Video project preserves percussionists’ perspective

Extended break from school affords film-making freshman the time to showcase the individual percussionists who made historic year possible


Oliver Harrington

Harrington said it took him about 12 hours to assemble and edit the video that is just under eight minutes long. Other than a summer film camp and some school projects for his Spanish class, Harrington doesn’t have much experience making films, but he plans to change that in the future. Photo courtesy of Oliver Harrington.

Oliver Harrington

Madelynn Niles, staff reporter

The gentle rolls of the marimba escalating, bass drum pounding, chimes ringing sweetly; everything flowing together seamlessly, the tension rising and falling as the story of the music flows through the recording hall, filling each corner to the brim with —  Pause. Edit. Trim clip, try again. 

[The video] keeps me motivated to learn music and keep practicing even during coronavirus.

— senior percussionist Chloe Andrews

On Wednesday morning, freshman percussionist Oliver Harrington sent out to his fellow musicians the latest of his original video projects: an edited recording from early March of one of the three ensembles recording audio for the TMEA competition this year, switching perspectives and angles to highlight each musician in ways typically unseen by the audience. 

“I made one of these videos for an ensemble we played in Chicago last semester, and that one seemed to get pretty good reception,” Harrington stated.

“I think these kinds of videos bring out the perspective of players that aren’t normally seen in performances because they’re either in the back of the ensemble or aren’t playing a very visual instrument. … You can also see the expressions and faces of the performers up close, and it’s a great feeling to watch them having fun and doing the thing they love.” 

Patrice Jones
This wide shot of the Mac percussion section performing at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago gives you some idea of how hard it it to make out individual performances and even individual instruments with so many percussionists performing. With his hard-to-miss red hair, Harrington is  nearly in the dead center of this photo by the way. Photo by Patrice Jones.

Although Harrington was able to layer the audio from the professional recording made during the session, the visual recording process was completed in a much more improvised fashion, with the whole group contributing to make the product possible. 

[In these videos], you can see the expressions and faces of the performers up close, and it’s a great feeling to watch them having fun and doing the thing they love.

— Percussion and filmmaker Oliver Harrington

“At the performance, I set up everyone’s phones in a position where they can see the instrument they’re playing,” he stated. “We perform the piece normally, and after it’s done everyone sends their videos to me.” 

From there, Harrington inserts the videos and audio into an editing software, where he decides which player will be featured at different points of the song. 

“I try to show players during their most complicated or fun parts of the piece, or when they have solos,” Harrington said. “Sometimes, if multiple players are playing similar parts, I’ll split the screen into multiple cameras to show all the players at the same time. … Overall it took about 12 hours, but I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately so it went pretty fast.”

Harrington said that except for a few prior filmmaking experiences, these videos are some of his biggest projects. 

“The only real experience I have with editing is from a filmmaking summer camp I did a few years ago,” he said. “That’s where I discovered my secret love for editing. I don’t really make other videos like these, aside from ones I do for Spanish projects, but I plan to keep making these in the years to come.”

Oliver Harrington
The screenshot of Harrington’s computer shows the intricate layering of shots and transitions that it takes to make one of his performance videos. He weaves professional performance video with cellphone footage recorded by each performer to illustrate how the individual performances make up the collective sound. Screenshot courtesy of Oliver Harrington.

The other percussionists, too, enjoy the originality and effect of these edits, and were buzzing with excitement to see the final cut yesterday. Senior Chloe Andrews, one of the percussionists featured in the video, felt that the video was very effective in showcasing each person and aspect of the music. 

We have had a really amazing year. I’m glad their final performance is well-preserved in Oliver’s amazing video.

— percussion director Matt Ehlers

“I thought it was really well thought out,” she said. She also felt some bittersweetness upon watching, as the current situation does not allow the student musicians to come together and create. “It’s a little sad, but I think most importantly it keeps me motivated to learn music and keep practicing even during coronavirus.”

Sophomore Liz Carrales, a percussion member not in the video’s ensemble, stated that she loved being able to see each aspect of the video. 

“The music was amazing but I just found myself watching the players, they seemed so into the music,” she said. “I was just left speechless watching them play.” 

McCallum percussion director Matt Ehlers, in addition to excitement, felt gratitude in being able to reminisce upon the year while watching the video.

 “My initial reaction was excited, and once I started watching it I became very proud,” he said. “I started to think about how that was the last performance that group of students will most likely have together. … They are a special group, and we have had a really amazing year. I’m glad their final performance is well-preserved in Oliver’s amazing video.”

Harrington agreed that there was a shared gratitude upon sending out the video.

 “Everyone seemed really happy when I told them it was finished,” he said. “I think part of the reason they were so happy is because we no longer get to make music anymore, and this was a good way of remembering the times when we could.”

This is the first video that Harrington made of the percussion section rehearsing for its performance at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago last December. Video by Oliver Harrington.