Polishing the Apple

Well – I’d sworn I was done with the Big Apple edits.

However…

You know how it is – the more you look at something, the more you see the imperfections – and having done the original audio sync videos, I was starting to see some really strange things. To cut to the chase – they made me realise I’d not done a good enough job. So here’s two much better versions. I hesitate to call them the final ones, but I very much hope they are.


First off is the original audio, resynced properly – then the version from the Solomon Douglas Swingtet.

Strange Things

What made me realise that something was a bit weird was when I started trying to work out some of the timings. I’ve always been taught that the Suzie Q sections began by crossing on 8 – but here they seemed to be crossing on the 7. Or were they? I realised it was a little tricky to figure out – and it depended on who I was watching. Even stranger – the final Suzie Q sections seemed to start on 7 for the first batch, then on 8 for the second. This made … no real sense.

Then I figured out how to slow things down properly in the video editor (I really really really should have tried this earlier) – and realised that I was completely wrong. They all start on 7. And the audio sync was still off. Way off. So off, in fact, that my first reaction on watching it slowed down was that the video editor was at fault – throwing the audio off when I slowed it down. Which was a ridiculous notion, but it’s traditional to blame your tools….

Back to the drawing board.

So now, after a lot of tweaking, I have versions which are much better synchronised. What fascinates me is … how did that earlier video appear to be correct? How did the audio sync sometimes seem to jump from a step being on 7 to a step being on 8, within the space of a couple of beats? And when it was so off, why wasn’t that obvious to me from the start?

Here’s how it goes. I think. The subconscious is a tricksy thing.

I believe mostly it’s that our brains look for recognisable patterns, and they look for what we expect to see. If the steps or visible hand clapping are at the same tempo as the music, but a quarter-beat off, I think the brain can sometimes fool us (or me, anyway) into seeing what I’m expecting to see. If it drifts from a quarter beat off to a third… to two thirds, I think my brain was “snapping” the visuals to the nearest beat.

Played much much slower, and we get a very different story. Here’s a nice little example – to my eye, anyway, the first clip looks … just about fine. Although your mileage may vary. The second? Is the same thing at half-speed. But it’s so clearly off-beat that it’s a whole other story.

So all in all, it’s been an interesting lesson in perceptions, expectations, video and audio editing, and the Big Apple. It’s been particularly fascinating to watch all the myriad of different ways the various dancers perform each part of the routine – although it’s incredibly hard to stop watching certain standout people, Frankie being first and foremost – I can’t stop watching the way he moves – him, his partner Lucille Middleton, and Willamae Ricker – the lady in the light skirt who is on Frankie’s left in the circle – who is an incredible dancer, and the utter joy on her face throughout is wonderful to watch.

Another plus is that by watching this waaaay too much, I’ve started to see all the things I’ve been doing wrong in the routine – crossing on eight instead of seven in the Suzie Qs, doing the jump charlestons with the wrong timing… and many others. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s nice to know how it really ought to go, and to start working on that.

All in all, a fun project, even if it’s eaten up far more of my time than I’d ever expected. I hope people enjoy the end result.

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