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Cool Music Video Concept

Concept is King

What makes a great music video? Visuals certainly play a huge part in making a video aesthetically pleasing on the eye, as does production design and of course we can’t forget the performers in the video be it the band or actors, but there is something else that is more important than any of these. Concept.

Yep that’s right, concept. It’s what makes a video stand out, it’s the hook that keeps the audience’s piercing gaze locked onto your video, keeping them on tenterhooks right to the last frame. It’s the same with cinema; a great idea or narrative will keep you on the edge of your seat even if the shaky camerawork is making you want to spew your popcorn over the large headed cinemagoer in front of you (VHS anybody?). It’s why I’m genuinely excited to see Looper tonight and why my heart sinks everytime I hear there’s another remake. The concept for Robocop was perfect back in ’87. Perfect doesn’t need a remake.

So a couple of my favourites as examples…

The Heinrich Maneuver by Interpol has us locked onto a beautiful woman’s eye as she finishes her makeup and casually steps out in front of a bus. So simple. Great idea, but how do you carry this concept over an entire song? And therein lies the beautiful execution of the concept. We as an audience are treated to three and a half minutes of tortured expressions and horrified reactions from the surrounding public as they watch this beautiful woman step off the curb to meet her maker. Playing out in beautifully slow slo-mo with the camera starting on an extreme close up of the womans eye in her makeup mirror, we track back as the song plays to reveal each moment horror from each character in the scene. A break in the music, birds flock across the frame and suddenly the reactions change, the fear is gone and we see the people surrounding her retracing their steps as they are pulled back in time away from the impending climactic destruction. Boom. What a video.

Another great concept is Sick, sick, sick by Queens of the Stone Age where we see the band desperately trying to play their way out of being the next meal for their beautiful yet ravenous captor. As each band member is dragged from the questionable safety of the band they then appear to play within a burning hot furnace until the beautiful lady is overwhelmed with an insatiable hunger for Joshua and the band are reunited in the red hot oven. Simple, beautiful and mesmerising.

Admittedly the execution of Sick, sick, sick does look great with exquisite set design and lighting, liberally peppered with shots that feel inspired by the opening titles of Dexter. But hey, that doesn’t make it any less of a cool concept.

Anyone for Monkey Tennis?

Lord of The Dead

Lord of the Dead

We were recently approached by rap artist Lord Lav to produce a promotional video for his album campaign. The video would form the main part of an IndieGoGo campaign and act as a promotional tool to gather funding for his concept album titled “Lord of the Dead”.

As we threw ideas back and forth we showed Lav an episode of Jim Hensons The Story Teller which featured some amazingly camp devils and a magic sack. Anyway, the idea was to have Lav sat in true story teller fashion dressed in his lord of the manor suit regaling the viewers with his tale while a horde of zombies desperately clawed at the window behind him.

After a few brief text messages along the lines of “wanna come be a zombie” and “zombie up for us Friday night?” we had our elite group of zombies, all ready to stand around on a not so warm summers eve for the princely sum of a few cups of tea and biscuits.

I’d had a text from Lav earlier in the day to say that he hadn’t managed to get the costume but he had something that worked even better, whilst we were setting up the lights and making up the zombies Lav appeared wearing a full smoking jacket and slippers complete with pipe and proceeded to make tea for everyone.

The main look we wanted to get was that of a nice warm inviting front room inside and a cold moonlit night outside, so to achieve this we used every available lamp in the house plus one soft light on Lav camera left. Outside we had two lights with CTB gels on turned to full power, plus a brilliant suggestion from one of our zombies was to lay everyone’s iphones on the outside windowsill with the lights on to up light the zombies faces.

We would like to say a big thank you to Emma Luckins and Alexis Shepperd for providing the zombie make up and also for stepping in as zombies for us. And all of our other zombies Gareth Kane, Gemma Greaney, Justin Randall, Lana Cherry, Laura Haligan, Yasmin Thornber. who spent their night off stumbling around in a dark garden covered in fake blood.

See the Lord Lav video and the campaign here.

The BQE

I was born in 1980 and my childhood was filled with imagery shot on super 8 movie cameras and music from programs like Sesame Street.

When I was 6 or 7 years old I saw Ghostbusters and then later on came Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The reason I am telling you this is that for me New York city was the place where all of these things happened whether they were real or not didn’t come into the equation.

Nostalgia has always played a big part in my life and sitting in a darkened room with the sound of a cine projector clicking away will always remind me of those times.

When you watch a video shot on a camcorder the first thing that springs into your mind is “my god, do I really sound like that?” but when you sit down to watch a cine film the distraction of the sound is removed and you are somehow transported back to that time.

When I first sat down to watch The BQE I hadn’t quite prepared myself for what I was about to see. What Sufjan Stevens has accomplished with this album is to create an auditory experience that just somehow fits. The film is the perfect match of super 8 imagery to music, that conjures up memories of simpler times.

Rob

Chris Marker

Chris Marker - La Jetee

French avant garde film maker, writer and artist Chris Marker died today at 91. I will be the first to hold my hands up and say I only caught one of his film s La jetée but as a budding wanna be film maker in my first year of university it affected me profoundly.

Made up solely of still images (with the exception of a single shot) La jetée is an immensely powerful story depicting a post-apocalyptic world where one mans deep connection with an image from his past makes him subject to a brutal testing of time travel.

When the man is thrown into the future to discuss mankind’s survival, he is offered the chance to leave the present where he is tortured daily by the ‘experimenters’ in order to join the future of mankind. Instead he asks to be returned back to his childhood past to that moment, that single image that he cannot shake in order to see it and fully understand it as a man.

The beauty in Markers film for me is its power through simplicity. The concept is so engaging that fancy visuals are not required, elaborate effects are not required, dialogue is not required. Instead we are treated to a simple narration against black and white still images that again are simple in composition and design yet deeply engaging because of the story they tell accompanied by the narration.

Decades later, La jetée inspired Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys.

La jetée can be seen here (for now) and can be purchased here.

Nu Generation & Conversion Studios

The Nu Generation Band

Rob and I had the pleasure of working with Billy Baker during our TLLP session back in October. Billy liked the session videos we recorded and asked us if we’d be up for shooting his band Nu Generation in a studio in North Dorset.

Nu Generation are a party band based on the South Coast who cover the UK for functions, weddings and parties. Their covers set list is HUGE containing your contemporary modern pop belters such as Sex on Fire (Kings of Leon), She Said (Plan B) and Cee Lo Green (Forget You) to first dance favourites Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol) and Make You Feel My Love (Adele) along with Classics and Motown hits (James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Thin Lizzy…) The list is epic and can be seen here. So all in all it was a no brainer, we prepared for our road trip to North Dorset.

Our preparation it seems however was not all that was needed. A decent sat-nav and a spare phone charger would have helped, and failing that a good old fashioned paper map. One that covered Dorset and not just Hampshire. For those who know me it’ll come as no surprise that we got a little bit lost. For those who don’t; I get lost. A lot.

Anyways… when we arrived at the location we were met with an incredible sight (and sound). Conversion Studios is built on a large property on farm land with an expansive studio and session area. The recording facilities house a world class recording console which I won’t even pretend to know anything about and a studio team who have worked with the likes of Led Zepplin, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, Paul Weller, Supergrass and … well, you get the picture.

Run by the soundest of sound engineers Josh Parker, Conversion Studios was a fantastic spot filled with fantastic people. As you’d expect, they love music – but Conversion Studios take it to another level by hosting Conversion Live! A place where you can watch awesome musicians doing what they do best. You can check out their episode list here.

So all in all it will come as no surprise to learn that the shoot was quick, the band were extremely slick and we quickly wrapped. A can of Strongbow (cheers Josh) and a slice of cake later (cheers Billy) we headed back to Southampton for a cheese and Bacon sarnie without getting lost once, and believe me that was the most unexpected win of the night.

The Live Lounge Project

The Live Lounge Project

In October we spent a day working with Andy Dixon of The Live Lounge Project shooting a selection of covers to feature on their website which can be seen here. The aim of The Live Lounge Project is to bring you some of the best BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge performances live to your event or venue and they don’t disappoint.

Our brief was to shoot ten songs in a similar fashion to Radio 1’s Live Lounge sessions so nothing too extrovert just classic and simple, keeping the focus on the band.

The filming took place in the fantastic The Old Chapel Studios in Chichester, a great looking building with a cracking studio (they also cater for offsite live recordings as well). The Old Chapel looks incredible with a gorgeous interior and very high ceilings so we lit the studio using a mixture of tungsten spots and available light to give a very natural and relaxed feel.

Working within the short time constraints afforded to us we shot three takes of each song with 2 cameras running giving us enough extra footage to collect our master wide, MS and CU on all band members and once we knew where the action was happening (killers solos etc) we were able to get those crucial punch ins on the last take.

We chose to shoot on a pair of Sony V1s over DSLRs which allowed us to ‘run and gun’ without the need to swap lenses or download media between takes. Fixed telephoto lens cameras are great when shooting live as you have the window of the song to collect all the shots you need so you can’t be calling a cut during a take to swap out a lens or re-adjust focus.

Andys group are incredibly tight so each take was near flawless making the end product a dream to edit together. All 10 finished videos can be viewed on The Live Lounge Project website.

Breaking Bad Habits

Breaking Bad
So, my wife and I have finally gotten round to watching Breaking Bad after many recommendations.

The show centres around two main characters, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Walter is a chemistry teacher and Jesse a drug addict and also a failed ex pupil of Walts. In the first episode Walt is diagnosed with lung cancer and forced to re-evaluate his priorities and what he will leave behind for his family after he is gone. Through a chance encounter Walt meets Jesse, they partner up and begin to produce high grade crystal meth in order to make as much money as possible for their individual reasons.

We are now over halfway through the second season and are rattling through episodes at a decent pace, the cinematography is of the highest standard and has been expertly shot by cinematographer Michael Slovis. One shot in particular really caught my attention in the episode we just watched had Walt sat in the hospital receiving his chemotherapy shot at normal speed whilst everything else around him was moving at a much faster pace. This was so well executed, I couldn’t tell if it had been matted out or shot using a motion control camera, Either way it was done perfectly.

If you haven’t seen the show yet I highly recommend it. And look out for Bryan Cranston’s performance in Drive, which in my opinion was the best film of last year.

Rob

Tyrannosaur, Gig Art and Music Videos

Tyrannosaur is Paddy Considine’s powerful directorial debut feature film released on 7th October and is already being praised by critics for it’s performances, directorial vision and cinematography. The trailer can be seen here. The man behind the camera and visual aesthetic? None other than Erik Wilson the cinematographer behind the sublime Last Shadow Puppets Standing Next to Me video. Enjoy!

Worth noting also is the beautiful UK release art work for the poster and promo material (shown below) produced by gig poster designer and screen printer Dan McCarthy.

Tyrannosaur Poster By Dan McCarthy

Why I Love Music Videos… Technology!

GoPro 3D Rig
Hey Jake here. So I guess this is going to be an ongoing theme with the question being “why I love music videos”. Obviously for many reasons but for the sake of a concise blog post here’s one reason.

Why do I love music videos? Technology.

It’s true I’m a bit of a geek. Not on an obscene level, for example I consider myself able to conduct a conversation with a human being and I try and get out at least once a month er…anyways…

Music videos are an exceptional way to trial new technologies and new ways of using technology old hat or existing technology in fascinating, obscure or incredible ways.

A great example of this is the use of the Twixtor plugin on You Don’t Know Me by Autozamm. This plugin allows you to blend frames, effectively seeing the motion changes between frame 1 and frame 2 and creating new frames in between. This allows for some extremely cool slo-mo effects as if you imagine slowing down a second of footage shot at 25 frames per second (fps) over 5 seconds you would have 5 frames of movement every second which is not a lot to play with. The faster the movement the more blurring or jumping will appear. Twixtor allows you to blend in a huge number of additional ‘frames’ which creates a much smoother slo motion effect, and also a much smoother speeding up effect since you have the frames to play with. Combining the two can create some extremely cool effects – particularly when shooting action like in Autozamms video: