Adam Adorno: A Golden Eye

By Alex Mendoza

Upon watching several of Adam Adorno’s video projects, the fluidity of their pacing, as well as their distinctive cinematography, functions in the same manner a famous director once used to describe the qualities necessary to create an exceptional film: 

“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet,” Orson Welles

Adam’s specific camera angles, coupled alongside emotive musical scores, possess a keen sense of being able to peer beneath the surface, regardless of the subject at hand, and connect with the emotional core. 

Still, these talents do not simply manifest overnight. 

The effortless appearance of each of his visual compositions harkens back to his involvement with his high school drumline from his hometown of West Covina, California.  After graduation, Adam returned to film two projects for the Marching Band and Winter Percussion season during 2006-2007 – a deeply involving undertaking that cultivated Adam’s interest to film other ensembles within the Southern California area by joining WGI’s Media Team in 2008.

“The first few years I was with WGI, I only attended a couple of SoCal shows where I would set up the high-cam at the top of the bleachers to record an entire competition for the Fan Network. After a season or two, they let me dive into creating montage videos of the events I was attending, which was literally a dream of mine.  I hyped on WGI promo videos when I was in high school and somehow became hooked on wanting to be the guy behind the camera creating this inspiring imagery, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

In 2011, Adam followed the Arcadia World Class Drumline for their competitive season with their program, “Rise”, working closely with battery caption head/arranger, Tony Nuñez, to discuss the pacing of the project and the overall aim of the documentary; one that would challenge his abilities as a filmmaker. 

“I would often get in this zone where I’m figuring out all of the different moments that I could possibly capture, and then get really excited over how cool this video looks as it plays out in my mind.

“Then I realize that the Very-Important-Moment X that I want to film is happening the same time as the Equally-Important-Moment Y, and I can’t be in two places at once.  Obviously, instances like that forced me to plan ahead and trust that what I was filming at that moment in time was the right thing.”

The underlying impact of Adam’s video serves as a reminder of the experiences the drumline shared, along with the lessons they learned, and how that knowledge will carry them throughout the rest of their lives.  Unquestionably changed, inspired and aware of the fact that a score does not dictate victory.  Rather, it is through the bond of teamwork and the resilience to persevere that defines a true champion.

Following the 2011 WGI Championships, Adam joined the 2012 Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps to help film their tour DVD for their program, “Angels and Demons”.  This would mark another first for Adam, as The Cadets earned the 2011 DCI World Class Championship title, capping off an incredible season in respects both to the WGI and DCI arenas.

The 2011 season had indeed been a wonderful experience for Adam in respects to his craft, but 2012 would raise the bar further, as he would test his skills in the competitive arena with the South Hills Drumline and their revolutionary audio-visual production, “Home”.

Building off the ensemble’s cutting-edge foundation with electronics and sampling, South Hills’ design team, also led by Tony Nuñez, took advantage of the newly implemented rule that allowed for the use of lights, projectors and televisions in the competitive arena.  Fortified with an array of televisions from various generations, the ensemble created a world of mixed media paired with layers of warm, electronic timbres.

“The trial and error process of sending one video signal out to eight televisions from all different decades seemed like a major task at first, but it turned out to be easier than we originally thought. We definitely spent a few hours at the white board mapping the layout of the power and video feed cables. Basic logistics like, ‘How long does this cable have to be?’ ‘In what order does this setup plug in?’ ‘Do we have enough power?’

“Plus, finding any software that allowed us to create the show that we originally envisioned looked bleak as time passed, but we were lucky enough to find something that fit our needs perfectly within a week or two of our first performance. It was definitely a needle in a haystack.”

South Hills’ charismatic movie, however, extends beyond the simple premise of a love story inspired by the concept of “Home Is Where the Heart Is”.  In its own way, drumline becomes a second home and we grow close to the people around us, as expressed through the various roles played by members within the drumline, all of which reenact familiar scenarios; such as an enjoyable dinner, a night at the movies, or an alarm indicating the beginning of a new day.

The ambitious project was also inspired by pop culture, with its typography resembling Kanye West’s, “All of the Lights” music video, coupled alongside the highly infectious melodies of rising Pop star, Kimbra, and her song, “Settle Down”. 

Through the ensemble’s contemporary design choices, the show’s atmosphere resembled an art installation retrofitted within the specifications of the indoor percussion framework.  Even more surprising when you consider the fact that South Hills’ video presentation featured numerous custom special effects shots that placed the nineteen-person ensemble – the smallest of all the Open Class finalists – at the forefront of artistic video design within the activity.

“By having this new element in our production, we had to make sure that we paced the video properly to prevent the audience from having their faces buried in the televisions during the performance, which would ultimately make the visual aspect of the members’ show pointless.

“Including an element in a production that’s never been utilized in such a unique way will have its distractions, but I trust that with more shows taking advantage of this new design tool in the years to come, its place within productions will become more seamless, transparent, and much easier for audiences to appreciate. I can’t wait to see how much winter drumline shows change within the next five years!”

After South Hills captured their second Open Class Gold Medal, Adam joined the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps for their program, “Cabaret Voltaire”, which would push his talents even further by taking on a weekly feature with a small film crew that would follow the corps across their highly competitive summer, on top of creating the 2012 tour DVD.  The three-month journey capped off with another DCI Championship – the corps’ 15th title to date – and added onto Adam’s victory count.

No matter how you choose to classify Adam’s recent success, it is important to remember that the concept of a “golden eye” is not centered on the notion of choosing the group who will earn the top prize, as Adam’s cinematic pursuits, his subjects, and their system of traditions and beliefs have always resonated with the purest of convictions. 

Rather, his cinematic visions translate and express the joy and vulnerability of human nature within the confines of an activity most people are unfamiliar with in the “Real World”.  Yet, regardless of the subject, or the premise, the emotion is what draws the attention to the subject at hand, as displayed by the various outlets Adam has explored with his lens, ranging from a night with the 2012 RCC Indoor Drumline…

…to a gripping preview of the 2012 Woodbridge High School Concert Ensemble, the highest scoring ensemble in WGI history…

…as well as other memories spread across time…

…proving that Adam’s work speaks on a level that correlates not only to the spirit of whatever traditions are embodied in the subjects he explores, but that the essence of the human spirit comes across with a heartfelt authenticity that is all too rare in any media venture these days. 

And if his past work serves as any indication, this is only just the beginning.