Monday, December 31, 2018

Who needs a University?

Santa brought me a Go-Pro knockoff for Christmas.  I'd been thinking about mounting one to the dash of the Harley for some motor madness riding shots.  Now I'm reconsidering.

Aesop is in the running for the real Most Interesting Man In The World, and has a must-read post for amateur videographers on how to make a video that isn't terrible.  He writes hilariously but to the point on the subject:
Shakespeare died in 1616. It's a f**king VIDEO. So don't tell me, SHOW me. 
If you don't get this, and TV looks easy to you, trust me when I tell you: it's because you're a retard. GTFO of the Internet forever. 
When Peter Falk tells pre-pubescent Fred Savage in The Princess Bride "Back when I was your age, television was called books", it's witheringly funny. But nota bene, Gentle Reader, that neither consummate director Rob Reiner, nor maestro screenplay author William Goldman then proceeded to give us nothing but Peter Falk droning on from the book for the next two hours. Because it's a frickin' MOVIE!!
Aesop gives you a 5 minute education in how to make a film, and recommends a book for you to read on the subject.  He's been in that business professionally for a long time and so he knows of what he speaks.  If you make (or want to make) videos, you should go read this RIGHT NOW, or bad things will happen to you:
Read it, learn it, live it, love it. Or else die. Of dick cancer. In a pool of hungry crocodiles. With frickin' laser beams on their heads.
It's a funny post and you'll learn a lot, but what really caught my eye was he used an old TV clip from James Burke to illustrate the "don't tell me; SHOW me" rule.  I've blogged before about James Burke who made some of the best TV I remember seeing, although I preferred his "The Day The Universe Changed" to "Connections".  But the clip that Aesop chose was very well chosen indeed to illustrate his point, and the selection put him right up near the top of the "Bloggers I'd like to have a beer with someday" list.

But this got me thinking about the decline of popular culture in the West over the course of my lifetime.  There used to be a thriving genre that was called "Mid-brow": not high brow, not low brow, but which assumed that the viewer was smart and curious and could sit still for longer than 5 minutes without having to take Ritalin.  I grew up with a lot of these on the TV: The Ascent Of Man, Civilization, and Burke's shows.  There's a real education that you can get - for free at the video section of your local library.

I spoke recently with co-blogger and brother-from-another-mother ASM826, and one of the things we chatted about were podcasts which are perhaps the current day's mid-brow infotainment.  I listen to podcasts while walking Wolfgang, and there's quite a lot of blog fodder I get from them that you get subjected to here.  For example, the recent post on why Christmas is on December 25th.

I think I've posted links to some of my favorites before but a fairly involved search isn't turning anything up.  Instead, I'll just post some recommendations again:

The History Of Rome podcast is one of the most listened to history podcasts.   Mike Duncan tells the story of the Eternal City from its founding to its fall in 476AD with a lot of wit.  It's pretty much straight forward narrative, and it takes him a number of episodes to find is podcasting feet, but he takes you through what used to be part of an educated man's education.

The History of Byzantium podcast takes up where Duncan leaves off, covering the history of the eastern half of the Roman Empire that survived another 1000 years after the fall of the west.  Podcaster Robin Pierson is less flamboyant than Duncan but covers the narrative in detail and without getting bogged down.  If all you remember about the Eastern Empire is Gibbon's rather scathing assessment, this will be new and interesting ground for you.

The Fall Of Rome Podcast is the closest to history as taught in a classroom.  Patrick Wyman is a PhD historian and rather than presenting a chronological narrative breaks the subject matter into topics like Just How Messed Up Was The Late Roman Empire?  It allows him to go into depth about just how different the Roman economy was from anything before or after (up until the 1700s, anyway) and just what a catastrophe the fall was for the populations - and how it was worse for some than for others.

Tides Of History is Wyman's current podcast which ranges much more broadly than just Rome.  His episode on how the Black Death led to the freedom of the serfs in Western Europe was particularly interesting, but there's really something there for everyone.

Revolutions is Mike Duncan's current podcast which covers the major political revolutions that have happened since around 1650.  A lot of this is very poorly covered in school - the episodes on the English Civil War are really important to understanding the later episodes on the American Revolution, for example.  The French Revolution is almost always glossed over, but is maybe the most important single event in understanding today's political world.

These, along with the James Burke videos on Youtube will take a while to take in but in the end you'll be better educated than 99% of people today.  And they're free.  Who needs a University when you have all this?


Aesop said...

GoPro away, sir.

But by all means, get any editing program, (Pinnacle Studio...20, IIRC, is the current version, by the same people who do Avid for megablockbusters, runs around $100 for the top end version, but many other programs will do as well), and then edit your product.

Riding video?
Go for it.

Figure out your story.
Every video tells a story; some just do it well, and others in an awfully horribly bad way.
Anything that doesn't tell your story, you cut out.

Beginning, middle, end, just like your grade school theme.

Kill the jerky-cam video, avoid obnoxious, loud, or obnoxiously loud music, and don't post annoying audio.

Unless you're doing 360° loop-de-loops, probably not death metal played at 11. Maybe intro and ending voiceover or just title-over crawl, with some easy listening at a pleasant volume, for a Point A to Point B road trip. Heck, even Tom Petty's Running Down A Dream. Just no that awful royalty-free robot-voice garbage, way too loud. 500 POV sailing videos backed by Christopher Cross's Sailing can't be wrong.

Make it interesting. Sped up action for a guy doing a supertanker from Bahrain to Singapore can be cool, for about 5-10 minutes or so.
Ditto for an epic ride from city to point of interest.
At 15 or 20 minutes, it's the Bataan Death March.

Learn from the masters, and steal with both hands.
DaVinci and Michelangelo both learned to paint frescoes using templates and connecting the dots, then filling in colors just like paint-by-the-numbers.

Find someone who does world-class videos like you want to make.
Then make one.
Then twenty more, until you've learned the template.

For reference, not a riding video, but a professional TV videographer who chases storms for a hobby, and makes Oscar-worthy short films:
Mike Olbinski

Pursuit is a masterclass in how to do this. Besides being awesome just to watch, I've watched it 50 times, and I'm still picking things up from it.
If I hit the lotto, I'd hand the guy $1M to quit his day job and do stuff like this, just to get the product he'd create.
And the audio and 4K video complement each other beautifully.

You may never get that good, and you may not want to.
Just (Please, for the love of God!) don't be the guy who puts things on YouTube as if it was your private dungeon, and the viewers are there for you to flog into insensibility and torture just to enjoy their screams.

As for James Burke: Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford should have hired him jointly to produce comprehensive Western Civilization and History of Technology courses for permanent archival and academic credit, online, for free, for the good of humanity, and available for free in perpetuity.

He's a world treasure.

Every series he's ever done on disc is on my short list with Amazon.

And I never watched him, until after I found, amongst prop books on a movie set, The Day The Universe Changed. (When you're bored, you'll read anything.) It's now an annual read.

If I had to do something else with my life, I'd teach that book/series as a year-long high school course until I died, with the companion videos, and every piece of supporting bibliography and hands-on prop I could drag into a classroom in 9 months.

Every kid coming through would go up 10-20 IQ points in that academic year, and sadly for most of them, it would be their only exposure to that knowledge.

STxAR said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I WILL check these out. I drive a lot, and having something besides the pablum and dreck available on the radidio, I'll listen to mid-brow, mind enhancements.

Thank you for this. Muchly.

libertyman said...

Do you know of a good one for American history?

Borepatch said...

Libertyman, check out the Revolutions podcast episodes on the American Revolution. They're excellent, and Duncan gives a number of references.