We’re living through an unprecedented time. The Corona virus has forced us to change our approach to work, family and recreational activities. But necessity breeds invention and all sorts of creative work-arounds are being developed to help people collaborate while remaining miles apart.
My name is Rusty Williams and I live just outside of Boston. I’m an avid musician, video producer and tech entrepreneur. I’m seeing this trend from nearly every angle and have been developing approaches that help reduce the frustration of distance – and hoping to learn from others as well. I’m Co-Founder of a company called AnswerStage which provides an app and video production platform to simplify the process of video creation for business and personal use. I’ve also been creating multi-participant music recordings and videos with friends. I recently submitted two entries to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest — one as a composer and one as a producer. I’ve include examples below.
Setting the Stage with AnswerStage
We started working on the challenge of distributed collection of videos about two years ago when we founded AnswerStage. The app is now being used by companies and families for a variety of purposes from virtual panels of experts to group messages for birthdays and other milestones. This is an example of a multi-person video created on AnswerStage.
Creating #PlayAlong Music and Videos
In my personal time, my passion is writing, playing and producing music. When created an Instagram account, the first thing I experimented with is what I called #playalongs. To do this, I listened to someone else’s Instagram post in my earphones while recording a drum part.. I did dozens of these PlayAlongs. Here’s a full playlist. And here’s just one example:
Over time I transitioned to producing my own songs and refining techniques for capturing high quality sound with high quality video. This helped me learn how to coordinate the importing and syncing of sound with video files — an essential skill for multi-participant videos.
Over the past few months, I’ve created music videos with other contributors. This is a collaboration that I did with Sarah Joy. She recorded the vocals in New Hampshire while I arranged and recorded the instruments in Massachusetts.
Creating “Virtual Ensembles”
With the Corona Virus and social distancing, I turned my attention to creating simpler versions of multi-participant videos. This is a “beta test” that we did with several musician friends in the area collaborating on John Prine’s song “Angel From Montgomery.” The key difference in this video is several of the participants contributed video and audio with just their phones. Given the different technical aptitudes and equipment owned by my musician friends, this was an important new technique.
After learning a few things from the beta test with Angel From Montgomery, my next project was creating a video with one the bands that I’m in — once again with Sarah Joy and the musicians who had been playing out with her prior to venues closing. In this case, Peter Lavenson wrote an original song called “Makes Me Believe”. He simply recorded the vocals and guitar on his iPhone and sent it to me. I added piano and one layer of harmony and then shared that track with others. They used their phones and DAWs to record video and audio and send the files back to me so I could sync them together. More details about this are posted on the blog.