University of Pittsburgh

commons room

Rock On

Written by Michael Gladysz

At a popular nightclub on Pittsburgh’s South Side, a rock band wearing medieval jousting gear thrashes about onstage, unleashing a wail of music. Punks in the crowd—many of whom smell like they’ve gone for days without soap—scream and point toward the stage. The band, called Dethlehem, isn’t just playing heavy metal music to create a jolt of sound: The musicians also are pretending to fight an imaginary demon with their music.

The band’s front man shouts to the hyped-up fans that the demon’s hunger for power has recently grown—and a cameraman zooms in on him. The cameraman, Pitt student Andrew Pollack, is filming a live music video. As the metal show progresses, he pans from one side of the stage to another, his fingers sliding from the top of the camera to the bottom, flicking controls and adjusting settings along the way. “I want to make sure to capture every interesting aspect, and sometimes I’ve got to make a choice about what to capture,” he says. “I have to be looking in two directions at once.”

Pollack is filming the band as part of his work with Pittsburgh Pulse, a music promotion company that he founded last year with Pitt alumnus Jonathan Furman (CBA ’09). A film studies major and a fan of live music, Pollack was looking for a way to put his academic skills and passions to use. Through the company, he’s now helping local bands improve their online marketing content, mainly through the creation of videos.

Hours later—after Dethlehem has defeated the demon, and the show has crashed to a close—Pollack is back at his house in Squirrel Hill. He types on his computer, his fingers working faster than the lead guitarist’s. He syncs the audio recording with videos from several cameras used throughout the set. During a guitar solo, he cuts to the guitarist. A drum solo? The video moves right to the drummer. He decides what material to cut, what to keep. The mixing takes hours. Frequent gulps of coffee keep Pollack awake through the night. “It never feels done,” he says, “I always go back to it. You say, ‘I could do this, I could do that.’ It really never ends.”

Eventually it has to, though. After hours of clicking through what seems like decades of tape, Pollack has completed and posted a music video online. Ideally, it will draw more fans to the band. And when another client sets up a show, Pollack will be there with his camera, looking two ways at once.