Welcome to my first Blog Post! Here I will be using this Blog as a tool to express my creative processes and walk through the steps I take to complete my projects. Hopefully you might find it interesting/entertaining and you might even learn something as well!
I was asked to direct a Music Video for Jacob Rainer (JMOX). I have worked with Jacob and his partner Melina on other Music Videos in the past, such as Hunter and Do It All For You, as well as a couple of Live Sessions.
J-MOX returns with another single. This song is in collaboration with the artist RIIVER. The song is called ‘Myself’ and it’s an electro-pop song with a catchy chorus and a heavy dance drop. Utilising fun and energetic sounds such as the joyful trumpets and the groovy drum beat, the song is an expression of a feeling that is fresh and youthful.
‘The youth of today’s generation sing/dance along to J-MOX and RIIVER against a studio backdrop.’
The song is about letting go of your attachments and to express yourself as a person.
Our aim for the video was to create a sense of identity. The nature of the video is very simple. People of all backgrounds are placed against simple coloured backgrounds as they sing/dance to the song. This is to represent the freedom of identity and expression. Shots of RIIVER singing along with J-MOX himself playing the instruments of the song will be included in the mix of shots.
Distinct movements were also to be recorded in slow motion. These would include: claps, jumps, dancing, hitting a drum, laughing and more. We aimed to cut a lot of shots in the edit to match the same energy of the song.
Firstly, I had a look at other Music Videos that are similar in concept, mainly videos set in a studio from other artists. The ones that caught my eye were:
The 1975 - TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME
Will Joseph Cook - Girls Like Me
Whilst watching these videos, I focused on the nature of the background. Speaking with Roberto Paletella (The Director of Photography), we wanted to create soft centre gradients in our backgrounds rather than an even, flat background. This will add depth to the frame and create a sense of space in the studio.
The lighting of the video was to be clean and balanced, this is to ‘shine a clear light’ on each character as they sing/dance along. Lighting effects such as silhouettes would also present themselves as the lighting transitions from one state to another. This effect was most powerful in the pre-chorus of the song to transcend the viewer from one section of the song to another.
Complimenting the empty studio frame, we also super imposed 2D animation onto the movements of the characters. The simple two colour contrast was easy to differentiate. What we were looking for was to also include a visualisation of the inner self. And we plan to do this through by painting in different styles, representing different personality types. What we see graphically is that character’s personality shown through the interaction between animation and real life video. And for these animations to come during the chorus of the song.
Bruno Mars - That’s What I Like
Matt Ley - Step
Speaking with the animator for this project - Wouter Schoffelen, we agreed that our aim was to capture our culture and what it means to be a free young adult in the 21st century. The animations themselves were the visualisation of consciousness, an extension of each person’s personality.
Other effects will be added to the video as well such as shooting in slow motion. This could look very interesting for shots that suspend people in the air (dancing, jumping). The movement of the hair were the main focus of the frame.
After establishing the main concept of the video, pre-production for the project began. Melina and Jacob as Producers for the video selected the participants to dance/sing in the video. Their aim was to promote cultural diversity in self identity. Therefore, they wanted to select a wide variety of people, not only differing in race and gender but also in personality types. This was to give a voice to as many groups of young people as possible. We wanted characters to be easily distinguishable and clear as to who they were on the inside as well.
For my Director’s preparation, I wanted to get a visual map of the song so I could easily separate the different sections and see what shots needed to go where.
The aim here was to:
— build energy as we listen through each section of the song.
— to make the shot selection different for every section so that they can be distinguished from one another.
— to code each shot to a section and a number for easy reference during the editing period.
I created a document that was supposed to be easy to read and separate the sections of the song that we were filming. I wanted to be able to pass the document to anybody and they would be able to read and understand immediately. Plus, coloured charts always look nice in print.
I opened the song in Premiere Pro where I sliced the song up in the timeline to match these exact sections in the plan. This was very useful on set as we were able to navigate to any section of the song quickly. In addition, I added a 1KHz Tone one second before each section of the song. This was to sync the music to the video and also silence the air on set and bring everyone into their moment before the take.
The production itself was pretty straightforward, we had contacted nearby photography studios and compared prices for how many hours we would need the studio. Eventually we found a great deal from Blundell Street Studios. The space was very easy to work in with an accessible second floor watching over the whole studio. There is also an infinity wall there that allowed us a lot of space for rigging and to expand our frame sizes. The top bar allowed us to rig lights from above which was very helpful is separating the subject from the background.
The main challenge we faced on set was being able to finish everything on time. This was because we dedicated a lot fo our time into the set up…
The lighting set up was designed to:
Separate the subject from the background clearly
Evenly light the subject’s face from all sides (no dramatic lighting)
Be quick and easy to change colours during set ups
What we had created was a three point lighting set up using an 650W Tungsten Lamp as our key light and an LED panel as a fill light. In addition we had a 300W Dedo Light shining as our back light. The Dedo was very useful as it gave a glowing outline to the back of each subject’s hair. This was helpful in separating the subject from their background. To aid the colour contrast we picked outfits that would compliment each colour. Also we were careful not to put someone who’s blonde against a yellow background as their hair may just camouflage into the back.
As for the background itself, we used an Arri Sky Panel. The Sky Panel was a lot of fun to work with. Very simple to use with an easy to reach colour dial. This would allow you to flip through the many colours the sky panel had. Not only were there many colours to choose from but each colour had a variety of shades and tones to choose from as well. By rigging it to the ceiling bar we kept it out fo frame and because of the colour dial, in-between different set ups it was quick easy for our camera department to climb a ladder and hit a switch. Without the Sky Panel we would have had to bring and change lighting gels which might have been dangerous to do at that height, or worse, slow the entire shoot down.
But because we wanted to create such a robust and rigid lighting system with only one component to change, we had to get it right. Therefore, we took a lot of our shooting time into our set up. As soon as the set up was finished, things moved like clockwork but for future project I will definitely have to give a lot more time towards the set up periods.
During the editing period, we needed to make sure the edit was right before sending it off to any animators to start animating. This is so that they don’t spend a lot of time animating a shot that could get removed. Whilst creating the cut, I did run into a few creative differences between myself and artist. We disagreed on some cuts as the artist wanted to focus on how each individual looked rather whereas my main focus was in their performance and movement. These differences ended up costing us a lot of time in the edit. To prevent this, better communication between myself and the client is needed during the pre-production process. However, what I also learned was that I need to have a greater awareness on set towards the physical appearance of the individual as well as their performance. I guess vanity is the core of this commercial medium. The artist is not only selling you the song but also themselves. This is something that definitely needs more focus in the future.
What we also found in the cutting room was that our pre-production ideas didn’t work. We had planned that about a third of the video would have animations playing over it. However, after sending the picture lock over to our animator, we realised the animations weren’t strong enough to hold on their own. We showed the edit to a couple of friends and we realised the animations were more of a distraction rather than an enhancement to the video. With one week left until the deadline and another 2/3rds of a video still empty, we needed to do something. Consistency was what we were after. Instead of removing all the animations, we hired another animator to work alongside our current one.
But even that wasn’t enough…
So the artist and I decided to help out too. With no knowledge of digital animation we took to old school methods.
We drew each each object multiple times on some paper and scanned it in. Then I inverted the image and increased the contrast so each object was clear cut and white. This was to make it easier to blend the layers when I move the animations into Premiere Pro. Taking about 6-10 drawings of the same object (the bubble for example), I layered them so that they would be the same size and direction as each other. I exported each bubble as a PNG and moved them all into Premiere Pro. With all the objects in my library, I make each PNG two frames long and stitch them all into a 3 second loop. The nature of the bubbles not being drawn exactly the same gives the animation that ‘wobble’ effect. This was what we wanted as the animations needed to have an organic feel to them.
We repeated all these steps for the other objects such as hearts and stars. Once I had all the loops, I key-framed each wobbling animation to a path to create movement for the objects. This was a very fun way to animate and I learned a lot about the animation process and how much time something like this will take. Though useful for smaller moving parts and gave the video more life generally throughout, our animators were able to use their skills to create something much more dynamic seen through the rest of the video.
Overall, this was a challenging shoot even if the concept of the video seemed very simple in production. I’ve found that the energy present on screen is a reflection of the energy present on set. Communication and time management are very important on set and is something any aspiring film maker should practice. Not only on set but in life as well. I would like to thank the crew for their cooperation and hard work. I would also like to thank J MOX for this incredible opportunity and for inspiring me to strive for perfection and never settle for anything less than that.
‘Myself’ Music Video: https://www.richardtaylor.london/projects/myself