One aspect of our promotion that we keep being asked about is our Youtube presence. Up until now it has been non-existant.
Youtube is a brilliant way of sharing music that we so far, haven’t been utilising. Having realised during last year’s music video project just how much work and how many people are required to make a good music video I was cautious not to bite off more than I could chew. Instead, I wanted to create a series of short, promotional videos – one for each of the five tracks we had recorded over summer.
The aim of these videos was to initiate a Youtube presence (that could be developed as we progressed). While all of our recordings are free to download, not many people were finding their way to our Soundcloud. These videos were to promote our music on the heavily trafficked Youtube and then direct people to our Soundcloud and Facebook.
Once I decided to create five shorts, it occurred to me that we had five band members… I really liked the idea of having each short focus on one band member each. Led Zeppelin’s 1973 concert film ‘The Song Remains the Same’ splices footage of them performing live with individual ‘dream sequences’. Each member had their own and was largely responsible for the content of their own sections – John Bonham drives fast cars and builds a brick wall with his son while Robert Plant rides a horse through a meadow and saves a princess from a castle of bad guys – I wish the 70s never ended. I set about contacting each band member and pitching them my idea and what I was hoping to achieve, in the hope that they would each select a song to be ‘theirs’ and have a think about what they would like to do in their short. I ideally wanted each short to be the product of each personality and to reflect their own sense of humour.
Any amount of non-specific creativity from unexperienced people in an attempt to make a film can be very dangerous. I knew this and so was keen to provide a number of tools and parameters to what we could do. I wanted to promote the creativity of each band member whilst ensuring the ideas were kept within the realms of reality.
A reference I gave to everyone was the video to Can’t Stop by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This example worked nicely as everyone had seen it and so could relate to its merits. The video is made up of many little absurdist ‘skits’ involving members of the band in different variations. I think absurdist is a good way to go…
I often find that productions (not limited to film) that attempt to express serious points and hope to be taken seriously fall short. At least, those made by people without much experience – I believe that you must fully understand the tropes and processes of an art form, understanding developed through experience, before you can hope to make a piece that stands up and successfully makes a serious point. The amount of student films I’ve seen that have tried to enlighten the world about feminism (for example) have been unsuccessful simply due to a lack of understanding of the subtleties of the medium – Spielberg didn’t make Schindler’s List until he knew what he was doing… You don’t run before you can walk. Besides, there’s nothing that I (or the band) particularly want to express politically or socially – we just want to put a smile on people’s faces. Funny then, seemed the far safer bet. Rather than saying something specifically, I far prefered the idea of capturing something spontaneous – that we wouldn’t/couldn’t have planned – that would prove to be far more original.
I liked the amount of mini-locations there are available within the location as a whole. This meant that we could potentially film in each video in a distinctly different area whilst the overall tone and surroundings were uniform – this mirrors the 5 tracks of the Demo nicely.
Next, I set about assembling a series of ‘tools’ to utilise. I started by approaching the theatre in my old school. I regularly am employed there over summer and have a great relationship with them and have demonstrated an ability to safely use theatre equipment. From them, I was able to borrow:
- 4 LED Parkans
- 2 Fresnels
- Smoke Machine
- Various gels + gobos
So I could ensure that the space could be well lit…
As well as this – by paying for their tickets, feeding them and giving them beds – I managed to get Chris and Rowan to come with me and help out on set. I needed people with experience of films sets to delegate to. Having Rowan also provided me with another tool – she is a very talented body painter.
The final tool I was keen to make use of was my mum’s chickens. (She hit 50, moved to the country, started baking and bought chickens… bless). This was partly hearkening back to the initial mood boards images I found, the link to dinosaurs I discussed earlier, Aristophanes and the fact that they’re fucking hilarious…
Winter is Coming
Winter is Coming is the ‘single’ of our Demo. It was therefore logical to assign it to Joe – the song’s writer and the front man. The section of the song we chose to film to was the opening as it is very stripped back, bluesy and generally pretty cool. We used the derelict ‘fireplace’ setting but placed a fancy arm chair for Joe to sit on to provide an interesting juxtaposition. Panning shot revealing the scene – Joe sat in his full Barnabus get-up, playing lap steel guitar, surrounded by chickens.
That’s pretty surreal right?
I opted to keep the lighting fairly simple but powerful. ‘Circus lights’ were draped behind him and the only other lighting was a cool fresnel through the nule posts that cast stark shadows.
I used Final Cut Pro for the edit. I initially tried to go for a complex series of cuts – I was learning how to use the software and wanted to use every trick I knew. This proved unsuccessful however as the edit was too frantic for the music it was accompanying. I then stripped it back completely to just two long shots – one panning shot that gradually ascended the stairs to reveal the scene and a close up shot of the chickens.
I like how the chickens became the focal point of this video. It’s always hard to remove yourself from something you’ve spent a lot of time creating to view it from a fresh perspective, but I think this will just make Joe a more mysterious and interesting character. I wrapped it up with a few filters to the shakey camera work in an attempt to create an explosion. I’m less sure as to whether this will have worked but opted to leave it in the final cut. Overall, I’m fairly happy with how this came out although the area of the production I definitely neglected was the camera work. I’d say it was characterful but it’s clearly low budget.
Just Another Day
Just Another Day should by all rights be my track, because it’s my kickass guitar solo that the video was put over but I was too busy with the production to star in it. Rather, Andy (bassist/star) conceived the idea but to a different song. However, when it came to the edit, I really struggled to make the cuts work well with the music – once I switch it to this song I think it worked much better.
Personally, I think the concept for this one was a little daft but hey, he did exactly what was asked of him and the idea was that the videos would reflect the band members personality (Andy is daft). He found the mannequin and developed his idea of a supernatural chase scene.
We used the stairwell for the start of the video, then the main space (fiiiiilled with smoke) and then the lift area. The use of different locations I think gives the film a better flow and more dynamic feel than Winter is Coming.
The edit for this video was far more time consuming due to the more defined ‘plot’ and the amount of shots that needed to be included. I struggled with it for a long time and did not have a nice time when editing to the original song. As soon as I switched the audio I found the whole process much easier.
Andy isn’t the best actor. I find this hilarious, I can only hope other people do too.
The video has two distinct sections. Basically – the walking section and the running section. The walking section was quite a straight edit, working mainly to the beat and rhythm of the music as cues as when to cut. I found having a deep understanding of the music was very helpful for editing this section, although I do worry that I may have focused more on making the edit work well with the music than convey a narrative. Again, I’m not sure but I did the best I could.
The running section was far more fun once I decided to try and make the smoke supernatural. I graduated a pink filter in with the arrival of the smoke which then morphed into greens which faded back to normal once the camera left the smoke. I also applied some slo-mo and camera shake to further psyche it up. I think it looks great but I’m not sure whether its too heavy handed or too subtle (I doubt the latter, I got a bit carried away).
I ended both these videos with a fade to white with the title and then a fade to black with the band name. I was tempted to also add a ‘links in description’ – after all, the aim of these videos was to direct people to our other web presences – but decided against it. Personally, I generally switch off and lose interest once the aim of something is promotion. I figure that those who were interested would look. The band name graphic was taken from my design for the Demo cover. I made the song names using the Led Zeppelin font because fuck it, they’re the best band ever and if people consciously or unconsciously associate us with them, I’m not complaining.
One thing I’ve definitely learnt through the production of these videos is why film making is so darn complicated. I’m please with how both of these have come out and found myself to enjoy the editing process far more than I expected. Particularly, I think I’m very good at editing to music – something I first experimented with during last year’s music video project. That said, I set out to produce 5 videos and I only have 2… and they’re far from brilliant.