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Orange ‘Ear: a Musical Project with an Offbeat Name

What in the world is Orange ‘Ear? This unusual label is the creation of Frank Nagel, a Berlin-based freelance videographer. Orange ‘Ear is a music concert series that takes place in his premises in Berlin-Friedrichshain. Here Frank and his wife invite emerging musicians who catch their ears to perform in an intimate studio space in front of small, attentive audiences. Their latest concert on the 6th of May featured the very talented EinarIndra from Iceland.

It’s all for the love of music. Frank uses his gear and his expertise to record the performances and help struggling musicians to gain exposure and get their music out there with professional quality music videos. This is purely a passion project for the couple, with no money exchanging hands.

Frank explains, “Musicians who have made a particular impression on us are invited to play. The entrance is always free. To support the musicians, we record the live performances with our video-studio-like set-up from multiple cameras. We therefore remain extremely close to the musicians and are able to capture the live nature of the performances in a unique way.”

Orange ‘Ear is proudly non-profit,” says Nagel, “we make these live videos available to the artists for free. The vibrant music scene of Berlin gives us a good place for it.”

What an incredible idea. It’s encouraging to see content creators collaborating with other artists to record beautiful musical experiences and taking money off the table makes it a completely pure and natural process.

“We purposely keep Orange 'Ear out of business,” says Nagel, “It's not about money at all. Most of the musicians are struggling anyway and they mostly have no budget at all. This way we can create a perfect win/win situation, because with the well-produced videos the musicians get a fair value for the concert and we have the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want.”

It’s rare these days to find people working for the love of creation and appreciation for the art form of others. Orange ‘Ear sets a great example to the rest of us to follow. Perhaps it’s a signal for more content creators to connect and collaborate. Who knows what might be possible. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.

We were interested to know more about Nagel’s background. What led him to found Orange ‘Ear and how did he get into film making?

The story starts in the early 90’s, when Frank studied visual communication at the HFBK Hamburg School of fine arts. During this time he realised that he was more of a technician than a film maker. This prompted him to switch and start work as in in-house technician in large TV stations. There, he spent his time working as a VTR operator and MCR engineer.

While this was happening, he also began to do some work as a freelancer and developed a bit of a wanderlust. Together with a friend, Frank took to the road and began producing travel videos documenting his many travel adventures.

Says Nagel, “We shot on Betacam SP all around the Mediterranean. Back home we did an offline edit on U-Matic, and then took the EDL to a hired edit suite to get the masters done. Video noise was the least of our problems! I still like that genre, But unfortunately, there's not much demand for it anymore.”

These days Frank is a freelancer involved in a range of video production projects. Primarily producing web videos, image films, interviews, product and event videos. He also produces many medical interviews for an “Adiposity Channel”, which informs patients about the topics of this disease. In addition, Nagel has produced several documentaries about social projects. Working largely with direct clients, not agencies, Nagel appreciates the control this gives him over the creative process.

“I'm very happy that my business gives me the freedom to run Orange 'Ear. Over the years, it has developed into what it is: a space where music and musicians below the radar receive a high level of attention and appreciation. Most musicians experience their Orange 'Ear concert as something special."

Using a collection of cameras and equipment he’s accumulated over the years, Frank is able to produce these music video on a no-budget basis. However, keeping quality consistent across many different devices can prove challenging. It’s here that Neat Video helps in the final product.

“Musicians like it dark, therefore sometimes I have to step up the ISO. Neat Video help me a lot to get out of the grainy noise and to match the cameras, even if I later add some grain into it again.

On one particular occasion, Neat Video saved a shoot that could not be repeated. Under time pressure, Frank forgot to switch his DSLR from photo mode back to video mode. This led to the activation of the auto ISO and the ISO was raised to the stop.

Says Nagel, “When I saw the footage on the editing suite it looked horrible. But with Neat video it was no problem to fix it. I also like the detailed sharpness function in Neat video. This is a great way to get the sharpness back when you weren't quite to the point.

And what about that name? As the story goes, Orange ‘Ear comes from Frank’s use of an old S8-movie of bouncing oranges to cover small inserts in video clips for a party. The title is a little offbeat, but this is a project that will resonate with anyone those who loves music and video. Thanks for sharing Frank.