The bitter sweet XSCAPE

I have mixed feelings regarding the latest Michael Jackson’s posthumous album Xscape, I know this is a mutual feeling that most diehard MJ’s fans share. I experienced its release seeing promos everywhere: billboards in the tube stations, itunes, Twitter, Facebook, name it, it was there too. I bought the deluxe edition, listened to it, and watched MJ’s hologram performed at the Billboards Music Awards earlier this week. My first immediate response? Happiness, excitement, curiosity, an assurance that MJ is and will always be the one and only King of Pop. I deeply admire his talent, his work ethic, his concern and commitment to the wellbeing of our planet, his positive messages towards humanity and love, even though he always received nothing but hard criticisms about every single aspect of his life.

But this time is different. MJ is not longer here. He’s not making decisions. Yes, the album is a compilation of 8 demos he recorded in the past, but those demos were never released before. Why? Is it because MJ thought they weren’t good enough? Because it wasn’t the right time? Is it because they didn’t go well with the overall feel/theme of his previous albums? And the answer is that WE WILL NEVER KNOW. And that’s the reason every time I listened to his new album, at some point guilt pokes me on the shoulder. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy his “new” 8 songs, both versions, original demos and the contemporised ones. I appreciate the fact that LA Reid and his team decided to release both, but again, I can’t stop feeling like a voyeur from time to time, like I’m listening to something I shouldn’t be listening to. We will never know if MJ would have been thrilled with it. I reckon he would, because it was handled by people he worked with in the past, and you would expect that they would know MJ’s music preferences, tastes and techniques, but still, he didn’t have the ‘final cut’, did he?

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I had lunch with my best friend a couple of days ago, we were talking about MJ and these mixed feelings of mine. She’s not a diehard fan at all, but she does appreciate his music and enjoys dancing to it as well. We were discussing about why did MJ struggle at the end to keep up with the outstanding work he made over the years, and why is it now that we have Timbaland, Cory Rooney, Stargate, among others to “contemporise” his music? I mentioned Madonna. Madonna who’s been around since the 80′s and still battles in the charts with wins and fails; she embraced change, Michael was a bit reluctant to change in my opinion. Again, most of his music I think is timeless, but towards the end, after “Dangerous” it was the same 90′s pop sound, the same dance moves, there wasn’t much of a real evolution. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he is a classic. That’s a fact. But, in order to survive you have to adapt to change, or even better, create the change, innovate, become a chameleon, where experimentation is key. And I think he struggled with that at the end due to his perfectionism. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the modern versions, you could see me dancing around and bouncing my head, you can’t help it, it’s MJ… it’s his voice, amazing rhythms flow naturally out of him. I think that the new versions are quite good, but the MJ ones, are just classic, they have that touch, you discover all these amazing ingredients (voice-wise, instrument-wise, etc) that make the songs so rich and well-thought, classic MJ!

So the music video “Love never felt so good” with JT, I saw it. It makes happy and it makes me sad. I don’t dislike JT, I’m not a fan either. But he has charisma, and I love that MJ’s talent and image is being honoured. A lot of people love the music video, but there is also a lot of criticism. Firstly, it’s not a short film, as MJ had us used to. To some this is just an average music video with strangers dancing, where JT is trying to imitate MJ, and with all the new technology the producers could have done better than just projecting images of him on a screen. That’s what I’ve been reading lately on Youtube comments and overall social media. I think, and that’s my opinion, that it does pay tribute to MJ in a respectful way, and it makes me so happy to see a brand new generation enjoying and dancing to MJ’s music. And it makes me sad that he’s not around to see and feel the love, and a little bit of guilt again… would he had been ok with it?

The hologram. Oh my god, the hologram. I read it on twitter. The Billboards Music Awards started on Sunday at 8pm in America, that was 2am UK time on Monday. I tried to stay awake with no success. First thing I do on Monday morning is grab the Ipad and look for it. It’s on Youtube, not in Vevo, the official channel, but who cares, I want to see it. And Oh My God. I loved it. I played it again and realised that there are not many shots of the crowd, there is a version when you see a woman next to, I believe is LA Reid, tearing up. This makes me think, is it because they are trying to focus on the performance or is it maybe that people don’t know how to react to what they are witnessing.

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On one hand I think, in a very selfish way, that what they did was amazing, because they let me see him perform again. There are rumours that it has been done by an impersonator by motion capturing his movements and that later MJ’s face was put on top. Obviously this is not the real MJ because: One, he is dead. Two, to my knowledge there is no visual record of him signing ‘Slave to the Rhythm’. Either way, I don’t care. MJ liked to create illusion, he was an entertainer. It was an illusion, I wanted to believe it so bad and I was in awe for most of the time.

On the other hand, MJ is not longer here. Is this right? I mean, morally, ethically right? Is it ok to use his image for entertainment purposes? What does the family think? Were they ok with it? I know that Jermaine Jackson wasn’t included in the production of Xscape and he wasn’t happy about his family not having any input on it. What’s going to happen next? Are we having Nirvana, Queen, The Beatles, Hendrix, Marley’s gigs in the future? Is the “Obi Wan Kenobi you’re my only hope” Star Wars hologram a reality now? Well, it obviously is, but where is this taking us? What would MJ have said about this? They don’t leave him alone even in his own grave. I know Kurt Cobain would have never accepted anything like this. It’s tricky, it’s so tricky. Now that I see MJ’s hologram in the newspapers and social media, it makes me ask myself all these questions again and again. I want his memory to be always honoured, not exploited. How far can entertainment go? I did enjoy it at first, now I have mixed feelings about it all.

One thing won’t change though, I love Michael’s music, and I’ll pass his legacy to the new generations to come, that’s how I have Nirvana, and thanks to my dad, The Who, The Beatles, among many other as my favourite music bands and artists of all times. We people come and go, but music stays and lives an endless life.

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Cusco: The Welcome

11/10/13 –  After 2 glorious weeks in Lima, this is how I was welcomed in Cusco by the lovely team of Amantani. Things have changed in the city of Cusco!

Let the Filming begin!

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Cusco: Week #2

Ok, I know, I know. I haven’t posted a thing about Lima since arriving to Perú. I met my friends and family during the first two weeks and it has been awesome.

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So many things have changed, and so many have remained intact. Lima is BUSIER. Oh my god, so BUSY. So many cars, so many people, it has been overwhelming I have to admit. People are so warm in Lima. Everyone has a smile to give, but a little bit of fear has arisen too. Don’t get me wrong, Perú is an amazing country, and the financial crisis that still hits Europe is long gone, but a sense of danger has covered the city. It’s just too crowded, I wouldn’t cross the road without looking both ways twice if you get my point.

A part from that, it has been amazing to get together with my best friends, their love is something I treasure. Being with mum and dad, my bro and gran, and grandad has been priceless. I can always count with them, and even though we now live in different countries their love and support is here with me wherever I go.

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But I am in Cusco now, and so far the experience has been eye-opening. There are so many things that we take for granted, and so far I have met incredible people who work for their future in the toughest of circumstances. I have been a shepherd for a day, a fish catcher, a wool dyer, a farmer, an amazing cooker, a sister, a daughter. Girls and boys who had to walk hours to go to school during hard rain, hail and powerful heat, who help at home during the weekends, who wash their little brothers and sisters’ clothes, who have to make dinner for their families, who have to work the land on a cold early morning, who have to feed and take care of their animals. Kids who have grown ups’ lives, who are happy with so little. And you just want to give them the world, because they deserve it all. Because they are great human beings. And the only thing they need is love. I think most of them don’t have a clue of how amazing they are. And you know what? They should be reminded of that EVERY – SINGLE – DAY.

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At the moment I’m dealing with a really annoying cold. Sore throat, sore nose, sore head, sore everything. I’ve got my medication sorted out. The team has taken the day off. It’s been real hard working days, but we have a mission, and we are here to accomplish it. So tomorrow we start back again with 2 films in one day and we won’t stop until next Thursday. The only thing I ask for is good health, and the rest will go along.

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So, I will keep you posted with the next shoots. Promise! (Might take a little while, but as Arnie used to say: I’ll be back.)

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Cusco here we come!

After the shortest two weeks of my life in Lima, the main purpose of this trip is about to start. I will be meeting the amazing Amantani team at Cusco Airport tomorrow morning, and that way my journey documenting the life of 12 wonderful children in Ccorca will begin. I am excited and… excited?! I mean, 12+ documentaries in three weeks?… You haven’t seen our Shooting Plan or Schedule yet… Instead of posting this lovely piccie of Amantani’s website I would probably add MJ’s “Thriller”! No kidding.

ImageJokes apart (never!), these last two weeks have been special, and reassuring, and a bit shocking too. Lima has changed a lot in 3 years, a bunch of Pros and quite a few Cons. Family and friends have been definitely the best of my time in Lima. I know I haven’t been able to meet everybody I was dying to meet, but this is not a leisure trip, this is work. So let’s work!

But before I have an early night (setting off at 7am!) I wanted to share those manic hours, minutes, seconds prior and during my landing in the land of the Incas! Welcome to my world.

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Pack that in!

I know, I know. I should have posted this on Thursday 26th September, BUT, you can only imagine how busy and stressed out I was while getting ready right before my flight!

So this is me testing the timelapse feature on our new GoPro, and worrying about fitting the equipment and everything else into two suitcases. Don’t worry, I managed at the end! Was there any other way?

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Back to Roots

I’ll be honest. I’m panicking.

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In 3 days I’ll be flying back to Peru after 3 years and 20 days living in the UK. According to my best friend’s personal experience: ‘It will get to a point when it all sinks in’, and today it finally has. I’m not just visiting family and friends, I’m going back as Criskcracker. I’m going back to work. I will be filming 12 amazing children who will be sharing their lives and dreams in the highlands of Peru with the world. The films are part of the ‘Meet My World’ project created by Amantani, a UK based charity working to defend the rights of children in Peru. It is a beautiful and exciting project and I’m truly honoured to have such a big responsibility.

This trip back home means a lot of things to me. Professionally, it is a challenge. My life seems to be nothing but a series of challenges, but isn’t it better to try new things? You only live once, you might as well just try all those things that will possibly make you happy and proud of yourself. Life is not about having material things, it’s about experiences, it’s about writing your own story, passing a legacy. This trip has also made me question about Immigration, the need to move to another country to get a round-up education and find better and exciting opportunities. People are people no matter where you are, we share pretty much the same ways (this is what I like to think at least most of the time). But I know I have changed. I’m curious to see what will happen once I’m back. What would be my perspective of things. How much Peru has change. How I will digest the change. I woke up this morning with these and other thoughts, I grabbed my little pocket camera and let go a bit of what was going on in my head (excuse the tired face and un-glam outfit).

So… I will keep you posted. I am aiming to have a little film documenting my journey. Because at the end my dear friends, it’s not about the destination, but the journey itself.

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Peru at London 2012

The view from the street of my house in Portland.

A day like today a month ago, a suitcase, an inflatable bed, a bedside table, a mirror and a clothes rack was all I had in a nice little room in Portland. Every morning I would grab a couple of Kellogg’s energy bars, put them in my backpack and start my 20 minute walk down to Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in Osprey Quay, mostly known as the Sailing venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Inside the OBS truckThe day would start with the scan of my accreditation, a bottle of water from the vending machine (which was free!!), a warm cup of tea and a few comments of amusement from my fellow colleges due to the 10 little packs of sugar I used to pour in it (and the monopolization of the refreshment’s table caused by such activity). So, with all that done, I was ready to find a seat next to my team and be ready for the morning meetings lead by the producer (Gary Milkis) and director (Chris Lincoln). The venue consisted of 5 main locations for the different class races: The Nothe, Portland Harbor, Weymouth Bay South, Weymouth Bay West and Weymouth Bay East (this one was assigned just in case something happened, so it was saved for very exceptional occasions –  which I think never happened). So basically, those morning meetings consisted of  weather reports; informing what time, what areas, and which teams were covering what races each day.

Course (Race) Areas

Reid32 cameras in total, between helicopters, land based cameras (Commentary and Mix Zone area, ticket area, the Nothe fort), robotic cameras fixed on the racing boats and on land; on-boat cameras (fixed cameras); and the ENGs (Electronic News Gathering) cameras. The ENGs were sent in the water on speedboats. There were 6 cameramen, 7 skippers (as in speedboat drivers), and 8 spotters (camera assistants, timecode loggers, and yes, spotters: Where are the team leaders? Who had a penalty? Where is the GBR team? We had to have the answers to those questions).470s reaching marks

The task: To cover the assigned races for the 10:00pm daily news summary. Meaning, we needed to summarize an entire race in 3 minutes. It’s all about key points. SO, images of the “heroes” as in the leading teams, and teams with a particular story; the start of the race; the marks (windward and leeward. Yes, I had to learn all this on the first few days); penalties; boats turned up side down (we loved those ones); the finish line; celebrations; and beauty shots (if there was time for them!). By far, one of the most exciting assignments in the coverage.

Reid and the 470s6 cameraman and 8 spotters? OK. This was a bit tricky at the beginning, but it worked out ok at the end. So, each ENG boat had one skipper, one cameraman and one spotter. A cameraman always needed an spotter/assistant. At the beginning, each cameraman was assigned a particular assistant. So, what happened to assistant #7 and #8? Well, somebody needs to pick up the memory cards from the cameras, right? The dynamic of the ENGs was something like this: General morning meeting, ENG morning meeting: who covers what and at what time; getting ready: take the cameras out, format memory cards, put them in their plastic boxes, batteries, radio, pick up log sheets, waterproof gearing up, life vests, sunblock, water, lunch boxes. Everything in the trolley. We are ready.  Walk down to the Marina, find our skipper, put everything on the boat, strap it, get rid of the trolley. Here we go. We start our way to the race area. 470s coverage from speedboatWe are chasing the racing boats, and as a spotter you need your 5 senses working like a charm. Foreseeing: What is it my cameraman will need next? He is following GBR, but he’s not noticing who’s overtaking, we have to let him know! Is he rolling? Red light? Be careful, don’t let him fall. We need to change cards, don’t let those bad boys get wet! We need to call the director and the other ENGs, radio ready! I like thinking of the whole thing as 2 people dancing on a boat (you can’t be in the way of your cameraman, and he is moving to get the shot. A LOT). Do I have to mention that the speedboats have their name due to how fast they actually go? I never knew what 52 nots felt like. Now I know. AWESOME. Now dance on that!

Peruvian Laser Radial - Paloma Schmidt before racing

So, after each race those cards (memory disks, same thing) need to be changed. My cameraman gives me the full card, I give him an empty one (this is happening very fast and very cautious, if this gets wet, it means that we have been here for nothing!) I put the full card and my log sheet in the little waterproof blue bag and we are waiting for the pickup boat and spotter #7 or #8 to take the cards back to land.

In the compoundLand: the OBS compound = The Olympic Broadcasting Services compound. Where the entire OBS crew is based: Production truck, editing suites, production office, animation and graphics, robotic cameras, ENG container, camera storage, Technical Operation Centre, telecommunications (the art of video and data feed backing) catering area, toilets, even the BBC had their own space in the OBS compound!

On land, the cards are received in the marina and taken to the editing suites for the Editors (Ben and Jason) to start ingesting, deciphering the log sheets, cutting and finally, having a summary ready for broadcast at 10:00pm. So in a day, Ben and Jason would receive 12 cards more or less.

Right! The camera assistants #7 and #8! Shiv and I were the lucky ones with those numbers. Printing log sheets, position info, get on the water with the fastest skipper ever: Richard; go to every race area and pick up the cards, go back to land, bring them to the editors. Michael Gribbin our manager, knew that there was a much fairer way to do this and he rotated positions.

Shiv, fast Richard and CrisCris and "52 nots" Richard

Don and the 49ers

My first assigned cameraman was Don Rutherford from New Zealand and skipper, Adam. Don is a man of few words. First thing he asked me: Can you shout? –  Ha! If I can shout? I’m the master of shouting! Good. He was given the schwem lens, a lens with an incorporated stabilizer, Don could zoom in as much as he wanted, and he would always have the shot. On our first day, our plastic box, the container which was empty except for the schwem lens cap, was lost in the water. It was massive, one second it was at the back of the boat, next… nothing. I wanted to die! I told Don how lucky I was, just on my first day with him, we lose a massive box. He said not to worry, it wasn’t my fault and shit happens. The next day we go back in the sea; and what do we find? The box! In the Marina, next to the police boats! Oh my god! We took it. The world is awesome again.

Peruvian Laser RadialTwo days with Don. Then I was assigned to Reid and skipper, Michael from South Africa. Reid Nelson, the cool American ESPN cameraman who is crazy about sports! You got to love Reid and his stories. I certainly learned a lot from him. Thank you Reid once again for everything. Reid introduced me to W. L. Jackson when I needed a bit of action during my ENG disk-pickup days. Jackson is a great cameraman assigned to the Mix Zone area (where the athletes and racing boats were based). He was a great adviser and for once I was really grateful for being told how things really were and being instructed with discipline. Jackson introduced me to Bill and thanks to him I got the most amazing photos a Peruvian could ever have: Me and the Peruvian Laser Radial.

After a 5 hour shift in the waterIn my days with Reid and Michael, the sea and weather played dirty with me. My waterproof gear wasn’t working at all, and the speed wasn’t helping with the spray. Soaked trousers, soaked feet, soaked everything. High sea tides, rain and wind. It was AMAZING. The only thing I was worried about was having to deal with a cold. I was enjoying it SO MUCH, and I didn’t want to fall sick, not because of me being poorly, but because the possibility of not been able to work. That never happened. I prepared mentally and physically for this. I wanted to make the most of it. And I did. My body was responding amazingly great. And I was feeding it properly at the correct times, with the appropriate rest (except for the opening ceremony and wrap party, but COME ON! Bodies also need to party!).

Michael, SkipperDue to forces of destiny, fate, the universe, god, you name it, that might have been involved with this, but Reid, Michael and I stuck together for the rest of the games. No more rotations, maybe for only a couple of times, but ENG#1 from then on was Reid, Mike and Cris. I liked that. The wind died on the last couple of days, when we were supposed to cover the Elliots. So we were trying to get some cool shots Reidfor the behind the scenes video, and for fun. The sun came back (it kind of forgot us in the middle of the games), and we were enjoying a nice time having chicken sandwiches and cokes, and getting to know a bit more about each other.

I can’t end this post without mentioning the top notch catering we had on our Olympic days. The chef and his team were made of gold. If I didn’t get poorly during those two weeks it was mainly because of the food and all its proteins. It was the best in the world: Fish, seafood, chicken, beef, rices, pastas, soups, fruits, veggies and the most yummy desserts which shamefully I struggled to finish (after all that food, who wouldn’t!). Ok, ok, I’m only 1m and 58cm tall and 45kgs, that kind of explains it all!)

470s lining up for the raceBy far one of the best experiences of my life, 2 weeks away from home working non-stop on speedboats covering the sailing competition for the London 2012 Olympic Games. I am so happy to have accepted this opportunity, to have been part of such great broadcast community and to have met such incredible people. How to forget my Canadian friends Scott, Steve and Moto in the Opening Ceremony gathering! And Drew! Oh Drew! And super fun dancing times with Reid and French friends Yann and Matt!

OBS Crew

Now back in London, back on track, and with more posts to come soon. It’s been too long, I know!

Broadcast MedalLondon 2012 Diploma

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