BunnyLake, Take Me To Miami

Miami key cap set mockup from BunnyLake's Miami group buy on GeekHack.org

As a huge fan of film, movies, and television it’s only natural that I would want to fiddle a bit with the storytelling medium I enjoy so much. Add to the fact that I grew up with the original MTV, live in “Music City” and my wife is a singer/songwriter, so the idea of shooting a music video also looms largely in my mind as well. Suffice to say I have been wanting to play around with video for some time now, but there never seems to be enough time at the end of the day or week. I have some ideas, but nothing strong enough to get me off my duff and actually try shooting something. Then in mid-July I came across a catalyst that changed all that.

Fellow GeekHack member BunnyLake started a group buy for the key cap set called “Miami“, which appears in the header image above. The pink and aqua colors are an homage to the TV show “Miami Vice” from the 80’s and to my knowledge have never been produced previously. It’s one of those sets that I’ve heard people refer to often in the past, but I’ve never actually seen a set. Many people think it’s rather garish, but I find it rather unique and thought it might make a good set for my wife Holly, so I ordered one almost immediately.

The Trigger

A week-or-so after the launch of the group buy, BunnyLake created a giveaway, called “Bunny takes YOU to Miami“. It was in response to the success of the Miami group buy and he wanted to give a set away as a thank you to the community. There were two rules:

  1. You must have 100 posts on GeekHack.org
  2. You must post a picture of something “with a piece of paper with the words bunnylake, take me to miami written on it”.

There were several types of prizes that he was giving away, all from the “Miami” set, with 6 prizes in total. Grand prize was a full-set. Given that my formative years were in the 80’s, and that I was a huge fan of “Miami Vice” back in the day, and that I’ve been wanting to play around with video, I just couldn’t resist. I immediately began thinking about what I could do as a submission.

The Idea

Originally I was thinking of doing a music video. Will Smith’s “Miami” was an obvious choice, but that video is crazy complicated and I couldn’t think of any way to insert alternative cuts into it. Next, I thought that LL Cool J’s “Going Back To Cali” might be a good contender. I remember the video being simpler and thought I could change the lyric from “I’m goin’ back to Cali…” to “I’m goin’ back to Miami”. A bit of a mouthful, but still figured it might work. On my way home from work, I’d fire up the tunes and listen to them over-and-over trying to modify lyrics and rhymes. However, the more I looked at the videos and the lyrics, the more it didn’t feel like a good fit.

Figuring music videos weren’t the ticket, I then began thinking about using a television show. “Miami Vice” was a natural, given that it was the inspiration for the key cap set, but I also looked at Dexter and CSI: Miami for inspiration as well. The biggest hurdle was figuring out how to work the required tag line “BunnyLake, take me to Miami” into the narrative. Why would someone say that, and in what context? I’d been noodling on this idea for more than a week and time was running out, so I began to scramble to try and find the “hook” that would bring it all together.

Then I stumbled onto the fact that Don Johnson’s character is called “Sonny”, which is awfully similar to “Bunny”. Knowing that audio alone might not carry the pun, I figured subtitles might help, which then led me to the idea that if I had a character calling “Bunny” on the telephone, then the subtitles would make more sense in that context and give me a bridge between something silly that I could shoot and existing footage from “Miami Vice”.

The Concept

With the idea of having a silly scene tie into a “Miami Vice” clip, I now needed to come up with a story. Given that “Miami Vice” is a crime drama, it seemed natural to have a crime scene where someone could call “Bunny” for help. Wanting to keep it keyboard themed, I figured having a keyboard as the victim of a crime might make sense and hopefully be funny. As luck would have it, I had just received a PLU-87 for parts for my build of a Phantom TKL and I’d already begun taking it apart.

With my “victim” cast, now I just needed to come up with a storyline. Over the next week I bounced ideas around with my wife, Holly, and asked her if any of it made sense. It mostly didn’t. As you might imagine, she’s not really into mechanical keyboards, and the whole concept of what I was trying to do was a little hard to begin with. She helped a lot with paring it down into something fairly simple.

Detective arrives on the scene and asks what happened. Another character explains the macabre murder of a keyboard and the Detective calls “Bunny” Crockett for help.

Pretty simple and fairly easy to shoot. All I had left to do was to find a clip on YouTube from “Miami Vice” where Crockett talks on a phone. Unfortunately, the deadline for submissions was Friday, July 26th, 2013 at 6pm Central. It was now Thursday the 25th and we had just finalized the concept. Holly and I were out at dinner and I explained that if we were going to submit it we had to shoot it all that night.

The Shoot

We got home and Holly went about looking for costumes and props that were 80’s related. One of the key props I wanted to use was an old mobile phone, which we didn’t have, so I opted to tape a piece of wire to an actual brick thinking that might get a laugh. I then went outside and setup a flood light in a tree to try and give us some light, since it was now completely dark. I staged the PLU-87 in front of the garage and then used some blue painters tape to act as a chalk line around the “body”. The stage was set, the costumes were put on and we were almost ready to go.

As most women do, Holly wanted to fix her makeup, so while she did that, I searched YouTube for a video clip. I got super lucky and came across this clip which featured Sonny getting out of his car and using a public telephone. Now I just had to figure out a way to connect up to that scene.

Holly and I went outside and we shot the scene on my iPhone 4s. I would tell her what her line would be and block the action on the fly and then shoot it. If we got a good take, we’d play back the shot inside the house on the AppleTV so we could see a larger version. We’d then rinse-and-repeat for each shot. I had a small tripod I rested on top of a garbage can for a shot of us together, just to establish context, but for the rest of the shots, I was either shooting her or she was shooting me.

We laughed a lot while doing it and there was a constant thread of “what the hell are we doing?” throughout the shoot, but we kept on with it. We trusted our instincts that others would find this funny as well. Every scene was over-acted and there was no script, we just made up the dialog as we went along. After about two hours we were done and packed it all up.

Once the “shoot”, if you could even call it that, was over, I had run out of time for the evening. Now I was really down to the wire. I knew I had a full-day ahead of me, but I was hopeful that I could find a bit of time at the end of it to smash it all together.

The Edit

As expected, my day at the office was rather hectic and chock full of calls and even a trip out to a customer’s office. The previous evening I had told Holly that I needed a sound clip of her saying “BunnyLake, take me to Miami” and that I wanted her to call my office and leave me a voice mail to capture it. My office voicemail arrives as an e-mail attachment, so that would make it easy to work with. At 3pm she texted me to ask if I still needed her to it. Shit! I had been so tied up with work, I’d lost track of time and didn’t realize it had gotten so late.

I fired up iMovie and quickly imported all the clips from my iPhone over. Using 4k Video Downloader, I downloaded the Miami Vice clips I needed from YouTube and threw those in there as well. Holly made the call and provided me my sound clip, so I had everything I needed to do a quick smash cut. At least that’s what I thought at the time. Several interruptions continued over the next hour-and-a-half, but I eventually had a rough cut in place and discovered that I needed a couple of extra pieces that I didn’t have.

  • A phone ring — in the clip I had, Sonny enters the phone booth to make a call, not receive one, so I needed to find a clip of a phone ring and throw it in. That was easy enough to find online.
  • A shot of Sonny not talking — since he’s making the call, there wasn’t time enough to insert Holly’s line. I did a quick screen grab and inserted it as a still. It was fugly, but I was out of time.
  • Another line from Holly — during the editing, I decided to use the scene of Sonny talking to his ex-wife Caroline, but inserting Holly in her place. To make that work, I needed one more line.

Unfortunately, Holly had her phone on vibrate and couldn’t hear my last-minute call to leave me another voicemail. Left with no other option, I left the voicemail myself playing up the fact that it was clearly not Holly’s voice.

I ran through the rough edit again and found that I was still laughing, which I took as a good sign. I tightened up some of the edits, normalized all the audio and even added in a few sound bumps to camp it up a little more and then exported the file for YouTube.



The Response

With about 30 minutes to spare, I posted the video to the thread with the lead in “Detective Caroline has just been handled a horrific case and there’s only one person that can help her unravel the mystery…” and waited with baited breath to see what the response would be. My fear was that it was going to land like a turd in the punchbowl. People would think that it was weird and not at all funny. Thankfully that was not the case.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and everyone appeared to get the jokes as well. I was especially pleased that The_Beast caught the reference I had made to him and his switch removal tools. Most importantly though… I WON! That’s right, my wife and I took top prize in the giveaway and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Overall, it was a very fun project and much easier than I thought it would be. I learned a lot on some basic things along the way of what not to do, but given the campy nature of the piece it was very forgiving for all my mistakes. I hope to do other video projects down the road. Maybe some keyboard demos, or mod techniques.

In the meantime, I am very thankful and grateful to BunnyLake for putting together the giveaway. He is such a huge part of what makes being a member of Geekhack so much fun. Thank you BunnyLake for taking me to Miami!

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