Jan 13 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #6: Sound

Starting in 2009 with The Quest for the Lost City of Gold we started incorporating a digital soundboard into our VBS skit. I downloaded a program for my Mac called Sound Byte that lets you set up virtual racks of sounds, customize options for each sound, and assign them to keyboard commands. I needed someone to run the sound board, which I had just trialed and tested myself.

I chose Rahne, my then 12 year old. She was fairly tech savvy, and I didn’t know who else to hand it to. She has run the sound board every year since then, except last year when she had a part in the skit. After the skit she told me she wanted her sound board back.

Anyway when we get close to time to begin rehearsals I search around online for sounds to download. There are several sites that have royalty-free sounds free for download, and you can find sound effects CDs at pretty much any decent music store. Then you take a sound, drag it onto a button, and then assign options for it–looping, volume, when to start or stop the sound, whether or not to play it over the top of other sounds vs. being stopped by other sounds. This was incredibly handy when we had to have an ancient Mayan temple set collapse; we layered three different sounds—a low rumble, a stone-scraping-on-stone sound, and a second rumble—to give us a really colossal crash.

We also use sound effects to help pull off some of our special effects—but that’s another post.

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Jan 11 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #5: Music

For the past two years Rahne has composed the theme music. For Law of the West, our wild west VBS, I was looking for music that would fit in with a John Ford / John Wayne / Roy Rogers good guy kind of western—not a spaghetti western. When she was working on it, we listened to a lot of music from classic westerns—both what I wanted and what I didn’t want.

The best example of what I didn’t want for our VBS, despite my love for the music, was the theme from For a Few Dollars More. Ennio Morricone’s haunting theme really conveyed the grit and dirt and decay and moral landscape from the movie perfectly—it just didn’t suit the tone of our Bible school skit.

We listened to a number of good pieces, including Red River and Silverado, but the best example of what we did want was Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificent Seven. It wasn’t that I wanted, ‘Hey, can you rip of The Magnificent Seven, without sounding like you ripped off The Magnificent Seven? What I did want was something that, like The Magnificent Seven, conveyed a sense of good, morality, heroism, and triumph.  A wild west where men are men, women are women, and good guys wear white hats and never cheat or shoot anyone in the back.

And I think she nailed it. When she composed her first theme song in 2011 for Adventure on the High Seas, our pirate themed VBS, her music definitely sounded nice and piratey, but the overall composition was fairly rudimentary. Last year’s theme was more of an overture with four distinct movements, with the fourth movement a variation of the first.

Again, we have spent a lot of time listening to music. We have found some decent traditional music, as well as a lot of stuff that sounds more suited for a Chinese restaurant. One shining star however is Tan Dun, composer for Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

A couple of weeks ago Rahne, Elsa, and I had kind of a jam session–both of the girls on piano and me on djembe drum and pennywhistle. Last Wednesday Rahne and Amelia got together to go over it some more with Rahne on piano and Amelia on violin.

We aren’t there yet, but the music is getting there. I am looking into buying an erhu, aka Chinese fiddle, so that we can get a more authentic sound once composition is complete.

 

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Jan 4 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #1

Every year since 2004* I either write or co-write the script for the skits that we use in our church’s vacation Bible school, as well as acting, directing / co-directing, designing the logo, and creating and/or supervising the production of the sets, props, and costumes.

It can be massively rewarding, and a ton of fun. However, while it is rewarding, it is also a lot of work—about six to eight hours of organized work on set building and rehearsal per week for six weeks, then  a couple of Saturday practices, besides what I do at home writing, editing and designing. When you get through you are completely exhausted: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

And so I was thinking about bowing out this year. I thought about bowing out for VBS 2013 before VBS 2012 was even over.

December 2 the girls and I watched Hoodwinked with the writer and director commentary. I’d seen the movie a dozen times, and listened to the commentary once before, and it was still awesome hearing it again. After the movie we were sitting there discussing the commentary, the movie, and the nature of good movies and good storytelling in general.

“Lemme bounce an idea off of ya,” I told them. I kind of gave them an idea of what had been rolling around in my head. I hate to even call it an idea it was so vague; more like one of those ‘headaches with pictures,’ as Fry would say.

Less than an hour later the three of us had developed and recorded the entire plot for VBS 2013.

 

* We didn’t do a VBS 2007-2008

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