Friday, August 10, 2012

If the video shoot doesn't kill you, maybe the edit will.

I'm going to change my initial page and edit this further to reduce the (Peak Oil and economy) tangent, part of this first post.

This to reduce the reading and size of this opening posting.

I'm better off mentioning that briefly and giving external links or a link to a separate blog (youtube videos, etc.)

I may create a youtube video to mention that theory later.

Some quick facts about my background:

1. I purchased a camcorder in 2009 to create a simple and free overview of Peak Oil, but put in different perspectives, throw in my 2 cents and more about the subject. I never did this.

2. I had a day job as a computer programmer/lead analyst and did video on the side for about ten years.

3. I travelled to Cornerstone 2012 in a kind of last minute rush, videotaped a bunch of artists at the Gallery stage and I'm editing that video now. That's a quick summary.

(You can stop reading this post now, for the quick read.) The rest is details.

I used to be involved in video production (as a videographer) and taped a lot of Christian concert events, like Cornerstone Festivals. And I drifted away from that, but returned at least to tape part of Cornerstone Festival in 2012 . When I heard this was to be the last Cornerstone and Iona would be there, I decided to attend. I've seen many other bands, but Iona rarely visits the USA and that is one of the reasons I decided to attend. I've seen many other bands locally that are regulars at the festival, so Iona was one of the reasons I decided I better go to the festival, because they put on an excellent show.

Cornerstone festival ended for a variety of reasons depending on who you talked to. The actual reason the festival ended was the poor attendance due to the economic downturn.

With only 4000 attending in 2011, and 6000 attending this year; we can see it's an economic hardship to put on a festival like this. Bands reportedly played for free at the festival this year.

They couldn't even afford to pay the bands.

This was due to the economy (and likely the price of gasoline as well ). If you are young and busy trying to find a job that doesn't exist (due to the poor economy), you don't have time and resources to drive out to a remote festival far away. Some say "youtube" and free stuff on the web killed the festival. I actually heard this. I guess that even makes sense, if you don't have money you'll look for some kind of footage perhaps for free on Youtube. You don't have the money to go to the festival so you might search for some free entertainment. That's not the same as going to a festival and meeting people.

Overall the economy killed the festival. It was not sustainable.

The festival is another sign of a failing economy and the high cost of fuel. There are of course other reasons which some will say or guess that contributed to the ending of the festival. The stated reason is one of economic sustainability. If you need $400 piece for small crowds to attend and make it profitable, and it costs hundreds more to drive there, people can't afford that in this economy.

I talked with a young local Christian guy who was "in a Christian band" tell me he didn't attend Cornerstone for years. When I asked him why, he said, "it costs to much". This guy lived 13 miles away and he claimed he couldn't afford to go. If he can't afford to go, I'm sure others can't as well. Maybe this was just his overall reason, he also said "I went when I was a kid". So maybe part of the reason was he felt he outgrew the festival. But he was still in his college.

If the cost of the festival to be sustainable from an economic perspective is $1.5 million a year (my guess). or perhaps $200 a visitor with 10,000 visitors, and maybe $400 a visitor for 5,000 visitors. JPUSA clearly can't fund the festival with low attendance. It's a miracle the festival lasted as long as it did.

To continue, the festival organizers might need rich donors to underwrite this. Perhaps set aside money up front (perhaps in a kind of non-profit fund). That seems unlikely in todays economy.

Most people who attend a festival like this don't plan or pay ahead of time. That's the nature of a concert goer. A poor ministry in Chicago probably won't find a bunch of rich donors.

JPUSA was stuck in a financial rut. They were going way beyond the extra mile. They probably needed to retire from that festival. It was a gift to the churches by a poor church. It wasn't financially self sustaining, but dependent on the gifts from a poor church doing all it could to keep the festival going. (My first thought about the festival being much smaller was, why not take it back to the state fair grounds near Chicago.)

Historically from what I heard through the years, JPUSA was putting more money into the festival than they were getting from it. So they ended up spending something like $100,000 or more per year on average and this was a gift and drain on this poor ministry. It's easy to lament the end of the festival when you're a person who enjoyed past festivals.

JPUSA had dozens if not hundreds of volunteers from their church and that was a labor of love. It was a gift to the church world at large. Can the festival be self sustaining and actually fund itself? Can there be a way to fund it? During the lean years, it's likely that this festival would require significant funding and donors, perhaps a different organization structure that would simply raise funds framing the festival as a gift to the donors. It after all is a creative party of sorts, there are benefits to the festival, but do those benefits have a return that would make the funding of the festival (up front) more desirable. I could spend a lot more money trying to build up another Cornerstone festival and fail if I started from scratch. So I think it has value, but finding that value and marketing it to (rich donors) or whomever, would perhaps be a tough sell.

There might be alternate ways to raise money, but this would require a lot of planning. What if we could get 50,000 people to attend video webcasts of the festival with live streaming video? If they would each pay $10 per internet pass, that would raise some cash for the festival. But things like that require a lot of technology and planning and expenses. And that brings up the dreaded worry of copyright and free video going out on the net and piracy and all those concerns that record labels and bands need to worry about as well. So I don't claim to have an answer to make the festival sustainable. It needs to be figured out and looked at from a more sustainable point of view in the economic framework. I think the LLC and donor model would be the best route. But don't try to over-reach and do another Creation festival. Just plan for a small cut down Cornerstone and make it economically viable.

If some rich Christian (like Pat Robertson?) were to donate tons of money to a fund or LLC to "keep Cornerstone going", what would be the long term plan be and how could you justify it? If I was standing in front of a rich donor, how would I sell this? Aren't there other charities that are more worthy of their donation? Why struggle and worry about a music festival? Am I as worried about feeding the homeless in the inner city? Is this blog post a plea for helping inner city Chicago folks? It's easy to be blinded by the "need" to go to a concert event, but is that really a need?

Would the goal of a different financial approach be: setting up an LLC organization, and make it profitable for JPUSA to run the festival and pay them as consultants to run it. We need to make it profitable for JPUSA, an asset rather than a financial burden. Ministries as a whole need donors and sponsors. How would you frame a LLC or funding project, with perhaps a goal to have $10 million for the next five years. That is how museums are funded.

Museums get rich donors and companies to give them budgets up front and they are always money losers. They don't make money from ticket sales, they will usually lose money. If a museum loses to much money it will close. Rich donors and companies sponsor museums, and sometimes taxpayers.

Is the Cornerstone Festival (cultural experiment and camping party) worth saving? How do you we get donors to fund it? That's the $2million question.

One story on the net has stated that someone offered to buy the farm and give it back to JPUSA if they would continue running the festival. That could be a good sign.

What would the financial goals be? I'm thinking a goal would be something like $2 million a year toward a festival by some kind of charity LLC or foundation. Simply fund it and let's JPUSA run it. That LLC would simply hand over $2 million to JPUSA and the goal would be to put on the festival on for a $1.5 million budget. Don't go overboard, plan for a profit toward the "consultant". JPUSA would get $500,000 in profit per year to put on the festival. Make it a positive balance sheet item for JPUSA instead of a negative one. To me that would be the goal.

I'm sure JPUSA hasn't stated this as a goal or even looked at my idea. (I didn't walk up to a tired Glenn Kaiser and say, "hey Glenn, I have an idea, let's save the festival." ) And I'm not saying this is a sustainable business plan, I'm saying this is something that would be funded by donors up front, because they thought the festival should continue.

This is more of a wish list goal, to save the festival. I think the motivation or sales pitch to those (rich Christians) who might fund such a thing would be to look at the tangibles that happened as a result of the festival. By this I mean the exposure and donations that other charities received from the event. For example Compassion International reportedly had 5000 children sponsored at the festival during the past 29 years.

If each Compassion sponsor stayed with a child sponsorship for ten years on average, then that could be $1.5 million in sponsorships per year overall from the Cornerstone Festival. That's a pretty good payback on investment for running the festival. (That's probably a dollar for dollar return on the festival in donor income to Compassion alone.)

There are intangibles as well, which is the simple exposure to all the "ministries" and the simple interactions that happened discovering other Christians from all over the country. These don't have a dollar value, but in reality there was a dollar value to the festival and the economic downturn, and possible the price of gas likely stopped the festival. I thought I would hate seeing the festival with a small turnout. Actually I found it quite refreshing, there was less competition for campsites and a far more intimate experience watching bands on a smaller stage, it was better than the larger main stage from a video perspective. I could walk right up next to the stage and tape the bands. This was like being on the stage with the band in the front row. Almost impossible to do in past festivals at the main stage during the "boom years".

I have a small Sony HD camcorder and some video software. I've taped festivals in the past, back in the "good old days" and even had a cable access show that showed some band video in the old days. In the past, I would tape events with friends and volunteers. We used to use video mixers and create a live mix most of the time of concert events. I bought all the equipment that I used to create my public access shows. I did this because I couldn't guarantee the video I taped could be freely used by the cable company and become their property. I had to have the ability to limit the usage of the bands video, so I never used Cable access equipment, this due to copyright restrictions and the need to respect the bands and their labels. So I paid dearly in expenses to have options and keep video from being put out that might make the bands look bad or threaten the profit potential of the labels.

I also was involved with live video concert support, we ended up doing giant screen feeds to video projectors for some local events and even a couple of years at the main stage. One grateful band manager came up to me after a concert and told me the video that I gave them was used and helped their band get a record deal. "I know it's not much but we wanted to give you something." He gave me $38 dollars, actually a nice sign of thanks. It was unnecessary, but it was the profit I received from those years of Christian video production. I can remember one concert goer yelling up to me on the main stage, back in the 1990's between sets. He said, I want to know how I can get up there and be you. He wanted to be on the main stage and holding a 14 lb camera on his shoulder when he was older. I thought, you don't know how much money it cost me to get up here, how much I had to spend and give to get to this point. I thought you don't know what it cost. But I didn't say anything to him.

My video taping at the festivals was done for free and as a gift to the concert events. I was just another below the line donor and volunteer. Because I had to buy equipment, it cost me more than most cable access producers to do my show.

I stopped doing video production or taping Christian bands around 2003. When I heard about the last Cornerstone, I decided to go there and video tape some of the festival. A last video memory capture of a great event. It's impossible to go back and tape history, so maybe this video would have some value to the bands or festival organizers, maybe just a nice memory video for them.

I wanted to do so much at the last Cornerstone. I hoped to enjoy the campgrounds, maybe take a swim. Perhaps check out the old main stage area. (Someone told me they have a garden whee the old stage used to sit, but I didn't have time to see that.

I had a lot on my personal wish list. But the heat was really unbearable this year. So I stuck close to the Gallery stage and decided to take as much video of the acts as I could.

If getting the video didn't kill me, perhaps the editing will.

After the festival I was really exhausted. I'm a little bit older than I was in the old days. I started attending festivals in 1987 and attended each one from 1987 through 2003. When I quit attending the festival seemed to be running strong. I was a little bit shocked that attendance fell off to such a great degree in recent years, but this is understandable with todays economy.

This year I attended the last four days of the festival. I brought two Sony camcorders (1080i video) and a digital audio recorder. I also had three point and shoot handheld cameras that could take 720p video as well and used those handheld. This for the first day I taped at the festival. I purchased much of my equipment for the festival on the way out to the festival, it was spur of the moment purchases. This meant I had to learn about some of the equipment on the way out to the festival. (Last minute planning doesn't work very well.)

The second, third and last day I added another Sony Camcorder. So I had up to five cameras running during my video taping of a Gallery event. (I usually only had one additional camera angle running handheld.) Sometimes I shot with a Canon EOS up front, sometimes with an iphone and sometimes with a Fujix w3 3D camera, taking a 3d video clip of most of the acts I taped.

-- 3D video a different subject
I might have enough video for a short 3d review of the some bands and the festival. This is very limited as I didn't have time to tape much with the 3d camera and I don't know if or when I'll edit the 3d video footage. That's another project. This blog will refer to the regular video edit. (3d video requires different software and I'm not setup for that at this time.) And how would you release 3d video? In Anaglyph with glasses? In MPO format for those who can download it? On 3d blue ray encoded disks? I don't know how that would easily happen. Maybe Anaglyph on the web?

-- Survival mode, like working in a sauna
I was unable due to the heat and exhaustion to visit much of the campground and stages. I just survived and stayed near the Gallery tent. I wanted to go to other tents, but I had the problem of not having enough budget to have enough SIMM Cards for the entire festival and had to charge batteries each night changing them because I didn't have AC power. And I had to download the SIM cards to a hard drive an erase them for the next day of shooting. This meant I lost about 3 hours sleep a night and I was averaging maybe 2 or 3 hours of sleep each night. It was extremely exhausting. And I shot only perhaps four bands per night, which still was difficult. It was so hot out I had 5 chocolate shakes for dinner one night. I just kept getting another chocolate shake, held the cold cup on my temple or neck and then drank the shake. No time for dinner but I could cool off with shakes and lemonade refills. I would use up to 3 cameras handheld and man one camera on a tripod once in a while.

I focused on the Gallery stage, because of the heat and the need to stay in one area. I camped inside my car with the AC running much of the time. This to keep from complete heat exhaustion. I was trying to shoot footage for perhaps four hours each day. Shooting video without a crew for four hours a day could kill a person,I don't recommend that. I was glad I didn't have any friends along who would have to endure the heat. I felt sorry for my friends, but also happy that they didn't have to suffer through that hellish heat.

I survived, but was completely exhausted by the end of the festival. I was even hallucinating the last day, due to lack of sleep and going into a dream (REM state) during the daytime. I decided at 4PM the last day, I had to get more sleep. I saw a person in my vehicle that morphed into a car seat. Dreaming while your awake is a bad sign.

After a two hour nap, I started to tape video the last day of the festival. I had a lot of little technical problems during the Choir concert. I was really exhausted by that time.

I was so tired by the end of the festival, I put my car in accessory mode, not realizing it, and promptly drained the car battery. I thought I killed the battery through the normal use of my hybrid car, that the constant charging of batteries at night and constant running of the AC system perhaps killed the starter battery. A jump didn't work.

So I had my car towed to Macolm Toyota, and ended up staying two nights at a motel in town. This cost me an extra $500 in expenses. So being exhausted had it's added price. I guess one side benefit was getting a ride to the festival and being there very late. The tow truck even died near the gates, he ran out of gas. This gave me the chance to walk back to the car and actually see the remains of the Viking ship which didn't sink.

I might have been the last visitor at Cornerstone. Others who were there by Monday were volunteers breaking down the tents and cleaning up. Perhaps I was the last visitor of the festival.

I was there Monday walking around before my Prius was towed away. At the end of the festival everything was peaceful and only crews and JPUSA folks were there tearing things down. I was too tired and busy that last Monday after the festival to go down to the lake and take a last swim in the lake. I was even to tired to go swimming at the motel in Macolm

I went down to the lake to take a picture of the Viking ship that was "sunk" as a sign of the end of the festival. They fired arrows at a viking ship model that was sitting upside down during most of the festival. It looked like some kind of art project near the Gallery stage. It turned out it was a Viking ship to be sunk, representing the death of the festival. A friend of mine mentioned he heard from a fellow festival attendee, that the Viking ship didn't sink at the closing ceremony and it was a "good sign" perhaps that the festival couldn't be sunk. A symbol that Cornerstone might keep living, it might not sink and go under. Maybe the festival had a life of it's own and could be saved. My friend suggested I should go down and take a picture of the Viking ship still floating in the lake. I did and created a little caption for a test video with a couple of titles.

Not getting much rest is a festival tradition and people often leave the festival in a kind of "Cornerstone zombie" state. This results in high creativity, but also plenty of emotions. And we rest up after a festival in the glow of all that happened. The good and also the nature of an extreme camping experience, coughing up dust, and trying to forget that 140 degree heat that would great you when you stepped into a Portable Toilet at the festival.

This year was like working and surviving in a Finnish sauna. During one of the events I drank five chocolate shakes for dinner. I had a flow of sweat running down my forehead burn my eyes during one of the nights event. I was shooting video almost totally blind, due to the heat. It was almost like Desert Storm or something. A survival through extreme weather and heat.

Now that I have the video, the goal is to survive the edit process and get the footage off to the bands. I'm hoping to get a DVD of each band I taped sent off to them as a free gift. I'm also hoping to give a copy of this video to JPUSA. Of course JPUSA and I both know that there are limits to what we can do with the video footage and all the usual disclaimers apply. Due to copyright limits, there is a real limit to the size of a video clip that I could display on youtube. I understand this and unfortunately it's likely impossible for me to post long sequences or even complete songs from any event on the web. So this is a diary of the edit process, but it won't include links to complete concerts or anything like that.

OTHER POSTS will deal more with the editing process, with a few extra comments thrown in from time to time.

I tend to write long posts. I hope to make this a diary of the edit process. I might go off on tangents from time to time which are off the topic of the Cornerstone video I took and the edit process. I'll try to keep the size of the posts shorter and more readable.

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