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JIMI HENDRIX
"The love a musician has for music cannot be compared to the love of a woman"
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IT'S NOT SO EASY - The Essay

Let me begin with a quote by a great musician. “The love a musician has for music cannot be compared to the love of a woman. With the love of music, there is no anger, jealously or possession, just pure continual giving and receiving in the relationship.” - Jimi Hendrix

IT’S NOT SO EASY, the music CD and interactive CD-ROM project has been an ongoing labor of love, like raising a family. From the project’s inception in December 2001 until the day of this writing, it has been a continual investment of time and resources. In essence, the music and CD-ROM are my children.
It’s been seven years since its release and as of this writing it has been re-released1. Why? That is the purpose of this essay. This is a peek at the project from the inside out. A glance at what we set out to accomplish, an overview of the external forces impacting this project and ideas for artists and the entertainment business going forward.

Allow me to set the historical context surrounding the genesis of IT’S NOT SO EASY. Collectively, these five factors set the project into motion. It’s December 2001.

  1. I was in the midst of lots of great music. Some of which I had been collecting from friends and songwriters for years. Other songs were my compositions or my productions of cover songs, which I believed would be successful once brought to market.
  2. I had an impressive and growing collection of media, (pictures, audio and video) which documented the making of all this music. With this collection of media I could tell the story of each song in a compelling and entertaining way. This media would form the foundation of the interactive CD-ROM.
  3. The software tools and creative ideas to integrate the music, audio, video and images with interactivity were ripe and thriving everywhere. Exciting technologies like Flash/Director, digital video editing, Pro-Tools audio recording and mixing, the Internet as a means of distribution, broadband connectivity, new audio and video compression codec’s were all setting the stage for creating a new genre of entertainment product.
  4. Existing and emerging consumer electronic devices i.e. desktop and laptop computers, the iPod, Sony PSP and other handheld devices would provide the means for consumers to enjoy this product. This would be the natural evolutionary step in consumer entertainment. The entertainment product for the digital era.
  5. The time was right to bring everything and everyone together and make this happen!

FOOTNOTES

  1. The official re-release street date was April 27th 2010 and the TV commercial went live May 22nd, 2010 on TNT, TV Land and BET in the Washington DC area
  2. Liner notes are the writings found in booklets, which come inserted into the compact disc jewel case or the equivalent packaging for vinyl records and cassettes. They are descended from the notes of text that were printed on the inner sleeve used to protect a traditional 12-inch vinyl record. These notes included information about the musicians, recording location and dates and other information of interest.
  3. Norman, and many others to later be associated with this project, did not understand the value of the CD-ROM. Their experience and careers were built around playing an instrument and performing. We were doing something foreign; building a CD-ROM? This was radical, new, closely connected to the computer industry. Our concerns were about rendering time, video and audio compression algorithms, software updates, user interface and user experience, plug-in effects, faster CPU processors, aspect ratios etc.

IT’S NOT SO EASY was conceptualized to be an eloquent marriage of these five factors into a hip, tech savvy entertainment product for the 21st century consumer. Bundled with the music CD, the CD-ROM would be ‘living’ liner notes2 . Employing these new and emerging technologies, album liner notes would be redefined for the 21st century. So, we documented the recording sessions, capturing on video many of the performances as they happened, interviewed the musicians, writers and singers to tell the story with sight and sound! My love of art, technology and design led me to the publication Communication Arts. Their annual Interactive Design Awards served as the creative inspiration for the interactive CD-ROM.

The CD-ROM went into production after the music CD was mastered, March 2002. In retrospect, the production of the CD-ROM was far more difficult and time consuming than we imagined. After an intense, emotionally wrenching nine months the team delivered the finished product December 2002. Yes! It took that long to get it right. Why? The design specifications became a moving target. For example work on the CD-ROM interface began before designer Martin Tazl had completed the CD layout. The look of the CD-ROM interface had to match the design of the CD packaging. So when editor, Thomas Davis, was editing the videos and we had not seen Martin’s design, we had to start over once we saw his completed CD design. Additionally, we switched to Apple’s Final Cut Pro™, which meant we started editing video from the beginning, again. Specifically, the look of the CD-ROM had to belong to the music CD, be complementary and match the branding and other design aesthetics. Complementary design and integration was our objective.

We began delivering video to Christopher Mora late August 2002 to begin assembling the user interface, in what was then Macromedia Flash. During the assembly of the CD-ROM we encountered technical difficulties, which dictated additional design modifications. Eventually we had to combine the Flash module with Director when putting the complete project to disc. Oh, we mustn’t overlook Diannah Morgan who came onboard in December to assist Thomas with the video editing. Her editing ideas led to the super wide aspect ratio for several of our videos. It was December 2002 and the CD-ROM had been in production more than thrice as long as the entire music CD! Norman (Connors) could not understand what this was we were laboring over.3