Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fireworks: The Process of Making a Music Video... Part 10

Day 5:

41 Rolls shot today.

On our last day we ventured out to The Lighthouse. The walk was great. The location was amazing. It was a great way to end the shoot.

The sky was bright blue and nearly cloudless. The remaining rolls of Portra 400 would more than likely have been overwhelmed with a 3-stop overexposure if not for the Polarizer filter that I taped on the front of the LomoKino. 1 2/3 stop worth of light that I didn’t have to worry about.

I grabbed a couple of wide shots while Kyle and Lesley-Anne got ready. The barnacle covered volcanic rock is going to look amazing on film. The small patches of grass and little purple flowers that carved out an existence in the little hollows of the rock added some unexpected color to the scene.

The Sun gave us a nearly perfect side light. Kyle sat on a set of concrete steps in front of the lighthouse. The names of several kids who’d made the journey before us littered the wall behind him. Brilliant.

We opted for a nonlinear shot sequence instead of the ordered moves that we had done previously. Starting on a medium wide, moving to a medium close, back to a medium wide, to a close up, then a close up of the guitar, and so on.

The vocal sequence went very well. The sun remained, but the temperature dropped dramatically and a bracing wind came in from nowhere. All of us were chilled to the bone. We finished the vocal sequence and Kyle quickly changed into warmer clothes.

We grabbed a couple shots of the patches of flowers before we began the walk back.

For our last bits of B-Roll, we opted for some pieces of rocky shoreline and close-ups of the bits of the costume. We laid the main neckpiece of the costume along the edge of a bit of exposed rock and shot the length of it. It fluttered in the breeze and will look great. This was a great project that I'm happy to say was shot on film.

The film will be shipped to LomoLab in London for procession and scanning. we'll get it back in about 6 weeks. Then the mind-bending edit will begin...


That’s a wrap! 5 days, a dozen locations, 2 LomoKino cameras, 168 rolls of Kodak Portra film, a LOT of work and a great collaborative experience!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fireworks: The Process of Making a Music Video... Part 9

Day 4:

Shot 30 rolls of Portra 160. Today.

A bit cold, a bit windy and a bit awesome! We began the day at a rocky outcrop overlooking Scalpsie Bay. This particular vocal piece was the crest of the song. The shot started low and progressed up the hill, past Kyle to the wide vista behind him.

Lesley-Anne set up her "office" with the computer, speakers and camera log a short ways down the hill. She's been great, pulling triple-duty as Production Coordinator, 2nd Assistant Camera and Chauffeur.  She's been indispensable. This shoot wouldn't have been possible without her.

Kyle was a trooper, barefoot for the first 2/3 of the morning, freezing and covered in fluttering feathers. He pulled it off brilliantly.  

As he and Lesley-Anne packed up our kit,  I cranked out a few more wide shots for the open.

We warmed back up in the car on the way to The Musiker Café’.  By the end of lunch Kyle was able to feel his toes again.

After lunch we went back to Scalpsie. The seldom seen strange burning orb in the sky had decided come out. It was getting warmer and it looked like a completely different location.  I'm constantly amazed by the ever changing weather here. We can have all four seasons in one day. It makes shooting a bit of a challenge, but at least it's never boring.

We went to the gully nearby to where we had shot in the morning. Kyle was in costume and walking through a cut in the hillside. I shot the first bit through a knurled tree, cranking very slowly as he also walked very slowly. Next shot was the same setup, cranking much faster. (I’ll blend the two together in post.) I also caught a lower angle of the same as Kyle passed the camera. Next up was an extreme low angle of his walking bare feet. 

We also captured another shot looking up through trees to open sky. I used the +10 diopter this time to really mess with the focus. The sun poked through and would occasionally blow out the scene completely. I can’t wait to see how much of that the film can take.

We walked down to the beach to grab a wide shot of the amazing panorama there. The textured sand and calmly lapping waves, combined with the blue sky and the amazing snowcapped mountains in the distance made for a great addition to the opening sequence. I also grabbed a shot of Kyle walking through this scene both forward and backwards. (I’ll reverse the backward shot in post and blend the two together.)

Since I had 1 more roll of Portra 160 in my pouch, we did a shot of Kyle’s feet in the sand with the water lapping over them. The sun shimmered on the water at 3, maybe 4 stops over key. It’s going to be beautiful.

We declared victory on the day and went home early.

Film count feels comfortable heading into the end of the shoot. 46 rolls of Portra 400 and 5 rolls of Portra 160 remain.

Tomorrow is the trek to The Lighthouse.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fireworks: The Process of Making a Music Video... Part 8

Day 3.

Cut short by rain.

We started the day with a B-Roll shot of this huge amazing tree in the middle of this empty field. (I say empty, but for the herd of grazing cattle who were kindly keeping completely out of the shot) The tree is surrounded by a stone circle and an old wooden fence. The grey clouds and misty rain made for an amazing shot. The wind was moving the bare branches of the tree slightly, so I cranked the LomoKino as slowly as I could and then varied the speed to slow down the movement of the branches slightly.

Onto The Lighthouse?

The trek to the Lighthouse is no mean feat on the best of days. It's about an hour along the coastal cliffside trail. The wind and spitting rain would make the walk (let alone the shooting of an important vocal piece) difficult, if not dangerous. We decided that we would go back to the house to see if this weather would pass and make a decision later.

On the way back to the house, we stopped at Kerrycroy to grab a shot of the storm surge moving onto the beach. The camera was as low as it could go on the tripod and the stone pier was coming into the right of frame. The waves will look frenetic and angry as the cloud in the background sail through the top of the frame.

The weather didn't pass like we'd hoped. We shot 2 rolls today. The rocky hill overlooking Scalpsie Bay is scheduled for tomorrow and The Lighthouse has been pushed back to Saturday.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fireworks: The Process of Making a Music Video... Part 7

Day 2 was a real treat.

We shot the first vocal synch segment and several B-Roll shots.

We started at the Cement House. While Kyle was getting ready, I took some wide vistas and establishing shots. The 2-Perf Super 35mm format really makes these wide shots much more stunning.

The first shot in the vocal sequence had Kyle, sitting on a rocky outcrop on the extreme right, the Cement House in the background and a huge rusty old winch in the foreground on the extreme left. As the shots progressed I moved Kyle across the frame, ending up on the extreme right. The results will be very dreamy as each shot dissolves into the next.

I’ve been asking a lot of the Portra 400. It’s latitude for underexposure is legendary, but I’m asking it for 2 stops over exposure in some instances. Negative Filmic emulsions have always handled highlights better than any digital format ever could. I’ve always put a tremendous amount of faith in Kodak films and have only seldom been disappointed. That and the esthetic of the sun coming in and out of clouds will add to the look of the film. I can also cut around it with B-Roll if the results are too egregious.

My ear is slowly tuning itself to the slowed down version of the song. I can hear the lyrics and the slowed down guitar strumming. I think when it comes time to listen to the regular version in the edit I may not recognize it.

Also, I discovered that the lifespan of a LomoKino camera is 82 rolls. The crank has a tiny plastic tooth that engages the spindle. this tooth slowly gets chewed up as the crank turns and occasionally skips frames. Kyle brought his LomoKino as a back-up. I used the front of our Kino and the back of Kyle's. 
So. Just so you you know... 82 rolls.

The B-Roll shots were next. Lesley-Anne stayed at the Cement House with the gear while Kyle and I trekked up the rocky coastline, past several very confused sheep and lambs, up the hill to the cliff side. The view was epic. Kyle stood at the edge of the cliff with the feathery bits of the costume blowing in the slight breeze. Arran was in the background; it’s peaks barely visible through the clouds. I cranked the LomoKino slowly to make the most of the movement of the clouds and the feathers while Kyle stood stock-still and barefoot.

There was a nice close-up of Kyle, followed by a great shot of just one of the feathery bits of costume on the edge of the cliff, fluttering in the breeze.

We trundled back down the cliff and had lunch at The Musiker, a vegetarian café in Rothesay.

We scouted some possible B-Roll shots in Ascog with little joy. I suggested we take the coastal trail from Kerrycroy to Mount Stewart. There were some locations that might be of interest. There’s an old concrete boathouse and a very old stone barn that has been taken over by a huge tree.

It was a great walk. We shot a stand of prehistoric looking ferns. The other shot of potential interest to me was looking up through some tree cover into the open sky. At f11 it was going to be difficult to get the shot sufficiently out of focus to make it interesting, so I placed the +4 diopter over the lens. I think the result will be a nice element to cut around or to use between dissolves.

On the way back, we shot some coastline and a great ECU of a tiny waterfall, varying the crank speed to make the water movement change in shot.

It was a great day. Tomorrow will be the big Lighthouse Trek.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Fireworks: The Process of Making a Music Video... Part 6

A couple of days before Kyle arrived; we had been talking over Skype about changing the song for the video. He felt that “Fireworks” was more representative of the album as a whole. This really wasn’t a problem, since the video had no narrative element. His costume had been created by a local costume designer and ready to be picked up the next day.

Monday Shoot T Minus 1:

My prep has been done. Lists were made and gear gathered.

Kyle got into Glasgow today with no problems. He showed us the costume. It looks amazing, consisting of several pieces of fabric, feathers, tassels and dangly bits. It’s brilliantly coloured and will look amazing on film.

We talked a bit about the scheduling. We think that 2 locations per day will be a nice easy pace. Kyle has broken the song down into 113 pieces. It’s a few more tracks than the previous song, but about half the song is instrumental, so we don’t have to worry about syncing as many vocals and therefore won’t have to use as much film. That being said, the amount of B-Roll that will be needed will take care of any film that would have been used otherwise.

There are 3 vocal pieces and 3 instrumentals.

The final instrumental piece that ends the song is 33 segments long. We’ve decided to get that out of the way first. This is by far the biggest bit of the song. If we can get this done earlier, then I won’t have to worry about having enough film for it later.

The shot starts on a medium close up (MCU) of Kyle in full costume. With each segment, the camera moves back, ending in an extreme wide shot (EWS) that reveals him standing the ruin of a 12th century chapel.

After lunch, we’ll move on to the Cement house to do a B-Roll shot and one of the vocal pieces.

The other major locations have been decided as well. The 2 locations at Scalpsie Bay will be Wednesday. The Lighthouse location will be Thursday (it will be the only location on that day due to the 1 hour hike there and back). Friday and Saturday are scheduled as B-Roll for the montage sequence (yes, we ARE going to need a Montage!)

Shoot Day One:

The weather was spectacular. Not terribly sunny. The costume looked great. The contrast between the bright colours and the grey brickwork of the Chapel really worked. In between takes Kyle was writing a song about the video shoot. The slowed down song sounds very trippy. Kyle added a metronome click track to the song as well so that we can all keep the lethargic beat. (I'm amazed that he can keep this song straight in his head, broken up this way.) 

As we were shooting, I realised that the way Kyle had sequenced the tracks (3 measures of the previous track, then the 3 measures of the current track, then I keep cranking for another 3 measures) I could dissolve the segments together in post for a dreamy, less jarring feel.

Leslie-Anne was doing playback, slating, and camera logs. The computer was set up with some USB powered speakers and the tracks were played through iTunes.

The slating was simple: Track number and Take number. We only did second takes of this sequence 3 or 4 times, when I felt that the camera wasn’t feeling right. There were instances where the camera started to skip frames, or the crank became hard to turn because of a feeding issue.

The Sequence ended up taking a bit longer than expected and with the B-Roll shots we did of the costume and the vistas surrounding the stunning location, we shot 47 rolls of film (including 3 rolls of Portra 400VC I had sitting around waiting for a chance to be useful). I knew it was going to be our biggest film use day. 

Some of the B-Roll shots became interesting experiments. I pulled out my Lens Baby Diopters and taped them to the front of the LomoKino lens. I have no idea if it'll work, but why not, right? If nothing else, it'll be colourful out of focus stuff to dissolve in and out of. The +4 diopter worked around the neck of the guitar and the +10 did some extreme closeups of some of the feathers and what I hope to be a full frame shot of Kyle's eye half covered by feathers. Macro is such a tricky thing. If it works I'll be very pleased, if it doesn't, I won't be too fussed.

We did another shot of the neck and head of the decorated guitar in the foreground and the beautiful vista in the background. I wanted to see just how accurate the "close-up" button was. I shot it at infinity and with the close-up button engaged. 

Kyle was great today. he stood barefoot on gravel for nearly 3 hours with no complaints. He's really committed to the process and is very excited to try anything we throw at him. He's a great collaborator. This is going to be an amazing film.

We wrapped the Chapel location at 3PM and went to lunch. After lunch, we decided that the Cement house location should be pushed back, since Lesley-Anne would have to leave us and we didn’t want to try to do vocals with only me working camera, slating and audio. Instead, Kyle and I went on a tech scout to the Cement House and also found a cliff top location for one of the B-Roll shots.

The current schedule stands as such:

Wednesday: Cement House and Cliff Top B-Roll and other B-roll Locations

Thursday: Lighthouse

Friday: Scalpsie Bay Locations

Saturday: B-Roll Several Locations

I feel that today went very well, considering it was the first day. We got a great deal accomplished. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and the rest of the week.