turning the book into an audio/video presentation. They loved the idea and I set out to work on it in record time (I had about a week from start to finish).

The video presented a number of challenges. First, the book was formatted vertically, while video is a horizontal medium. Second, the pages are all still frame, and while we didn’t have the time or budget to animate the entire story (that would’ve taken months and costs ten of thousands of dollars), I did want to add some movement via pans and zooms and jump cuts, along with some animation at key moments.

So I set about tackling the formatting first. I was taking the standard book page and re-formatting for a 16:9 video. This required a number of page elements and background elements to be rearranged, extended, or otherwise messed with.

For example, here is a 16:9 (the aspect ratio for widescreen video) crop laid over a book page and the resulting video frame:

There was no good way to frame this page and get everyone’s face in the shot, at least, not without reformatting the background and re-positioning all of the characters, which is what I did:

Much better! It’s not exactly the same as the book page, but it provides the same function as the book page, just, re-directed for a widescreen presentation.

Next, I took those reformatted pages, and started editing the simple pan and zoom movements in Adobe Premiere. It took some time to get the right movements during the right scenes. I also split a few of the frames into multiple layers and added blinking Christmas lights, and falling snow, where appropriate. This helped bring a lot of interest and life to the still frames.

Then, just 48 hours before launch, we learned that square videos perform MUCH better on Facebook than widescreen videos. So I rushed to again re-edit the entire 32-page book and to re-create every cut and pan and zoom from the widescreen video, but this time in a square format.

This reformatting required going back to the original pages and again moving foreground and background elements so they would fit into a square frame, painting out background elements, and placing on-screen text from the book (as most people scroll through Facebook on their phone with the volume muted).

Not a task for the faint of heart with that kind of turnaround time, but I finished with a few hours to spare!

And it looks like the video is a success! It has over 200,000 views across various uploads (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and has been shared by numerous celebrity climate activists, including Mark Ruffalo and Alyssa Milano!

This project has been huge, from formatting and typesetting the original book pages, to co-writing an original score with Christian Caldeira, to creating not one, but two cuts of the video version, all in the span of one month, during which I also had oral surgery to remove all four of my wisdom teeth. But I believe in this project and its message and was willing to put in the overtime.

These posts have mostly focused on technical elements and behind the scenes trivia, however, I hope you also take some time to consider the message, join the Santa Squad to help us make a positive change for the future, and donate if you have the means.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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Save Santa's Home: The Music

A couple weeks ago I posted about formatting and typesetting the upcoming children’s book Save Santa’s Home. Save Santa’s Home is a project that aims to redirect the climate change discussion from one of anger and hopelessness to one of activism and hope.

While formatting and typesetting the book, I suggested to Sean Presant and Andrew Slack, the authors, that we produce an audio/video version of the book too. They were pretty excited by the idea. I also suggested that maybe Christian Caldeira (my bandmate in The Caulden Road, and producer of my solo music) and I could write some original holiday music for the audio/video version. Everyone was excited about that.

So, Christian and I set out to score the short illustrated film with some original holiday music. We ended up with about a dozen short cues that anchored and lifted the video’s narration.

We’ve collected those short cues together (edited slightly for continuity) into A Starry Night Suite, a free download/streaming version of the Save Santa’s Home original score. You can listen to our cues now on YouTube, or download the score via Bandcamp. The download is name-your-price, meaning it is free or available at any price you choose to pay.

Christian and I didn’t have much time to put the score together (in fact, everything was written and recorded in just two 10 hour sessions, and then mixed the following week), but we’re both happy with how it all came together.

You’ll be able to hear the score in context when the illustrated Save Santa’s Home film premieres later this month.

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Save Santa’s Home: The Book

Save Santa's Home

Recently I joined the team working on Save Santa’s Home, a climate change project. Through the power of an original story serving as a conversation starter, Save Santa’s Home aims to redirect the climate change discussion from one of anger and hopelessness to one of activism and hope.

In December, a crowdfunding campaign will launch promoting the Save Santa’s Home story book and related perks in conjunction with a few public demonstrations in Washington DC and elsewhere across the country.

The book was written by Sean Presant and Andrew Slack, illustrated by Ayan Saha, with typesetting and layout by yours truly! Not only will I be doing the design and layout of the book, I’m also working with Sean and Andrew on creating a video version of their story book!

The video will feature the book’s illustrations (I’ll work in some animation to bring a little life to the still pages) with a dramatic audio reading of the original story. The video will also feature original holiday music written by Christian Caldeira and myself, and performed by our band, The Caulden Road!

But we’ll dig into the video and music more in future posts, for now …

Layout and Typesetting

Sean and Andrew ran into a readability/accessibility issue with their original designs. Text was being placed directly on the illustrations and was being obscured by various elements within the illustration (such as snow or bright highlights washing out white text). So they brought me on to redesign the entire book from the ground up, rethinking text layout and font choices on each page.

Below are a few examples of the original design they brought to me vs my new designs.

Most pages, like above, required me to paint over some objects to make sure the text was as readable as possible. I also re-framed most of the illustrations to taste, and to create a bit more room for the text.

Other pages required me to paint over backgrounds, but retain important objects in the foreground (like Santa’s sack of toys in the example below), and those pages took a bit more time.

Finally, some pages I felt required larger changes to the layout, like the back cover below.

Save Santa's Home - New Design

Overall I’m very happy with the way the new designs look. The readability/accessibility of the new layout and typesetting trumps the original design, and, in addition to that making it easier for children to read, it also helps the entire production look more professional.

As mentioned above, you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy of the book via a crowdfunding campaign next month, with the video to follow in a couple weeks. I’ll post additional updates, but if you want to get involved now, sign up for the Save Santa’s Home newsletter on the website (which I also made, heh).

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“Faultlines” Single Out Now!

“Faultlines” Lyric Video

My first new solo release in over nine years, “Faultlines”, is now out everywhere music is streamed or sold.

Download/listen to “Faultlines” on…

You can also purchase the single directly from this website in hi-res FLAC or lossy MP3.

I wrote “Faultlines” a little over four years ago, along with a few other demos, and then set it aside. Most of my music time and energy back then was invested in my band The Caulden Road. But over the years I kept humming this song to myself and decided this summer to finally get a small band together and record it. I’m happy I did as the resulting studio sessions surpassed the demo and turned out better than I could’ve imagined. I hope to work on a few more of those solo demos over the next few months, so stay tuned!

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“Shortwave, Pt. 1” Single Out Now!

The Caulden Road - Shortwave Pt 1

My band’s new single, “Shortwave, Pt. 1”, is now out everywhere music is streamed or sold. And a limited run of 7″ transparent vinyl singles are also available!

Listen to “Shortwave, Pt. 1” now on…

You can also purchase the single directly from this website, on a limited edition transparent 7″ vinyl single, in hi-res FLAC, or lossy MP3.

The single is backed with an unplugged version of “All I Am” (the studio version can be found on Reflexion)

This release is the second of seven new singles The Caulden Road is working on over the next year. If you’d like to help support these new releases, you can find our Patreon page here. Patreon supporters get behind the scenes updates from in the studio, early releases, and more goodies depending on their support tier.

Finally, I made lyric videos for “Shortwave, Pt. 1” which you can watch below.

Yay new music!